Blog posts July 1 - 10

Unsubscribe at will


As threatened, here is a summary of the blog posts I’ve written so far this month. I say ‘written’…

SFJ on Curtis (July 10)

"The politics of Curtis's films do not bother me because his work does not display the consistent, perceptible act of choice that constitutes political engagement. If his movies were presented as some kind of fever dream collage, I might like them. Curtis vexes me because of his paranoid writing, introduces a soft and acidic coagulant method that a soft and acidic coagulant into any discussion. His commentaries destroy the cellular structure of ideas with a terminal vagueness that lulls me into a fitful sleep."

"Curtis reduces the viewer to a kind of flustered traffic cop, constantly yelling, "Wait!" His narration constantly leaps from a minor detail to a wide claim that sweeps everything off the table."

"Théorie Communiste's recent essay on conspiracism help us frame what Curtis is doing. "Just as anti-Semitism was the socialism of fools," the collective's authors write, “conspiracism is the class struggle of experts who are not situated anywhere in particular, not in society, nor along a politico-ideological spectrum.”"

Sasha Frere-Jones on Adam Curtis

Blog all dog-eared pages: Happy Moments (July 9)

"Warhol had a passion for perfume. In his memoir, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1975), he describes how he switched perfumes all the time to preserve memories attached to each scent. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection"

"Last year, I bought two bottles of bubbly for each employee at the Happiness Research Institute and asked them to write down which milestones they would have to pass in order to open them. So far, we have toasted weddings, finished reports and surpassing our arch-enemy think tank in terms of followers on social media."


"In 1996, Arthur Aron, professor in psychology at Stony Brook University, New York, came up with thirty-six questions that create intimacy between strangers – questions that would make people fall in love. Several of the questions revolve around our memories: What is your most treasured memory? What is your most terrible memory? Tell your life story in as much detail as possible in four minutes … What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? Share an embarrassing moment in your life … Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s childhood?"

"According to the inventor of the questions, ‘one key pattern associated with the development of close relationships among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure’."

Happy Moments

The difference (July 8)

"He got his scholarship to Haberdashers’ Aske’s. His well-thumbed brochure boasted a twenty per cent Oxbridge acceptance rate. But what it takes to get there isn’t what you need once you’ve arrived."

Natasha Brown. Assembly

It's electrifying (July 7)

I listened to this podcast: an interview about Electrifying the home, and America, with Saul Griffiths and Arch Rao.

Griffiths has a great ability to speak in rules of thumb. Averages. Things that give you a sense of scale, of orders of magnitude.

I've realised that, although I've worked in energy for a while, I don't naturally think in those kinds of rules of thumb.

I'm also trying to insulate/electrify an old, leaky house in the East Midlands. Working out how best to do it. Should I get solar? Should I get heat pumps? Should I get cavity wall insulation? Do my walls have cavities?

This it turns out, is not easy. And some of that is because everyone is an expert in their own little field but very few people are good at putting it in context or explaining it to non-experts.

Here, from the podcast, is the kind of things Griffiths says / knows :

"The average US household today has two cars in the garage that burn petrol or gasoline or diesel, and it has natural gas heating and it uses about 25 kWh per day of electrical energy. If you electrify both of the vehicles in that household you'll add about another 25 kWh per day to the load of that house. And if electrify the heat you'll add about another 20 kWh again. For the majority of US homes, and this is true around the world in fact, when we're going to double or triple the loads in that house."

"Rooftop solar is now providing 5 cent per kWh electricity in Australia"

So, I'm trying to research for myself, and document here, equivalent rules of thumb for the UK. I suspect looking it up and working it out will help me remember and understand.

Here's a start:

Ovo have a handy post that says "the average household uses 3,731 kWh per year". That's based on BEIS data. (From this page, I think). They then immediately start caveating about averages and types of home and all that, which is fair enough. But I'm going to stick at the higher level, because I just want a sense of things. And because, conveniently, 3,731 kWh per year equates to, roughly, 10 kWh per day.

(As a quick check, if you Google "how much electricity does a uk house use per day" the snippet you get says 8 - 10 kWh. There's a lot of SEOing going on in this answer. And lots of people re-using / re-writing the same content. But this seems to be an acceptable rule of thumb.)

If you want help visualising that, Arcadia have a good page, 1 kWh is enough to operate two desktop computers (or six laptops) during a standard workday. Or, if you do 65mph on a motorway, you can drive about 5 miles on 1 kWh.

According to BEIS (and everyone in SEOland) the average cost for 1 kWh of electricity was 17.2p in 2020.

And, according to this pageapparently, the fuel mix of the UK grid means that 1 kWh of electricity produces 0.233 kg of CO2e. That's about the weight of a hamster or two blueberry muffins.

So, rules of thumb:

UK households use about 10 kWH of electricity per day.

That's enough to drive about 50 miles in an EV

It'll cost you about £2.

And produce about 2kg of CO2e.

Obviously if I've got all this horribly wrong, please let me know.

Friendship and trust (July 6)

"In Arabic, there are 12 levels of friendship. Most of our 'friends' are level 5 or below, and many of us don't have a single level 12 friend "

Taariq Ismail

"A simple thing that makes teams better: "psychological safety," the feeling that I should speak up on my team, even if people disagree. It is linked to innovative team success at all levels. Plus, it is something that leaders can instill. Here's a guide"

Ethan Mollick

Fizz with energy (July 5)

"Every time his wonky Zoom connection freezes, I worry he'll find something more interesting to do - a hazard of footballer interviews. But each time he returns engaged, his eyes darting. Footballers who want to talk are wonderful interviewees. They fizz with energy and are fascinated by what they do."

Simon Kuper on Boban

Fall in love with a tree (July 3)

"She mentioned a game that she used to play on car trips. "It's called Fall in Love with a Tree," she said. "The first tree you see in the distance, you just look at it and notice everything about it that makes it more special than the other trees.

She figured that the exercise could easily be applied to buildings, and homed in on a glass tower in the financial district.

"I'm picking it because it's not as noticeable," she said. Suddenly, a halo of white lights began to glow on the building's roof. Dacus smiled. "I made it light up."

By Rachel Syme. From the New Yorker.

Remojo (July 2)

In an attempt to get my blogging mojo back I'm going to try and post something every day in July. It probably won't be anything substantial. Right now I'm very much at home to 'early days of blogging, just a short link'. 

Case in point.

Left the gas on (July 1)

'The book' went to print about 2 weeks ago. It's consumed any 'spare time' I've had since, roughly, the beginning of lockdown. Not that I've filled all that spare time with writing but if I've had spare time I've not felt able to engage in any 'hobby' activities except writing the book. So I've mostly just watched telly.

I've mostly described it as 'the book' to friends who've asked how it's going because 'my book' sounds so pretentious.

Specifically it's Everything I Know About Life I Learned From Powerpoint, a title I've been unsure about since day one. It's not out until the end of the year but if you google it it's started showing up on bookshop websites. Like Foyles. I guess you could pre-order if it you wanted.

I suffer mildly from a feeling of 'have I left the gas on?' whenever I leave the house. I often lock the door then have to unlock it, go back in, check the windows and doors, check the gas, make sure the bath's not running. That kind of thing. I get it very sharply when a plane takes off. It's a vague feeling that something's wrong but I can't turn back and fix it.

The book finally going to print has brought on a long, slow version of that. I keep imagining getting the first printed version, opening it up to and spotting a horrible typo or discovering an awful attribution error. Erk.