Reading Week – Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goldman

In this book Daniel Goleman attempts to make a case for an unquantifiable ‘emotional intelligence’ which is a better predictor of all sorts of positive life outcomes than the traditional intelligence quotient so oft revered in the American school system.

Dr Goleman makes a persuasive case that one be happier and more successful if one was willing to let things go and tell others what they wish to hear.

The book has not aged well in some regards, the extrapolations on marriage breakdown rates or increases in violent crime have not come to fruition and I find many of the reported claims “too neat.” Perhaps it is because I came to this book from Tim Hartford’s “Messy” but does anyone really believe that the first and second tiers of violinists at a Berlin school were easily clusterable on some metric and neatly packaged into a 10,000 hours and 7,500 hours of practice group? Like many of the results and stories it fits too neatly with our all too human desire for an ‘A’ follows ‘B’ narrative.

That being said I found a number of the arguments about children’s education persuasive. I can definitely believe that children with friends do better than those without and can testify from experience that listening to others before jumping to conclusions about what they are going to say can lead to unexpected outcomes, and more interesting conversations.

Overall I found the book lacking in any practical advice in either how to modify ones own behaviour or how to raise ones children apart from the very generic mindfulness style ‘pay attention’ and ‘be present.’

This book did not present any philosophical arguments merely highlighting that one will ‘be more successful’ if you comply with what others do.

From time-to-time the book did look at how certain approaches could make one happier and that one should focus on attacking the actions and not the person.

Reading Week – Messy – Tim Hartford

Staged fun is rarely fun. Our brains and society have a preference for order that adds little value and causes us to reject our spatial memory which is one of our most powerful assets. We are typically more creative when under mild stress though perhaps this is more about being ‘alert’ rather than ‘bored’.

I desperately need a set of Eno’s oblique strategy cards as I suspect they could be very useful for debugging problems.

Dissent is powerful our desire for order and conformity is hard to break. Faced with 2+2= the desire to conform will make it non-trivial to say ‘4’ if the five people before you said ‘5’, though a single ally can make this possible.

I h e a solid reference for a paper on diversity that I’ve been seeking for some time. Add a stranger to a group of frat’ boys and they will have less fun and be less sure of themselves at solving a puzzle but will have a higher success rate. (Phillips, Liljenquist and Neale; Is the pain worth the gain.) Once I’ve read it I can seek out some counter arguments.

The small size of Bermuda makes me wonder if it should be able to be the ultimate melting pot. It is too small for people to fully self sort. Though certainly on a par with a large university campus.

Team harmony is overrated, it makes us slow and dim witted. What matters is goal harmony but I’m not sure this would be clear in most contexts.

Making people have ownership of their own space can increase productivity by up to 30% and infantilising can reduce by up to 15%. Each to their own desk / office is a very good idea. Cubicles were created as a consequence of the US tax code. The original designer intended their angles to be a minimum of 120 degrees.

Finally automation will routinely tidy up ordinary messes but occasionally wreak an extraordinary mess and it would likely be better for the computer to watch the human than the other way around. After all, ‘to err is human but to really foul things up takes a computer.’

I must find Marcel Proust’s list of questions. ‘What is your most treasured possession?’ Would surely lead to more interesting conversations that, ‘So, what do you do?’

Reading Week – Nudge – Richard H Thaler

The main argument put forward by this book is that if designing a system one should consider oneself a “choice architect”.

That is to say if one is requesting action one should attempt to identify a good default as in most cases people will end up opting for the default and so unless a good default is chosen people will make bad choices.

The name “libertarian paternalism” does indeed call to me. I like to think of myself as a libertarian but the more I think about my own actions and those of others the more obvious it is to me that every interaction is a manipulation and to not acknowledge this is a mistake. Smiles, laughs and yawns are infectious so smile at everyone and laugh often. Especially if life is good which for almost everyone it is when compared to that of a medieval villain. I have even heard plausible arguments that life is good when compared to a medieval King!

A quote that really resonated with me was, “someone who lies treats people as means, not ends.” I have always had a great problem with liars especially deliberate liars. This is an interesting take and deserves further consideration. In the land of “libertarian paternalists” a far far stiffer sanction should be taken against fraudsters. Perhaps an opt-in similar to the self imposed gambling exclusions where one declares themselves to be speaking on pain of perjury and if lying face real penalties.

The most powerful ideas in the book, for me, were Save More Tomorrow and Give More Tomorrow. Save More Tomorrow seems like such a good idea that perhaps it would be the idea I would most like to encourage Curtis Dickinson to bring in in Bermuda. Perhaps it is even worth an Andy Dufresne style “letter a day” to his office.

Give more tomorrow feels like an obvious choice for College. Perhaps others don’t have the affinity I do with her but I do feel like every time one gets a pay rise one should be able to agree that a chunk of it comes from the badge we are all fortunate to wear that says, “Christ’s College”.

I find myself wondering what nudges we could deliver at work in the Diversity & Inclusion space. I wonder, for example, if one could allow more hiring discretion if the hiring manger uses blind CVs or ensured there was at least one non-white and one woman on their short list.

I’m sceptical of the financial bets as a mechanism for weight loss but the idea of paying for a party that you can’t attend is a very interesting idea.

Fundamentally the language of choice architecture feels very powerful and worthy of further deliberate thought; especially as it applies to computers, risk and underwriting. A pitch to develop a “nudge unit” reporting to the chief executive, strategy or underwriting officer is one that may be worth the effort.

Pennine Way – Day 19 – Torside to Edale (or Lost, Mist, Bog, Flags, Fin)

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Wondering aimlessly
Wondering aimlessly

As much as possible I have tried to avoid the weather forecast, after all it wouldn’t make any difference – we’d still have to head out – but at the weekend I did see a forecast in the Daily Mail which suggested that Manchester would have thunderstorms on Thursday. I was very glad to see that this didn’t happen.

A sign!
A sign!

The host at the Old House explained a “short cut” which would allow us to avoid going down about 20m before coming back up and we attempted to follow his instructions. This was a mistake. Later it would transpire that his instructions were sound but having thus far only followed our little blue line on the SatNav it seems we had lost any ability to live with out it. In frustration at one point I stormed off through the tussocks and fell over fortunately I did not twist my ankle (it would have been galling to fail on the very last day!) and we eventually made our way to the path.

Bog.
Bog.

The mist was probably the thickest we have had (even thicker than that which hid the Stooley Pike Monument) and there were no identifying features to be seen from the top of the hill. Climbing up towards the Snake Pass was difficult and the path was surprisingly difficult to find in places. At the top of the first peak we stopped for a brief lunch break and even with the GPS we managed to set off in the wrong direction! When we eventually found our way back to the path (which involved crossing the same stream at least twice) it was as a portion of flags were ending (which was greatly disheartening).

Three miles of flags!
Three miles of flags!

The American couple which we had met last night were planning to walk back from Edale and if they were to make it to Torside we would have expected to meet them somewhere around the Snake Pass though they were Alas no where to be seen. Once over the Snake Pass there began a beautiful path of flags which must be the longest single stretch that we have walked these last 19 days. It probably also represented the single greatest distance we ever covered in an hour some 2.8 miles.

Oooo a gap!
Oooo a gap!

The end of flags presented a reasonable time to have lunch even though it was at the foot of quite a steep hill. From a distance of about a quarter mile we saw a large party that were clearly out for the day on an organised walk who scrambled down the hill we were soon to travel and then stopped for their own lunch. I’m quite sure I saw one of them nipping round a hillock for a ‘wild one’ but of course from such a distance it was impossible to tell. I am certainly glad to have avoided the need for such activity and having deliberately chosen not to have a curry last night felt confident that I would avoid the need all the way to the end.

Goodbye flags.
Goodbye flags.

Scrambling up the hill was a bit tricky but as this was the last real climb of the walk it seemed to go by without too much difficult and once at the top dad had “remembered” that there was a “good path”. He was completely mistaken. While it wasn’t boggy there was no really discernible path and there were lots of quite big stones which made the going slow and cumbersome.

More moreland
More moreland

As we approached the waterfall below (which had some how created quite a large gouge in the rock) we did meet the American couple from last night. We recommended that they come off at the Snake Pass as if they carried on to Torside they would not make it until very late on in the day and would not be hugely enjoyable. They’d had some trouble with the mist (unsurprisingly). From where we met them, however, they were about to enter an area with some phone signal and the hosts at The Old House seem happy to come and pick one up from the Snake Pass so I am sure they got home safely.

A large detour for a small waterfall
A large detour for a small waterfall

I’m not totally convinced that the ridge we were walking on was anything other than dead flat but we did eventually make it to a place that the Ordnance Survey had satisfied themselves was an appropriate place for building a trig point and it seemed like a good place to break for our final second lunch. I am certainly going to miss second lunch once I return to Normalcy.

Atop our last hill.
Atop our last hill.

Well almost.
Well almost.

Now it was a simple matter of getting down in to Edale. Foolishly we decided to take the old pony track around Jacob’s ladder (a decision I think we also made ten years ago) only to see that someone had neatly arranged for there to be what looked like quite well maintained steps up the side. I can never decide what is the best thing to do as the “official” way went they way we went but it probably added a half mile and a good fifteen minutes compared to the alternative of going straight down the steps. Today being longer than we had walked for the last few days I was starting to feel really rather tired but from here to almost the end the path is exceptionally well maintained.

Jacobs Ladder
Jacobs Ladder

Arriving at the end was some relief. We had done it. I think my fathers ephiphany that Wainwright was infact simply a drunk who stumbled from pub to pub seemed rather apt as we drank our final pint and munched on our crisps before heading off to the station. When we set off I really did not expect that we should make it and I am confident that more preparation (especially on my father’s part) would have been a good investment. However, having said that we made it to the end and in only 18 days 10 hours 22 minutes and 13 seconds which I think is pretty good going really.

Journey's end
Journey’s end

Wait, have we come the wrong way?
Wait, have we come the wrong way?

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Pennine Way – Day 18 – Standedge to Torside (or Path, Resevoir, View, Flags, Tunnel)

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How did we get so lost last time?
How did we get so lost last time?

When we attempted the walk 10 years ago this journey was effectively the end of our contiguous endeavour. We must have gone wrong somewhere but starting off from this direction the path seems to be such a very well made track that is hard to conceive how we can have gone so wrong!

120 yds to the M11!?
120 yds to the M11!?

I certainly have no recollection of seeing this stone. Though I am rather confused by its contents. Advising, as it does, that we are about 120 yards from the M11. The GPS advised our course very well and we made a great deal of progress and I was optimistic that we might even make it to Torside while they were serving tea. Sadly it soon became obvious that it was not likely.

Looks like a nice path on the otherside.
Looks like a nice path on the other side.

One of the harder choices was whether to follow the Pennine Way down this ravine to make it to this delightful looking path on the other side or to continue along the current contour to join the way at the end of the first reservoir. A conversation at breakfast suggest that perhaps this later choice may be an earlier version of the Pennine Way and I wonder if it is possible that this could be where we went wrong all those years ago as once on the well made up path it continues on beautifully to the top of the hill where my father is sure that we stopped for a bacon roll at a burger van a little before noon all that time ago.

Framing the view.
Framing the view.

Sadly this time we clearly arrived just too late for the burger van (if the burger van still visits the lay-by) but it was around noon and so a good time for lunch. We stooped just over a wall and oddly a group of youths drove up this lay-by and asked my father to take a picture of them (clearly we had stopped to close to the road) which they then followed with some public urination and wild gesticulation and shouting at any that should come past.

The view over Holmfirth
The view over Holmfirth

The view from the top of this hill was really quite something and the pictures don’t do it justice. What looks like a much larger conurbation than I recall Holmfirth being was to be seen in the far distance dominated by a large tower which is barely visible in this picture. At the trig point was a good point to stop for second lunch and we met a couple who were walking the way together. The husband had done it before about 25 years ago for a meagre £25 and was bringing his wife along with him this time. I’m not sure if they will make it the whole way but they are camping and so able to stop at fairly regular intervals which may mean it takes them some time. I don’t really remember much of what it was like 10 years ago but my father reminisced with them about when the hill had really deserved its name of black moss and how well it had taken to grassing over the years since.

Torside approaches
Torside approaches

When we first got over the final hill of the day it seemed that we would soon be at Crowden. However, a quick perusal of the map soon put an end to any such hopes since even from Crowden it was another mile and a half to Torside. (Though this means we are left with a much tolerable 15.97 miles tomorrow). Today has generally been beautifully flagged though alas this last section seemed to have lots of difficult terrain between the sections of flags.

Endless flags!
Endless flags!

The Old House is a beautiful place to stay and they have transformed what used to be the guest lounge into a tea room with a large outdoor seating area. I think we technically arrived during the time when they are supposed to be open but with the end of the season approaching there was no-body else in. I later learned that they have a silent alarm on their gate so they are able to be more prepared if a paying guest arrived! They made us a delightful cup of tea (which felt well earned) and were good enough to sell me a slice of what was possibly the best rocky road I have ever tasted!

Overflowing gently.
Overflowing gently.

We also learned that the sneaky sock theives from Sheffield University are just generally careless having taken a jumper from their drying room. Though as it had been left behind by someone else I suppose it was technically abandoned and so isn’t really theft? The host was good enough to drive us down to a local pub where we good enjoy a tasty supper before having an early night a head of a long day tomorrow. Fortunately an American couple were staying for the ‘two day package’ and so we had the option to have breakfast at 0730.

A beautiful tunnel.
A beautiful tunnel.

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Pennine Way – Day 17 – Mankinholes to Standedge (or Bullying, Stone, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Tresspassing)

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It's gonna be one of those days.
It’s gonna be one of those days.

After a good deal of panic regarding my lack of socks it transpired that despite my advice my father kept back a spare pair of walking socks. I was concerned that having successfully avoided getting blisters for several days this change in socks seemed certain to lead to their renewal. The only alternative would be to take the bus (which I had astonishingly seen whisk pass the youth hostel at half past eleven last night) to Todmorden and hope that their was a shop there which sold outdoor equipment. If there was not a trip onto Skipton would have been necessary.

Flags! But not on the Pennine Way!?
Flags! But not on the Pennine Way!?

Having suspected that they had been accidentally been taken by one of the the large group from Sheffield I tweeted the man who seemed like their leader (he has an OBE don’t ya know) that ‘ I think one of your number have accidentally left Mankinholes with my only pair of walking socks ‘. This lead to an abusive exchange where he told me that now I knew how those on income support feel. At least he didn’t say filthy tory scum like the usual vile rants that left wing fruit cakes come out with. His bullying has in fact lead me to change my twitter handle to remove the reference to ‘tory’ since twitter is now used much more than just for commenting along with question time. Given his total refusal to engage (have a quick luck round and leave them at Torside) I could hope that they give whoever took them blisters but I’m bigger than that. Plus since dad’s socks worked out fine they actually did us a favour by lightening the load a little. Though I was kind of shocked at the total lack of respect for other walkers and their kit.

If man made does it count?
If man made does it count?

The bridge below with the flags above were the only examples we really saw of what was clearly a footpath being better made off the Pennine Way than on it. This bridge looks like someone has gone to quite a bit of work but it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere and is far too small for any kind of vehicle.

What a neat bridge.
What a neat bridge.

There has been no doubt that this walk has been greatly aided by the use of GPS. We have met people who think they are being clever / purists by refusing to use the tech but I think they are just stupid and I don’t really have any respect for it. If you want to push yourself further why not just add extra distance to your walk rather than playing a random game of ‘if I miss the turning I will do an extra 5 miles’. However, for those who did any kind of travelling in a time before GPS or, even further back before maps themselves, I have the upmost respect. Supposedly this stone was an ancient marker which was used to guide people but I don’t see how that can be true. It doesn’t stand out desperately and so only confirms that you are in the right place rather than helping you to find the right way.

An ancient standing stone
An ancient standing stone

I don't think we were supposed to touch it.
I don’t think we are supposed to touch it.

Today’s route took us past more trig points than any other (3 in total). I’m not sure we went past more than one on any other. Two of the trig points were on top of very large rocks and in order to get up for the view it required some climbing. Oddly (though perhaps not unsurprisingly) each had a divit that made for a rather nice foot hold. It does make me wonder what they are for and of course this being the age of wikipedia I was very easily able to find out! It seems that when they were built in 1935 from each it was possible to see two others and thus by careful measurement of the angles between them it was possible to build a very highly accurate map of Britain. (Well of these triangles anyway). I wonder if that would make a really interesting life challenge to visit all of them and make your own map. Though it isn’t something I will be looking to do in a hurray!

From the top of a trig point.
From the top of a trig point.

We met several walkers out today. Having been walking from North to South for the most part we had been meeting people who had already done substantial parts of the walk. For the first time we were now meeting people who had only recently started their walk. This brought home to me most at one point when I congratulated a young woman on getting this far and she pointed out that it is us that should be congratulated.

It doesn't look like it does in Wallace and Grommit
It doesn’t look like it does in Wallace and Grommit

Crossing the M62 I was deeply disappointed to discover that the Burger van that con sometimes be found there is very much a morning only affair. 10 years ago I think we walked sufficiently slowly that we missed it on that occasion as well. I suppose it is always possible that there is no longer a greasy burger van that greets those leaving Saddleworth in the morning so that they can sneak a greasy burger without their significant other finding out. There is, however, no doubt that for me personally crossing this bridge felt like a symbolic return to civilization (where civilization here really means the area where one grew up).

A lasting legacy
A lasting legacy

It seems that following the death of a loved one who walked up in the hills someone chose to erect this stone in their memory. It made me wonder if the medieval standing stone from earlier was similarly erected. Given how easy it would be to get lost on the hills above Greenhead or the moor on the way to tan hill perhaps the erection of such stones as memorials to this who have walked the way could be a great way to make it easier for those walking it in the future.

The race to the finish.
The race to the finish.

Taxi booked to meet us by the old Globe House Farm we missed the turning, and seeing the track, I chose to make a bee-line for it. There was a fence but it was so poorly maintained that without doing anything more than a bit of limbo (i.e. I did not need to climb over it and an animal would not even have noticed it) we made it through a field to the path. Some local decided that he would try and give me a telling off for this, “you know your off the path, you’ve had to climb over walls and fences to get here.” One of the many problems with knowing a little bit about the world works is that irrespective of it being theoretically trespassing with no prospect whatever of a criminal convection and the damages being less than ten pence I couldn’t really give a rat’s nose. If the owner wants to sue me then please go ahead in advance I make you a part 36 offer for the aforementioned ten pence.

Our taxi awaits.
Our taxi awaits.

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