People of the forest

The clock is ticking

25 orangutans will die today.

Just like yesterday.

And tomorrow.

Palm oil deforestation is killing the last orangutans on our planet, and if we don’t act now, in just eight years there won’t be any left.

Orangutans need trees to live. But profit-hungry companies are tearing down and burning their rainforest homes to grow palm oil trees instead. Orangutans are shot dead when they dare explore these new plantations.

Experts don’t mince their words: unless we do everything we can right now, orangutans will be gone forever in less than eight years.

Mondelez, Nestlé, and Unilever all buy this dirty palm oil. It’s everywhere, from snacks to detergent and make-up.

Multinational corporations’ greed for cheap palm oil has decimated the rainforests where orangutans live. Every year, millions of acres of pristine rainforest are destroyed — and replaced by huge palm oil plantations.

Deprived of their natural habitat, orangutans starve. When they feed off palm fruits on plantations — they’re shot.

More information:

Biggest food brands ‘failing goals to banish palm oil deforestation’
The Guardian. 17 January 2020.

One Casualty of the Palm Oil Industry: An Orangutan Mother, Shot 74 Times
New York Times. 29 June 2019.

Orangutan dies after brutal pellet gun, stabbing attack
CBS NEWS. 7 February 2018.

Palm oil producers are wiping out orangutans – despite multinationals’ promises
The Guardian. 10 May 2018.

On World Orangutan Day – 10 Amazing Facts About These Critically Endangered Species
Greenpeace. 19 August 2018.

Donate now: contribute to the fight to save the orangutan.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Biodiversity | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The end of a streak

WordPress has been congratulating me for more than a month for being ‘on a streak’, as it calls it, which means that I’ve posted at least once every day during that time.

All good things must come to an end, though: and, unfortunately, for the moment I’ve run out of things to say. My muse has once again left me. Although there are numerous folks out there in the blogosphere suggesting prompts and challenges to get the creative juices flowing, nothing of late has sparked anything for me.

Rather than fight this, I’m going to take a break for a bit.

Posted in ... wait, what? | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Spring into summer

Another time-lapse series of my dwarf horse chestnut tree, in the months of May and June 2020. During this time, the edges of the tree’s leaves have become severely dry, despite my daily watering. I’ve seen this happening for the last couple of years; I think perhaps that I should repot it this coming winter, maybe that will help.

Posted in Bonsai Diary | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Living your dash

The DashI learnt about ‘living your dash’ from Robby Robin’s Journey. ‘The dash’ is the one that goes between your dates of birth and death. Mine, for instance, is in “1960-” (because I’m not dead yet). Jane Fritz says:

This expression was popularized by Linda Ellis’s poem
The Dash; it provides a powerful metaphor for your life and helps us think about how our own dashes might be evaluated.

I went googling for the poem. It wasn’t hard to find it. However, reproducing it is subject to licence… which I applied for and was kindly granted. So here it is:


I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

By Linda Ellis, Copyright © 2020 Southwestern Inspire Kindness, Inc.,

Posted in art, Core thought | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

The sea

The sea
Yet we wage war on it
Three-quarters of the Earth's surface
Pollution and overfishing
Will kill all the oceans
But do we care...

Prompt: The Writer’s Corner poetry prompt: The Sea

Posted in balance, Environment, Poetry, Water | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Marcus Brigstocke on Religion: Part Two of Two

I have to admit, I did swear a bit myself this week. I was reading the Daily Express newspaper — I say ‘newspaper’, that’s overstating it a bit, unless Princess Diana’s mysteriously easy to explain death is still news; however, it is daily and the ‘express’ bit is accurate as well, as it’s clearly written in a hurry.

— Ooh, heavens to Betsy, blast and fiddlesticks, whoops and thunderclaps: me blessed head’s all full of pain.
— What did you do?
— I stubbed it on Ann Widdecombe’s column.

She was writing about biblical literacy, and how so few people are familiar with the bible. She seems appalled at how few people are able to remember the ten commandments, to which I say “You’re a christian: you remember them. I don’t remember the offside rule, but I’m not a footballer, so those rules don’t really apply to me.”

The bible’s full of great ideas, and many are worth remembering, I agree with Ann Widdecombe on that, but biblical literacy should not just be a PR job for God, it should be inclusive. That’s right, kids, just six pages in God murders everyone and everything apart from Noah and the fish. Apparently the fish did nothing wrong, but everything else had to die. Still, we getting our revenge on the fish now, aren’t we, by hunting them to extinction — take that, God.

Of course, in the flood it was the giraffe that came out worst of all: being the tallest, he had to watch, terrified, as God killed everything else, knowing that even his gentle chewing face would eventually fill with water and he would lollop off this mortal coil. God always hated giraffes: he made the plans for them in Imperial and then made them in Metric. They were never meant to be that tall. That’s why, when they run, they look like idiots: it’s God’s revenge.

Ann quite rightly points out that there is much to admire and aspire to in her choice of holy book: but there are also wanton acts of genocide, infanticide, fratricide, straight murder, rape, paedophilia, enslavement, brutality, and, frankly, a level of sexism that would make John McCririck go “Ooh, steady now, give the little ladies a break.”

Just which bits of the bible should we make our children live by? Eat not of the rock badger, I’ve always thought that was very solid advice: that’s why my kids never have donner kebabs.

Ms Widdecombe says everyone should follow the ten commandments: well, yeah, sure, why not, some of them are very good; on the other hand my neighbour does have a particularly sweet looking ox at the moment and I have to admit I’ve done a fair bit of coveting this season.

These are supposed to be the ten most important rules for mankind to follow and God spent the first four flattering himself and being jealous:
— thou shalt have no other gods before me
— thou shalt not worship false idols
— thou shalt not take my name in vain, and
— thou shalt keep the sabbath day for me and me alone

Good grief! He’s like a paranoid menopausal housewife with an adulterous husband: “Oh, don’t you go looking at other gods, I know what you’re like, giving Shiva the glad eye… does my big holy bum look big in this — no, don’t make a graven image of it I can see in your eyes I look dreadful >gasp< One day a week, that is all I ask, but, oh no, you have to keep your hospitals open don’t you and switch your blasphemous lights on.

And in case you’re wondering, because, you know, people very often do, would you say all of that about Islam, err, yes, yes I would. Weirdly enough, the Daily Express didn’t give equal space to someone promoting the idea that all of our children should be familiar with the Koran: I’m sure they’ll get around to it in the name of balance in the end. But yes, I would say all of this about Islam, including all of the details of the beheadings, the under-age sex, the misogyny and the fact that Mohammed was illiterate.

It’s alright, don’t be scared for me, I’ve done this before.

Ann Widdecombe says if we live by the bible we might once more be a decent, kind society with notions of fidelity, humility and forgiveness and she says even Richard Dawkins might find it difficult to quarrel with that. I don’t think so, and she should know that. Richard Dawkins would quarrel with his own reflection if the mood took him…

— Who are you?
— I’m Richard Dawkins.
— Oh, really? Well, you look very smug.
— Well, so do you.

Ann Widdecombe recommends the parable of the Good Samaritan… hmm… so, a foreigner, who noone trusted, turning out to be a good bloke who helps people. Racial tolerance and the embracing of multiculturalism — recommended by the Daily Express. Then of course she goes on to mention the sharing out of food at the feeding of the five thousand, hmm, share what you have and we’ll all be better off. Effective socialised taxation endorsed by the Daily Express. She then recommends the Sermon on the Mount: blessed be the poor, and the meek, and the peacemakers so that’s multiculturalism, pacifism, humility and socialism recommended by a Tory MP in the Daily Express. Ha! Ha! Ha! No wonder I swore. Thank you.

Posted in ... wait, what?, Culture, Just for laughs, People, Phlyarology | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The paradox of expertise

I’ve long maintained that the deal that’s been struck by computer makers with computer users about security is very one-sided. It assumes that the user always has the nouse to deal with their end of the bargain, and that’s simply not always the case. One has to remember that, by definition, half of all people are of less than average intelligence. I call it the ‘paradox of expertise’: computer makers are incapable of empathising with a rather large contingent of users.

When I was studying for my BSc, I had one lecturer in particular who quite clearly knew his stuff. But he seemed — at least from where I sat — unable to impart his knowledge.
I believe that he was so familiar with his subject that he had forgotten what it was like to be unfamiliar with it (as I was). And so, on the whole, his lectures were, for me at least, more or less inscrutable.

advertising image for the game 'Hand of Fate'Another example is in a game called ‘Hand of Fate‘, in which there are various beasties one has to overcome. Some of them have weaknesses to certain things. For instance, lizardmen have a particular vulnerability to cold. Some weapons and artifacts in the game have effects that tie in with such vulnerabilities, making it easier to defeat certain beasties — if you use them.

In this case, Frost Fang and Feathered Ice are effective against lizardmen. The problem is that these effects are only ever presented to the player once, when these items are first discovered. The reason for this is, to my mind, clear: the game’s developers are very familiar with the game. Too familiar; they’ve lost the ability to put themselves in the new player’s shoes, so they don’t see that their game doesn’t equip the new player with enough information to handle certain encounters. (Suggest such things to expert players who are as familiar with the game’s mechanics as the developers and all you’re likely to get is advice to ‘git gud‘.)

I have used the term ‘paradox of expertise’ for many years to describe this inability on the part of experts to effectively pass on their knowledge. Unsurprisingly, others have also used this term, as a quick Internet search will reveal, although some uses of the term aren’t quite the same as mine. (Here, for instance, it’s used to describe the inability of experts to continue learning; and the CIA, no less, uses the term to describe how experts are no better at predicting the future than simple statistical models.)

An article from illustrates the problem succinctly:

The figure below illustrates a series of progressively modified drawings that change almost imperceptibly from a man into a woman.

An image showing a gradual transition from a man's face to the body of a woman.

When test subjects are shown the entire series of drawings one by one, their perception of this intermediate drawing is biased according to which end of the series they started from. Test subjects who start by viewing a picture that is clearly a man are biased in favor of continuing to see a man long after an “objective observer” (an observer who has seen only a single picture) recognizes that the man is now a woman. Similarly, test subjects who start at the woman end of the series are biased in favor of continuing to see a woman. Once an observer has formed an image–that is, once he or she has developed an expectation concerning the subject being observed–this influences their future perceptions of the subject.

Wikipedia describes ‘my’ paradox as a ‘conceptualization paradox‘. I think my term is a more descriptive label — but being a self-professed expert in the field, I’m bound to think that :)

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Education, Games, illusion, Phlyarology | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

A deep (very deep!) Mandelbrot set

An image of the Mandelbrot set

Image credit: Wolfgang Beyer

This amazing five minute video illustrates the Mandelbrot set; an infinite geometric figure (a fractal). Obviously the video doesn’t delve into the entire set — if it were to do that, it would take a bit longer to watch than anyone has time for….

Posted in ... wait, what?, art, Science | Tagged , , | 10 Comments


A pair of horses running wild with trees in the background
Image courtesy of Pexels
Strong at heart; these powerful steeds
thunder through, fully unrestrained
revelling in freedom ingrained.
This natural, majestic breed
arising from an ancient seed
was born to run, and run it shall
through brush, and plain, and chapparal.
When they are free and in the wild
when their liberty's undefiled
they don't belong in a corral.
Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Waste Not Want Not — The Pretenders

Take, take, take, takin’ what you don’t need
You’ll get, get, gettin’ what you don’t need
Stand back, take a look and take heed
All the children in god’s kingdom bleed
See the networks of concrete and steel
They’ve no mystery but what they reveal
Tells a story of a future that’s void
Of the beauty and the majesty that life on
Earth is meant to be

Talk, talk, talk, talk about the government
And not a word about political favour
Everything touched is my political choice
The life you take is your political voice
The sacred cows come crashing to their knees
Golden harvest reaped without intelligence
There’s no chance between the heavens and the seas
In a blood bath don’t laugh
Grab your piece of golden calf

Waste not want not pick it up
Waste not want not pick it up
Waste not want not pick it up
Waste not want not

Do unto others as you wish be done to you
There’s a million lies ’round everything true
You slaughter when you feast
You disrespect the beast
Make our beds and lie there, take your share

Waste not want not pick it up
Waste not want not pick it up
Waste not want not pick it up
Pick it up and eat it
Waste not want not

Posted in ... wait, what?, art, balance, Communication, Culture, Drama, Environment, Food, Music, Water | Tagged , | 2 Comments