Tag Archives: Time

Darling, You Are One In 107 Billion

Congratulations! You are the 107,000,000,000th human born on Earth!

Click here to redeem your prize*

* Your prize is the BBC article from which I got this estimate.

Small numbers


This ammonite fossil is 170 million years old.

That’s a hard number to grasp, so let’s put it in context.

It’s just over 2000 years since we switched from BC to AD. For us, 2000 years ago is ancient history.

But 2000 years are nothing to this little fossil. What proportion of his existence do those 2000 years represent?

Not much: he is so old that the entire AD era – starting when the Romans ruled Britain, Augustus was on the throne, and Jesus was born – is only 0.00001% of his time on Earth.

Monk-ey business

The bones of four thousand dead friars line the walls of this Capuchin Crypt in Rome.

They want to remind visitors of the brevity of life on Earth:

We were like you once. Soon you will be like us.

Cheery stuff, thanks lads! There’s lots of this kind of thing around – ‘Do it now, don’t wait’ / ‘Carpe diem’ / ‘YOLO baby!’.

It’s easy to scoff, because scoffing is easier than acknowledging it’s true. Tick-tock, time keeps marching on. Time never comes to an end, but you and I will.

The consequences of embracing this idea are unsettling: every second is precious, so every second is under pressure.

But this quickly becomes impractical. This had better be the best shit of my life!

The feeling of living on limited time might put getting older into perspective. Those years ain’t coming back, and my inevitable demise draws ever nearer.

But in the past month I’ve started a new blog, had a mad idea for a pizza festival, and put my name to a funding proposal for a digital history project at a London university.

So long as things like that keep happening, you’re all good. It’s only when they stop that you notice the time passing.

Today’s my 30th birthday. Can’t hear a ticking sound just yet…

So I applied to be an astronaut

My life’s ambition is to go into space, so a few years ago I applied to be an astronaut.

At the time anyone could apply to ESA (the European Space Agency), so I went to the doc and to the hospital, had a bunch of tests done, filled out the application form and sent it off.

There was little chance I would succeed. But it made perfect logical sense to try.

There are two ways of getting into space: (1) become a billionaire, or (2) get hired as a professional astronaut. Maybe one day I’ll be a billionaire but I don’t want to count on it. So I just applied.

Actually, all my best decisions are made when I ignore the chances of failure and just do it.

  • Want to learn how to code? Ok, build a website.
  • Want to try building a business? Ok, start one now.
  • Want to find out if teaching would be a good career move? Ok, do it part-time and see whether it’s fun.
  • Like that girl a lot? Ok, ask her out.

These simple decisions are the best.

A) You can’t regret them

If it doesn’t work out, no big deal. You did the logical thing and tried. Your mind is at rest. Ssshh now little brain.

B) You know exactly why you made them

It’s a simple formula. You won’t get confused about your motives. Want something? Ok, have a go.

C) You always gain something unexpected

Building a website taught me how the internet works. Starting a business taught me a million things that I put into a recent post (How I lost £1,500 when I was 23). Teaching part-time right now is making me 10x better at explaining stuff and speaking in public. And the last girl I asked out is going to become my wife next summer, so that one worked out pretty well too.

Worrying about failure kills good decisions. Whenever I worry I lose the magic power to make simple logical decisions and I waste my life fretting. I’m glad that didn’t happen with applying to be an astronaut.

The physical tests and most of the application form were ok, though I couldn’t really disguise my lack of a PhD in astrophysics or biology. The weakest bit though was when I had to describe my experience in radio communications:

I did hospital radio for two years when I was at school. I was a presenter and had my own weekly show.

But since I haven’t actually heard back from ESA, I assume they’ve got me on the reserve list.

Hopefully someone will drop out soon.

 

+++

For more posts like this, Like the new Facebook page or follow me on Twitter:


Fear and death

On Robben Island, the prisoners had a contraband copy of Shakespeare’s Collected Works. Nelson Mandela marked this as his favourite passage:

Cowards die many times before their deaths:

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

 

+++

Like the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter:


The hard yards

The hard yards are actually the easiest to cover.

But in order to cover them, you have to stay put.

You do the hard yards by sticking at it, by staying focused – when you want to get up from the desk, open Facebook or Twitter or email, put the TV on, do the washing up – anything to avoid what you know you should be doing.

Those are the hard yards.

Few people can stare down the hard yards. Often I can’t.

But I’m pretty sure they’re the ones that make a difference.

+++

Like the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter:


Start with no

I jog my legs up and down the whole time and it drives my girlfriend crazy. I literally cannot sit still for a minute.

I would say that I get bored easily, but I’m not sure that quite covers it.

It’s just so easy to start doing things – free tools, free platforms, cheap equipment – that the most difficult thing is actually to say no.

Bullshit business books say to always have an open mind, to follow up every lead, you never know where it might take you and maybe there’ll be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I say (and, sometimes, do) the opposite: start with no.

 

+++

Like the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter:


Where will we be exactly 10 years from now?

My girlfriend and I were discussing this last week, so I just made a calendar reminder that will ping me in exactly 10 years’ time.

We were sat in The White Horse pub in Oxford, the night before a wedding.

I’m happy that we don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years’ time, and I’m excited to find out!


+++

Follow @toddmgreen

How to be a magician

Creativity is magic! You’re making something out of nothing, or out of many different things. It makes you a wizard, a conjurer, a sorcerer! You’re like this guy!

I feel like that right now.

It’s the feeling I get whenever I write, edit a video, play guitar, jot down a poem, or figure out a new project.

It can be hard to make time. But when I’m doing something creative, I lose track of time – and somehow all the day-to-day shit like cleaning and admin just melts away, ashamed of its miserable existence, and hides in a dark corner to cry.

Creative time doesn’t produce anything ‘useful’. So what? Would you rather live a useful life or a magical one?

Blowing ancient minds

Over Christmas I watched a lot of episodes of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. It’s a fun rattle through famous earthly and not-so-earthly mysteries.

One of the most surprising things I learnt was that the Ancient Greeks made a computer. Yep, a computer!

In 1901, divers near the Greek island of Antikythera found what turned out to be a complicated mechanism for making astronomical calculations – so complicated, in fact, that nothing like it is known to have existed again until the 14th century.

The whole thing is truly extraordinary, and there’s loads of interesting info on the Wikipedia page, the project website, and in an article on Gizmag. One smart guy even built a working replica out of Lego. And it is in Arthur C. Clarke’s show:

What say you?

The thing that interests me most about it is how people of the time might have reacted.

We’re surrounded today by technological wonders – being able to speak to my friends in Rwanda via Skype video always amazes me, never mind being able to go into space or fit millions (billions?) of transistors onto a tiny microchip.

So think how mind-blowing it must have been to see something like the Antikythera machine in action over 2,000 years ago!

Maybe God is great

In 2006 I was living in Germany. In Cologne, where I was based, there is a gigantic cathedral. Construction began in 1248 and although for some reason it wasn’t deemed to have been officially finished until 1840, I expect that it has made quite an impression on everyone who has seen it ever since the very beginning.

It is an imposing, ominous-looking building that towers over everything else in the city. Even today, for someone fairly used to being among skyscrapers, it is remarkable. But imagine seeing this in the Middle Ages when your house and most of the other buildings around were wooden huts, and even the greatest rulers had little more than a castle! Definitely enough to make you believe that there might be something in all this God stuff.

I’m going to keep an eye out for info on how people of the time responded to things like the Antikythera machine and the Cologne Cathedral. There might be an interesting comparison between their reactions and ours.

+++

If you liked this post, you might enjoy reading this: Technology and magic

Cologne Cathedral photo credit: Maurice van Bruggen