Excessive Knowledge and Serendipity

In my experience, there is absolutely no such thing as too much, wasted, or unnecessary knowledge. Everything connects, through metaphorical explanations of one topic using instances from another (think squares and rectangles; a square fulfills all the criteria to be a rectangle, but the opposite is not true), to more holistic and imaginative links, everything is connected.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it, but I recently found out that ‘speculative job applications’ are a common and accepted practice in France. A mere few days later, a half french girl came to the desk of the LZ and asked me for what you might call it if you send a company your CV without them officially posting a position. I then not only knew the word – speculative – but also the cultural context to be able to tell her that is a far less common practice in the UK.

As an aside, there is also knowledge in the form of sheer number of encounters with the particular issue at hand, perhaps succinctly known as experience, or expertise. I fitted a pair of new wheels to my bike the other day, with the help of a friend and only one small injury. The next day when I was in a bike shop for an unrelated purpose, and just about to leave, the guy said “just before you go” and came and switched the quick release lever to the other side, as, he said, on the side I had it it could get in the way of the rear derailleur. It was an excellent point, but of course if you see dozens of bikes go through your shop every day, it becomes easier to spot irregularities and correct them, because you have more experience of the variety of ‘correct’ ways different bikes can be assembled

Image result for quick release lever bicycle


The greatest enemy of clear language is insecerity – George Orwell

There is a scene in Dreamland (the Australian title is Utopia) a satirical, “bureaucracy comedy” – think Twenty Twelve or W1A, in which Tony, the boss of the National Building Authority is trying to explain to the head of a Spanish contractor company they’ve hired why there have been delays to the project.


There is a translator between the two, who keeps clearly breaking what would be the normal flow of conversation and either over or under translating things, until at one point he stops entirely as the Australian boss waffles niceties and clichés, hiding behind corporate-speak. The Aussie boss asks: “You’re not gonna translate this”and the translator replies: “I do not know what you are saying”.



The Art of the Workaround

Working at the Learning Zone I have also been able to deploy and improve my problem solving skills, especially workarounds.

From a recent example:

  • Student comes with a PDF file that will not print on the computers and the ‘media is not supported’.
  • I open the file in Adobe Acrobat and lo and behold it is entirely blank.
  • Open the same file in Photoshop and the assets are all there, but in front of a transparent background.
  • I create a new plain white layer underneath for both files, save as PDFs
  • open in Acrobat to combine the two and save the final, two page PDF with all the elements correctly showing in Acrobat
  • place this file on the USB stick and send the student on his way

There may have been other ways to do this, but this seemed the most logical to me, and I go by the theory of ‘If it works, it works’.

Workarounds are an invaluable approach to problems, as it often involves approaching the issue from a whole new perspective and trying very unconventional routes to try and get things to work. And, well, if it works, it works.



[Similarly, I was once working on a Premiere Pro File where the soundtrack that  someone in the group had painstakingly created and matched with the video clips across multiple channels, suddenly was not making any sound. The eventual technique that worked, select every single video and audio clip in the timeline with cmd+a and copy and paste them into a new project file. It worked a charm]

On History and Perspective

I enjoy and am rather good at tasks requiring precision and problem solving.

I particularly enjoy precision of language; strict definition, objective and legally enforceable meanings. Moreover, I enjoy analysis that uses precise language, but has a scope that is able to holistically link seemingly disparate subjects. Economics and politics seem to do this a lot of the time.

I like being able to delve into the context of a case study in order to understand it better.

Take, for instance, the planned Queen’s speech for the state opening of parliament tomorrow, the 22nd of June. There are many angles one can approach the event from;

  • You can talk about the history of the relationship between the monarchy and Parliament,  Bad King John, the English Civil War, and the fact that the Prime Minster’s party technically derives its power from the Queen, asking her to form a Government on her behalf if they have a majority in the House of Commons.
  • You can examine the direct political context – the snap elections which shrunk Theresa May’s small majority down to a plurality of 317 (compared to Labour’s 262), just shy of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which is of course, 650 and how this has forced her to tread much merely carefully
  • You can frame the event as in contrast to former state openings of Parliament, and how much of the Pomp and Ceremony has been suspended, officially because of clashes with other Royal commitments and the suddenness of this event, caused by May’s snap election decision
  • You can talk about the larger political context – how it was David Cameron’s Conservative Government took the gamble of a decision to hold the IN/OUT referendum, partially to put the issue to bed after decades of, mostly, Tory backbench grumblings, and how he expected an easy victory that would embolden his party and him personally as having A) given the people the chance to decide directly and B) he personally having campaigned for the winning Remain side, but in reality it shook the political tectonic plates and created new and deep fault lines
  • You can talk about Northern Irish politics, devolution, the Good Friday Agreement as the culmination of a difficult and drawn out peace process, and the power sharing that has occurred since, etched into the operation of the Northern Irish assembly. Crucially, you can also talk about how Northern Irish MPs from Sinn Fein are elected time and time again, but do not take up their seats in Westminster out of Protest and how this time, this left the DUP, ideologically closes to May’s Conservative party, very much in the driver’s seat and with disproportionate power as any rebellion may cause Government Policy to fail, votes of No Confidence, and perhaps, a fresh election.

It is not vital to have a deep understanding of each of these angles, but it is importance to have a broad understanding – as each allow you to understand the event in a slightly different way, and the culmination is a in-depth understanding underpinned by perspective.