Category Archives: Thinking

Joni Mitchell: subverting expectation line by line, word by word and phoneme by phoneme

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the music of Joni Mitchell recently, and I wanted to share an observation. It’s not news that her music is all about subverting expectations — see for example the ubiquitous use of the unresolved suspensions that she terms “chords of inquiry”. Here I want to draw attention to a few places where she makes consecutive parts of her lyrics contradict, or at least reinterpret, each other.


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e-Book piracy: a moral dilemma

Here is a moral dilemma that I’ve not seen discussed before — maybe surprisingly, since it’s one that I imagine lots of us have run into. However I think through this, it leads me to a stupid conclusion. Can anyone help me to see what mistake I’m making?


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Can birds fly into a headwind that is faster than their own maximum speed?

I just read this snippet in Gerald L. Wood’s fascinating Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats, 3rd edition [,]:

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How to get into space cheaply

As I sat with my colleagues at one of the outdoor bars at our hotel in Cancun last month, I had an idea for a method of getting into space cheaply.  Since this is a problem of enormous general interest and commercial importance, I was sure it must have been thought of before, but when I checked Wikipedia’s non-rocket spacelaunch page (highly recommended, by the way!), I didn’t see my idea listed.  So could it possibly be novel after all?

[By happy coincidence, it’s only a few days ago that the world’s first Sushi In Space video was released.  Why?  I couldn’t tell you.  But that’s where this image is taken from.]

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Ignoring things

I am irritable and scratchy today, and I think I know why.  It’s for a stupid reason, but one that has important things underlying it.

Background: my awesome employers, Index Data, are flying all of us out to Cancun at the end of the month for a sort of company conference/holiday in a luxurious hotel by a beautiful beach.  (“All of us” is fourteen people — I love small companies.)  So that’s a good thing, and it makes me very happy to look forward to a week of sunshine (especially in contrast to the vile weather we’ve been having in Gloucestershire).

But yesterday I got an email with some information about the hotel, which said:

Dinner dress code for men are slacks, collared shirt and enclosed shoes. Dress code for women are sundresses, dresses or slacks. No jeans.

That annoys me.  (And not only because of the horrible singular/plural mismatches.)

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