About mountains: when I was aged less than 10, as a family we all climbed The Old Man Of Coniston. The view from the top was still familiar the next time I saw it, decades later. Some five years later, the next notable climbing experience was in the Pyrenees when we camped in Andorra. Nothing much happened after that for fifteen years or so, when the experiences described in the MEWILA book began.
About science: again, before the age of 10, my father taught me how to build a radio. Later, he showed me books on cosmology. My student summer jobs included two with zoologists, one with computing people, and one with weather forecasters. That is not obviously why I studied mathematics.
About human character: some background in this subject can be very useful, if one wants to survive long enough in employment to collect a pension.
About riding bicycles: it is a good experience, and a good way to travel.
Where to find Alan Hutchinson online
Where to buy in print
by Alan Hutchinson
House prices are high. Many house buyers have to borrow a lot. This is not good. The usual suggested remedy is: build more houses, but prices would be lower if there were less ready money. Much of the wealth of banks consists of these loans. It may be better to keep loans smaller, but if prices fall fast then so would the values of the banks' assets, and banks might crash again as in 2008.
Ukraine and Guns and Mistrust
by Alan Hutchinson
Ukraine is following Yugoslavia and Syria. There are two essential priorities:
Trust your neighbours
Do not touch a gun.
No doubt there are bad things which have happened in Ukraine, and some bad things are no doubt still happening. They will not be stopped by more bad things. The two most dangerous things are guns and mistrust.
Bringing Up Baby
by Alan Hutchinson
These brief notes are distilled from the past one and a half decades which have been unlike anything I have experienced before. They are most likely to be helpful to prospective fathers. Mothers are likely to pick such ideas up anyway, but perhaps they will be some help to some mothers too.
Beauty and Pleasure and Moderately Energetic Walking in the Lower Southern Alps
by Alan Hutchinson
Senses of beauty and especially pleasure drive us in all we do. Here are presented two different kinds, Alpine walking and some simple science. The last two chapters suggest what these emotions may be, how they arose and vary, and how they guide our good and bad decisions. There are 88 pictures, 514 references and 172 anecdotes. There is a web browser version: http://mewila.co.uk/html/mewila.htm
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Smashwords book reviews by Alan Hutchinson
- Improving Road Safety in Asia and the Pacific
on April 28, 2013
As one would expect, this report is well written and presented. For that aspect, it deserves plenty of stars. Its opening remarks are also very simple and clear: road casualties cost dear in all senses.
What it covers, it covers well. It is short, much shorter than the WHO report of 2013 which it quotes from. It mentions all the obvious classes of road users, if only briefly in some cases (children, old people) and all the obvious measures which might make each individual road user less likely to cause or be hurt in a road crash.
Its weakness is by omission. It does not say that the simplest way to reduce road injuries would be to use roads less, or less dangerously. Travel by car is not as dangerous as downhill skiing, but it is more dangerous per passenger mile than almost any other way: bus, scheduled aircraft, or train. Most of the hazard in walking and cycling arises from motor vehicles on shared roads, not intrinsically from walking or cycling. This report mentions the need to plan roads for safety, but it does not make prominent mention of more general planning. Well designed cities make other forms of travel easy and pleasant. Planning where people may live and work and buy food and go to school, so that normal life does not have to involve a car, can save many lives.
- The Patriotic Art
on May 14, 2013
After reading Martin Rickerd's partial autobiography right through, and I did, I feel more sympathy with him than I first expected to. He and I are both coping with self appraisal in retirement. We are very different, and our careers and cultural backgrounds and even our experiences of foreign travel have been very different, but I appreciate and respect his attitude and effort.
This is the tale of how a juvenile cigarette-smoking beer drinking incipient rake with A levels in French and English and an unfortunate motoring record rose through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to represent his nation. As far as one can glean from this version, which may be Bowdlerised, only one person was hurt on the way, and this injury was not the author's fault.
The first tenth of the book outlines how his career lept up every two years: junior paper boy, NATO message copier in Brussels, then marriage and junior administrator in New Zealand. For the next third, he continues to rise, but the greatest excitements were occasions when all the arragements for royal visits only just went right. His advance was so smooth that another diplomat called him a bastard; so he applied to go to equatorial Africa where he was shot at and he had to negotiate to prevent a bank robbery by local police. This episode reads a bit more like a late novel by Graham Greene, though without the sex and jealousy and plot.
The last half is mostly about his time running an office in Atlanta, with lots of excuses to drink wine, explore large parts of the USA, and observe a wide range of characters from Jimmy Carter (friendly and doing good) to lots of redneck Republicans (wilfully ignorant of climate change).
When I bought this book, I was perhaps looking for two forms of interest. One was a narrative rather like Arthur Grimble's famous "A Pattern Of Islands". Rickerd's book is not like that. His interest and loyalty lie with the FCO and Britain, whereas Grimble's were to the the inhabitants of the territory he had charge of. The other was some understanding of life in British Government. Here, this book is more revealing. It seems that the FCO, or at least the aspect Rickerd describes in the opening chapters, really was the bureaucratic self-satisfied club it has always appeared to be. At the end, it seems the FCO adopted various disruptive management fads mixed with some tough training courses and assessment schemes. Of course there is no mention of covert work of any sort.
Martin Rickerd wants to do the right thing. He has faith in the institutions he worked for, and he is glad to see evidence that some British effort is helping very poor people, and he writes with fervour about climate change and his frustration with those who refuse to understand it. He shares my pleasure in train journeys through mountains, though he only describes one.
The book is almost all well produced, but there are some curious syntactic slips, as if some edits are incomplete.
It is hard to draw conclusions from this kind of book because it is inevitably only a partial account. The classic image of a diplomat is a razor sharp mind concealed behind a jovial exterior. More of the exterior appears here than of the mind, as is natural. Rickerd's talent seems to be that he can be relied on to say and do the conventional right thing. I am left perhaps with relief that responsibility lay with someone who could be relied on to do that, tinged with anxiety that the obvious decision may sometimes have been wrong, and the proper course of action really demanded more analysis and cunning. There is no way of telling. The nature of the work is such that Martin Rickerd could never tell us everything.
- Environmental effects: It's our doing
on Oct. 08, 2013
Short and simple and well worth reading. Thanks for publishing it.
- What I Borrowed
on April 30, 2014
Short. Maybe fun for lazy intellectuals.
- Thinking About Star
on June 08, 2014
It is good to see functional languages in use for major industrial projects. From this book, it appears that Star is so used.
The book itself tries to cover a lot of ground, beginning with the merits of functional languages and continuing as far as concurrency, speech acts, and applications of advanced algebra and logic.
A reader should understand that this book is not intended as an introduction to functional languages and programming. Anyone seeking such an introduction would probably do better to study a more mature general purpose language such as Haskell.