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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Happy stumbling!


Sometimes just reading about happiness makes me happy! ☺ - and Daniel Gilbert's highly entertaining book "Stumbling on Happiness" certainly made me happy.

Despite the third word of the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anything useful about how to be happy. Those books are located in the self-help section. Instead, this is a book that describes what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy. This book is about a puzzle that many thinkers have pondered over the last two millennia.

Not knowing what makes other people happy is one thing. But shouldn't we be able to figure out what will make ourselves happy? No, Gilbert argues, because we change over time; the person you are when you are imagining what it would be like to have that fancy new car is not the person you will be when you actually have that fancy new car.

He's also funny. "When we have an experience on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time," he writes. "Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage."

It is such a well reasoned and written book on such an elusive subject that I thought I had better give you this appetiser before you rush out to buy it yourself:

For better readability click here to open in separate window

Some of you are not big on reading, so have a listen instead:



Thumps up to Batemans Bay Registration Centre


I know where to put the petrol in and how to swipe my credit card at the end of each service but that's about the extent of my automotive knowledge. And don't the mechanics love me!

The last one I've been with for the past six years kept scheduling my car for another service every three months or so, and he would always find something to replace or repair or simply add to the bill.

At his last service in April at 105,761km, he stuck a label in the upper corner of the windshield to remind me to let him vandalise my credit card again in June or when the odometer reading reached 115,000km, whichever came sooner.

What with the few kilometres we do, June came much sooner than the 115,000km and, despite putting off the suggested service by weeks and even a couple of months, we were still only on 109,000km yesterday when I finally pulled in at another mechanic's place to ask him about the need to service the car almost as often as I fill up with petrol.

He looked at the logbook and the rego - which is due in December - and said, "Come back then and we'll do the rego check and service all in one. After that, I only want to see you here once a year when the oil, which goes off after twelve months, needs replacing."

How refreshing to meet an auto mechanic who doesn't lie when his lips are moving! Thumbs up to Batemans Bay Registration Centre who are my mechanics of choice from now on.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vedi Napoli e poi muori!


Every time Padma urges me to visit Europe one last time, this suggestive hint to the satiated tourist that, having beheld the beauties of Naples, there was nothing left to live for comes to my mind - but for quite different reasons.

I lived long enough in Saudi Arabia to wanted to leave, so why spend good money to see an even more chaotic and lawless version of it in Europe? To see scenes like these in Calais and Paris would really make my blood boil.

The old saying 'See Naples and die!' may well need to be changed to 'See Naples - and the rest of Europe - before it dies!'

'Der Tod des Abendlandes' indeed!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Mission Brown accomplished


Just finished my first bitsa-bench which is the straight-up-and-down German version. I used left-over timber and screws and bolts but had to lash out on another pot of Mission Brown.


It's all finished now and survived its baptism by the fire.

After all the hard work, I think I now engage in some wishful drinking.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything


Our ancestors were always just one failed hunting session away from starvation. What did this fear do? It drove our survival.

We survived at all costs. We were paranoid. We were fighters. We were ruthless. We were brutal. We were murderous. And because of it . . . we got here. And because of it . . . we took over the planet. And because of it . . . we have everything in the world.

Today, we still have the same brain we’ve always had over the two hundred thousand years our species has existed on this planet. It didn’t just suddenly change when we got printing presses, airplanes, and the Internet.

It still follows this paranoid model every day, and is the recipe for our dissatisfaction and unhappiness which is nature’s way of keeping us on our toes. It’s a crude system which has worked for thousands of years but it is no longer needed.

Which is where this book comes in. Look, I don't usually go in for self-help books. I mean, if taken to their logical conclusion, self-help books would be just a collection of blank pages and a pen. But this one is different. Read it and find out (or have a listen to this YouTube talk).