How To Deal With People You Disagree With

bernerslee
Photo credit: Whoever was standing in front of Tim Berners-Lee

Dealing with people in real life is beyond the remit of this advice column. With any luck you won’t meet many, as live human beings are notoriously difficult to hammer into shape. We shall concern ourselves with replying to those in the splendid human construct known as social media.

You see a contrary opinion online. An itch starts in your brain, impossible to ignore. It must be scratched! But how do you get to it?

newbrain

Through your keyboard. (Real warriors use keyboards, not touch screens.)

1. Take a deep breath, it will oxygenate your blood. Maybe have a nice cup of tea before getting down to work, if tea’s your cup of tea.

2. The time-honoured practice of cracking your knuckles is an over-used trope, but do it if it you’re superstitious. Just don’t overdo it, you’ll be needing those fingers in good working order.

3. We’ll dispense with the numbering system; the point is made that this is a logical process.

Examine the enemy’s argument closely for flaws. (‘Enemy’ is merely convenient shorthand.) You might get lucky straight off the bat: have they even made an argument? Opinions are like bowling balls—they’re bound to have holes in them.

1-eroclp2egkamt0rxg-tduq
one metaphor at a time please

Be polite. It’s a rare skill, often confused with cowardice. It will confuse the enemy.

If this is a factual fray, document, document, document. Be meticulous with your sources and be ready at a moment’s notice to provide links, preferably more than one should your adversary show an indifference to your preferred authority. Bear in mind that both The Guardian and the Daily Mail (two well known mines to go digging for fool’s gold), which both employ professional journalists (not necessarily a compliment), are equally unreliable in matters of opinion, which often masquerades as fact.

Determine if the opinion is theirs or somebody else’s. Have they put in the work to hold it all by themselves? Are you going to attempt to knock them off a bandwagon, or are they standing on carefully prepared ground? If the latter, you may wish to retreat to fight another day, or better yet, accept that perspectives can differ. Even the itchiest brain can learn to accept this as a scratch of sorts.

Look for signs of hypocrisy. Should you find it, consider the labor-saving strategy of allowing them to tie their noose with their own words. Note that any gratification derived may be a private affair, given that hypocrisy is usually vampiric in nature.

1-0zg-rkwanbcyaklgxdtb4w
it’s obvious who’s the fairest of them all

Use spellcheck if you don’t trust yourself, it’s right there on Google. Generally conform to accepted grammatical norms. Teasing grammar Nazis crosses the line into cruelty.

Common mistakes
Don’t say “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Whoever says this first, loses. While some may see this as politely sweeping away the gauntlet laid down, in truth it is the equivalent of loudly stomping off. There is no need to belabour the obvious.

Whatever you do never announce that you’re leaving the discussion. This cannot be stressed enough. If you want to go, just go. Some warriors are amazed this is even an option.

Refrain from posting immediately prior to a period of being out of contact with the www, e.g., going to a wedding or funeral, a session of lovemaking, etc. I know you pride yourself on your ability to multitask, but should you think up a better comeback whilst indisposed, the itch will be visited upon you tenfold.

If you think your opponent is reading what he or she wants to read rather than what you wrote, well, everybody thinks this. Almost everybody is right. The mistake here is to openly parade your amazement.

Do not ‘Like’ as an 11-dimensional chess gambit, should your chosen media platform offer this or a similar cheesy option. Duel with words, not rancid marshmallows.

What to do if you ‘win’
Disabuse yourself of the notion that you have. Hardly anybody ever ‘wins’, no matter what humble admissions are uttered in the aftermath. The skull is a hardened silo impervious to penetration by even the most sensible argument; while the brain inside may be slammed and partially flattened by the impact of a new idea, it reliably pops back into its original shape.

There are, however, documented cases of people who actually have had their mind changed by a disembodied consciousness filtered through this thing we call the internet:

 

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Memories are made of this

Went to Merriments Gardens today, not far from home in East Sussex. Got lots of colourful flower pics, but this one, haphazardly composed, less than expertly exposed, and a bit blurry, was my favourite:

merriments

Visit Marle Place, Scotney Castle and Motisfont Abbey

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Year of the snake

2013 years, more if you can count backwards, and where are we as a human race? Still last when it comes to arranging our affairs in ways pleasing to the stars. Even apes plan their days with more care: foraging, grooming, mating seemingly indiscriminately and establishing dominance in accordance with the big picture always at the forefront of their smaller but perfectly formed brains.

Rather than following their example, we often bumble about hoping for the best and managing expectations when it’s clear to those with eyes that see and a limbic system somewhere in that twitching oatmeal that astrology is the only Letts Planner we’ll ever need.

New format: Horoscopes have been arranged alphabetically so you don’t have to lose productivity (a problem in previous years) searching where you fit in the scheme of things.

Aquarius
Fortune favours the bold. Unfortunately that inheritance doesn’t come through. Rearranging your CV from chronological to functional then back again won’t alter your prospects but will bring to light a few typos. Don’t snub networking opportunities in the queue at M&S. Dress for success. Remember to burn the receipts for the arsenic.

Aries
This will be a themed year. Everything of significance that happens in your life will be tangentially connected to everything else. You won’t even have to plumb all six degrees of separation to achieve nagging closure with the hunch that if you don’t send Kate Middleton’s baby a present there will be a certain iciness in the way that she looks at you from the pages of Hello! magazine.

Cancer
A shared horror of grammatical decline may forge superficial alliances but sadly is not the basis for a long-lasting relationship. Apostrophes are fickle; misused semi-colons hardly worth the silent death of respect let alone a broken heart. Explore pluraling with an open mind, spelling anomalies with a forgiving heart: a little naval-gazing isn’t cause for open hostilities. British and American discrepancies will eventually flip around with geomagnetic reversal, so a generous tolerance can smooth out those worry lines.

Capricorn
A tablet computer won’t revolutionize your life. Buy it anyway if it makes you happy.

Gemini
Congratulations are in order. Don’t worry that it wasn’t based on merit, or even particularly fair. The system is rigged, we all know and respect that. Plan your next moves carefully like a chess master. Hold your nerve. It wouldn’t hurt to keep your cards close to your chest. Churchill almost lost the war early on before he learned to stop openly strategising with Friends on Facebook.

Leo
It couldn’t hurt to start working on that bucket list, particularly if it’s a short one. There’s no need to be alarmed, that’s just good advice for anybody. Still. Listen to the man wearing the turquoise socks when he offers advice about visiting Malaysia. It’s difficult to be more specific than that. We all have feelings of impending mortality from time to time: Final Destination wasn’t a documentary. Last minute seat changes skew your karma.

Libra
Go ahead and give the casting agent your phone number. Where would we be without extras? How many people remember the Godfather stroking his cat? It’s the then-unknown Marty Feldman, found wandering the lot and drafted in last minute by Coppola to add the missing edge of menace to the scene, who lives on in our cinematic memory. Your eyes really are your best feature you know.

Pisces
The age-old question of nature or nurture will be settled, so don’t feel too bad about dropping your children from your Christmas card list. (Childless? Don’t adopt either.) Even behaviour taken in context can be actionable. The time for electronic tagging is past. However, if all parties can come to an understanding which respects boundaries and basic dignity, it can also bring you closer together.

Sagittarius
Furniture. Oak or pine? What’s your budget? Soft furnishings may suffer if you splurge. House pride goeth before a fall. Spring is the time for tarting up. Hand in hand to Homebase, you idling in the tool aisle wondering if you have enough of the right kind of drill bits, your other scrutinising the tiling: all is right in the world. This is where the weekends go.

Scorpio
There’s no need to diet or buy smaller mirrors, you can be loved and cherished just as you are. A sluggish metabolism does not need to be mentioned in your profile unless it’s pertinent. Nonmatching accessories show character. Red, yellow, blue – really, all the primary colours, aka “colours in their own right,” work. After all, you’re a person in your own right. Purple’s fine too, unless you’re a man, in which case ermine is also indicated.

Taurus
Which utilities are most important? Pay those first. Candle light is romantic, hot wax also works for some, but don’t move it too close to the bamboo blinds, I know this from experience. Choose providers, if you still have any, by flipping a coin; a monopoly doesn’t have to be evil if it gets the job done and keeps us from getting distracted by meaningless “competition.” So sayeth the savvy soothsayer.

Virgo
Things are looking up. Caressing the monolith may offer additional evolutionary advantages. Put down the bone unless you want an ankle bracelet that beeps.

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Beer of the root

“And her hair spilled out like root beer.”
–Tom Waits

I like root beer. It’s possible this

blueskyrootbeer

is the best root beer in the world. However, I haven’t tasted all the root beers the world has to offer, so it’s also possible there is something better out there. It’s a known unknown.

This can, which is the perfect can for root beer, was lovingly transported from Texas in the belly of a Boeing 777 last year. Slightly nervous about pressurization, I only brought one over in my checked-in luggage. Of course there were far too many volatile fluid ounces for it to be allowed in my carry-on, even though the thought of such a beverage being used as a cover for terrorist activities is beyond the pale.

I haven’t yet pulled the lovely blue tab. I don’t plan to until just before my next visit. I go to Texas about once a year. For my inlaws.

And the root beer.

UPDATE
Having decided that the best root beer is one that I can actually buy on a regular basis, the crown must pass to A&W, a steady fountain of which I’ve discovered is available at a little shop down in St Leonards, named after the patron saint of prisoners, pregnant women, country dwellers, horses, and now root beer.

loonmoon
The wild east. Wait a minute, that’s not from St. Leonards. You mean there’s more than one source?!?

rootbeertower1
Scale model of the tower of root beer I hope to build one day

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Here is an example of fake root beer:

fakerootbeer

Do not under any circumstances accept this sparkling soft drink infused with natural ingredients in lieu of the real thing if the real thing is what you thirst for. It is meant to “transport you back in time to a period when cares were free and times were fun”,

rootbeerlabel

but it will only cause heartache.

BONUS! RECIPE SECTION
In case you want, you know, a root beer float. Admittedly bananas and root beer might not mix. I haven’t tried them together. As ice cream – well, ‘ice cream’ – goes, though, this is great.

Ingredients:
(ripe!) bananas
+ maybe a dash of milk or juice to help them mix better

Directions:
Peel
Freeze
Purée
preferably in that order

banana600

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Cannibal Lectern

THE LEEDS LEEK

CANNIBAL LECTERN
Holy See sets sights on coeliacs
The Vatican has confirmed that gluten-intolerant individuals, while technically “God’s Children”, will have difficulty gaining entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. “It’s a grey area, legally,” according to the Pope’s consigliere Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who serves double duty as devil’s advocate in saint adjudication. “What we do know is that nobody likes a martyr. I mean we do, of course, but you know, not really.” He went on to suggest that God may show mercy, or may not, depending on how He’s feeling that day.

In a chain letter to Bishops, Pope Francis reminded the world’s 7.5 billion Catholics that the Eucharist is a “grande affare” [“big deal”] and the sacrament, one of many boxes which should be ticked by the faithful to ensure ease of entry through the pearly gates, is not subject to fads.

Coeliacs are outraged by the decision, and are promising a Day of Rage. “God created my inflammable intestines,” said Holly Johnson, DoR organiser. “I think it’s a bit rich to say that he now requires I consume wheat, which is like poison to me, in order to be a good Catholic.”

Experts say that’s exactly the sort of thing God would do.

It’s not the first time transubstantiation has hit the headlines. In 2009 Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict briefly floated the idea of an all-you-can-drink mass before taking an abrupt holiday in a nunnery later discovered to have lap-dancing Tuesdays.

more from the Leek

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Voyage into better than good badness

Star Trek comes in handy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a pop culture reference and reached for Kirk & Co. They’ve also provided fan fiction mulch on a few occasions.

This despite that I rarely rate it higher than Good Bad, the category which naturally falls below Good and above Bad. There’s also a Good Good, but I see no need for a Bad Bad.

I turn on the subtitles when watching anything. It’s not that I’m hard of hearing; it’s more that I always have a nagging worry about missing dialogue, and prefer the redundancy. These days all my viewing is done on a computer, making it easy to collect screenshots along the way.

The following are from the Star Trek Voyager episode Alter Ego, which may have been the first to make me sit up from my usual half-interested slouch, one eye on the Netflix window, the other on some fresh hell in my chosen opinion aggregator, and say to my Oreo “Hey, this is better than Good Bad.”

After the preliminaries, which are nothing special else I would’ve taken snaps of them, we are presented with the sight of the ship’s senior logic jockey fiddling with one of those Vulcan games that make you wonder if this advanced race is all it’s cracked up to be. Humans discovered Pick-up sticks centuries ago.

In walks Harry:

“Grasshopper,” he forgot to add. Harry calls it:

The troubled

as I was saying, the obviously troubled Operations Officer


Wrong. This is the holo doc’s training tool for fumble-fingered humans.

has come seeking wisdom from Lt Cdr “Know-It-All” Tuvok, who like Spock only has one name, all others having been dispensed with probably around the time the Vulcan High Command outlawed any emotion more severe than a raised eyebrow.

Harry has woman woes. A step up from Tribble trouble, if you ask me.

Well, this is Star Trek. Specifically, Harry is smitten with a holodeck character (“Computer, give me something from Baywatch, aged to perfection”) who’s the only one who really understands him. Or at least that’s what I assume the project notes said.

Tuvok looks into the situation


there’s something about Mary

and comes to appreciate what Harry sees in what’s-her-name. But it turns out all is not what it seems. Marayna (all writing is improved by research) isn’t in fact just another saucy tomato.


close enough

She’s a highly intelligent forehead being of the sort the crew is forever running into. But I’m getting ahead of myself in my rush to finish this before I run out of screenshots.

Mary lives on a space station, her job to keep an unruly nebula tame by twiddling dials to maintain that wondrous dampening field technology that awaits future generations. She’s a little like a lifeguard keeping her entire race safe, suffering from not-so-splendid isolation.

She’s managed to infiltrate the Voyager’s CPU or whatever and project herself as holobait. She’s done things like this before, to other ships. It passes the time.

Only this time she didn’t reckon to meet a mind as fascinating as Tuvok’s. She falls for him. She must have him, or else. The imminent destruction of the Voyager awaits, unless the crew can figure all this out before the credits roll.

A highlight of the episode is the hilarious fight between holo Hawaiian hotties (resistance to alliteration is futile) and B’Elanna.


Emmy for the new category of Bad Goodness

One wonders if junior Vulcan Voric paid to have that set up, fuel for the obvious Pon farr smoldering behind his bedroom eyes earlier in the show.

There is the usual meeting of the minds (Neelix is often the mascot begging for scraps at the table, but he’s too busy adjusting the feng shui on the holodeck of this love boat) who struggle to find a solution which doesn’t violate the prime directive of being too earnest. They fail, of course, as Tuvok allows himself to be beamed into the lair of the highly intelligent forehead being, who his tricorder identifies as the reincarnation of Alex from Fatal Attraction, to be faced with an ultimatum: be hers, or she’ll use her plasma nebula powers to boil the crew of the Voyager like so many bunnies.

There follows a genuinely touching exchange whereby Tuvok talks her out of this act of extreme jealousy

close enough

convincing her that she needs to get out more.

I’ve skipped a lot of details, but that’s the gist of it.

What struck me about this episode was how it rose like a phoenix from the ashes of my expectations, begging the question of why I still watch the various Treks floating forever in syndication. It seems that resistance really is


The new perfume by Borg. Not that Borg.

Look, I’m no TV reviewer. I was just pleased that Alter Ego was better written and acted than the usual ST fare; even, if I may be dreadfully patronising,

Is it possible I will be pleasantly surprised by future episodes I’ve already seen ages ago and conveniently forgotten?

* * *

Bonus shot of the doctor, still nameless (Shmullus doesn’t count) but now considering Don Juan.

Blast from the past:

More screenshots from the not-such-an-idiot-box here. I’d like to see how Janeway handles first contact with Swearengen.

In an alternate timeline B’Elanna eschews engineering for the entertainment industry and gets a gig directing an incredibly appropriately named episode of The Americans.

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Have a seat

catapult

I like to think that after 48 years on this Earth I’ve developed a little patience, but 13 weeks for an armchair, Multiyork? God knows how our lives will have moved on in 13 weeks.

Unfortunately they carried the only chair my wife and I were willing to allow across the threshold into our home, so it seemed we were stuck. Then one of us – it doesn’t matter who – mentioned IKEA. They weren’t shouting, it’s meant to be in all caps.

A quick search brought the Strandmon to our attention. [Google Translate: it means Strandmon.] While it didn’t possess the aesthetic perfection that we had heretofore felt necessary, it had other qualities which we also hold in esteem: it was a fraction of the price of the überchair, and it was available within that highly desireable timeframe of now. It wasn’t just a showroom tease.

Three trains and a bus (evidently the IKEA Bus – “Does this go to IKEA?” every other person asked as they got on) brought us to the big blue and yellow box in Tottenham/London, where thanks to many internet reviewers we were prepared to run a gauntlet of poor customer service.

We tracked down the chair. First we confirmed that we could bear the sight of it, as much of the life of a chair consists of not actually sitting in it, but having to look at it. Armchairs are very susceptible to being ugly. The Strandmon is too curvy and spindly for my taste, but that was better than an overstuffed monstrosity designed for Jabba the Hut.

jabba

When you’re considering a chair, naturally you ponder all of the sitting to come. At a basic level it has to be an improvement over the lack of a chair. Once it gets you off the ground, does it hold you the way you like to be held? Will you have worthy thoughts in it? Read great books? That’s not to say you can’t fall asleep gently drooling in front of bad TV, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire tumbled to the side. It’s just that whatever the future holds, it will include this chair in which you will spend some time pondering the future, an infinite loop which complicates the buying decision.

£195 resimplified the decision. It was available in a nice enough colour+fabric, I quickly divined that the high side wings would cradle my lolling head wonderfully, and apparently it passed the necessary tests back when it was in basic training on how to be a chair, so we got it.

booth

Our first point of contact with an employee was to check it was in stock. She unbruskly and unrudely confirmed it was, then led us most of the way to its location in the warehouse in case we should get lost

raiderswarehouse2

I wrestled Strandmon onto a trolley

ikea1

and after a bit of queuetime discussing how swimmingly it was all going we had our second encounter, a very nonunpleasant cashier who bid us have a nice day. So far we were having one. The direction of the day took a wrong turn when we pulled into the home delivery bay and discovered that our postcode was outside the store’s delivery zone and therefore this particular Strandmon wasn’t going anywhere. We took a number and waited for a refund from a woman who once again failed to achieve targets for surliness, then rubbed our faces in it with vouchers for a happy meal to make up for the disappointment of having to order it online instead.

meal

Update
Once it arrived it fit right in; accusations of curviness and spindliness were quickly forgotten.

***

This was actually posted in 2014, but I came across it the other day and the memory made me smile, so I’ve bumped it by faking the date. The bad news is, that means I’m 50.

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F4 U1 N1

Last night’s game of Scrabble, on hold.

She’s winning as usual. Came out of the gate with a seven letter word. We’ll have to play piecemeal through the week or not at all till next weekend.

She usually reads the board upside-down. Doubtless she could take on a dozen challengers at a time, blindfolded.

Here are my letters. Too bad I’m not allowed to phone a friend.

Me in more carefree times

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Pocket Museum


I’ve got a 2,000 year old Roman coin in my pocket.* It’s genuine, if the dealer was legit. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be; an abundant supply is available to those interested in history but lacking a trove of disposable income. I would’ve gone for the Yappese Rai but there was no way I’d get that home in a cab outside The Flintstones.


Yap Island ATM

I bought it almost as an afterthought when sourcing a gift for my father, who long ago was bitten by the numismatic bug. I’m not a collector, though will admit to a fondness for £2 coins, especially shiny ones.


My wife gives them to me. She’s so nice.

It’s cool being able to walk around with something in my pocket that a resident of these windy isles could have carried in his before the Dark Ages. (Did they have pockets back then? Do I need to look that up? Can I trust Wikipedia? Oh let’s, especially as they aren’t motivated by filthy lucre.) What might he have spent it on? A haircut? Small amphora of joy juice? Tip for the attendant at the baths, accompanied by a wink? I can only imagine. Which is kind of the point.


“Let’s play the fall of the Roman empire again”

Recently the Bank of England introduced a new fiver. Can’t say I’m a fan. It looks sharp, but it doesn’t like to be folded—a nonstarter for those of us who don’t bother with wallets. It’s also disconcertingly slippery. They say it’s good for the environment, so there’s that.


Bank of England governor showing off new note just before it slipped out of his hand

Peep Show aficionados may remember the rather icky episode when Jeremy is making a deposit at a sperm bank but has nothing in the way of visual stimulation. Desperate, he tries it on with Queen Elizabeth on the front of a £20 bill. When it flutters to the floor in the heat of passion, Sir Edward Elgar on the flip side spoils it for him. There was even a Facebook page devoted to this particular gag.


No caption necessary

The banknote featuring the quintessentially English composer on the back is no longer legal tender, though Liz’s ballroom eyes and a stirring rendition of Pomp and Circumstance might still be a potent aphrodisiac for some.


Now appearing on Netflix

They say power is the ultimate turn-on. I don’t know about that, but in order to be worth anything, money needs power behind it. Traditionally the face of that power has been stamped right on top.


The emperor always won the toss

That now pleasantly worthless old Roman coin of mine was later joined by a gift from my father: my inheritance, as he put it. One hundred trillion dollars, backed by the full faith and credit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. While admiring the Chiremba Balancing Rocks, one is given to pondering the value of money and the state of the economy in general. It’s a whole lot of zeros.


It’s all worth about the same at this point

Cash money is rumoured to be on its way out anyway. The banks would certainly prefer it all be relegated to a museum. I rather hope it stays in circulation. I may not carry much of it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

* for the purposes of this post. I seem to have misplaced it. I hope the parking garage didn’t get it.

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Big Gulp

The world awaits my seminal paper, In Defense of Mouthbreathers.

I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of air. It might have something to do with all my cycling, which instills the need to suck in oxygen at prodigious rates. Or it could be a vague feeling that my nose is filtering out the good stuff. Whatever the reason, I am not ashamed to admit to giving my lungs the biggest hole in my arsenal to inflate themselves.

My concern is that breathing using your mouth is too often tainted with negative connotations. As The Urban Dictionary puts it, a mouthbreather is

1. Literally, someone who lacks enough intelligence that they never learned to breathe through their nose.
2. A really dumb person.

When humans first acquired the power of speech, doubtless they quickly moved on to insults. “Why can’t you just yawn and be done with it?” said Lucy  to the “handy” habilis painting her cave, ignoring the 1.2 million year gap.

RDH Magazine has this to say: “Mouth breathing affects the pH of the entire body… A low pH oral environment is not only corrosive to the teeth directly, but the acidic pH activates the acidophilic and acidogenic bacteria to set up housekeeping. Building a healthy biofilm in the presence of acidic saliva is nearly impossible. Acid begets acid.” Oh dear. Parenthetically, RDH, you don’t make it easy find out what those letters stand for. Rooting for Dental Hygiene?

“We know that breaking a habit is nearly impossible and starting a new habit is just as hard. And like it or not, one habit will be replaced by another, so finding an alternate habit is a good strategy.” Just when I was about to take up the harmonica.


How they used to “cure” mouthbreathers in unenlightened times

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