Snowy scene which faced some of us in late 2017. A foretaste of things to come when this newsletter gets to you? Wrap up warm and get comfortable in front of a well-tended fire perhaps. Here's wishing you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.
In the January edition of the Newsletter:
So, do we now have Halloween Fools Day, as well as April Fool's Day? I realise it's a while ago now, but when I read the paper on 31st October, there were a couple of items which I found very hard to believe, both with Halloween type themes. My difficulty was deciding which one wasn't untrue. Or maybe you get two spoofs for the price of one, at Halloween?
The first was in the list of famous birthdays. It said that Lizzy Yarnold was 29 years old on the 31st October and that her claim to fame is as an Olympic gold medallist at skeleton racing. Yeah. Right. Even the name sounds a bit improbable, doesn't it? Do you know anybody called Yarnold? I don't. And what on earth might skeleton racing be? Do they all dress up as skeletons and race each other? Or does she race against a skeleton, or perhaps a whole field of skeletons? And we're supposed to believe that this is an Olympic sport? Obviously a spoof.
Then a few pages further on, I read that, in Madagascar, people are in the habit of digging up their dead relatives once a year and dancing with them in a sort of carnival parade. Yuck! How can they stand the smell? You'd think they'd all be sick. Well, actually, they are, which, apparently, is the point of the article - if it is to be believed.
The Madagascans are being urged to give up this jolly little ritual because they keep having outbreaks of various plagues, which, unsurprisingly, seem to coincide with the digging up of the ancestors. Surely the whole point of burying the dead in the first place is to avoid the spread of disease? Why bother burying them at all if you are just going to keep digging them up and killing yourselves off? You might as well just leave them where they dropped, so to speak, and save yourselves the trouble.
Although I suppose that would mean that gradually the beds and armchairs and things would fill up with the dead, and leave little space for the living. Maybe you could move the occupied bed or armchair or whatever outside and replace it with an unoccupied one. Perhaps they could all be moved to the local graveyard and sort of lined up ready for Halloween?
Which brings me back to Lizzy Yarnold. Maybe Yarnold is a Madagascan name, which might account for why it is not a name I am familiar with? Maybe dancing with your dead ancestors has developed into racing with your dead ancestors, and become an Olympic sport? A sort of new take on the Mums and Dads Race.
So, you see my problem, don't you? I read both of these items in a reputable daily newspaper; not one of the fish and chip papers. I even scanned them, lest you should disbelieve me. If only one of these is untrue, which one? And if Halloween Fools Day hasn't yet been invented, I am expected to believe that neither is untrue.
On the off chance that one or more of them is true, I guess I need to be a bit careful. I suppose my chances of bumping into Lizzy Yarnold are relatively slight, so I might be safe there. I must look up where Madagascar is, so that I can try to avoid accidentally turning up there in the course of some exotic holiday. It isn't anywhere near Shetland, is it?
Look forward to seeing you. I'm Chenda Appleyard
I'm Chenda Appleyard
Olympic Champion Lizzy Yarnold M.B.E. Cemented her place in sporting history after winning every major title in her sport of skeleton in just 407 days. A unique athlete and one of the most talented we have ever seen, Lizzy is the first British Athlete and second person ever to win the Grand Slam of titles.
With her sights set on the next Winter Olympics in 2018, Lizzy hopes to be the first British Olympian ever to retain their Winter Olympic title.
As we start another year I am reminded, by lack of copy, that we are all busy people. I did have something submitted some time ago by Tony Gill of Morley regarding "Ekphrastic Verse". I have mulled it over a few times but as it has a painting by Paolo Ucello of St. George and the dragon, plus a piece by U.A. Fanthorpe in this style of poetry. It.finished with a piece by Tony putting the horse's point of view.
Alas the latter is the only bit I could use due to copyright constraints, so I have not been able to use the material submitted.
Perhaps if a member wished to write something using this style of poetry we could publish it in Spotlight Nor'east and maybe get some discussion going about whatever subject was used and Ephrastic Verse specifically. I must confess that I had not previously heard of this type of poetry.
I have recently been undergoing a series of treatments by a chiropractor in an effort to reduce the pain and swelling to my lower back area. This is caused by two disc bulges (used to be called slipped discs when I was younger) and a small bony growth on another part of my spine. There is an operation available to deal with this type of problem.
Having watched Professor Noel Fitzpatrick perform similar operations on dogs, during his TV programme, at his veterinary practice in Surrey, I am aware of what can be done. Alas I am considered too old to be subjected to the rigours of the operation which could leave me paralysed from the waist down if it went wrong. Perhaps I should contact the professor to see if he could fit me in!
Probably he wouldn't be allowed to sort people out, but it is something that has crossed my mind several times, as I have watched him successfully treat large dogs, mind he would expect my owner, Mary, to put me on a diet for a while first to get rid of some excess weight. So, I must keep taking the pain killers and seeing the torturer, sorry chiropractor.
I have retired from the role of Regional Publications Officer for Mensa so now I just do the joint editors role of Spotlight Nor'east. Well while ever you and the regional committee put up with me.
I would like to ask that if any of you would like to write something for the newsletter please put pencil, or pen, to paper or even fingers to keyboard and send us your efforts. We are always pleased to get things from the readers of Spotlight, plus you get the benefit of not having to read our musings. GO On you know you would like to appear in print.
Above is a snowy scene from a part of our region which may well be repeated in spades if the threats from El Nino and La Nina are to be believed. To think the temperature of the sea in the pacific determines what weather we get later in the season. Makes one sit up and take note of what is happening in the world. Apparently last years (2016) heat waves were all as a result of these factors, followed by the hurricanes and tropical storms of 2017.
Forecasters say that the upcoming winter will be harsh with lots of cold weather sweeping down from the Arctic with plenty of snow and freezing conditions. It won't be any good running away to Australia as there will be droughts etc. there because of the same effects.
Man made global warming some will say but perhaps after all it is just the pair of pacific sea temperature effects El Nino and La Nina that are really the culprits. Let me know your thoughts on this interesting subject.
Lucky or Smart?
If you are happy, well paid and content with your life you are truly lucky...no, I mean it, you are really lucky! If you resent the idea that someone might assume your success in life is founded on good fortune rather than hard work and brilliance, I would like to give you something to think about.
For those born in poverty and/or war torn countries the statistics tell us they are extremely unlikely to ever achieve the happiness, security, confidence, successes, health and life span that even the poorest 10% of the developed world experience. If you feel the need for some hard-statistical proof, the World Health Organisations' statistics make for painful reading, but I think we can agree that if you were born in the UK rather than the third world, you're chance of accessing clean water and nutritious food are virtually guaranteed and your chance of success in most areas of life are far improved.
Which class of people you are born within, and who your parents might happen to be, will influence further your likely successes. Statistically, many people are much more likely to have lives that are frustrated by long term unemployment, crime and drug abuse, simply because of the type of family they are born in to. Conversely, many people benefit from considerable favour thanks to their family; ensuring they attain a suitable education; that they benefit from appropriate career advice and a multitude of other 'leg-ups'. Financial assistance, inside knowledge and shared contacts, are all benefits that some children can inherit from their parents.
Birthright advantages are only part of the equation, and although such advantage will statistically increase your chances of success, it will not fully determine it. Notwithstanding, if you put your success down to hard work and dedication, you should be careful how much weight you give to this, as a great many people that struggle in life will match (if not exceed you) point-for-point.
If you are reading this, there's a good chance you are a member of Mensa and arguably you are smarter than most. You shouldn't need me to tell you that intelligence is no guarantee of success, and in some instances it can actually be a disadvantage. If you have natural physical or athletic talents you will be praised, but the reaction to any mental talents you may have is generally quite the opposite - if you ever fancy testing this theory, simply make mention of your Mensa membership on your CV. It has been shown that the relationship between success and intelligence is less than straightforward, but if your intelligence has been advantageous to you, you were lucky.
I have outlined some obvious reasons why many successful people will have good fortune to thank for their success. For those who still don't believe that their success had anything to do with luck, Pareto's principal and normal probability distribution might be worth exploring - the first tells us that success will likely be distributed unevenly in any society, and the latter tells us that even if success was randomly shared out in a society, we should still expect to see an uneven distribution.
The following concepts apply to many of the measures that fall under the heading success, but to aid clarity, I will focus on financial reward and financial distribution. If you are familiar with Pareto's principal, you will know that a persistent tendency of imbalance can often be found when analysing effort versus reward. In very simplistic terms, Pareto's principal (also referred to as the 80/20 rule) would lead us to guess that a distribution of financial success in a society will tend towards an 80/20 balance, e.g. 20% of a population will own 80% of the wealth and vice versa. Significantly, the Pareto principle establishes that intervention to rebalance the distribution will have limited impact, and it would take considerable external forces to flatten the distribution - Governments use tax scales to help re-balance wealth distribution, however, Pareto himself found that the gulf between poor and rich remained surprisingly persistent, regardless of the political system imposed.
To better understand the relevance of normal probability distribution, I would ask you to imagine a small country inhabited by a few million identical people. If we revisit this new society after 10 years, what would the monetary distribution look like? As the individuals are all identical, they should all have equal value, energy, skill, enthusiasm, intelligence etc. so we might expect them all to enjoy the same level of personal financial success. This is of course a hypothetical and we can never know for sure, but probability theory tells us that contrary to what we might consider fair or just, a normal probability distribution is what we can expect to see. Some people will earn very little, most will be middle income, and some will earn high incomes and wealth will be distributed in a likewise bell-curve manner.
From the aforementioned, it is clear that the distribution of wealth and earnings in a society based purely on chance alone would likely mirror the type of distributions we see in the real world. Although it is difficult to identify the exact extent to which luck or good fortune plays a role, it is clear that extremely powerful probability forces exist, and that these forces will significantly influence distribution.
It's a commonly accepted fact that being intelligent or smart does not always equate to success, and probability theory may be part of the answer as to why this is the case. It appears that smart and hardworking people can lose the fight against chance and probability, and the inverse is also true - less smart, less hard-working individuals can ride a chance wave of fortune to elevated levels of success.
As is the case with exceptionally low intelligence people, exceptionally high intelligence individuals can face difficult hurdles and obstructions to success. The Dunning-Kruger effect highlights the fact that people with average intelligence tend to overestimate their intelligence while brighter individuals have a propensity to do the reverse. In addition, people tend to hire, promote and invest in people like themselves. As high intelligence people are a small minority, unless they are really lucky, the fate of their careers is largely dependent on people who have considerably less intelligence, and if they discover you may be smarter than them, your luck has just run out. In reality, unless really lucky in life, exceptionally intelligent and or capable people are overlooked for promotion, denied recruitment and forced into unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Career frustration can often result in more capable people seeking refuge in self-employment which for most (particularly in these times where corporate companies dominate) means low income careers.
From my own experience, the factors that play in to success which are beyond our control are many (far more than touched on here), and on careful reflection, any successes I have had in my life only occurred because I was lucky. If you think good fortune played little or no role in your life, or you believe luck has passed you by, be mindful that both good and bad fortune are powerful forces, can take many guises and can descend on us at any time.