Posts Tagged: Reflection

Everyone goes crazy over such and such and such

Monday 25th January 2016

I’ve been blogging – on and (mainly) off, in one place or another – since about 2004. In fact this very blog was started in 2007, so coming up for 9 years now(!). Reading through some of the early scribbles (and please don’t take that as a cue to trawl the archives, they’re awful), I see posts about religion, ramblings about motorsport, many many entries about procrastination, and song lyrics shoehorned in as blog titles.

So it’s still very me; at a basic level those are all things that I’d probably write about now. Sure, now I’m procrastinating on chartership reports instead of exam revision and the lyrics are from songs released in the last decade rather than the 60s, but the basic concept is pretty similar.

It’s still me, but not quite the same.

Reading through those old posts is a brilliant – if actually quite horrifying – experience. Seeing my thoughts from way back when, the general theme is “shit, I wrote that?!”. Call it the arrogance of youth or whatever; reading them with older eyes I just realise how I sounded. It also brings back a flood of memories. Of what was going on in my life when I wrote the blog, what I was feeling, and generally what got under my skin. I’m glad to say that those things have changed, at least.

I’m in the back half of my 20s now. Whilst in broad brush strokes I’m the same as ever, reading back those old blogs makes me realise that I’m a very different person. In terms of how I think and how I approach life, I’m just different. More comfortable with who I am, probably; and because of that more confident, less eager to prove myself. I have no idea if that translates into how other people see me; a lot of the people I see most often now are people I didn’t know back when I wrote this regularly, so they have no baseline for comparison.

None of this is to say that I think I’ve grown up to be amazing. I’m comfortable with who I am, but I acknowledge I can be a dick sometimes. The thing is that everyone is a dick sometimes; the trick is to ignore the people who act that way more often than not.

The odd thing is that I almost feel like I can pinpoint the time when I changed; a certain moment when a switch was flicked and I became comfortable with who I am. Which is almost certainly bullshit. People don’t work like that, we change gradually in response to many things.

I don’t apologise for not blogging. I try to write every now and then, get bored and then go do something more exciting. I won’t promise that I’ll try and write regularly or whatever because I can almost guarantee that won’t happen. Probably best to say that I’ll write whenever I feel I want to record something.

And on that note, I’m off to the pub. See ya in another year (or so)!

Posted In: RandomStuff Tagged: | 1 Comment

Having an Argument

Sunday 20th June 2010

This is something which really annoys me, which I’ve noticed relatively frequently recently, and I’m wondering whether it’s just me who feels like this.

Right. So I generally enjoy arguing about things. I like having an opinion on something – be it politics, religion, motorsport, whatever – and listening to the opinions of others and generally discussing them, whether we hold the same viewpoint or not. It’s a satisfying experience, because it makes me look at my own thoughts more closely, and it obviously opens my eyes to other perspectives. This sort of analysis either leads to me reinforcing my initial opinion, or changing my mind partially or even completely. Either way I enjoy this because it broadens the way I view that subject.

I like to think that I am fairly logical in forming opinions. Whether or not that is fair to say is for other people to judge, but I like to think that it is. I find that I don’t come to a conclusion about something until I really feel as if I know a decent amount about it. I’m probably extremely pedantic about finding facts or evidence to form (or indeed judge) an opinion.

When that comes to forming opinions about things like politics, then yes I suppose to an extent that there is a certain amount of philosophy which enters into the equation. Questions about what we want to do – how we want society to be – are fundamentally philosophical. There’s not really any evidence to support the idea of freedom being good, for instance, it’s simply a philosophy which we generally find pleasing. I reckon that if you look across the political spectrum there is probably a great deal of commonality about this underlying philosophy; the real differences come from the development of political theories for building a society which delivers this, and this arena of thought is much more open to evidence. These theories are inherently testable – we can implement them and see which best deliver what we want. And in the course of human history (and especially in the last 100 years), many of these different theories have been tested to destruction and studied. So we can probably state with some confidence at this point, which political theories are most effective for delivering certain types of society.

The world is a complex place. It seems a bit simple to point that out, but I think people gloss over it sometimes. There is very rarely an unambiguous completely correct solution to something. Maybe this is something that’s been drilled into me through my engineering education; any scheme or solution has pros and cons, and the role of the engineer is to study the specific needs and to work out the solution which best balances the pros and cons to meet those needs in the most successful way. Which in most cases is really the “least worst” solution, in that almost every solution to every engineering problem is a compromise and will have downsides. It’s raw problem-solving (which is why I enjoy it) and its a way of thinking which I think is applicable to more than just purely technical problems.

So to come back to politics, I obviously have a certain opinion about which political theory is best. And by best I obviously mean that by the standards of what I think society should be like – someone who has a fundamentally different idea of this is likely to form a different opinion to me. In Britain though, I think there is probably general agreement that we want a fundamentally free and fair society. I don’t think many people have massively differing ideas of what this means, even if they disagree about what the solution should be to deliver it.

By way of example, a significant part of what I would consider to be a good solution is the idea of economic liberalism. That is, free trade in free markets. Or for want of a better word: capitalism. Now is not the time to explain the reasoning behind this, but I would say that it’s better for society if things are done in this way; if goods and services are generally provided through the market (I’m very much an Orange Book-er). And of course, the reason why I have come to this conclusion is because the evidence seems to support this (and also because I think it’s a wonderfully elegant concept). But, note the use of the word “generally”. I recognise that there are certain things that the market cannot deliver, or at least cannot (on its own) deliver fairly. And for these things, yes, we need a state.

(I intend to go into the thinking behind this in another post, so for now please don’t comment just to argue about the last paragraph!)

This is an example of what I mean about things requiring relatively complex solutions. I don’t think that my opinions tend to be straightforward “this is best”; generally I think that I recognise that many solutions are imperfect. But I find that when I try to explain what I think, occasionally people just ignore much of this and instead take what I say to an over-simplistic extreme. For some people, if I try to explain the belief in free markets, they seem to automatically assume that I’m some anarcho-capitalist nutjob who thinks that the state should be dismantled. They don’t seem to understand the nuance of the argument. Indeed in some cases, people don’t even seem willing to understand it…

The question is: has anyone else had this experience? I’m wondering whether it’s my fault for not communicating clearly enough; but then I’ve expressed the same opinion to different people, and some seem to understand what I’m saying (even if they disagree), whereas others seem to almost caricature what I say and leap to a simplistic conclusion about what I mean without really understanding my argument. And actually, from looking at comments on the various politics-y blogs that I follow, it does seem to be a fairly common occurrence on some of them. But I just don’t get it.

Whatever, it frustrates me massively when people choose to disagree with something before they’ve bothered to properly understand the argument they’re disagreeing with. It’s supremely arrogant.

Posted In: PoliticsRantStuff Tagged: | 11 Comments

Things You Don’t Know About Me

Thursday 24th December 2009

Considering that Blogs are inherently personal things, it’s perhaps odd that I try to avoid writing anything too personal. Other people blog about life and love and things like that, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about myself like that on the Internet. The weird thing is that if I went to the pub with any of the people who comment here regularly, then I’d probably be more than happy to prattle on about that sort of stuff. I think it’s the fact that it’s available to anyone, whenever I write something there’s the nagging thought of “can this come back to bite me?” which stops me saying anything too obvious.

If you read my blog you can probably make certain inferences about me, and you’d possibly know certain things about me that people that I regularly see don’t know. I can’t think what, but I’m sure theres something. I think that the reasons why people read blogs is interesting. I’ve always tried to avoid posts which are too much about the daily grind because I think that people would find them boring, but then when I read other people’s blogs which are like that I almost always find them pretty interesting. I think people are just naturally nosy, so the opportunity so see a snapshot of someone elses life, even if you don’t know them, is pretty compulsive.

I find it interesting reading back through my old entries, here and elsewhere. Theres a lot of really subtle references to things which reflect where I was at that time. Or maybe they’re not subtle, but no-one commented on them at the time so I think I got away with it. Only a couple of people that read this would know what I’d be referring to anyway, so I suppose that helps.

It’s not as if I’m trying to be mysterious or anything like that. Really I don’t like talking about myself, and to a point I hate it when people talk about themselves too much. You know how some people always have loads of amusing anecdotes which they share at any opportunity? Well I don’t do that, I just don’t think to do it. I could probably think of a few, but really I can’t stand it when other people do that so I don’t do it myself. I also don’t talk about friends too much; my uni friends probably couldnt name three of my home friends, and vice versa, wherease I could probably do so for most of them. Bloody hell, my parents probably don’t know the names of most of my friends! It’s not that I’ve done that on purpose, I just don’t talk about them that much to people who don’t know them.

Drama annoys me. People who live their life constantly going from one crisis to the next really irritate me, because really they just want the attention. I’m not one for showing too much of what’s going on under the surface; I’d be surprised if even the people who are closest to me could tell when I’m feeling particularly down in the dumps (unless I’ve told them as much). So I guess that spills over into my blogging. When I started writing the intention was to keep it more “factual”; for my blog to be a place to write about my opinions and basically rant, but not a sort of “diary” thing. I think it’s gotten more personal over time, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable with writing about my love life, for instance. Not that there’s anything at all to report on that front (other than the same depressing story as for the last way too long), but whatever.

Anyhow, I was going somewhere with this but I got distracted by Monty Python clips on YouTube. And now I’m tired, so sleep beckons…

Posted In: RandomSleepStuff Tagged: | 5 Comments


Wednesday 28th October 2009

I had to give a talk today about my year out. All the placement students have to give a presentation in front of 2nd years who are thinking of doing the same thing, and we get 15 minutes to cover the year. I’d imagine in most cases it’s pretty difficult to sum it all up in 15 minutes, but in my case I found it particularly difficult because I worked in three places doing two very different jobs. There was a lot that I missed out, which is a pity.

This is my final year of University. I was worried that I’d find it all incredibly tedious but actually I’m rather enjoying it. Yes some of my lectures are truly tedious (I really can’t find it in me to care about geotechnical engineering, possibly because the lectures are really hard to follow), but equally some are really fascinating (as ever, the water module. Who would’ve thought that the design of water/sewage treatment works could be interesting?), so it’s all good. I think my attitude is very different to before I did my year out, which is something I didn’t think would happen. I find it less difficult to motivate myself to do work now, which is pretty good seeing how I’ve got a hell of a lot to do this year…

I’m halfway through week 5 of the final year (yes, Cardiff University starts back at a proper time, unlike some “institutions” I could mention that can’t be bothered to start the year until about halfway into October… :-p). I’ve already applied for one graduate job, my to-do list for the rest of the week includes finishing the form for another one, and I’m considering a couple of other things too. All that, and I think I’ve still got a fairly good chance of getting a job with the company I finished my year placement with, should I want it. But the thing I’ve just applied for is the one I really want.

Whilst I was writing the talk I gave today, looking through my diaries and photos from the past year and thinking about how to cram almost a year’s worth of experiences into 15 minutes (the answer: 37 slides in PowerPoint), I started to miss working. In fact, I went with one of my brothers to watch my other brother play rugby the other day (yup, both my younger brothers followed me to Cardiff when they went to university. Oddly, we’re still all at different unis), and there was a building site right next to the pitch. As we walked past, I couldnt help thinking to myself “yeah, it’d be a lovely day to be out on-site today”.

The thing I miss the most is the feeling of “I did that”. It’s the feeling of having done something, of having made a difference in some small way and having something tangible to show for it. You can go and see the work I’ve done in the last year, and it’ll be there for a while yet. That’s a great thought.

I pretty much stumbled into engineering. I’m not sure how, but now I’m here I’m really glad that I did. It’s a fabulous profession because We Do Stuff. In the Victorian era, engineers like Brunel, Telford and Stephenson were celebrities; people queued up to visit their latest marvels. Engineers built your house, designed the circuits to carry electricity to it and worked out how best to lay the cables that carried this writing to your computer, which yet another engineer designed. Civil engineers are the reason you have clean drinking water, and I think we’re fairly justified in arguing that we save more lives every year through that one thing that we all take utterly for granted, than the medical profession could ever hope to achieve.

And I guess that brings us back to sewage treatment. On which I have a lecture at 9am tomorrow morning, so I should go to bed.

Posted In: EngineeringSleep Tagged: | 17 Comments

Where I’m At

Thursday 27th August 2009

It’s my last day of work tomorrow. I’ve been working back in Cardiff for the last couple of months, doing the enabling works for the job I was going to start in January. I’ve had a lot more responsibility here which has been pretty cool, and in lots of ways I’d be happy to stay in work rather than go back to uni. For some reason though, having the finish line in sight makes me look forward all the more to finishing, going home and doing all the things I’ve been unable to do while I’ve been working.

I’ve had a damn good year. Probably my best since starting uni, which – while it may not augur well for the coming year – makes me think that at least I’ve picked the right profession, which is good. It’s been a fairly unsettled year, but perhaps that’s made it better. I really hate routine, so the rotation from consultancy to contracting then between sites probably helped keep my attention. Either way, it’s been enjoyable and very satisfying. I’ve got lots of good memories, especially from working on site. It’s a fairly concentrated thing, working away, because all you have to occupy your mind is work during the day (obviously) then during the evening you socialise with colleagues as well. That said, one of my favourite things about contracting is the amount of different people you meet. As the work goes on different people come on-site to do different things, and you start to work up good relationships with some of them. The interesting thing about being a site engineer is that you have to talk to everyone and get on well with them, be it company directors or general labourers out on site. You meet a good spread of people, which means that if you ever get bored it’s easy to go out and find someone to talk to…

This summer has also been extremely good. While I was working in Oxford I didn’t get much chance to see friends. During the week I was obviously away and during the weekends I was generally tired or busy doing stuff I couldn’t do during the week because I was away from home. Since I’ve been in Cardiff I’ve at least been able to catch up well with uni-friends and it’s been pretty cool, including lots of pub trips and a road trip to North Wales which was fairly awesome, even if I did get beaten at pool by a guy with 2 broken arms. Had some home-friends down to visit the other week as well, went to V with them this last weekend (absolutely awesome, which surprised me) and I’ll be home the next few weeks (well, mostly. Still have to come to Cardiff a couple of times a week for hospital appointments 8-). So I’ve had loads of chance to see all the important people (except Lucy, we need to catch up when I’m back home. And one other person who has mostly fallen through the net and You Know Who You Are ¬_¬).

I’ve been thinking about the future recently as well. I’m going into my final year, so should probably think about what to do. I have some ideas, but really it all hinges around who will actually give me a job… I have some ideas, but nothing concrete (and honestly, pun not intended). I have no real idea where I’d wanna live as well. I have a few places in mind, but again it all hinges around work. I have very little tying me down to any particular place so I think that I may as well go somewhere new. Outside of work, I have a fairly good idea of what I want. Whether that is attainable or not, however, is a different matter. Whether I throw caution to the wind and see what happens, or abandon that idea completely, is also a different matter and one I’m trying to decide upon at the moment (yes I’m lame. Shut up now).

Anyhow, on the whole, life is pretty fucking awesome. And now, I must sleep!

Posted In: SleepStuff Tagged: | 5 Comments