Quick thoughts

What is asexuality, anyway?

By |December 1st, 2016|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

This article that Lori Brotto retweeted presents one of the big problems with asexuality right now. It highlights two things: one, that asexuality is difficult to define, because it’s defined by the absence of something; two, that the asexual community also has problems with agreeing upon this definition.

This battle does legitimise the concerns the Office for National Statistics raised on asking a question about sexual orientation. They said that, “Sexuality is multi-faceted and difficult to define… different conceptions of what constitutes sexual orientation — including attraction, identity, lifestyle, partnership and community — may co-exist within a single study”. That is to say that even for a commonly used term for a sexual orientation (for example, “gay”), how it is interpreted differs between people. To give an example of how subjective this is, consider this example: is a man that identifies as heterosexual, but who has had sporadic sexual encounters with men, right to identify as heterosexual?

There does not appear to be an objective truth by which we can define others as asexual or not; but sexuality has always been a journey of self-identification and self-determination, anyway. While the ONS is concerned by how the public interprets those options, it is set to include a question on sexual orientation in Census 2021 for the first time.

The question remains: is a definition important for a sexual orientation to be a sexual orientation? Well, from a legal perspective, I’m not so sure. The Equality Act 2010 includes definitions of sexual orientations as part of the sexual orientation protected characteristic. However, these definitions are not related to specific terms. The Equality Act does not have any mention of “homosexual”, “gay”, “heterosexual”, “bi”, “lesbian” and so on. Rather it lists sexual orientations in terms of orientations towards persons same and/or opposite sexes. There is a gap here for “no persons”. There is also a gap for “persons of neither sex”, but that is a whole other article…

So there is something troubling with labouring over what asexuality is: whether it describes the compass of drive, or the degree of drive, or with someone’s perception of their self, people will use the label if they feel that it fits. If we have to decide whether asexuality is a sexual orientation or not, and what behaviours merit a person to identify as asexual, then it justifies the need to do the same for other sexual orientations. So if you’re a bi-curious straight person, you may have to prepare for having a label applied to you.

It’s been a while

By |February 27th, 2016|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

I haven’t updated this in quite some time. It feels like a lot has happened yet nothing major to report.

I don’t normally talk about medical things on here, but it’s had quite an impact on me, recently. The working diagnosis that I have is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ve been put on an anti-depressant to help manage some of the symptoms but, somewhat ironically, it makes me more drowsy. It’s also affected my mood somewhat, which led me to deactivate my Facebook account. I wanted a bit of distance to be sad, frankly. Nonetheless, I’m broadly alright: the gastrointestinal specialists have referred me back to my GP after finding nothing seriously wrong with my guts.

I’ve now been made an official DMeLD, which means a pay rise in the short term. I’m also a hall warden, which means much better living arrangements for me. I’m still tutoring and I’m still studying, though I’m now aiming for a Masters degree in Philosophy rather than a PhD.

Yep, a lot has happened!

Into the mind of a mathematician

By |January 26th, 2015|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

“… what is a teacher? You see, mathematicians don’t think of themselves as teachers. That should be clear. They lecture. Sometimes they like to and sometimes they don’t. But that’s not what you [as a teacher] think of. You think of yourself as doing mathematics [while students observe].”

One of Gustin’s participants believed that mathematicians don’t really teach: rather they imitate and demonstrate and encourage others to do the same.

Gustin, W. C. (1985), The development of exceptional research mathematicians, in B. S. Bloom, ed., Developing Talent in Young People, New York, pp. 270–331.

Technology in Football

By |May 1st, 2011|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

Michael Owen tweeted yesterday, “Once goal line technology is brought in, how long before it is being used for other decisions like offsides?” Is it a good point? No, I don’t think so. This seems to be a line common amongst those that don’t even trust themselves to be able to stop — let alone trusting an authority charged with the care of the game to have the competence to draw the line.

Let’s get this straight. We have cloned creatures. We can make crop incredibly robust. We can make buildings that can withstand earthquakes. But we don’t have houses that hover in the sky. We don’t have meals that make themselves. We haven’t cloned Bruce Forsyth.

Why not? Aren’t we capable? Sure, we probably are. But the thing is, collectively, we all know instinctively that these are bad ideas. We have drawn the line somewhere, because we can gather the intelligence amongst us to debate sensibly and decide.

This is why, if we introduce goal-line technology (which, by the way, promises immediate feedback rather than referral to a video referee), we won’t be immediately calling for a computer to replace the referee purely because of precedent.

All the Same, It’s Fun

By |March 28th, 2011|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

I’ve been tired much of this evening. But I’ve spent the past hour listening to music. That’s not terribly unlike me: life and its mysteries seem a little easier to understand and confront when you have a soundtrack.

But there is one thing that’s got to me; that I have not been able to unravel and fathom. How can the hider ever win against the seeker? The reward for hiding particularly well is isolation; and the fact that isolation is the desire makes it a self-perpetuating outcome. Those good at hiding become ever harder to seek, to the point where the seeker gives up. The seeker still wins, for he has ended the game under his control and the hider is nowhere to be seen.

It strikes me that to win, one must be a seeker or just leave the game. But for the hider, removed from the wider picture, will feel like he is winning when in fact he lost a long time ago.

Who the Hell Am I?

By |March 12th, 2011|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

I walk into work most days. It is pretty convenient, and I get to walk along a brook of sorts. It’s precious “good” thinking time. I have plenty of “bad” thinking time, but the fresh air, purpose and grandiose inflation of power does me an exceptional good. Lately this good thinking time has led me to ponder exactly who I am. It is a bizarre question.

My overriding conclusion is that I am a hybrid. Or I have identity crises. Or there is some sort of mental meltdown going on. I shall explain the former.

On campus, I have seen a surprising number of Northumberland flag car stickers. I have one as well, and I delight in seeing them. I am proud that I am a Northumbrian (also, a Geordie). But, whenever I am asked where I am from, I have a compulsion to mention Kent, too. Kent is a hugely historic and culturally important place, too. But no car stickers…

I approach life with Buddhist motives (but I could not claim to be a Buddhist), yet I have my moments. I revel in technology and buy luxurious things, but I am just as happy (happier, maybe?) when I remove myself from this inventory.

There are other ways in which I consider myself to be a contradiction of ideals or constructs. I desire to be “normal”, but I also revel in my uniqueness. In so many ways, I still do not really know who I am and this has irked me lately.

Obligatory All Year

By |December 29th, 2010|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

This BBC News article has stirred a debate in my head. Who should be responsible for keeping charities afloat? Should the government subsidise the work of organisations’ work to improve things, or is it up to the people to decide who needs the most support?

It is a fine line. On the one hand the government ought to be responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure the citizens it serves are relatively comfortable. If it falls to a charity to lobby for change, provide the change and represent its people then the government is failing in that respect.

On the other hand, the opposing view is that perhaps charities would then be regarded as a means to provide things that do not really matter, which makes them rather pointless.

To illustrate my example, the NSPCC‘s “Full Stop” campaign to stop child abuse is changing children’s lives, thanks to donated money. Does the fact it still exists suggest the government is failing to take care of children? Should the government be funding its work and taking responsibility? Does the independence of the charity from government suggest that the government does not think this is a priority?

They seem like leading questions. Perhaps they are. But you might consider further: if the government took responsibility and were the primary source of funds, would people still be as generous with their donations? How can a government struggling with resources maintain the flow of money to charitable organisations?

Hit Where It Hurts

By |December 13th, 2010|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

Right now, I feel extremely lucky to have been born in 1985. This is a very new feeling. We were the first guinea pigs to be fed the new modular A Level syllabuses; we narrowly missed out on receiving the Education Maintenance Allowance; we were asked to take out loans for tuition fees; and we also missed out on the Child Trust Fund and other such things. These are all invariably “good things” under various guises. But they are all being meddled with.

And, of course, the younger people are not happy. No more Child Trust Funds. No more Education Maintenance Allowances. Sweeping changes to post-16 education. Phenomenal increases to tuition fees. Why? Because the rich oldies made us poor, and don’t have to pay it back.

That’s the perception. And with that perception in mind, it is understandable for them to angry. Ultimately, they are being asked to pay when the big companies have seemingly got away with it.

That is, of course, no excuse for violence and vandalism. Given that trying to make a noise is greeted with condemnation anyway, the actions of rioters were futile — it made no difference to the decision and generated apathy and derision from the press and public. In contrast, a quiet, peaceful protest would have been completely ignored (most were) and generated a modest amount of sympathy.

It’s sad. What can we offer young people? Not much work, not much support; education isn’t a viable alternative. Don’t expect any sympathy from the welfare system, and don’t expect anyone to be able to afford to put you up for the night.

Of course, if you have rich parents you needn’t worry. You can get your civil servants to do all the hard graft.

Next through the Revolving Door

By |December 8th, 2010|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

Welcome to Alan Pardew. In honour of his impending arrival at St. James’ Park, I thought I’d copy and paste some highlights from his Wikipedia page.

At West Ham United: “The chairman Mr Eggert Magnússon and the board have been concerned by the performances of recent weeks and feel that it is the right time to make a change in the best interests of the club.”

At Charlton Athletic: “He was unable to keep Charlton up… Many expected Charlton to bounce back from relegation into the Premier League… but Charlton failed to mount a serious promotion challenge and finished the season in 11th. [In the 2008/9 season] Charlton’s form very quickly deteriorated and they were near the foot of the table and after 8 games without a win and a 5-2 home defeat to Sheffield United on 22 November 2008, Pardew parted company with Charlton by mutual consent.”

At Southampton: The club announced in a statement, “Following a review of the current status in and around the First Team, the Club has decided that, to achieve its well known targets, it is essential to make changes to the First Team management and coaching… Consequently, the First Team Manager, Alan Pardew… [has] been relieved of [his] duties with immediate effect.” The section concludes, “The dismissal came amidst reports of low staff morale and conflicts between Pardew and [the] club chairman.”

He wasn’t good enough for a League One team. But at least it seems guaranteed he won’t be here for long.

Somewhere Far Away

By |November 15th, 2010|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

I have a problem. It’s me.

I am a paradox. In my own mind I am a self-absorbed, self-loathing idiot capable of sheer brilliance and astounding stupidity. I am a font of knowledge, ideas and wisdom; as well as misinformation, delusion and complete bollocks.

I get on with most people but I am yet reticent to meet new people. I once regarded myself as supremely confident with a bounty of self-belief; but I am defeated by this ridiculous, irrational fear that cripples my attempts to lead a rather ordinary life.

I was once regarded as mysterious and guarded, but, seeing as you are reading this, you can see that I express myself more.

It feels like I am two people. There is the confident-me: thoughtful and considerate yet willing and able. Then there is the Internet-me: bold and exuberant but misguided and a bloody idiot.

Of course, it’s not the Internet’s fault. I can only call it an insecure manifestation of me that is slowly becoming me.

And all this because I have to make some phone calls tomorrow.