Mike Harrison

Optimistically distilling crazy ideas, usually on my bike.

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Why MicroHackers?

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” - Albert Einstein.

“Why Daddy?”

‘Because we always brush our teeth before bed.’

“Why Daddy?”

‘To stop our teeth falling out.’

“Why Daddy?”

‘Because we need our teeth.’

“Why Daddy?…”

Mr Einstein was a clever chap. If he thought it important that my kids continually fire questions at me, who am I to disagree?

‘Look, it’s bed time now.’

“Why Daddy?”

‘Because it’s late… Sweet dreams.’

If no one actually teaches children the ‘infinite why loop’, how do they learn it?

Kids don’t need encouragement to ask questions, they’re absolutely full of them. It’s wonderful. The only trouble, questions require answers.

And what is a good answer?

This is something I’ve struggled with for some time. Good quality answers are difficult. How do I avoid introducing my own preconceptions or bias? In good...

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Actually changing things

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Mea culpa: writing books describing how the world should be: to escape the practical challenges of actually changing things. – Alain de Botton

I like that quote.

I’ve internalised it as a warning: “Mike, don’t write about how things should be, in order to escape the practical challenges of changing things.”

I’m not saying that writing stuff down isn’t important.

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard. – David McCullough

I can only assume David wrote that down before he said it.

Additionally, if I didn’t write on my hand with a biro. I’d forget. A lot!

Where was I?

I wrote a poem recently. I justified this to myself as actionable and creative, it therefore passed through my ‘non-avoidance of practical challenges’ filter unhindered. But the trouble with writing about community issues, and sharing ideas, it can come across as being really...

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The Community is Us

The high street’s disappearing,

Its loss we all lament.

The community’s gone with it,

Our spirit has been spent.

We’ve lost our local tradesmen,

The shops we used to love,

Replaced with supermarkets,

Where too much is not enough.

We’d like it to be different,

But the fault is none of ours.

The decisions made on our behalf,

By those above with powers.

I can’t solve all the problems,

There’s only one of me.

I don’t have time – it’s not my job,

I’m busy can’t you see?

The politicians, they should help.

Answers! We want more.

We’re disengaged and angry,

We’re struggling and we’re poor.

Fame and fortune has a voice,

Celebrity is lauded,

But if you’re rich don’t empathise.

I doubt you’ll be applauded.

And therein lies the problem,

A divide from rich to poor,

Fuelled by our consumption,

We’ll be happier with more.

The system’s wrong, we’re all a part,

We’ve just become too...

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Long live the high street, the customer is king.

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“What butchers?”

‘Richardson and Sons, opposite.’

“Opposite? But there’s nothing left here on Lowfield Street. All the shops are empty.”

‘That one isn’t. We buy our meat in there most weekends.’

I went out with my old school friends on Saturday night. Every six months we get together and have a few beers, a bite to eat, a few more beers, and plenty of laughs.

I’m not really sure what we talk about. We’ve been friends for over twenty years, so conversation flows easily. Playful insults flow easier still. One recurring subject is about why we shouldn’t leave it six months until the next meet up. Another is teasing Nick for his poor attendance rate (which can’t be that bad, we always do it to his face). But on this occasion we were sat in the Royal Siam Thai Restaurant on Lowfield Street, Dartford, talking about the best places to buy meat.

‘I’m telling you, this isn’t like the...

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I don’t think my high street will ever be the same again.

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“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

I didn’t think of that. Henry Ford, the American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company did.

I agree with the first part.

“BIKE!”

Thinking is very hard.

“BIKE!”

Thinking is virtually impossible when your child wants your attention.

“DADDA BIKE!”

‘Yes William, that’s a lovely bike. Is that one your favorite?’

My son absolutely loves bikes. ‘Bike’ is one of the dozen or so words he has mastered so far, but it’s said with much more vigour than the rest. He’s always sitting with his bike book on his lap, looking at the pictures.

Recently I’ve been trying to think (and it’s a lot harder than I thought). I’ve been thinking about how to save our high street.

I’m following Feynman’s problem solving algorithm:

  • Write down the problem.
  • Think very hard.
  • Write down the answer.
...

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The high street shops have disappeared and it’s all my fault

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Mum was eager to finish shopping and start the long walk home up Dartford’s East Hill. My brother was sat on the pavement, struggling with his shoelace. That was the trouble with our butcher’s shop. The sawdust on the red tiled floor needed to be piled into mounds with your feet, and you only had until the butcher stopped talking to mum, so you had to work fast, and sometimes it got in your shoes. Mum wasn’t a fan of our game, but the butcher never seemed to mind.

“Hurry up and get that shoelace tied, or Mum won’t let us look in Phillips toy shop" I whispered to my brother.

I liked looking at the bikes in Phillips, but my brother preferred the train sets. The shop keeper was friendly but always very busy, quietly wrapping things in brown paper for excited children. “Mum, one day, can I buy the yellow racing bike?” I said. ‘Maybe when you’re a bit older.’ she replied.

Alternately...

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