Strong Opinions, Loosely Held

John Gruber wrote these words regarding Steve Jobs.

That’s probably the most concise thing I could use to describe how I approach life and especially technology. I think it’s how every rationalist should approach life. Be strong in your opinions and be prepared to defend them. But when you’re not winning or you’ve just been proved wrong, apologise, adapt to the new information and move on.

I remember being told that I needed to apologise more by a person who, in my entire time of knowing them, never once apologised for anything. But I persevered because sometimes it’s important never to sweat the little details and every person you meet helps shape you into the person you’re becoming. I do apologise, especially when given the chance. I try and adapt to the new information or the new status quo, and I try and cope with the aftermaths. This is how we handle change. It was Charles Darwin who said:

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

And so interpersonal relationships and the ability to maintain and repair them must be important.

I hear a lot of people talking about Steve Jobs as if he was a monster. But that wasn’t my impression. I met him once at Apple Expo and he was warm and welcoming (as you might not imagine a powerful CEO with a reputation as a mercurial monser meeting a tiny, inconsequential customer to be). I conversed with him over email in September 2001 to explain that it was important not to let terrorists dictate the future (Lessons learned from Northern Ireland!) and his reply was one of the deepest concern for the safety of his employees and customers. Much more human than could be imagined. And so I’m left with the impression that Steve was human, that he loved and disliked like any human, but most importantly that he was loved – not just by his family or the whirlpool of blind hordes but by colleagues, peers and co-workers.

After a day of working with performance and intolerance (actually a performance of intolerance inspired by Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed), I am moved to think of the microaggressions that plague us. Whether that’s disparaging a man you never met, or refusing to hear out someone who’s trying to apologise; the effect is the same. Boal wrote:

“Dialogue is defined as to freely exchange with others, as a person and as a group, to participate in human society as equal, to respect differences and to be respected.”

I’ve been ruminating on these words.

One of my favourite movies, Serendipity, has a powerful quote which inspires the remainder of the Heros Journey. I doubt there is any evidence to the veracity of it, but it rings true for me at least.

You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: ‘Did he have passion?”

Well? Do you?

I do.

John Wesley wrote:

“When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.”

And whoooo-boy that’s true.

When I burned, everyone turned up with marshmallows. And really I don’t blame them. There was immense entertainment in watching someone engulfed, I’m sure. The same sort of hecklers who gloated that Steve struggled with his personal beliefs on clean living before succumbing to his cancer. The same sort of lovely people, many of whom would be fine, upstanding pillars of the community, who rejoiced when Christopher Hitchens was succumbing to his own cancer, wondering loudly what he would do after a lifetime of denying God. Crikey, 2011 was a sucky year for my heroes.

So, in short, be kind, forgive, be passionate about your ideas but hold them loosely.

Making It

As I’m relatively new to acting/performing, I do wonder how this compares to people for whom it’s their dream and always has been. I was a nervous and shy kid and drama class for me was anxiety central. Since then I’ve done heaps of public speaking and been interviewed a hundred times. As a roleplaying geek, I’ve gotten comfortable with adopting a voice and a persona in a small group but performing for others is a challenge I still feel anxious about.

I, like so many others, did the university and career thing. I’m now embarking on this with the knowledge that I really only have ten years to get it right. I’m envious of my classmates starting out, bright eyed and bushy tailed, with decades before them. And that makes me hungrier than most, maybe.

Aside from the luvvies in the class, I’ve met a few dozen actors and honestly, none of them are having what would be called by "normal" people a successful career.

But as Jimmy Carr said last night in conversation (ha!), it’s not when you’re a star that you’ve made it. It’s not when you’ve got your STAR on the Boulevard. It’s not even when you can see your name on a movie in iTunes.

You’ve made it the day you pay the rent with money made from performing. The day you buy Christmas presents with proceeds from acting. The day you drive away the car bought with cash from being in front of a camera.

(Post inspired by: Why Are You Trying To Be Something You’re Not)


"If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. If it happens to be an auxiliary cruising boat, it is without question the most compact and ingenious arrangement for living ever devised by the restless mind of man–a home that is stable without being stationary, shaped less like a box than like a fish or a girl, and in which the homeowner can remove his daily affairs as far from shore as he has the nerve to take them, close hauled or running free–parlor, bedroom, and bath, suspended and alive."

  • E. B. Quinton White

99 days until I’m qualified


  1. Course booked
  2. Flights booked
  3. Accommodation booked

Day Skipper Tidal here I come. 87 days to start, 99 days until I’m qualified.

Day Skipper (Tidal) is an intermediate qualification which is better than a sailing qualification and more expansive than a “Competent Crew” certificate. But it falls short of the various Yachtmaster qualifications. The “Tidal” part is slightly better than “non-Tidal” especially if you plan to charter someone else’s boat.

I’ve been thinking about this for ages – something a little more advanced than my dinghy sailing qualifications and now, in 2016, after a pretty damn-awful 2015, seems to be the first hint of peace and the first opportunity to do stuff for me.

Being trained and qualified doesn’t mean that I need it to sail. The sea is a relatively lawless place for a boat owner, especially in UK waters. I’m confident that I could take a 25′ boat around the coasts of Northern Ireland and wouldn’t do too badly based on my experience sailing last summer. Taking a wide berth around rocks, keeping an eye on the channel and the depth-sounder.

Of course, I don’t even have a dinghy at the moment (sold it to close off one more loose end) but that’s not going to stop me. There’s some money in the boat fund account and there’s also a course in woodworking and furniture design and production that I’ve signed up to. I figure it’s the best way to learn how to construct or repair the interiors of a cheap boat, including upholstery.

This summer will be camping and sailing and caravanning. I’ll be looking at stand-up paddle boarding, maybe even try my hand at surfing. And I’d like to try sea fishing.

The Years Thunder By

From a man who pursued an acting career solely to finance his sailing addiction.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it." What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

  • Sterling Hayden (Wanderer, 1973)

The Big Boat!

I’ve started saving for the big boat.


Depending on how I do over the next six months, it’ll see how big the boat gets. I’m aiming for a 40 ft sailboat because I need separate cabins for my daughter and son when I force them to come and live with me at the weekends.

So if anyone wants to donate a few grand to my boat fund so I have somewhere to live this year, it would be awesome. ???

My target is about £40,000. I have about £5,000 so far. I’ll need a bit extra if I’m going to hire a skipper to help me sail it back from wherever it’s moored plus fuel and supplies so my target is a bit higher than that.

And if you don’t want to donate, please think of any mostly legal services I can perform on evenings and weekends. I’m not entirely averse to the slightly immoral 😛 😛 😛 or even the plainly distasteful. I’ve worked in bars on the mornings after the Friday and Saturday nights (Thanks Dad!), I’ve scraped cow crap and tonnes of chicken litter and I’ve worked for a bank (lowest of the low).

Happy to bring anyone who’s willing on board to help me ship it back (think of it as a holiday) and make a real trip out of it.

All I can promise is that when we arrive in Belfast, we’ll have a party ??? and ideally we’ll take the bugger out sailing when the weather improves!

P.S. this entire post is actually about being happy that I’ve managed to get about £5K into the fund so be happy for me!

P.P.S. Also willing to ‘entertain’ rich widows. Seriously. 😛