Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A New Home in the Sky - As Good As It Gets

A work request arrives into the Klueless Support team’s queue with an apologetic little ping. The boss reads the summary - and then re-reads it aloud for our benefit.

“User is requesting that the number 7 be removed from a report”


Does the user want us simply to open the report in MS Word and delete the offending figure?

We could do this, obviously, but that would kind of invalidate the report, wouldn’t it? Imagine if people were suddenly to start going around changing figures in reports that they just didn’t like the look of? Where would it all end? Whole wars might be started, for pity’s sake! Surely our user can’t be suggesting that we behave in such an anarchistic fashion?

It must be something else then.

Maybe the user wants us to alter the fundamental properties of the universe such that the number seven no longer exists? Technically, this is more of a challenge, obviously, and could have far-reaching effects. How many days would there be in a week? How many ages of man? How many ancient wonders of the world? How would we refer to the film we currently know as The Magnificent Seven? The Magnificent 6a just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Turns out that all the user wants is for us to remove seven erroneous data records from the database so they don’t show up in the report. Boring, but makes a bit more sense and, more importantly, is within our power to accomplish (although I was willing to give the removal of sevenness a shot if there was some overtime in it).

Numbers are weird things, though, aren’t they? I myself was a total duffer at maths in school but always really really wanted to be good at it. Alas, the principles of mathematics slipped through my desperately grasping fingers like so many greased eels on Speed. I’ve always admired people who ‘get’ maths.

We were discussing this very topic recently in an idle moment at Throwback Towers. There had been a documentary on TV about the chap that finally solved Fermat’s Last Theorem. This fellow spent something like seven (or 6a, if you will) whole years closeted away with just a pencil and paper, working on this problem (no computers, note, which is probably why he was able to solve it – just sayin’). He shared his work with very few people and then only when he was finally getting ready to reveal it to the world. It was the crowning achievement of his life – by his own admission, he is never again likely to accomplish anything like as important as that piece of work.

You have to admire the dedication, the patience and sheer singlemindedness needed to work like that.

You have to feel sorry for a man who knows that he will never be able to equal that one shining moment in his career.

For him, that was as good as it gets.

After some discussion (and an umbrella-fight – don’t ask!), we agreed that the rivers of our lives would most likely flow on serenely, happily untroubled by having to come up with something to ‘top’ what we had already achieved.

This means one of two things:

a) We are a bunch of unprincipled slackers whose capacity to under-achieve is matched only by our dedication to the same.

b) We still have our crowning moment ahead of us somewhere.

I’d really like to think it was the latter.


  1. hhmmm.... I tend not to go to places like that in my head too often. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is about it, permanantly unemployed/unemployable, with zero self discipline, zero drive, zero ambition. To me, every time I manage to get Ron to make the tea, is a job well done... and seven is my favourite number ;-)

  2. Watercats - wow, that was a fast response! I think you do yourself a disservice - you produce great music and brillo bloggage. OK, that may not pay the bills (yet) but it's creative. The rat race may have regular pay-checks but it's still a race that has rats in it. I have no ambition and poor self-discipline/drive. I'll never amount to much, but I'm OK with it.

  3. What if we're all wrong about crowning moments, and the real one was that perfect sand castle at the beach when we were 10?
    I can definitely relate to your sevenness request!

  4. NanU - That's an interesting idea, maybe our crowning moment was something like the perfect sandcastle. How would we know? I suppose the next step in this analysis is to specify the criteria for something being a 'crowning moment'. The significance of it? The pleasure it gave to you/others?

    Is a perfect sandcastle as good as a personal best in the 100m sprint? Or that presentation that went down a storm with your bossses last week? The birth of your babies (if you have them).


  5. I do like this! Thanks- the world without 7...
    quite the hole. leaky, too.
    Slackers ? living up to potential...or a crowning moment. Hmmm. See that pair of tall boots waiting near the door ? If we could step into each others lives -absolutely&completely- for a little while;( and be a fly on the wall while it is happening)
    How differently we might use the gifts given us that an extra dimension?

  6. yeah, but with no number seven i'd never have to have sat through a Brad Pitt/Morgan Freeman film with a daft ending - on the subject of which which sin would you lose?

    i think we spend our whole lives looking for that defining moment when we achieve that something - but the truth is that we have lots of "moments" that build into the life we have created - and maybe if we're happy in that life then we don't all need to have created the empire state building, maybe that's enough?

    Maybe our crowning moment is the things we haven't done - i never started world war 3 or went mad with an axe, which all things considered is an achievement in itself some days

  7. Izzy - that's a good thought. Maybe we would appreciate our own and each other's gifts if we could walk a mile in each others' shoes.

    DFTP - I doubt I'll ever find one defining moment. As you say, life is made up of a lot of little moments (think Dr Who said this when telling off the Cybermen or something) which all add up. And, of course with no number sever, Blake's lot would have been one less. I'm glad you haven't gone made with an axe - at least not yet. I would love to lose this sin of anger from my life.

  8. How apt to arrive after 7 comments. Choosing to be kind,is an achievable moment of glory. Even if the kindness is simply silence, rather than speech. So many opportunities for glory every day. Great post.

  9. ER- I like your idea of lots of little opportunities for glory. They all add up in the end I think. They're more achievable too.

  10. I kind of liked the idea of you being asked to remove all the 7s. But that's where it starts, doesn't it? One minute you're being asked to eradicate 7s, the next minute someone's whispering to you about doing away with the semi-colons.


  11. Happy New Year
    I enjoy reading your posts ,its like each word is felt within ,very amazing feeling

  12. I was laughing out loud reading this - love the idea of cosmically doing away with 7s.

    I prefer to not think about crowning achievements - it just makes me a little crazy since I'm not really working very hard at it. I like the calm life - with its small satisfactions. Like reading your blog!

  13. Pearl - No! Not the semi-colons! You're right, we must be vigilant!

    Betcha - hi and thank you for visiting

    Bug -I don't think it pays to examine these things too closely, it's the quiet life for me too!

  14. Who is the author of the articles? I have a lot of questions. The articles consider very serious questions and I see that I have some problems...

  15. I was going to write a comment for a long time. I I just want to thank you for the opportunity to express our opinion publically. I like your site very much and I hope you’ll keep posting!


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