Archive for March, 2010

A group of pedestrians had started to cross a rather wide-ish street. The traffic lights on the pedestrian crossing about 100 yards up the road were red. All the vehicles within sight in the street were stopped at the crossing. Even if the lights had just turned green, the vehicles were far enough away that there would (or should) have been sufficient time for the people to cross before any traffic got that far down the street.

As the small group of pedestrians neared the other side of the street, a cyclist approached.

“Can you please watch the ROAD,” she wheedled, in that voice that little children affect when attemtping to role-play the grown-ups.

Now given that all the traffic had been stopped at the lights more than 100 yards away when the pedestrians stepped off the kerb, the following logical points can be inferred:

Given that the motor vehicles that had stopped at the lights were still nowhere near the pedestrians, that means that either

(a) the cyclist had failed to stop at the lights and had continued barrelling down the street at full tilt; or

(b) she had just pulled out and started to ride much further down the street and close to where the pedestrians were still crossing.

Now, I didn’t see what she had done before that, as I had my umbrella up. But either action shows a lack of consideration for other road users.

I have found in my experience that it is generally pointless attempting to explain anything to such people or “bang them to rights”. The necessary powers of analysis and reflection on one’s behaviour are rarely seen in individuals who display such peremptory self-righteousness. Even if she read this, I doubt she would have the ability to recognise herself from the description of this incident.

I cannot allow myself to be too cross about the lack of awareness of some members of the public: if it isn’t there for them, then it just isn’t there for them, and that’s that.

However, the point at which I draw the line is the point where the same person tries to turn his or her shortcomings around so that anything that happens becomes YOUR fault. It’s a tricky behaviour trait to discourage, because in their opinion, they are RIGHT.

Perhaps instead of whingeing at the pedestrians, that cyclist should have been grateful that she was fit and strong enough to accelerate on a pushbike sufficiently to catch up to them within a matter of seconds.

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Let us imagine that there is a huge factory, with a fast and furious product output.

The Board of Directors call me in as a creative consultant, to come and discuss ideas and offer an exterior perspective regarding the company’s products, operations, and plans for the future.

I turn up at the plant, but the staff on the front line got confused with the numbers of people coming and going, and I was seriously misdirected with regard to where I should go, and to whom I should report.

Now, I find myself stuck in the middle of a rapid production line, desperately doing the same routine task to keep on top of the amount of items coming my way on the conveyor belt. I realise that if I stop working to go and find someone to tell them there has been a huge mistake, the entire production line will pile up and then come crashing to a halt in a possibly dangerous fashion, and I will get the blame for it. It appears the designers of the factory procedure didn’t factor in an emergency stop button. Meanwhile, my co-workers do not understand why I keep looking around or calling out for the foreman, who is now conveniently neither in sight nor in earshot. They appear completely unable to grasp that there is anything wrong, or that I shouldn’t be there.

So the person who was supposed to be contributing to the big picture with their critical thinking and creative skills, now ends up as just another cog in a big machine, and nobody cares or even understands why this is a waste.

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In the evenings, I feel utterly exhausted, yet no closer to achieving anything that really matters.

The “big things” in life – getting a career, training for something important, preparing for a big contest, setting up a new earner, organising some new group or activity – move at a snail’s pace.

For instance, it has taken way too long to do the amount of background reading I needed to do in order to get a firm direction of exactly what I wished to research. It has taken an incredibly long time to get sufficiently proficient on the piano to play in public. My website project has moved but slowly. Courses of study that I start with all the best intentions in the world get started with enthusiasm, but then life gets in the way.

It cannot all be attributed to procrastination on my part.  To be sure, there are plenty of days when I am just too tired, and no, that’s not an excuse. I have a genuine health condition. What I lack in physical energy, I surely make up in mental energy.

The trouble is, life bombards a person with huge amounts of chores which have to be dealt with. Persons of money do not have this problem to the same extent; they merely outsource the running of various aspects of their lives. But to those of us on average incomes, there is always just too much to do.

That’s why I now feel I do not know what to answer when people ask if I would prefer the slower pace of life of the country. Because my life is both too fast, AND too slow.

The minutiae of daily living come thick and fast. It’s like trying to juggle five balls, and then someone throws you another three. A person’s life has only so much “bandwidth”: deal with all these frustrating trivialities, and the big issues get neglected. Concentrate on the big matters, and before you know it, some administrative issue is now urgent and flapping.

How did life get like this? My partner and I don’t recall it being like this in the 1970’s. It seems almost like a ploy on the part of the administrative authorities, banks, utility companies etc. to get the citizen tied up in paperwork and nonsense so that he/she has less free time and less disposable income.

Whatever the reason, I do not feel that this is a good time to be a polymath.

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Just checking the stats, I viewed the list of sites which are referring readers here, and an interesting fact surfaced.

Where I have linked to this blog through forums that I post on, or societies that I belong to, then how other members there are finding this blog is obvious.

What was very strange was the fact that the site which is directing the most traffic is my homepage, which is still very much under construction, as yet contains no tag words, and is not yet registered with any search engine.

It’s true I have been using the username “7sigma”, “sevensigma”, “sigma7”, “sigmaseven”, and variants on that theme on forums etc. for some considerable time now, and other Web users with similar interests in memory, brainwave entrainment and personal development have come to know me under that name.

Beside that, it’s not the most obvious name or phrase to search for, is it?

Unless they knew something about statistics, in which case they would realise that “seven sigma” means seven standard deviations from the median point on a standard distribution curve, the average person in the street probably wouldn’t even know the derivation of this term. They wouldn’t understand its (semi) tongue-in-cheek reference to aspirations of extraordinary ability.

So, lurkers come out. How did you find this site?

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Yesterday, I saw this newspaper article:


Not too long ago, while taking a mature student access course, the college kept telling us that having a degree in any subject would open a lot of doors.

It seems not, as the job market is clearly flooded with too many graduates.

Once upon a time, going to university was purely for the cream of the crop. With more and more people entering higher education, and the Government’s ambitions for half of all people under 30 to go to university, I predict we shall only see more and more graduates ending up working in coffee bars and supermarkets. Do half of all available jobs require degrees?

Employers and academics must be really scratching their heads over who really is exceptionally capable, when degrees are awarded to an increasingly large number of people.

I was born to old fashioned parents, and when I was at school, the idea of going to university or training for a career (especially for a girl) just wasn’t talked about. So I just did the usual secondary school subjects like everyone else, and then left to get a job.

Even if I were to finish the business management degree that I started, or do a degree in something else, what would exist to set me apart from the huge number of graduates out there? What do I have to do educationally to stand out from the crowd?

Short of possessing a higher degree from one of a select few universities, there is no easy answer, and to do that takes time and money that I don’t have.

You begin to see why I choose the autodidact route.

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Well, if I’m honest, I don’t really feel happy with my performance on the day, regardless of whether I have actually passed or failed.

It certainly wasn’t for lack of preparation. I took the week off work immediately prior to the exam, and spent several hours a day rehearsing my pieces, scales and exercises. My teacher commented on how much I had improved in just the final week alone.

So I was less than amused when the day came around, and I was freaked out with exam nerves. I’d done several of the theory grades over the last three or four years, and I really thought that test/performance anxiety was something that I was finally getting on top of.

It had taken a LOT of encouragement to get me to have another go at taking my driving test a couple of years ago, after my early attempts had been a washout because I simply panicked and freaked out on the day. However, I feel that I was probably more nervous having to play the piano on an unfamiliar instrument, knowing I only had one shot at each piece, and if it wasn’t my best, then there was nothing I could do to go back and repair the situation.

The examiner even stopped the piano exam at one point to chat with me and put me at my ease, saying that it was always the adult candidates who were the most nervous.

It’s not the prospect of getting a letter from the exam board saying that I didn’t pass that’s frustrating and upsetting, it’s the fact that I felt utterly at the mercy of an overwhelming case of nerves that prevented me from doing anywhere near my best. People who dish out advice to relax and take deep breaths are talking out of their rear ends – doing that doesn’t calm the industrial-strength panic that causes mental blankness and muscle weakness.

To nature, for inventing the panic response – could do better. Grade F.

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I have found out that I belong to a rare personality type. I am an INTJ (Introvert iNtuitive Thinking Judging) – a set of traits shared with only about 1% or 2% of the general population.

What does this mean?  The “introvert” part has to do with the way the person handles energy. Extroverts feel energised from being with other people. I need my own company – and lots of it.

Companies, agencies and the interview process favour extroverts. In fact, where I have been to companies who required some kind of personality test to be completed as part of the application process, I am not surprised that I never heard anything further from them. Not because there is anything wrong with ME (I like being that way), but because I do not think that personality types and their needs are properly understood.

I’m not shy – I have, after all, stood for Parliament! I can party hard with the rest of them. However, interrupt my “alone” time at your peril. That’s where my ideas and creations get born!

The “intuitive” part means I see the big picture, as opposed to the “sensor” type, who enjoys pernicketating (I coined that word) over the immediate, trivial details.]

Most companies offering entry-level jobs and support jobs want people who pay “attention to detail” above all. Where such a person gets promoted, he or she has a tendency to micromanage.

As a big-picture thinker, I could rise to the occasion when presented with a detail-oriented task. However, I never found them particularly exciting. Rather than worry about whether you were supposed to type one or two spaces after a full stop, I would be thinking about the bigger issues faced by the company. Frustratingly for me, such matters have always been considered by those higher up the company as exclusively the province of its most senior personnel.

As a Thinker, I have always done lots of that. As a person who always valued critical thinking and logic, I have a tough time dealing with people who put their emotions out in front of them like a banner. It’s like treading on eggshells: “feeler” type people are hurt at the silliest remarks and won’t hear a perfectly reasonable explanation.

As a Judging personality, I read between the lines. Again, this doesn’t seem to be a trait favoured by those who want to merely dish out routine tasks and have you do what you are told. Initiative is strictly only welcome up to a point: you may anticipate that the boss also wanted to send that enclosure with the letter, or pick up your colleague’s phone. However, start proposing things that are rather too radical (especially when you are officially “support” personnel), prepare to be patted on the head and your suggestion met with, “Aah, bless!”

“We don’t think you would fit in with our staff,” I was told after one particularly horrific interview.

In other words, your values are different from ours, you are not into superficial chit-chat, you are not all touchy-feely, you ask too many awkward questions that make us uncomfortable, you originate too many ideas, and you are too aware of what is wrong in the world and in organisations generally. We feel threatened by you, and we cannot easily control nor pigeon-hole you. Now could you kindly go away before you start making us look bad?

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Reading the Metro on the train last night, I came across yet another one of those articles about how young children are passing GCSE and A-level exams years early: http://www.metro.co.uk/news/815293-ready-for-high-school-2-years-early

My initial reaction was, “Good luck to them”. But as I thought about it, I realised that I had read a number of these stories in recent years. What is going on?

When Ruth Lawrence made the headlines for passing her maths O-level at the age of nine in the early 80s, she was a phenomenon. Now it seems that every year we hear of some kid aged between 5 and 10 passing this or that GCSE.

It doesn’t occur to people that a kid who is that capable should be an extreme statistical rarity – the type you hear about once in a lifetime, if that. I’m going to take you through the reasons why, step by step. (And if you understand my explanation, you’ll be doing better than members of the Trek BBS did when I made a similar case on their boards a few years ago. Their members obtusely failed to get it no matter how many times, or which way, I explained it.)

GCSE examinations are aimed at the average 16 year old. By “average” is meant a 16 year old displaying a normal, 16-year-old level of ability.

A six year old tackling work designed for six year olds is a child of average ability. A child brighter than his/her six years would be obviously able to tackle work designed for the average seven, eight, or nine year old.

But let’s look at what this would mean in terms of ability and IQ. Since childhood IQ scores have traditionally been measured in terms of the child’s mental age divided by his/her chronological age, then a six year old successfully completing assignments or tests designed for a nine year old would give that six year old an IQ of 150. The six year old who is able to work at double his/her age would be an extreme rarity (IQ 200). The six year old who is able to take a GCSE (for average 16 year old students), theoretically then, would have an IQ in the order of an unearthly 267!

Now, either the country is over-run with little Einsteins, or there is a simpler answer – the curriculum is so dumbed down, that even some infants, with the right coaching, are now able to pass these exams.

The message board member who kept on asserting, “But the kid is a GENIUS…” , to my earlier discussion years ago, obviously hadn’t ever had the “pleasure” of interviewing and testing school leavers for a junior office position, as I had. The standard of education (or lack of it) was shocking.

The upshot of this for a person of genuinely rare ability is that, because every Joe Blow and his dog gets strings of GCSE and A-level passes, and goes on to receive their mass-produced degrees, it becomes harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. The gifted person has to spend time in the chair in the classroom doing the same dumbed-down, worthless courses to get the same bits of paper just so as not to get shafted in a job application by a kid 20 years your junior whose GCSE passes look great compared to the few O-levels that you did in nineteen-eighty whatever.

It should not be possible for a six year old to pass a maths GCSE. If he/she did, then they are either way, way smarter than Ruth Lawrence could ever hope to be, or there is something really wrong with the exam standards in the UK.

Which do you believe?

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