Saturday, 28 September 2013


I'm about to upset/offend all those dearest to me. The people I love the most in fact. And total strangers too. I can't take it any more.

Stop asking me how I am. 

I must have answered that question a million times. I either say fine, or I get mischievous. I'll say something totally random.

Yes, I know, you care. I know you are sincere. But you KNOW how I am. I'm fine. If I wasn't I'd make sure you knew about it.

It's a form of greeting. Nobody even expects an answer.

"How are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine, how are you?"

"Oh fine!"

Or some variation on that. No real conversation can be done until that's over. It's a ritual, it's boring and I wish it would go away.

When I phone someone, I don't do it. I give them a cheery greeting...."HELLO!" and launch into what it is I'm calling about. Note: I never, ever call anyone just to chat. Is never going to happen. Don't wait for me to do that, or the next call you'll get will be when I've heard you are dying and I REALLY care about how you are.

If you recently had surgery, or a messy divorce, or your house blew up, then I'll ask about how things are going with you. But I may phrase it a bit more logically, or...gosh...thoughtfully.

There is nothing more fucking crass in all this world than reporters who interview survivors of some dreadful trauma and say "How do you feel?" How do you think they feel? Fine? Give me a break.

No, and in fact, apart from the fact that the truthful answer is "relieved to be alive" or "ready to cut my own throat" or whatever, nobody actually wants to hear that. It's all a macabre ritual.

And we lie during the regular "How are you?" sessions too don't we?

How many times have you visited your doctor, in agony, and he says "And how are you today?" and you say "Oh fine!" and then remember, no, wait, I came to the doctor in pain, what am I saying?

It's drivel. We talk drivel.

My family and friends are wonderful, and they love me, but they insist on asking me how I am. If I'm conscious, upright, with the power of speech, and not actually whimpering or screaming - I'm fine. Just take it as read.

But we have a new one now, don't we. It is not enough to drive me crazy with this greeting (that you don't REALLY want the answer to), you have to phone or text me at intervals and ask.....

"How's your day going?"

I'm not even sure you expect an answer to that, I think it's an "opener". You have no real reason to call me, you just need an excuse.

If I say "Fine" you are happy, you go on from there.

If I say "Fucked up, actually" you don't know what to say, and wish you hadn't asked. So don't ask.

However, thankfully, all praise to all attentive deities (I like to cover my bases) the chances are, I'm having a good day. In fact it's a VERY good chance, because:

1) I generally have good days, and
2) If I don't you tend to hear about it long before you ask.

I have a new set of stock answers as of 7 o'clock Monday morning. No, make that 6.30, the calls start early. Pick one.

"How's your day going?"

1. It is going fine, thank you.
2. It has only just begun and is too early to tell.
3. 给我弄点喝。现在。
4. I'd be fine if I didn't keep getting interrupted by stupid questions.
5. There's a hippopotamus eating my dahlias.
6. I'm getting better at it, but I think that's a very politically incorrect way to enquire about my Spanish studies.

Now, I know, yes, I know, even though you are not one of the culprits here, you are pouting. You are saying what a jolly rotten sport I am, and mean old Melanie not playing along with cultural norms. You are saying how I should be bloody grateful that I have friends and family who care about me.

You are of course absolutely correct.

But I'm done, OK? I'm bored out of my tree with grinning and bearing as we launch into this ritual yet again, and of coming up with ever more creative sarcasm in reply to try to put you off. It's not working.

I love you. I love you dearly. I'm always happy to hear from you. I have time for you. But can we just KILL the small talk?

This was a public service announcement.

(Edit: For those of you with no sense of humour...go boil your head)

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Even Bigger Illusion

I published two blogs yesterday, and had finished a third, when I decided to delete all of them. It was too negative. What was playing on my mind were people who create obstacles in their own lives, sabotage themselves, by their choices. It is something that frustrates me, but when I read it all back it was just the wrong way to approach the topic. Nobody who read it would be helped by it, because they're already so deeply in denial.

Then, in a discussion elsewhere, that other, related topic cropped up again, on whether people really know their own minds.

It was a heated discussion, and several participants got quite upset by the suggestion that they might have been persuaded against their own real instincts and preferences by outside forces. But the fact remains, some people have been persuaded into "enjoying" things they might not have chosen.

This is a really difficult area. We are not talking about seduction here (sexual or otherwise). Nor are we talking about overt pressure. We are talking about the most subtle form of manipulation possible.

It fascinates me on many levels, partly of course because I sell unnecessary things for a living. I never do any kind of active "selling", I sell things perfectly well simply by making them visible. I completely and utterly oppose the concept of the hard sell, and it is a matter of curiosity and humour that I am both a seller and not a seller, in the two senses of the word. But it's because I understand manipulation.

I will tell you right here and now, openly and honestly, and with the "victim" reading, that when I want my husband to do something for me that he might not offer to do or be particularly keen on doing, I work it so that he thinks it was his own idea. He knows I do this but he has taken the bait countless times, and he will continue to do so. Why? Because he loves me, and I'm not trying to get him to do anything harmful.

People joke about women's wiles, and this is one of them.

It exists, I am good at it, let's not pretend it doesn't happen in a million other ways. It works for the advertising industry, it works for politicians, it works for causes and revolutions, it works.

Some people are more malleable than others. Some think they are not, but they so clearly are, that it's funny. None of us are immune from being manipulated by others, and some of us will be total suckers in one area, and stubborn as a rock in others. The more aware you are of it, the less chance you'll fall for it, but some of it is so subtle that no amount of awareness will help you.

How do we know that people really do get persusaded to do something against their better judgement?

Because sometimes, some of them "wake up" and realize. They look back and question it. They reget it.

This is not simply a "change of mind", it's a very unpleasant experience, a feeling of having been tricked, trapped, and....harmed.

Let's briefly use religion as an example. Many children grow up with a set of beliefs imposed upon them by family or community. In some cases of course, it is a very heavy-handed and deliberate brainwashing. But in most cases it is simply taught by example, because the people around them believe it, and may indeed be enriched by it.

At some point however, they have a flash of insight that what they grew up believing was a myth, and that they have no use for it. Their attitude will vary depending on how it affected them, there may have been no harm done. But they may be quite angry about it.

Ex-believers have a wide variety of stories to tell, and only some of them will feel they were damaged by the experience, but no matter how they feel about it, they are quite certain that the "before" was an illusion and the "now" is what they really believe.

And some of them are wrong! Some will return to the their old beliefs later in life. Some will go through several sets of other beliefs. What are their TRUE beliefs?

There are plenty of philosophers who insist that none of us really ever fully know our own minds, that we are regularly, and easily deluded. And there are plenty who object to that. This will never be a cut & dried area of discussion, as a result, and we can go on forever, and plenty will.

All we can do right here and now is try to be aware, to question everything, even our own decisions. It helps sometimes to be reminded of this (I am at your service) and it also helps to be accused, contradicted, and questioned by others. So if somebody is hard on you about your choices, the thing to do is examine them, rather than flip out.

I consider myself a pretty aware person - I don't claim that I'm never caught by outside influences, but I have a natural tendency to be skeptical, suspicious even, and it has served me very well. How about you?

And to end the week, for a bit of fun, take the quiz :)

Your result for The "How Credulous Are You?" Test...

The Skeptic

You earned 0 Credulity points, out of a possible 50.

You have a highly critical, rational mode of thinking. Carl Sagan would be proud!
Take The "How Credulous Are You?" Test at HelloQuizzy

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

And yet, you are still here.

It is a normal part of human nature to complain, and I deeply distrust anyone who never does it.  Being positive is a good thing, ALWAYS being positive is slightly suspicious.  Somewhere there is a balance, and while it's going to vary from person to person, and situation to situation, there are those who just complain too much.

In fact, they seem to make such a habit of it, that it's possible they are just flapping their gums, and we shouldn't take it seriously. After a while, we probably don't. We tune them out because we've heard too much of it, and then they wonder why they are ignored, but that's how it goes.

People complain excessively about all sorts of things. Their job, their boss, their colleagues, the traffic, their spouse, their kids, their inlaws, their neighbours, the weather, the government, TV, the state of their house, insects, pens that don't work, the price of bacon, and so on.

As you know, I sell online, and at Etsy there are forums for buyers and sellers, and I look in there most mornings, both to stay abreast of changes and to help out those with problems. I like to help, I am solutions-oriented, and some of the problems that arise are genuine.  I enjoy selling at Etsy but it's not problem-free, so we help one another out.

However, there are those who complain loudly and frequently. Endlessly, in fact. They complain about everything Etsy does, they even complain about their customers.

And yet they are still there.

I am an immigrant. I came to Canada of my own free will, and I have made it my home. After 20 years I am aware of its flaws, but every country has flaws. This one has few enough that I'm happy to stay here. I meet other immigrants. They complain loudly and frequently. Endlessly, in fact. They complain about everything Canada does.

And yet they are still here.

I have a friend who has been married several times. It takes two to tango; despite that she is quite convinced that each man she married was responsible for the end of the marriage.  The pattern suggests maybe not exlusively, but she married again anyway.  She complains about her current husband. She complains loudly and frequently. Endlessly, in fact. She complains about everything he does.

And yet she is still there.

I know many, many people who complain about where they live. They chose to live there, nobody marched them there. They complain loudly and frequently. Endlessly, in fact. They complain about everything that goes on where they live.

And yet they are still there.

Insert your own example here.

Do people just love to complain, or is it more about inertia?

We can't change everything, at least not easily or quickly, but we do have certain choices.


If your adult kid, still living at home, is a pain in the arse, move him out OR accept it was your fault and shut up.

There is an old joke that goes "Doctor, Doctor, when I do hurts!" and the smart-arse doctor says "So, stop doing it." And this isn't as crazy as it sounds, because how many people have self-inflicted medical conditions? 

We are flawed creatures. We make mistakes. We regret decisions.

But we don't have to whine about it. We can take full responsibility for our choices, and change them, or suck it up.

Complaining, when change is an option, is called whining.

Now, I KNOW there are reasons why you can't change things. Your job is especially difficult to change, and so are your family. But how long is a reasonable time to suffer before it becomes masochistic?

Let's look at it another way. If you have a headache, which could be cured by a pill and a glass of water, it makes sense to take the pill. Perhaps you don't take it immediately, you put up with it because you are busy. Or you try to get rid of it with peppermint tea or some other method. But there comes a point where suffering the pain unnecessarily becomes ridiculous. If you've had a headache for several hours and not made the effort to take a pill, you really are being rather foolish.

But being foolish is your prerogative. It is the other aspect of this that I'm calling you out on.

If you've been complaining to anyone who'll listen, repeatedly, over several hours, about your headache, and still not taken that pill, you are more than just a fool. Somebody, sooner or later, will tell you so, too.

And what causes heahaches? There are HUNDREDS of reasons. But let's say, for the sake of argument that this one was caused by having your computer monitor in the wrong position. This can happen. You have your neck at a funny angle to look at it, and the craning of the neck leads to a headache. The solution is to move the monitor, but instead of doing that you drive everyone around you batty with your whining about your headache. Every day. Day in, day out.

How long would you expect people to tolerate it?

And of course, not everything in life is as easy to fix. Not everything can be fixed immediately with a pill, and long term by a new monitor arrangement. But the length of time people around you are willing to tolerate your inaction and whining, is directly proportionate to the difficulty that making a change would involve. They will cut you some slack. If you have issues with your neighbours, nobody will expect you to move house in 24 hours, and they will listen to a certain amount of complaint, for a while.

But there's a limit. There comes a time where it looks like you are doing nothing to remedy the situation, and/or YOU JUST ENJOY WHINING.

I repeat, we all need to get things off our chests from time to time, and that's what friends are for.

But if it hurts when you do that......for how long do you plan on doing it?

The Apostrophe

I was asked outright "why do you get so upset about apostrophes?"

OK. I'll explain. Let's use an analogy.

You are getting yourself dressed.

You put on underwear, trousers, a shirt, socks, shoes, and then to finish it all off, you pick up a cummerbund. And you put it on your head.

You sort of know what a cummerbund is. You're just not quite sure how to use it.

But instead of leaving it well alone, you use it wrongly.

That's what people do with apostrophes. They could just ignore them. It may still be wrong, but we'd know what you mean. But, instead, they insert them in a random place and hope for the best.

My advice to you, if the rules for apostrophes are too difficult, is just don't use them. They are, after all, over-used rather than under-used. In a given day, if you don't use them at all, you will probably be right more than you are wrong.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to use them correctly, the main thing you need to remember is.


Yes, YOU.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Illusion

We live in an imaginary world. Not on...the earth is solid enough, but in. Civilization, as we know it, is imaginary.

I'm not mad. I've always known our society is so crazy as to be an an illusion, but I could never quite explain why.

These 3 videos (which will probably not stay up long as I'm certain she has no permission to upload them) explain it all perfectly.

These are from Week 6 from a course I'm doing, and if it whets your appetite you might want to join it yourself. But if you can spare the time to watch just these 3, it will make you think very deeply.

Alas, as usual, I'm preaching to the choir, but it may help you, when you try explaining to others, because most people won't understand, or if they feel themselves beginning to understand, they'll reject it. It's too discomforting.


Third blog this morning on essentially the same topic, which is (if you haven't figured out by now) on personal choice, which is actually the topic of the week.

I was recently one of many who answered the question "What is your favourite scented candle fragrance".

Nobody commented on my reply, which wasn't surprising, because it was "I don't like scented candles". I said it because somebody had to.

I am picky about fragrances. Being me (see previous blog, if in any doubt) I tend to like "other" than the norm. When it comes to candles, I don't want them scented at all, thank you very much. Do not buy me a scented candle as a gift. I won't be rude enough to say anything at the time, but you'll be wasting your money because it'll go in a box in the basement.

Don't bother telling me "Oh, but these are high quality, essential oils". You're missing the point. It's not about allergies or sensitivities.

My favourite fragrance is fresh air. I never tire of it. If it weren't so cold most of the year, I'd have the window open all the time. If there were some way of letting January freshness in without freezing to death, I'd do it. You cannot "freshen" a room with fragrance, that's just silly.

On the other hand, I walked into the bathroom the other day, caught a whiff of very diluted bleach and enjoyed it. So, there it is.

Among the smells I do like, are good quality incense. Not the modern stuff. I like Nag Champa, Sandalwood, Myrrh, and Patchouli. Yes, I like Patchouli. Just not as a candle.

The candle fragrance conversation listed lots of things people liked, all of which I didn't. I won't be visiting them any time soon. "Christmas" fragrances are right at the top of their preferences, and right at the top of my "IT STINKS" list. I can't thing of anything nastier than a "Christmas" fragrance candle.

And, the fragrance they all hated was Patchouli. Which I like. I like it like a dog likes bums. If I catch a whiff, I will find my head trying to get closer, so my body has to follow.

I wouldn't wear it. I know lots of old hippies do. But the problem is, nobody likes it. So it's a bit like daubing yourself in cat pee. I'm not about to try to repel people. I really don't indulge in it much at all. I just like it.

They say that scents are more powerful as memory joggers than anything else. I don't have any memories brought back to me by Patchouli. I just like it. It sits well in my olfactories. I wouldn't want it all the time, or in overpowering amounts. But when I smell it, it pleases me.

I think people get bogged down in associations. It reminds me of this, it reminds me of that. It's a trap. Because it works both ways. It brings unpleasant associations as well. If you associate things with other things, you end up missing out on so much good stuff. I call it association prejudice. It is an INCREDIBLY powerful thing, and the vast majority of people aren't even aware of it.

I'll give you an example. Let's say twenty years ago you lived next door to a thoroughly unpleasant person who drove a Volkswagon Beetle. They hadn't looked after it and it made a terrible noise. They also worked an early shift. Not only did they wake you with the engine as it started up before dawn, they often took your parking spot. And were rude if you ever said anything about it. So now you don't like Volkswagon Beetles. You've never driven one, and really know nothing about them, but you have an association prejudice.

It doesn't matter, because you don't need one. You can live happily without it. Still, you dislike something you've never really "met" simply because of that association prejudice. Sad.

Sadder though, is that sometimes that which you have an association prejudice about is a person. That's sad for them. Maybe you too if you are missing out on a potentially great friendship. And sad too if it is not a person but a thing, a thing that would be very useful, or beneficial to you in some way.

In fact, what can happen with association prejudice is that you find yourself disliking something you like. Yes, I just said that.

This is the opposite of "going along with the majority". It's a sort of subconscious shooting yourself in the foot. It is so common, that I absolutely guarantee each and every person reading this has at least a few and possibly many association prejudices. I rarely meet anyone who is aware of it though. Perhaps analysts and psychologists find them for you, but unless you visit such people, you may never know. There's something to meditate on.

It may be a smell, a song, a taste, a person, an animal, a place............

Somewhere in your head is the idea that you dislike something or someone, and it's an error.

You don't have to like everything, and there's no specific thing I'm trying to encourage you to consider. I'm just all about awareness. It can be very freeing to be aware.

Anyway, I do hereby apologize for disliking most popular modern smells, especially candles, and for enjoying the one smell you all hate. I don't do it on purpose, it just is what it is.

I Don't Like Twilight

I'm referring of course to the book and film series, not the time of day.

Leading on from my previous blog of personal choice with regard to interests and pastimes, and closely connected to it, I am fascinated by the phenomenon of popularity.

When I was growing up, I did something that most teenage girls don't do. I had the courage to announce my likes and dislikes openly and honestly. Some of us are just like that. Maybe you were, maybe you weren't. When I did this, sometimes I was told that I was brave. I never saw it that way.

Many young people follow trends like sheep. They lack confidence in themselves, and their own choices, and so, even if they do actually have preferences that don't follow the mainstream, they keep them secret. They don't dare to go against the tide with regard to fashion, music, etc.

There's always one who does though, maybe it was you. Maybe you wished it were you. Maybe you knew somebody like that.

There's always one who just doesn't give a rat's arse what everyone else is wearing or listening to. She does her own thing. If you don't like it, that's just too bad. Even if you tease her, she just gives you a look. I think this is where the idea of courage comes in, but trust me, there is absolutely no courage involved.

I say this in complete confidence, because it has been pointed out many times that courage is not absence of fear. Courage is being afraid and going ahead anyway. Courage is to be admired. I prostrate myself at the feet of those with courage, because I have very little.

No, those of us different drummers who do our own thing are not overcoming fear of being different. We are afraid of being the same. It's much easier for us to be ourselves, to be weird.

Other people think we are being difficult. Contrary, just for the sake of it. Trying to stand out, to get attention. Also untrue. I love attention, but there's nothing to be gained by negative attention. No, that's just an unfortunate consequence of being the odd one out.

There is often the assumption that the freaky one is sad, lonely, and left out. Tell that to Johnny Depp. It is perfectly possible to be different and popular. In fact Johnny discussed this in an interview some years ago. I wish I could find it, because I shall have to only paraphrase, but essentially what he said is that we've got it all backwards. He said that what we take for granted as normal is mostly really quite absurd. I know he's easy on the eyes, but it's sage stuff like that which makes me love the guy.

Our society is completely and utterly ridiculous. If an alien were to visit us, and send back a report on how we behave, they'd never believe him. It seems impossible, on the face of it, that we could survive, not just as a species, but as a modern civilization, considering the level of absurdity of how we do things.

He's not the first to have noticed or pointed this out, of course. Satire has existed as long as there are written records, and there is even a children's story to guide us.

It's one of my favourite old stories, and I refer to it a lot. We are surrounded by naked emperors, and we say nothing. We ignore the nonsense of our culture, we go along with it, and we join in.

I don't, and I never did.

I have been called a maverick, a rebel, an iconoclast, a troublemaker, and other words which are less complimentary. "Not joining in" is seen as a bad thing, apparently. No team spirit. "Why do you have to be so difficult?"

Of course, I do understand what upsets them. Culture requires that everyone not make a fuss, just go with the flow, don't ask questions, don't make waves.

I do understand that, and I absolutely don't cause trouble for the sake of it. I know some do. No, I've never been one of those. They claim personal authenticity, but they just like to shock. It's all about intent and motivation, and it can be a tough call sometimes, I know.

So there is controversy about any attempt at authenticity. There always will be.

All we can ever do is think. Before reacting, preferably. Consider. Analyze. Choose. 

If you are quite happy with common things, there is nothing wrong with that. If you enjoy the latest trend, you are not doing anything wrong - sometimes popular and individual just line up. I'm not suggesting you are brainless if you share the opinion of the majority. My role here is to ask you to ask yourself if you're sure. To ensure that you aren't doing something just because it's the easiest or most popular thing to do. I'm here to remind you that you can select among the popular things. You neither have to select or reject based on popularity. You don't have to be a sheep. I've always been a rebel, and I survived.

Dressing Guinea Pigs


It's one of those things that stop us killing one another.

When people ask a direct open question, they invite answers. I'm quite active on the forums at Etsy, where buyers and sellers discuss various issues. One of the sellers asked if anyone had ever owned a guinea pig. She was interested in selling clothes for them.

I was going to simply click "X", and file that one in "Everybody needs a hobby" or possibly "None of my business", but she did ask. She ASKED. So, tactfully, I replied, that yes, in fact I had owned many guinea pigs in my time, but that I had never dressed them. And left it at that.

I am a walking contradiction, as anyone who knows me can testify. I seek to be kind. It is my objective every day, because I believe in kindness not just as a type of etiquette, but as a real force in the Universe. A special type of love that is totally unconditional and is offered to strangers for absolutely no reason other than it is the right thing to do. I believe deeply and passionately in it.

At the same time I have an intellect and sense of humour that sees the absurd in the most ordinary things, so when I come across something that is rather more absurd, I am unable to ignore it. I can force myself to be tactful, yes, and I did. I desire to be kind, yes, and so I was. Kindness overcame the urge to say what I was thinking, and all was well.

I know I have no need to explain this, because you are thinking it too. But before any of us have a little chuckle, remember - we all dress guinea pigs. When you remember this the kindness and tact become much easier.

We all dress guinea pigs. I say this because I'm using the term as an analogy. All of us, you, me, and him over there, we all do things that don't actually serve any practical purpose whatsoever, but make us happy. Everybody. No exceptions. In fact, some people do far more absurd things. At least dressing guinea pigs is a relatively inexpensive and harmless hobby - so long as the guinea pig doesn't mind too much, and I daresay he appreciates the attention.

Other hobbies are more costly, and possibly involve some harm to other species, one way or another. We don't laugh at them, or give them a funny look, despite this. Why? Because they are mainstream hobbies.

Consider games. Probably the number one hobby these days. The vast majority of people play video or computer games. The time, money, and power resources could all be put to far better use, and if you wanted to you could put a case that gaming is damaging not only society, but the planet as a result. But that would be an incredibly unpopular idea. Dressing guinea pigs would come out far better, ethically, and in quite a few other ways, but it has no mob to support it.

But we chuckle at the idea because it's not our hobby, don't we. We actually have to catch ourselves before we say something derisory about it. We even pout at the suggestion that it's wrong to make fun of people who make clothes for guinea pigs. Spoilsport. We are abashed.

Ongoing active kindness and fairness is awfully difficult, isn't it. It requires so much thought, and it's easier not to think.

I'm not suggesting for one moment either that you give up your games, or start dressing guinea pigs. Each of us must spend our spare time in our own way. But that's all it is. Our way. Your way. My way. Her way. There is no right way, or best way. We could instead spare a moment to be grateful for having spare time at all.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Complex Issue

Some of my most detailed thinking occurs after I've been disagreed with, which is why it's so valuable. In this particular case, a Facebook friend who I respect and admire very much for his thinking skills, disagreed with my position on the proposals to ban the Burqa and Niqab in some European countries. I don't support the ban, for reasons I shall explain, but I would like to see an end to these veils. Yes, it is possible to take this stance.

Before we begin, let's be clear on what we're talking about in two very important ways.

Firstly, we are talking about a garment that hides the face. Not a headscarf. There are two levels of this. This illustration shows the difference.

Secondly, before we go any further, it is vital to stipulate, there is no recommendation whatsoever in the Koran for this garment. There is a recommendation for women to dress modestly, but that, like most scripture, can be interpreted any way you please. Some ultra-observant Muslims have adopted this style of dress, but it is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Doesn't matter that they often claim it to be religious. That would be like me claiming that black eyeliner is my religious right. We can all claim anything.

Now, you know as well as I do, that there are many opinions and attitudes about this among westerners, but I find the views of people with a middle-eastern background to be particularly interesting, and not surprisingly there is nothing close to consensus. It is very easy to find objection to the veiling of women among them. Here is just one for you, to make my point.

And for balance this lady will give you another perspective.

And the arguments will continue.

Everyone's opinion, regardless of who they are, is valid, because this is not a no-harm issue. If it were, I'd stay right out of it.

To simplify the argument, basically what it comes down to is this:

Some women are asking for the right to walk around in public in disguise, because they like it that way. 

Should they have the right to do this?

Do you?

Wearing what we please is a right we are used to in the west, mostly. The women in question are not always actually familiar with that right, but they are conveniently latching onto it, and many westerners are supporting them. You can't really blame them, "When in Rome" is a very cherry-picked concept already, and they are not the first to be hypocritical about it. I smile daily at the local Mennonite community who eschew cars, but rent schoolbuses. No, people are people and will use all sorts of get-out clauses to get what they want.

Laws about clothing tend to be restricted, here in the west, to having something covering your genitals. After that, as far as the courts are concerned, you do as you please. There are other rules, rules of etiquette, good taste, and societal pressure to conform, that govern most of our clothing choices. Most importantly there are very few instances when a police officer would be within his rights to ask you to take something OFF.

One of those occasions seems to be when identifying people - teenagers are sometimes asked to take down their hoods so that their faces can be clearly seen. Is this an invasion of privacy? That seems to be the question here.

We tend to interpret hiding the face as a suspicious, rebellious activity.

But there are times, if we support the rebellion, we see it in a more positive light

So, our attitude isn't really about the mask, it's about the reason behind it.

What we claim frequently with any objection to the veiling of women, is that we are giving them freedom, that they are wearing it under pressure from family and community members. The counter objection is that not all women feel pressured to do so, that they prefer to be veiled, and that a ban on this garment effectively prevents them from feeling comfortable.

Banning anything, however, is problematic. People resent it, and some who might otherwise not feel strongly about the issue one way or another will come out strongly against the ban, on the grounds of freedom of choice. So there's a lot of freedom being talked about in this issue.

But we ban things all the time. And many of these bans impinge upon personal freedoms.

Whose freedom is the more important?

You can't have all of them at the same time. Can't be done. There has to be a compromise here. Somebody is going to lose a personal freedom. Ultimately, I will tell you, the winner will be the one quickest and easiest to achieve. Our society enacts laws for expediency because changing public attitude is slow. It is conveniently kick-started by laws. Consider labour laws, racial and gender equality laws. There was a call for them, and there were objections to them. But after the laws were enacted it became normal to agree with them. There are still objectors, and there always will be, but the moment something becomes law, objections diminish.

It is a curious phenomenon of humans that we are essentially law-abiding people. We like leadership, and we like rules, even sometimes when we claim not to. It keeps things peaceful, and provided the laws are mostly just, we go along with a few bits we don't like here and there, to maintain that peace.

I'm a natural rebel, in fact I'm an anarchist. But I'm also a pragmatist. And I like peace. This probably sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but I'm not so very unusual. I go along with all sorts of rules and laws to keep the peace. It's a "Pick your battles" thing. A compromise thing. Compromise is very necessary in a pluralist society. I am also an immigrant who believes in compromise of culture. I was lucky, in that my background culture wasn't terribly different to my adoptive country. Still, some people from the same background as me find fault deeply and constantly with many aspects of Canadian culture, and I make no bones about it - the airport is THAT WAY>>>>>>>

I am fully aware that some westerners are intolerant. We all know this. Let's not pretend otherwise - some are racist and don't like Muslims anyway, and that's the end of it. Not much we can do about them. Others have no problem with Muslims that assimilate totally and behave "like us", but are intolerant of anyone who is visibly and proudly very different. Maybe they can be talked round. Sometimes it just takes more exposure to "different" people.

Among those who are generally tolerant there is a phenomenon of tolerance fatigue. It feels like every time they give a little more leeway, another chunk is demanded. We all have different lines in the sand, nobody is totally tolerant, it's simply not a good idea to allow everything. In this issue ordinary, decent people, not racists, have been pushed to their personal limits. I believe this is where the real problem lies. Furthermore I do, personally, think that demands can become excessive. Remember what the issue is:

"I demand the right to walk around in public in disguise, because I like it that way."

This is not a right I would expect to have myself. I would not ask another person to abide by something I am not willing to abide by myself.

The last time I stated that, I was asked if I would be willing to strip naked for genuine security reasons. It was a silly, slippery slope question, but the answer is unequivocally yes.

All of this is important, and could lead to much further discussion, but what arose in the initial exchange that brought about this blog, is the question of whether women who veil themselves by choice are truly doing so from free will. I know some do. I question just how many.

Some are in a situation where to rebel against the veil would make life very difficult, due to overt pressure from family and community, and for some it would actually be dangerous. WE CANNOT PROTECT THOSE WOMEN. As a society we have an appalling track record with regard to protecting vulnerable people from domestic abuse at all levels.

I have spoken to veiled women, in a very relaxed atmosphere in the playing park with children, when they were completely free to speak, back when I lived in the city. The overall impression I got was that it was easier for them to go along with it than fight it. They were neither strongly pro or anti, they were simply ordinary women coping with life the best they could. Like all of us. Most of these women would in fact benefit from a ban. It is quite possible that research undertaken by those proposing bans has included similar interviews and similar conclusions.

To put it simply, in raw numbers, more women would be helped than harmed by a ban. More would increase their personal freedom than lose it.

Then there are those who have essentially been brainwashed. We actually call it cultural conditioning, or enculturement. We are polite about it because we try to be culturally sensitive, still we notice it happening.

In other situations we wouldn't be so polite about it. When it comes to the question of consent to sex with minors, for example, we call it grooming.

I hear your objections already, so don't bother. I'm not comparing the two, I'm simply saying this is what humans do. Remember how I said that attitudes change slowly, and laws speed things up? This is how we get round that. We persuade very effectively, until people think they want to do what we want them to do. If you don't believe in the power of persuasion, you've obviously never heard of advertising. Selling you something you didn't know you needed is one of the biggest rackets society knows, but it's extremely effective.

Convincing a woman that to veil herself is a good thing is really very easy within the bounds of a tight-knit religious community. I am not suggesting that her comfort is a delusion, it's very real. No wonder she objects.

And the idea persists as long as the pressure from within community, including that by other women, persists. This is not only a patriarchy issue (although it is one, because men are not veiled.) Peer pressure. It's incredibly powerful.

The exact same situation has allowed FGM to continue to happen despite women moving away from places where it is rife. Mothers want their daughters cut because they honestly believe it is better. We have no problem with the ethics of interfering there, of trying to persuade them otherwise, and banning it, but because it is hidden, the ban doesn't work. They do it anyway. They break the law to continue something obviously harmful.

So bans may not even work. The policing of it would be horrible. Imagine if you will, scenes of police officers ripping off veils from women who refuse to remove them. It's not something I want happening.

The best way, albeit the slow way, to end the veiling of women,  is obviously for the women themselves to resist it. Given what freedom they do have within the west, this is made far easier than for those women living in Muslim countries. Every woman who refuses it makes it easier for others to do so. These things reach critical mass, until only a tiny minority follow an old way. Society can easily deal with tiny minorities, it already does so all the time.

Every woman who demands the right to remain veiled slows that progress. She is held up as an example by those who wish to keep women veiled. She is probably already a minority but she is given massive exposure by both the patriarchy, and those who don't understand that you can't please all the people all the time. They are fighting for her rights too and they mean well.

I believe those who wish to ban it will succeed. I don't think it's the right way to go about it, but I don't have a better solution right now. I will continue as I always do, discussing the whole concepts of free thought, tolerance, and feminism.

I'm quite certain you have your own thoughts on this, will agree with some of what I said, and disagree with other parts. All your thoughts are valid.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


I just want to share something with you in case you ever need to use it, or a variation on it.

I ordered 50 of an item from a Chinese seller on eBay, paid by Paypal.

The package arrived, with the envelope intact, but the inner bag ripped open. Instead of 50 there were 30.

I reported this to the seller, who offered to send me 20 more to put it right.

The problem there, is that if they renege on this offer, too much time will have passed for me to a) make a claim against them on Paypal, and b) leave a negative feedback.

But I refuse to punish an honest seller by doing either within the time limit, only to receive the goods later.

My solution, was to order another 50, asking them to add the 20 owed to me in the same package, and ensure I received a total of 70. This way they are not out anything on the shipping, if it was an error by a staff member, and the time clock starts again. If the extra items owed to me are not in with the second order, I have the conversation on record.

There is always a solution that is ethical and fair, while protecting both parties, you just have to figure it out.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


I love 'em, in all their weirdness. I especially love some of their foibles, especially those which crop up repeatedly - that is to say these are not really individual foibles, but common ones.

Yesterday I experienced one that I've been watching for years, and it inspired me to write about it.

Essentially what happens is that person A has a problem. They ask a group of people "What would you do in this situation?"

Those in the group can express themselves any way they please, and most simply ignore the question. Yep.

Remember, the question is "What would YOU do?"

Most people reply "I think you should...."

No, she didn't ask what you think she should do, she asked what you would do.

Those of you who know me well know that I try to avoid saying "you should..." anyway, as a general principle. But specifically when I'm asked "What would you do?" I reply "I would....."

And what I would do is frequently not what others would do. I have a fairly unusual outlook on life.

Therefore, quite often when I say "I would........." a lot of people disagree with me. That's OK. I don't mind, in fact I'm used to it.

But having said "I would...." what happens next is not just people disagreeing with me, but people accusing me of something I didn't do.

"Why would you tell her to do that?"

"She shouldn't have to do that!"

"You have no right expecting her to do that."


I didn't tell her what to do. She asked what I would do, and I actually paid attention to the question. I responded with what I would do.

Apparently to many, this implies giving advice. This must be how they operate then. They say "I would" when they MEAN "You should." A subtle way of telling people what to do, by pretending they aren't. And, they assume others are as weasly as they are.

Some of us say what we actually mean. Shocking really.

I don't expect everyone to be as careful in their communication as I am. It is my choice. I will not "should" you on this anymore than I would anything else. But group behaviour fascinates me anyway - especially the "pile on" effect when somebody says something controversial - and this is an especially interesting aspect of it.

Friday, 6 September 2013

While I'm Here

I mentioned how Congo is a big country but I doubt many people know that. Many people (not YOU of course), are completely ignorant of many things about our world, and it's not entirely their fault. It's due to the emphasis placed on the parts of the world they care about.

I took some screen shots on Google Earth to help your perspective.

We'll begin with Africa, seeing as it's what inspired me.

Africa is a massive continent. Flat map projections make it look smaller than it is by distorting the width of of landmasses near the poles. But this is how Africa looks from a spaceship:

The Democratic (ha ha ha) Republic of the Congo occupies a large chunk in the centre, including most of the dark green.

But there are other ways of viewing the planet.

The south pole view:

The Indian Ocean view:

And the Pacific Ocean view:

This is why we call it a blue planet.

It's good to make the effort, regularly, to remember that our usual view is just one of many.


This won't be too long, although there's so much I could say. Most of it has been said by other wiser and far more eloquent people than me, but since I've been completely misrepresented on the topic, here it is.

Firstly, I personally have no national allegiance. I was born in Britain, and I live in Canada, but I neither identify as British or Canadian. You won't even hear me use the term British, I reject the concept. If asked, I will tell you I'm English, which enrages some, and confuses others, but it just tells you where I was born - it explains the way I talk, and why I eat Steak & Kidney Pie. It's not (as a very snotty French immigration officer once told me) a nationality. I know. That's the whole point. Nationality implies acknowledgement of nations, and you can shove nations right up where the sun doesn't shine. Nations do things that have nothing to do with me. They cause labels to be created that always cause problems. That's a much longer topic for another day, but suffice to say, my attitude is that I'm a citizen of a small blue planet, so take it or leave it.

But most importantly for this particular debate, I'm not American. Living right next door to the US, and spending quality time in social media online, naturally I cannot avoid American stuff. I sometimes get irritated by Americentrism, but as I have many American friends, for the most part I shrug it off.

When politics crop up, I have to remind people, frequently, that as a non-American, I am not involved in American politics. Does it affect me? Sure, but it's just a neighbouring country, not mine, and while I may take an interest, I'm not involved. I am not an American voter. And, as a matter of fact, because of my personal status, I have no vote anywhere. I've been an ex-pat too long to be entitled to a vote in England, and as I'm not a Canadian citizen, I have no vote here either.

I'm not heartbroken about this, as I wouldn't know who to vote for anyway. I don't trust any of them.

I don't do party politics. You may have to read that twice. Oh, sure, I'm  to the left of centre, if you average everything out, but my political compass varies with the topic involved, and there is no party that represents me, and I'm not about to put my name to any of them. So I get extremely irritated when I get called a liberal or a conservative (yes, I've been called both) because I'm none of the above. Does that bother you? Too bad. That's how it is. Call me names if you like, but I don't identify with any group or organization. Quite apart from anything else,there are THREE main parties in England and Canada, so there. It's not either/or. That affects how Americans think, I believe. Anyway, the point is, I'm outside of it all.

So right now all the garbage being spouted about how Obama is as bad as Bush, just goes right over my head. How has it taken you so long to clue in? They're all politicians. They all lie. They all criticize one another's foreign policy, and they all do the same things.

In case you missed my Facebook post the other day, my opinion is as follows:

"I said I wouldn't get into the whole Syria thing, but just hear this. I am not American. I don't CARE which party, left or right, is this or that, or who or what. From where I stand it's "The American Government", and party politics is UTTERLY IRRELEVANT. All I see is that a bunch of guys in suits in one country is going to make decisions on behalf of another country, and they may well make very bad decisions. This has got nothing, NOTHING to do with who you voted for, or what party they belong to. It's the Stars & Stripes brigade as an entity, OK? From out here, they all look the same. If that hurts your feelings, too bad. When a bomb comes towards me, I don't give a shit whether it's got Lib or Con written on it, I'm still dead."

And still it continues. As if any one man is responsible for these decisions anyway. If you think your leader, whoever he is, wherever he is, acts alone, and has any real power, my unicorn would love to have a chat with you.

The fact is, that world leaders, for all their flaws and charms, make decisions with advisers, who have advisers, who have advisers. It's a team effort, and I don't mean team in the cosy "we're all in this together" sense of the word. I mean team as in corrupt bunch of wankers who are all in it for their own gain, one way or another, to whom yes or no are interchangeable depending on promotion prospects and bribes, and in the end it's a miracle that civilization runs as smoothly as it does, because there are fools in charge. The system sort of props them up.

Having mentioned some of this, I actually had people turn round to me and say "So you think we should do nothing?"

It's exasperating.


There is a country called the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it isn't a democracy. The government basically does as it pleases. Nobody knows quite how many have been killed or harmed, and the government either turns a blind eye or is involved in it. One corrupt leader replaced another, and nothing changed. And the rest of the world? Well, they write letters of outrage.

Nothing is really being done about it.

Here is some information, if you are unaware:

I have no reliable figures, but it's probably safe to estimate that more harm per capita is happening there than just about anywhere else.

Why aren't we (outsiders) bombing Kinshasa?

I've asked why the current government there is even recognized by the rest of the world. The answer I'm usually given is along the lines of, well, even if you took him out, his replacement would be just as bad. It's probably true, too. There is a very rotten core there, and removing one part of it would achieve nothing. You'd pretty much have to go through that huge country (yeah, look on a map, it's very big, you may have missed it however) processing each person one at a time to find out if he's a good guy or a bad guy. Good luck with that.

If you can't see where I'm going with this, you're not paying attention. It's essentially the same problem, the same story, but with a twist, to Syria. Bad leaders over a long time frame, no obvious alternative, no easy way to sort it all out, meanwhile ordinary people are being harmed on an ongoing basis.

So, ask yourself why Syria is so different, so urgent, so important? Geography comes to mind. Strategic position. Call me cynical but this is not a humanitarian issue by western leaders, so forget that. If they were actually concerned about people being harmed by their own government, "something would be done" about countries like Congo, but it isn't. Nothing is being done.

We do nothing all of the time, until it suits us. When we do something there's a reason, and sadly, it's never the right one.

Some have suggested that it's all about oil.


I am not privy to the secret talks world leaders have. I don't know what their motives are. I just guarantee they aren't telling the truth. No, I guarantee it.

Do I have a solution? No. But I tell you this, dropping bombs on people is not the answer.

"If all our options are bad, why pick the one that involves missiles?" Rachel Maddow

I hope it's all bluff. Threats. But the American government have a habit of carrying out threats. It's not like we can sit back and say "Oh, well he won't REALLY do it". He might. Apart from anything else, any action taken without the full support of the UN is technically illegal, but that's never stopped them before either.

And of course, there's another angle with the Russians. Now, there's a world leader you can admire. Not. I think Russia is actually going backwards. But they have their eyes on the prize.

So let's get this straight, at no point have I said "Do nothing". But please, do the right thing, not the expedient thing. Do the thing that the Syrian people want done, whatever that is (has anyone bothered to ask them?) Do the thing that won't cause more harm than good in the long run. Do the thing that actually solves something. If you don't know what that is, then have the balls to say so.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

It’s All Semantics

I tend to annoy everyone. It’s not intentional. Honestly. I don’t get up in the morning determined to irritate people, it’s just my habit of questioning everything and refusing to just accept what I’m told. I’m a sceptic, but not the one-sided kind. There are plenty of others who claim to be sceptics but who, as far as I can see, only go so far with their questions. I’ll explain.....

It goes like this.....whether you’re on Facebook or sitting by a campfire, and the topic tends to get a bit deep, you tend to get two major “sides” occur. In most debates on How Things Are, you usually get someone who chirps up with “God did it!” and then you get “No, it’s science, dumbass.” Sometimes you get people who combine these two, in a variety of ways (some, oh let’s say, more considered, than others), including self-proclaimed metaphysicists, and others. And then you get me. I argue with all of them.

What annoys them, basically, is that I won’t take any of these positions.  The religious folk hate my constant pointing out that their beliefs are unscientific, and the scientists (who hearing that, think I’m on their “side”) hate my maverick ideas about the Universe and so on.  But I don’t even fall into the metaphysical camp properly, because it’s too wide open and woolly for my tastes. So they all roll their eyes at me, call me names, and decide I’m stupid. I can live with that. That annoys them even more, that their derision doesn’t bother me. As I said, I manage to annoy everyone.

Well, it’s all understandable really. I am, after all, implying that God and Stephen Hawking are both mistaken.  That is quite the stance to take. Requires chutzpah. I am unfazed. No wonder I get “those” looks.

But the problem is a basic philosophical one. I am all about definitions and proof. I require solid definitions and at least a reasonable level of proof. I’m into the whole “What do you mean by that? How do you know that?” thing. I ask those questions a lot, even if I don’t actually do it out loud. By which I mean that as soon as somebody seems very certain of something, I am suspicious. I look at them funny. And I examine their words really closely. I examine what they mean by those words.

What I love about scientists, the good ones that is, is that they are not afraid to say “We don’t know.” Because we don’t. We really, really don’t. And we know we don’t know. Despite that, there are plenty of times scientists behave as if they know. Some of them are extremely good scientists, those I really admire. I think they just forget themselves.

So, let’s see why I say that some of the definitions of words that we often bandy about are problematic.

#1 The first word I offer is the word “all”. I have a problem with this word, apparently, at a very mundane level when asking my kids to clean up. “Can you make sure you do ALL the dishes?” And I find the dog bowl still under the table. Or their father’s lunchbox unwashed. Or a large, annoying pan in soak. Or whatever. And I refer them to Sesame Street and how words are defined. All means all. I may even sing a little song.

In conversations, then, about The Universe, I find scientists – good scientists – sometimes referring to “The Known Universe” or “Our Universe”. Which is cute, but doesn’t really help. And occasionally you catch metaphysicists, and others, talking of other Universes. You certainly hear religious folk, and others, referring to “Outside the Universe” or “Beyond the Universe”.  And all of them like to offer the good old “Before the Universe”. I’m often tempted to say “I do not think it means what you think it means.” But it could be me that’s using the word wrong, of course.

When I say “Universe” I am referring to All There Is And Ever Has Been. Oh no, they say, that’s not what we mean. Well then, what word should I be using? Come on, what have you got? You don’t like my alternatives, do you?

Because if I say “The All” they roll their eyes at me, because it sounds too metaphysical. So how do we talk about “everything?”

You see, the thing is, making it sound as if you are referring to everything, and then going beyond that, is plainly unfair. It’s moving the goalposts. All means all. How we can we discuss the Universe if we can’t even agree on its definition?

The word Universe - according to Webster’s dictionary - is from the Latin, uni, meaning whole, and versus, meaning turned toward.  There’s no concept of it being just part of anything. In fact definition 1 says “The whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated.” 

Whole. Not part. Not even most of. And not just things observed, you notice, but also those postulated.

So maybe I’m just being too literal, or maybe we need a new word. Perhaps, it isn’t really a question of right or wrong here, but of having different ideas about what it means. And this is a fundamental problem, because whether you insist that the Universe was created by God, or formed in the Big Bang, we are leaving things out, one way or another. For a start we are not including the time before, nor are we including the empty space it moved into. And as some scientists like to tell us that time and space are ultimately the same thing, you have a problem either way.

And the reason this is all so problematic is that creation, by definition, be it by God or a massive explosion, messes with the Laws of Physics. And you cannae change the laws of physics, Jim. Or can you?

#2 The word ‘law”.

We are rather used to this word but I don’t think it always means what you think it means. Does it mean a rule that cannot be broken? When we create laws, that’s the general idea. But they get broken anyway. So, no, if it’s actually unbreakable, it’s not the same thing as that kind of law.

We decided that these laws of physics are actually impossible to break. Who says it’s impossible? Are we sure these laws apply everywhere? What do you mean? How do you know?

When something made no sense long ago, people simply said “God did it”. These days some people still say that when they don’t like the ramifications of science. 

Scientists, on the other hand, find a problem, i.e. something seemingly impossible, and say “It sort of messes with the laws of physics, so we need a new theory to explain how it is possible.”

That’s how quantum theory came about. Einstein hated it and I don’t really blame him. But it exists, it works, and it leads to yet more questions than answers. In fact as knowledge grows, we discover that what we thought we knew was wrong. Again good scientists are cool with that, they expect it, they’re not offended by it. Unfortunately some of them still behave as if what we know now is The Truth . Maybe they don’t mean to. Maybe if we just reminded them not to be so arrogant, and use the words “we currently believe” a bit more often, those who actually don’t understand the science, but listen to those who do (and totally miss the uncertainty factor) wouldn’t get so annoyed with me.

Anyway, this leads us to definition...

#3. “Science.”

It is not an alternative religion. You don’t have to believe in science. What science IS, is the body of knowledge that we have collected to date. It’s not the same as it was yesterday.  We learn new stuff all the time. In 100 years time what we know now will seem quaint. Teachers will say “in 2013, we believed that...BUT....” and students will laugh. Bless ‘em, they’ll think, they thought they knew everything.

If I haven’t nagged you into watching this video yet, please do so now.

It may all be stuff you already knew (as some have claimed......) but I think it illustrates what I’m saying. We must never allow ourselves to get haughty about what we know, not even the top scientists, because many things are uncertain.

Scientists ARGUE with one another. This is a good thing, of course, but it demonstrates clearly that while we may know this, this, and this (because we’ve all agreed on it, and no proof to the contrary has so far arisen), we’re not so sure about THIS.

Nobody really knows how gravity works, for example. But it does. We have measured it, and we know a lot about it, but we don’t really understand it. We cope just fine anyway, we don’t float away just because we don’t fully understand it. From our observations we can make predictions of how it will behave in whatever scenario, and we seem to get that part right. Before we visited the Moon (I use the big “we” here, I didn’t go) we calculated how heavy our boots needed to be, and it was pretty much bang on. Science begins with observation, after all. We extrapolate and infer from what we observe. Gravity is well-observed. And because we assume the laws of physics are unbreakable, and will apply everywhere, we don’t actually need to understand exactly how gravity works, we just do the math.

.....And sometimes we are wrong. So far, we have no examples of the laws of physics being broken (if they look a bit bent we compensate for it, see note on quantum theory, above), but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Furthermore, if we assume that these laws are impossible to break and apply everywhere, and we create theories based on these fundamentals, if perchance one day we find that the laws of physics DON’T apply EVERYWHERE, then that will alter every theory built upon them. Which is very unsettling an idea, and is therefore ridiculed. Understandably so really.

But we still can’t define “everywhere”.

We are all just doing the best we can really. It is a very safe feeling that we have such a good grasp of How Everything Works (even if we aren’t quite sure what “everything” is) and I don’t expect scientists to suddenly take annoying people like me into account, and preface everything they say with a disclaimer. That would get tedious, and it would also give more fuel to the creationists and others who like to discredit good science with their convoluted pseudo-science.

No, we have to remember, when we read science, what it is, and what it isn’t. We have to agree on what words mean before we can discuss anything. We have to be open to possibilities, without being credulous. We cannot have a cavalier attitude about objections to our favourite theories, or we face the possibility of looking really daft when they are proven wrong.

Which is why I ask:

 “What do you mean by that?”


“How do you know?”

And drive everyone nuts.

Every single time.