Roaster pretending to be a normal chicken.
Ah, the festive season, a very social time:
We have family visiting from all over, with the focus very much on grandchildren.
And on an avian gate crasher, two actually.
A Piwakawaka (Fantail), has, for some reason taken an obsessional interest in the door to my kite making place. For days now it has been almost continually fluttering against the glass. Which would make sense if this was a good place to catch the small flying insects that Fantails like. But there don't seem to be any there.
But not as weird as the assertive and gregarious chicken which arrived unannounced when our party on the 23rd was at full blast- and has since made itself at home.
Called Roast during the party, this has morphed to Roastie, then Roaster- to cover an alternative gender possibility.
Definitely the most socialised chicken that anyone around here has ever met.
Facebook appeals have not yet discovered a previous home and Roaster greets any suggestions about moving on with squawky indignation, notwithstanding that refusing to let go of Tui (the dog's) tail nearly resulted in a premature and permanent departure.
Demented Fantail in a calmer moment
Roaster pretending to be normal
Roaster the demented chicken
Which doesn't have anything at all to do with kites, politics or the general subject of this newsletter (kites and politics as usual), but is just to connect you in via these domestic trivia first.
As I've often rabbited on about, if you're the sort of person who likes solving problems, the most rewarding are those that are just achievable within the constraints of your attention span and talents.
If something's too easy, no sense of accomplishment can be derived from success. If it's too difficult, the inevitable failure will be attended by frustration and despair.
Sudoku, crosswords and other puzzles are made to order for this- every level of skill is catered for- but they don't offer their solvers much long term satisfaction by way of physical evidence or making the world an even marginally better place.
Solving "real life" problems does have greater social utility- but those that concern relationships often don't have clear cut solutions-(like leaving the toilet lid up or down, or Palestine/Israel for example)- and a lot of other day to day stuff is generally more about managing situations than achieving permanent answers.
Inventing/designing/building things offers much more and better chances for satisfying problem solving I reckon, and at higher levels adds the challenges of team management- which in the inventing game is rather like the step up from crosswords to cryptic crosswords .
But it's all about not aiming too high- or too low, and not being Steve Jobs, most of us need to set our sights on easy stuff. For me, this is attempting to develop better kites. Kite problems allow an almost infinity of choice with respect to degree of difficulty, and do at least leave a minor legacy when successfully solved.
The single skin single line (SSSL) kite project that's been my main focus for the last year seems to be more achievable than the commercialisation of kite sailing which I've put 25 years of concerted effort into since 1987, so far without success. SSSL's seems to be slowly yielding - though with plenty of capacity to kick back when I get too cocky. SSSL 24 was the first really successful all-winds prototype (last month's newsletter), but it's since taken until SSSL33 to get one that's better. In hindsight I'm probably going to look pretty stupid as most of the failures are from having been too pig-headed to accept that the answer to almost every SSSL problem is more bridling.
What I have noticed so far that might be useful to others is that flatter profiles resist leading edge collapse at lower angles of attack, making them less brutal to fly, and that SSSL's are as sensitive to bridle spacing chordwise as they are spanwise- see the photos of 32 and 33, which differ only in 33 having 12% less wingspan for the same chord.
But this type of problem solving is rather selfish- more for personal benefit than world saving.
And most world saving stuff is political; almost by definition too difficult. Which is probably why politicians are generally so combative and petty- they can usually only get kicks by scoring points over someone else, which is pretty fleeting at best.
But big political problems do sometimes have solutions: and one of these is controlling our propensity to violence.
No, I'm not about to propose a solution to this perennial human concern, rather, I'm telling you that it's already happened.
Well actually, yes.
As much as this might be at odds with the media picture and our personal intuition, in the developed world, the probability of being subjected to violence has declined so much in the last few hundred years that the only way to meaningfully represent this change graphically is by an exponential scale. And this decline is across the entire spectrum from warfare through to muggings and "domestics". Relative to your ancestors back then, the chance of being beaten up or done in by someone is down by a factor of around 20. Not even the 20th century's two world wars and another 50million or so killed by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in pursuit of left wing fantasies have dented this trend.
Don't believe me? Then go look it up: For a starter, Pinker's "The Better Angels of our Nature" (a quote from Abraham Lincoln) has data sources on this sufficient to convince every sceptic.
And the change in the way we organise ourselves that caused this un-paralleled betterment of our condition was articulated by a single concerned individual just 364 years ago. His name was Thomas Hobbes, and he laid out his ideas for a better future in "Leviathan" (which I'm just reading on account of that it's on my new Kindle, which is replacing a Sony e-reader that fell in the bath- multiple times).
Undoubtedly Hobbes was drawing together strands of thinking that had been brewing for some time and good government was probably heading this way anyway, but nevertheless, his name is rightly attached to this one.
Hobbes proposed that we should surrender all our rights for using personal violence to an over-arching state (called the Leviathan) in return for that state protecting our property and providing a system to redress wrongs done to us. Another way of stating this is that 'Leviathan' gets a monopoly on the use of force in return for ensuring its citizen's security and the rule of law.
And this is pretty much how it's happened, though I expect it may have taken a bit longer than Hobbes' anticipated for us to build enough trust in our governments so that we are not now generally inclined to "take the law into our own hands" when someone does us wrong.
In the USA this trust is currently being tested for a significant African American minority- but this will be resolved I'm sure, because the alternatives are much worse for everyone.
Such a simple thing, such a profound and beneficial effect- but how many of us understand and appreciate the huge difference it's made to our lives?*
Even while casual violence from ISIS, Somalia, the Mexican drug wars and etcetera, are a continual reminder of what our developed world was like just a few hundred years ago.
I for one am pretty grateful that Hobbes and others of that time put their efforts into the big problems rather than picking on minor short term issues from which they could get gratification in their own life times.
Not least that it's given me the time, resources and security to play with kites- and to maybe sort out these demented avians.
PETER LYNN, ASHBURTON, NEW ZEALAND, JANUARY 1 '15
Unfortunately, having seen Leviathan's success in reducing violence, the Left concluded that more government is the answer to every problem. Someone should slap them around a bit to set them straight on this before they knock off another 50 million or so "for our own good".