A matter of wind

In the days of lockdown one of our pastors thought Philippians would be a good place to be. Lockdown proved to be longer than that, so where then do you go? To that great and exciting book of reflections, the book of the wind or breath, no, not the Acts of the Apostles but the preaching of the Preacher, Ecclesiastes. PeteT asked for a profile, but what does a profile matter now? Three years ago it did a little; ten years it was worth something; twenty, thirty years ago surely it was something which we polished up now and again. The Preacher reflected: it was all wind or heavy breathing.

The lockdown is an enforced reflection, not to mention an opportunity to go through forty or more years of papers among which a Poisson distribution dated 8·11·73 on ticker tape had been secreted. Coco has promised himself, no longer having access to a ticker tape reader, that he shall scan it and attempt to decode it, but that is probably not the only type of promise Coco shall break without consequences. In the following reflection a profile may perhaps be discerned, as you will or not.

It was today that Coco realised that for all that has changed since we left Imperial, we still do not have fusion reactors, but we are only five years away from the switching on of ITER but then only for a few milliseconds. It is the way they say, but we know a better Way.

  • Coco hated computers – paper, slide rules and hard graft was good enough.
  • Coco wanted to be a musician, but realised he was not good enough, so went to Imperial.
  • Coco wanted to be a scientist, but didn’t get a first, so became an accountant.
  • Coco’s boss, who could add up the ‘phone book in his head, told him to buy himself a calculator.
  • Coco wanted to work in a country town preparing accounts,

but the Lord kept us in London to serve in a local church.

Computers turned up in the office

Coco’s only change of job, still heading towards the country town, took him into tax and underused computers. Coco made the mistake of showing an interest in having them used for tax computations. He found himself training others to use them, then working in a group to improve all aspects of the use of IT in tax, then finally writing tax software itself. In all of this there were three transactions, which to the outsider would have looked like takeovers and Coco found himself successively working for both firms which he had rejected whilst at Imperial, and after the third one working back where he had started in a newsagent (Reuters) not then at least delivering newspapers but delivering tax software into private equity and law firms – at least that was the preferred part of the work. What did the Preacher say? I know that there is nothing better for people to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil. This is the gift of God. I am grateful to him for this provision.

After what Coco saw as professional life Coco did a couple of other things, firstly working in a church association office. Having spent at least half of his professional life with the world’s most taxing spreadsheet, Coco had to get to grips with the world’s most difficult to use, and found that if you whip it like a slave hard enough it can do most of the things that his favourite spreadsheet did. Coco also spent nearly a year working with the business that was previously his chief competitor. How fascinating to go behind the scenes to discover what Coco had never known, who they were, how they did what they did and how well they did it.

There were other aspects of professional life which have afforded much joy. A Christian Union in the office which for a time examined such relevant matters as inflation (Haggai) and political ambition (Daniel) as well as using much more open challenges. There was a manager very early on who asked about ambitions – it was something you were supposed to do in professional life and you were expected to have them. He was somewhat taken back when Coco told him his only ambition was to be a man of God, and serve him wherever he took him. It was difficult to fit that neatly into his professional categories. Coco had to explain further however that though this was the overriding ambition, of course he desired to see himself progress at work, but not at the expense of the prime motive. There were the new students who came along, they worked for you for a time, then they moved on. There was a partner who told Coco to put his head down as he took shots over the wall. There were frustrated colleagues who were looking for a way out or other opportunities – have you ever given someone a really rotten interview? There were alumni from Imperial – mostly former overseas students – who crossed my path, what bright lights they were. It took many years to fully grasp how highly Imperial is held. One young man burst into my office one day with a ‘You’ll be pleased to hear this..’ followed quickly by a sheepish ‘Oh! … you won’t’. At which he walked away. Later Coco learned that his new boyfriend was from Imperial. Coco was glad both that he wanted to tell him, but also that he knew Coco could not rejoice with him.

There were also some rather difficult moments. As a consequence of an internal dispute at a client, Coco found myself, in blissful ignorance, arguing against the partner rather than supporting him. This was quite a gruelling introduction to the identification both of conflicts of interest, and who the client actually is. KYC was in its infancy, if not still pre-natal at the time. The telling off Coco received was severe, but Coco was not present when the partner had to attend the headmaster’s office. We continued to work together… Then later an angry call came from our Dutch firm. ‘You told us you had no time for anything new!’ They had quite by accident discovered the Easter Egg that Coco had built into the software [in his own time] and wrongly assumed that it was the writing of the solver which was the reason they could not have the new features that they wanted. The telling off was not for putting the Sudoku solver into the software but for allowing the case study data to be accessible. As you will know real life data is always required for testing any piece of software. Yes, it should have been removed. And Coco should have chosen a rather more obscure key-combination to activate it than he did. Later after unicode had been implemented, a new Egg was planted. To date Coco is only aware of one who has found the ancient Chinese poem. It is too late to receive a telling off for that. Sadly, both the solver and the poem are unlikely to find their way into the new generation software.

Other things have happened of course. Coco married a nurse who at one stage in her, much more illustrious than his, career was a lecturer at Imperial. She now holds at least two professorships and works internationally including with TokyoU. In her spare time she has managed to bring up two children with a little help or perhaps hindrance from her husband, establish at least two medical charities and visit the Palace. We have moved churches twice. The church is the Lord’s and his people are his sheep and they must follow the shepherd wherever he leads. We may not understand why we move on, we have our own reasons, but it is the Lord alone who really knows why, however grievous it may appear to us.

Had Coco succeeded in his first ambition? Coco does not know, all he can say is, as Paul said, I have not arrived…Forgetting what is behind and reaching out to the things that are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God. Whatever has been achieved will soon be forgotten, and this world also, but in its place shall stand a new world the like of which we have never dreamed. The challenge of today is the same as the challenge of graduation day: will I press on and honour him with it and in it?


Carrots are vegetables

Facebook seem to think that the post referenced here was in some way offensive for Coco, for one, can no longer access it.
Perhaps it really was to logicians, but Coco thought the argument had some merit, albeit small and inappropriately aligned, but to say offensive? To whom? Coco suspects this appropriately misaligned commentary will also be deemed offensive.

  • Carrots are vegetables, and
  • Black lives matter.

The two sentences are not comparable. One is a statement about the properties of carrots or an example of what the property vegetable is, the other is a political statement, the result of the condensation of a political manifesto or agenda into three words.

Of course additional words are required in order to explain what the political statement means. Should the first word be All, Most or Some? Does Black include brown, tan, olive, red, yellow – should Coco go on? If black only means black Coco understands, but if it means more than black why would it not also include pink? What does Matter mean? ‘Has value’ is probably what is implied.

… almost finished, two more points which are perhaps the most controversial. Is ‘Black lives matter’ true in the logical sense of true? I would suggest that those who hold this doctrine believe it is not true. They declare a contradiction. They use the slogan only because black lives do not matter and so declare an untruth.

Now please do not understand Coco, that was the penultimate point. The last point to make here is that the slogan lacks a reference point. In most cases where someone declares ‘It matters’ There is a preceding context which makes clear the meaning and to whom ‘it’ matters. ‘It matters to the customer, the boss, usw. ‘It’ is the Zanies’s hook and belt without which he cannot do his work. It matters to him, but not to Coco who would have no idea how to use it anyway. So this is the final point, to whom do the black lives matter to which this slogan refers? As Coco has said, there would be no need to say this if it were true, but it is not; black lives apparently do not matter to some. Who are the some to whom they do not matter? Coco leaves you, dear reader, to answer that question.

But let Coco affirm, just as carrots are a vegetable, Coco can use this slogan in a different way than intended: Black lives matter to God who made all men in his image, and because he has made us in his image men of all shades should treat every other man with the full respect that they expect for themselves. If you prefer to believe Darwin’s disciples rather than God then it is clear that you have no grounds on which to rest your case and claim that black lives matter any more than covid-19 virus lives matter. Sadly, we have not obeyed the commandments of God, we treat him with contempt; is it then a surprise to you than we treat other men badly? But God is not willing that we should perish, but gave his only Son to die on a Roman cross for our sins that we might be reconciled to him. Believe this and you shall live, and in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian nor even Scythians we are a new one nation in him.

With apologies in advance for errors of syntax, orthography and grammar which may be found embedded in this document whether arising from oversight, incorrect application of language packs or generally any other misadventure; and in general for any offence given inadvertently or inappropriately or both taken or not taken by those whose sensibilities, whether grammatical, orthographical, moral or simply personable, have been offended whether, not or if you have not incorrectly misunderstood the content, intent, meaning and purpose of this article, and to those whose copyrights may have been inadvertently or wantonly infringed, but never as to cause damage the copy holder’s rights, and, if you have managed to read this far, for any errors or omissions whether wilful, unintended, innocent or deliberate in the content of this polemic, and with thanks to you who have made it thus far for your patience.