Posts Tagged ‘open university’

Life Really Does Begin At Forty

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

I am 42 now and I have finally worked out what the phrase “life begins at forty” means.  It came as a Pauline moment as I was driving home the other day.  It really means that you only ever plan your life until you get to about 40 years old*, so now that you have reached that point you can reflect on what you have done so far – for better or worse – and then decide what you are going to do for the future.  It’s an acceptance of where you are and what you haven’t achieved, and that perhaps that’s okay and even a good place to be.

I am not Prime Minister, or even Deputy Prime Minister, I have not won Wimbledon, nor am a hedge fund manager earning bazzillions, nor a multi-squillionnaire Internet entrepreneur and I have still not written that book or painted a beautiful picture, and I will never play for England (at any sport) and so on.  But who really would want to be those in any case; let’s leave all that to those with the tunnel vision to succeed in shaping our world.  I just enjoy life, living and become randomly interested in things that will never make money, nor help you rule the world, but nevertheless keep me pottering on. 

Anyway, at the same time, I started trying to piece together my LinkedIn Profile, which was in a sorry state as I have never touched it nor accepted anyone onto my page, hence I look a lonely, unloved individual.  So while struggling to cobble together my disjointed career path (still a work in progress so anyone who remembers what I have done over the years please fill in the blanks), I became reflective on what I had actually achieved since university and where it is going.

In the end, this is what I came up with:

Massive Positives: love of a good woman (Sophie), 2 fantastic children, wonderful parents, siblings, lovely mother-in-law (yes really) and a lovely little cottage in a beautiful part of the world (North Yorkshire).

Achievements: setting up Steenbergs with Sophie and starting that on its tortuous path.  It’s like being on a small bicycle rickshaw in Mumbai that’s slowly, gathering its pace while manoeuvering around the gas guzzling juggernauts that speed past us trying to knock us out of the way.  But it’s a good ride and we’ll get their in our own time, on our own path and without damaging anyone on the way.

Regrets: only one surprisingly, being I wish that I had continued with Microbiology/Molecular Biology for longer than the degree at Edinburgh University.  I was quite good at it and actually enjoyed the nerdy science.  At the time, all I wanted to do was get out of education and conquer the world, but I did not let that path run for long enough.  In fact, I realised this about a year ago and is most of the reason that I have started doing a degree at The Open University in Environmental Studies/Science, so perhaps I will be able to overcome this one.

Mistakes: loads and loads of them, and still going on collecting more.  They say you learn from your mistakes – well, I have got a PhD’s worth already.  In fact, there is only one that I would count as truly bad and that was leaving investment banking to join Teamtalk.  The mistake was not Teamtalk itself, even though the experience still runs shivers down my spine and wiped the smile from my face and laughter from my body for many years afterwards.  It was more that I was too young and “wet behind the ears” for the tough corporate situation that it became, so while leaving investment banking was right I should perhaps have waited until I was older, stronger and more experienced or moved into a bigger corporate where I could have matured in a more protected environment.

What have I learnt? to be good and tolerant, to persevere with those things you believe in whatever the obstacles and to carry on smiling, laughing and dreaming.

Where’s that leave me: content in the most important family part of life and where I live, plus a lifetime still left to enjoy all of them, while nudging Steenbergs ever onwards and time to complete an Environmental Studies degree, and research my family history.  Sounds good enough to me.

* As an aside, I reckon we can only think in chunks of about 7 years maximum in normal living and about 41 years for life planning (or 29, 31, 37).  These are purposefully prime numbers as this is how humans have become hardwired through evolution.  So for relationships, investors and politicians, 7 years is long term and 41 years forever.  That random idea is perhaps for another day.

Global warming – what’s the fuss all about?

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

I have to admit to becoming more skeptical about global warming since I began studying at The Open University on an Environmental Studies and Science Course.  I doubt that becoming less convinced about much of the stuff written about global warming was the expected result from being fed more information on climate change. 

However, by nature and training, I am a scientist (I did Biological Science as a Degree in the 1980s) and scientists are skeptics, therefore the more someone tells me that a particular idea is correct, and the louder they shout it, the more I want to find a quiet space and think about it myself – basically, I hate always being told to take things on trust and like to do my own thinking and understand things myself, and then if they are too complex and cannot be explained in basic, simple english or maths then I reckon it’s got to be a load of hoolley.

So there’s the background to why I have started looking in some more detail at global warming & climate change.  I am going to stick with global warming as that means we can focus on temperature whereas climate and weather is so much more complex.  Perhaps we can look at weather at a later stage.

My journey began in the most obvious starting point – the information published by the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which slightly spookily was an idea of and set up by Ronald Reagan when he was President of America.  Here’s a short paper in the Frequently Asked Section of their website on how temperatures are changing:  http://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/faq/wg1_faq-3.1.html. Now, the key data, that comes from the pretty graph at the bottom is that, depending on which time period you use, and also whether you start a period in a dip going to a peak in temperature, you can get a wide range for the rate of growth in global temperatures.  Their published range shows warming of 0.5oC – 1.8oC every 100 years. 

Now I have to admit I didn’t like their graph as I think you cannot take artificial time periods and force those onto the graph and felt a bit as though it was all being neatly calculated to fit a preconceived viewpoint.  Just like when you did maths at high school, you need to look at the graph and visually work a best fit line for the data, so I printed the sheet out (I am sure someone clever can do this on a computer but I am not that skilled with them but I can use a ruler and pencil!).  Now the graph is pretty small so accuracy is not going to be great but based on 150 and 100 years of data, global warming seems to be growing at about 0.45oC – 0.75oC every 100 years.

Now there are bits of the graph that can show much faster growth, however these are over really short time periods and appear to be picking rates, or periods, when you’re going from a low temperature to a high temperature that may be the result of normal cycles in sun temperatures etc, so I think you should look over longer periods that can remove some of the noise of other factors. 

That’s my view and everyone will have different thoughts on that, but this does highlight one of the contentions against “climate science” in that it is some ways “climate art” and becomes a matter of representation and debate rather than fact and science.

I was still not satisfied, in fact I wanted to look more closely at the data, so I started the hunt for some data to plug into an Excel spreadsheet and see what the answers would be, which will explain in a blog in the next week or so.