An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, November 30, 2007


So this is headed up DESIGN but what do we mean by design? I know what I mean but I also know that the idea of design and designers as a class of people have been derogated over recent decades so shall we start by dispelling the most common misconception and defining our own terms?

Designers do not just make things look good (or bad depending on your particular take on the designed object). Design is not focussed narrowly or exclusively on the look of the designed object -  fashion design is as close as you get to that obsession with look but remember that even fashion designers focus on fabrics too. Admittedly design in the eighties, or rather, the objects marketed as "designer items" during that era of empty gloss did rely heavily, and sometimes exclusively, upon the mere look and feel but for that we can blame the sales and marketing mafia that held sway. And some of the soi disant designers of the period.

Let me clarify or illustrate from personal experience. The first objects that I designed in my working life were pieces of software code. Most software code has no look or feel. Nobody save for the guy who gets to maintain it cares too much what it looks like when printed out and in use it has no look at all - it is merely an arrangement of bits in a segment of computer memory and the computer doesn't care at all but make no mistake good software code is designed.

In fact, until much later in my career I designed almost nothing that had a look. I designed code. I designed computer systems large and small. I designed database schemata. I re-designed other peoples' code.  I re-designed other peoples' database schemata. Until I began designing online conversations, and later human computer interfaces and web sites, did any of the things I designed have a viewable dimension and at first I did not design the visual elements of those. Perfume designers will know what I mean. The bottle may well have been designed by a different person to the perfume itself.

So, the way I tell the story, design is not primarily a visual discipline. So what is it? For me design is an intellectual discipline.

Design is a problem solving discipline. Design is primarily concerned with solving problems. A design, a good design, is a solution to a particular problem within a set of constraints. The ideal design is the best available solution to the particular problem within the constraints of the problem space. Hold on to th idea of constraints - we'll come back to them and the important  role they play in design.

When I used the phrase "best available design" it was in the full knowledge that it would evoke the question "what do you mean by best?". In design two of the most important criteria in judging the worth of a solution, assuming that the designed object fulfills fully the function mandated by the brief, are elegance and simplicity.  There is a famous quotation that is often attributed to Albert Einstein but that I came across as being from Gustave Eiffel (he of the Paris tower): "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."  Given that what has been designed is likely to be made then it should be obvious that simplicity is a great attribute for any design. As to the attribute of "elegance" you must understand that I use elegant as it is used in the scientific discipline where it signifies "pleasingly ingenious and simple". Not ingenious in isolation but ingenious AND simple.   

The reason I refer to scientific usage in my definition of elegance is because I believe that design is a discipline that shares much with mathematics. Were you to listen to mathematicians for any length of time you would doubtless be surprised, as I first was, by how often they refer to beauty. Mathematicians believe that mathematics, good mathematics is beautiful. Often when presented with a new proof a mathematician will make his or her first judgement as to whether it might be true on whether the proof itself is beautiful - if it isn't beautiful it probably isn't true. Push the mathematician to explain beauty and he or she will often use the words elegant and simple. Consider Occam's Razor. - a regularly observed scientific heuristic. 

Enough for now ... maybe more tomorrow ...

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

dinnae fret hinny

Don't worry people out there I haven't dropped off the blogging map just busy elsewhere right now.

One of the major concerns, I hesitate to call it work, is picking over the bones of the blogella that I wrote last year in order to make it available to new readers. It is hard and it is odd to be reading my own stuff (I try to avoid that at all costs). It occurred to me today that when it is eventually re- purposed it will be a very different experience for the reader than was the original. It is a little like turning a story into a play inasmuch as it will come at the reader from a different direction and will be apprehended in a totally novel way. But it does help me to understand more clearly what it is that I do.
A minor diversion has been trying to frame some modern day aphorisms. I managed 3 today - see what you think:

for a man the organ of generation lies between the legs -
for mankind it lies between the ears

you don't have to be a shit to write well
but writing will usually make you a shit

for the solipsist, great literature is as close to an objective reality as it gets

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

life is for the living

Life. Mine? Yours? In general? The lived or the abstract? Stick "Life is" into google and you'll get 78,300,000  hits. Today that is. Tomorrow it could be more or it could be less.

Life you get given - unasked. It's your stake in a game you never asked to join. A life is something else. You get squeezed thru a vulva into it. Or you get hacked out into it like Caesar. It's always bloody, the beginning. But the end of the game is always the same. For everyone. No mind how you parlay your stake. Nor play your hand. It's death. Oblivion. Back to nothingness. An interlude alone, and yet the only. That is life. The potential something between the curtains of total oblivion. An abyss of another kind.

If you don't enjoy it then that is your fault. If you think it has a purpose, yours or anyone else's you're wasting it. If you think it means something, anything, you're deluded. It is much simpler than that. It is without meaning or purpose. It just is. And the one you have is yours. It is the only one you have or will get. Make something of it. Each moment of it comes only once. One after the other. Waste none of them. They are gone when they are done. Life moves on irreversibly. Enjoy them all if you can. And you can. If you choose to.

The nothingness behind you is certain. The nothingness in front of you is ineluctable. Waste no time nor effort. Live your life and love it. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's red and turns green at the flick of a switch?

You must have heard the old kids' joke "What's green and turns red at the flick of a switch?  - A frog in a liqidiser!".  Well, today we have our own twist on that old chestnut - "What's red and turn green at the flick of a switch? Farmboy with a strimmer in his hand".

In the drizzling rain and bright sunlight he was out this morning in his signature red overalls and with a red thermal vest over the top - he'd lost the toss up with Eddie - standing by the dogs' run he was ready to clear oxalis before they took to eating it and poisoning themselves - he started the strimmer, lowered it to the offending vegetation and turned green almost instantaneously.

Chlorophyl happens!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pickleherring speaks

A fine and busy day today: Farmboy was weeding and servicing the brushcutter ( he intends to keep the oxalis down this winter); G was picking eating olives and prepping them for bottling - she was also cooking soup for us all (fakes); Eddie was shifting compost and organising all of us putting our backs in (and mine out) redeploying the delivery of gravel that he organised. Shem was writing a book review for the flue where he has been appointed 'fluebrarian (it's reproduced below); Shaun was busy with me on design work for the recycled bits of Daisy and updating our joint FaceBook presence as well as rippling the new website design thru the many pages required. Good job it was sunny and warm.

Robert Nye was brought to my attention by B S Johnson who included a list of writers who were, in his opinion, advancing the art of writing in his monograph Aren't You Rather Young To Be Writing Your Memoirs (well worth a read if you can find a copy). Since reading the BS Johnson I have always carried a copy of the list in my wallet and have now ticked off all the writers.
Nye's early work was promising and slightly experimental but for a few years he dropped off of my radar until I saw a copy of The Late Mr Shakespeare on the grubby shelves of a second hand shop in Xania.   It seems he has found a way forward all of his own and that he has written quite a bit since last I read him.
The Late Mr Shakespeare, let me make perfectly clear, is a wonderful read. It is the concept that is experimental/groundbreaking and not the prose nor the style. Nye relates a litany of stories about Shakespeare, his life and times from the viewpoint of an actor from his Globe troop.  Our narrator, PickleHerring is writing, after Shakespeare's death to fend off his own. Pickleherring is a gossip and an unreliable source - he treats fact and rumour with an even hand and while doing so he reveals more about himself than he does about his subject.
He is humorous, low and knowledgeable. He writes flowingly and elegantly.  He covers major facts of Shakespeares life with gusto and in doing so gives you a better grip on Shakespeare and his work and genius than is to be had from dry and dusty biographies. Is it Pickleherring or Nye we are listening to?
I care not a jot. This is worth anybody's time and requires no effort at all. Read it and enjoy it. Personally I shall be looking for a copy of Mrs Shakepseare! 

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

November 8th

November the 8th and we still have not felt the need for a fire. Okay the evenings are cooler - but not that cool. Okay the nighttime humidity is up and we have really heavy dews overnight when it doesn't rain but it's not that damp. All in all it's a pretty mild autumn so far. It gets dark by 6 - but that's no big deal.

The days are usually good enough weather-wise to get things done around the house and farm. We still spend most of the hours of daylight outdoors. The blog has still not bubbled to the top of my priority list. G is planting (40 or 50)  and taking cuttings (160 or so). D is DIYing like a mad thing - today we had internet connectivity, Radio 4 playing and the phones working during a 6 hour power cut  - all from the photovoltaic setup! He's also tinkering with the layout and content of the id-ds website - going pretty well thanks to some keen eyed input from Liam et al.

See you all soon and don't think that the last aborted blogella is dead quite yet ....

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