Brunching at CTR

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Brunch at CTR (dessert and funky art included)

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I’ve eaten at Crossing The Rubicon (CTR) a couple of times now but was delighted to be invited to go for brunch last weekend with a bunch of other awesome people who also like eating brunch (bit of an oxymoron that, only truly awesome people like brunch. Fact.)

After meandering along Great Western Road – CTR is a short stumble from Kelvinbridge underground – I was, despite a caffeine pitstop at Papercup, pretty thirsty so a watermelon and fresh lime mocktail was very welcome and very refreshing. I grabbed a seat and, alongwith everyone else, quickly started to peruse the menu. It’s not limited to just brunch options, and I did swither over some of the dishes I’ve had for lunch in the past (butter chicken OMG) but pretty quickly spotted the words “Sweet Potato Hash” on the menu and everything else just faded away.

Editors note: I am on a major Sweet Potato kick at the moment, mostly for healthy eating purposes, plus NOM.

Food ordered and immediately I got a major dose of the ‘ohhh god, did I pick the right thing’ fear? This wasn’t helped as some of the Breakfast Naans started to arrive which looked awesome but thankfully when my brunch was set in front of me I knew, deep down, that I’d secretly won at brunch. Served in a medium-sized cast iron pan, I had two perfectly fried eggs sitting atop a wonderful sweet potato hash, which was a delicious mix of baked sweet potato, onions, herbs and enough chilli to give it a kick without overwhelming the dish, oh and I also had a couple of extra sausages added … because, sausages.

It was absolutely delicious, like ‘shut up and don’t talk to me’ delicious. No, I’m not THAT rude but it was close… as those sitting next to me will attest as it disappeared pretty quickly. Nom nom nom. Plus I’m guessing it was pretty healthy, given it’s oven baked sweet potato and… err… fried eggs. Ok, so I reckon it’s healthier than a full fry up is what I’m saying.

I also managed to try a little of the breakfast naan, which was really tasty as well, a surprisingly light naan and delicious spicy eggy filling. It’s a monster dish and is now stored away in my list of hangover busters!

And then someone mentioned dessert. I know, brunch dessert, this way madness lies!! It felt wrong, dirty even, to descecrate the wonders of brunch with a dessert!

Except … I glanced at the menu – hey I was being polite – and two words leapt out at me pistachio kulfi… yeah I wasn’t really sure what it was either but I like pistachios, and I didn’t want to appear rude and so I ordered my first ever brunch dessert. What arrived was a frozen sweet wonderous plate of nom. It’s a creamy/condensed milk kinda thing, with some subtle spices and a layer of crushed pistachios and was heavenly! It is VERY sweet but that’s ok with me and hey, brunch dessert is now officially a thing y’all.

And so that was brunch done! I really like CTR, not just for the food which is top notch, but the atmosphere, the (always changing) selection of beers, and the friendly staff, what’s not to like? Plus on one of those days when the bright shiny orb in the sky makes an appearance they have a perfect sun trap out front.

If you haven’t been and enjoy tasty indian food and a fine selection of beverages, get to Crossing The Rubicon!

Six by Nico: Picnic

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Our third visit to Six by Nico and this time around the theme was Picnic with a menu that featured sandwiches, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, and strawberries and cream. Ahhhh but fool me twice … by now we know not to expect anything as mundane as an actual sandwich to appear!

Another great meal at @sixbynico

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As always we ordered the Snacks & Bread option to sample the Chicken Caesar Salad Bon Bon, Sweet Potato & Feta Sausage roll, and Tomato Gazpacho with Basil Oil. It’s telling that each time we have tried the Snacks & Bread they have been just as delicious as the main course; the Bon Bon was a succulent and rich garlic laden deep fried ball of delight, the sausage roll was a wonderful balance between the sweetness of the potato and the salty tang from the feta, and the gazpacho was light and fresh.

And then our first course arrived – delivered in a small picnic basket no less – and we were each given a tiny cup to hold freshly made iced tea, and a pot of smoked mackerel pate with accompanying gooseberries. Popping open the tub the escaping smoke set my tastebuds going before the first mouthful and the oily rich pate was perfectly offset by the sharpness of the gooseberries. Off to a great start!!

Next up the scotch egg, a perfectly cooked egg – the centre of the yolk just slightly runny – wrapped in salty falafel was a nice take on the heavy sausage based version you find everywhere else. Served with a pea puree and piccalilli (which I’m not a massive fan of) it was tasty but of all the dishes on offer, my least favourite.

After that the prettiest dish of the evening arrived, squares of tuna, watermelon and tofu gave us our red and white checked picnic blanket. The rose harissa and avocado puree added enough bite and fresh green to make the entire dish a wonderfully light and very moreish combination. Could have happily, and easily, eaten two plates of these.

Fancy a sandwich? Of course there was little in the way of droopy bread abominations on show here, instead we had five separate offerings; fresh thin sliced salmon with shavings of cucumber in a dill gel, ham hough with thin fried bread on a bed of what I can only describe as a grown up salad cream (a hint of vinegar through the rich sauce), spots of crowdie and beetroot puree on a thin slice of sourdough, and my favourite two from the plate; a melt in the mouth duck and deep flavourful cherry puree, and the coronation chicken was a delicious, if subtler, take on the classic (and my perennial favourite) with a raisin puree and slow deep curried sauce.

It was about this point in the meal that I realise I have a stupid big grin on my face, I am excitedly watching my companions finish their plates and we all sit back and argue light-heartedly about which dish was the best on the plate (the duck won I think, but it was a close run thing!).

And now for one item on the menu I was wary of, pork belly. I don’t enjoy eating fatty meats (it’s a texture thing) and have had pork belly in the past and struggled to enjoy it. The flavours are wonderful but those thick layers of fat… shudder.

I should’ve know better though! BBQ was the theme of the plate and we were given a chunk of pork belly that was almost entirely meat, covered in a thick sticky reduced BBQ sauce. The pork was tender and absolutely delicious. It was served on a potato risotto, tiny cubes of par boiled potato and pancetta. A perfect evocation of a summer BBQ and I could happily have eaten two portions (this is becoming a theme!).

And then, all too soon, it was time for dessert. Strawberries and cream, who doesn’t love strawberries and cream! Well at Six by Nico it was a whipped strawberry mouse with tonka bean chantilly cream, a sweetened black olive sauce, and two kinds of meringue (a thin crisp slice and a lighter than air whirl). A wonderful balance of sweetness and texture.

At the end of the meal we were asked how we rated this menu over the previous two and, whilst the Chippie (the first) menu still takes top spot for us, we all agreed that the Picnic was firmly in second. That said, with the bar set so high at every visit, it’s really hard to choose between any of the menus.

Add in the friendly staff, great service, and … and I will keep repeating this in every review… the fact the meal is £25 a head… and the only thing I have to ask is, if you haven’t been yet, WHY NOT?

Weekend Reading

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  • Groom surprises bride with a pug puppy on their wedding day, tears ensue
    As if a wedding day isn’t magical enough, groom Stephen Watt wanted to take it one paw-dorable step further by surprising his bride, Keriann Watt, a lifelong pug-lover, with her very own puppy at their reception in Luss, Scotland.
    The power of social media! This is a friend of my sister, she was at the wedding! Seeing this picked up by US media was fascinating! Also… PUPPY!!

  • This Baker Makes Internet Trolls Eat Their Words — Literally
    The social media world is heavily populated by trolls — you know, those people who write nasty, mean comments online. Sometimes it can be tempting to respond back, but what if there’s a better alternative? Like sending them a cake…. with their words written on it.
    And once they’ve finished their tasty cake… he reveals the true ingredients! (he doesn’t, but I wish he did)

  • America Made Me a Feminist
    I used to think the word “feminist” reeked of insecurity. A woman who needed to state that she was equal to a man might as well be shouting that she was smart or brave. If you were, you wouldn’t need to say it. I thought this because back then, I was a Swedish woman.
    Is the word ‘feminist’ in danger of … well I’m not sure what, but it seems like it gets twisted every which way by different parties…

  • The Warriors Duped The NBA
    Chuck Jones, the classic Warner Bros. animator, used to say that we are all defined by our disciplines: When anything is possible, the things we don’t do are just as important as the things we do.
    Fascinating to see the beginnings of a dynasty

  • ‘Seductive names’ make vegetables more appealing
    How do you get more people to eat their greens? Give vegetables seductive names, say US researchers. Healthy labels, such as “wholesome”, were a turn-off, even though the dishes were identical in every other way.
    Probably says a lot about me that when I read the title I thought… “Cassandra the Carrot??” no, that THAT type of name …

  • Feline Food Issues? ‘Whisker Fatigue’ May Be to Blame
    Moon was having eating issues, familiar ones to many cat owners: He batted food out of his bowl before he would eat it. Some days he seemed terrified even to approach his feeding dish. Moon’s owner, Cheryl Anne Gardner, did some internet research and found the likely cause: whisker fatigue.
    Sharing for those with cats.

  • Steps I Take to Counteract Gentrification While Living In a Luxury Building in Brooklyn
    Bring people’s attention to important issues by posting #BlackLivesMatter stickers all over my building’s sauna. Speak Spanish to Roberto at in lobby coffeeshop while he makes my $7 dark roast with almond milk.
    Many of these steps could be taken in the UK…

  • The impossible job: Compiling the fixture list
    The man behind compiling the Premier League fixture list for 2017/18, Glenn Thompson, of Atos, explains how travel plans and rail and road networks play a role in deciding when matches are played.
    Football geekery for stats fiends.

  • Freediving Is the Lung-Crushing, Mind-Altering Path to Inner Peace
    How the high-risk, high-reward extreme sport helps conquer your fear of the deep through meditation. The Guinness World Record for holding one’s breath underwater is 24 minutes and 3 seconds. Most humans, however, can barely make it a minute and a half.
    I am always fascinated by those who push themselves beyond boundaries.

  • How a Philly Ob-Gyn Ended Up Delivering a Baby Gorilla
    Last Friday, at 10:30 a.m., ob-gyn Rebekah McCurdy was seeing patients in her office when she got the call. Hello, said the voice on the line. It’s us. We’re thinking of doing a C-section, and we’re ready to put her under anesthesia. Weird, thought McCurdy.
    Interesting article but mostly posting for the pics of a BABY GORILLA WHICH IS TOTES ADOREBALLS

  • The off-kilter cinematography of Mr. Robot
    Using traditional cinematography, characters are not usually confined to the bottom third of the screen, crammed all the way in the corner, or placed right at the edge of the screen, looking offscreen. But rules are meant to be broken..
    Some people think this is a cheap gimmick, but it’s one reason I like this show (and why I enjoy The Shining which employs some similar visual headfuckery)

  • To the Women Over 40 and the 20-Somethings Who Write About Them
    I’m officially in my 40s. I’m surrounded by teenagers. And I’m tired of fetuses on the internet telling me what to do. One of the things? Wear big hoop earrings.
    I’m officially in my 40s. A lot of this resonates (not the hoop earrings bit though… not yet at least)

  • Winners of the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest 2016
    The winners have been announced in the 4th edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest photo competition.
    STUHHHHHNNNNING photos.

  • Spotify’s users are loving it to death
    Spotify may be the world’s most popular subscription music streaming service, but that doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near profitable. In fact, the more music users stream, the more millions Spotify loses.
    Please don’t die Spotify, please.

  • Cosmic ‘Bruise’ Could Be Evidence for Multiple Universes
    It sounds wild. But the idea that we live in a multiverse — a cosmos where an infinite number of universes exist beside our own — is no longer confined to science fiction. It’s a respectable theory among scientists, so much so that some are on the hunt for proof of a nearby universe.
    Apparently universes may have ‘bumped into’ each other. I can’t even… I mean… what??

Babs – Kebabs. Done Right

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There is a new place in town and no, it’s not named after Barbara Windsor…

From the people behind the glorious meat emporium Bread Meats Bread comes a new kebab shop … STOP RIGHT THERE, I know what you are thinking – the drunken stumblings, strips of greasy lamb, dubious salad, thin runny sauce, the cold sodden lump you can’t stomach to even touch the next day – ‘Babs is NONE of these things!!

Self-billed as “Kebabs. Done right” what we were sampling was “Charcoal-fired Gourmet Kebabs Made Using Ethical & Local Scottish Seasonal Produce” and I’ll cut to the chase; the short version of this review need only require me to say that ‘Babs has taken the humble kebab to a new level of deliciousness, thrown in a slew of other tasty middle eastern inspired dishes (and added my favourite new burger in town!) and you should definitely check it out when it opens … which is TODAY! NOW! GO GO GO!!

Still here? You may as well keep reading then.

As soon as you walk through the door into the wonderful space that beckons you inside you are whisked you away to the sultry warmth of an autumn evening on the Bosphorus. Cosy without feeling cramped, I loved the decor and modern middle eastern vibe – think BMB West End, rather than the bustling city centre venue – and was eager to see how well the food fared.

We were there for a preview prior to their opening night and were treated to samples from their menu, and I’ll happily concede that I think they are on to a winner. Taste wise everything I tried, and I tried everything more than once if I could, was superb. The meats were smokey without being overwhelming, rich meats were succulent and well flavoured, the salads were fresh and full of flavour, and of the 10 or so dishes I tried I only rated one as ‘ok’ everything else was good to ‘oh my god this is delicious’.

We also got to see the menu which is even more extensive and it’s clear that ‘Babs will become a reliably good place to take people be it for lunch or dinner. A great selection on offer and some desserts to die for, backed by some great cooking, what else do you need? Plus it’s handily placed on West Nile Street in the heart of the city.

One thing is clear from talking to the owners, this is very much a labour of love. You could tell by the way they talked us through what was in each dish, how excited and passionate they were and how clearly, and rightly, proud of the ingredients and dishes they were sharing with us. Given how successful their sister venture – Bread Meats Bread – has been I can only presume that ‘Babs will soon by featuring on Top 10 lists of places to eat, I know it’s already in mine.


Find them online at their website, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook

BootCamp complete

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Bootcamp is over.

10 weeks of twice weekly HIIT sessions.

I’ve farmer carried, tyre flipped, pushed up, planked, burpee’d, kettlebell’d, squatted, crunched, bear crawled, lunged in various ways, slammed balls, punched bags, pulled up, rowed, and more. I’ve eaten my body weight in sweet potato and chicken. Cursed, sweated, and pushed myself until I can hardly breathe. I’ve dealt with the two days of muscles aches after each session.

I’ve also laughed, a lot, met some exceptional people who have helped keep me motivated and challenged, and happily admit I have enjoyed the entire experience, even when I’m calling one of the trainers a motherfucker. Pain is temporary though, and I will remember the laughs and giggles, the matching outfits, the jazz hands and cool down dances, and that time Juan broke the TRX bands (or rather, that time he didn’t do them up properly) far longer than any of the aches.

As part of the Bootcamp experience there was a nutrition session, and I finally understand those Macro things I’ve heard about for so long! It means I’m eating better and properly equipping myself prior to each Bootcamp session. We were also asked to write up short term and long term goals, for me the short term was to complete the 10 weeks of Bootcamp but I decide to be more specific and wrote that my goal was to do 10 pushups. That’s full pushups. My previous record was almost 1 – and that was a struggle – and 10 weeks later … 10 pushups. Slowly, steadily, and with a few pauses, but 10 pushups. Holy Frick.

My longer term goal was to get my weight down below 95kg. I started at 113.3kg and post-Bootcamp I’m now 107.2kg, which for the imperialists amongst you means I’ve almost a stone. On the way to 95!!

That said, I’m a lot less focused on my weight now but it’s a reasonable way to measure progress, as is the fact I’m gonna need to buy some smaller shirts and trousers for work soon!

And finally a word for our wonderful trainers. I cannot praise Andy and Juan highly enjoy for keeping things interesting and challenging, for caring about each person, for encouraging us when we needed it and for pushing us when we were slacking. The name ‘bootcamp’ suggests military drills, a screaming Sargeant Major in your face. Sure, we had drills, but in keeping with their ethos, the atmosphere was always friendly and fun, welcoming and positive. It’s up to you to push yourself as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but knowing that they were always around for guidance, or to gently cajole you into working harder, meant I never felt pressured but I still worked my ass off!

Having said all that, I’ve not signed up for the next Bootcamp, instead I’m going to try some different classes (which has the added benefit of giving me the option of a Saturday lie-in again!) and I’ll also be getting my bike out as I’ve signed up for Pedal for Scotland in September. But once that’s done, I’ll definitely be back to give BootCamp another shot later in the year, it’s oddly addictive!

Are there still spaces?

If none are available for the next BootCamp then check out their other classes, or book a PT session. You won’t regret it!

Weekend Reading

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Special Election Free edition (one week only).

  • Aleppo After the Fall
    As the Syrian civil war turns in favor of the regime, a nation adjusts to a new reality — and a complicated new picture of the conflict emerges.
    The forgotten conflict, 4 years of war and it barely makes the front pages anymore.

  • The Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Competition
    Late one afternoon last summer, our family arrived at a campsite on the western shore of Lake Michigan. We had been driving all day, across Wisconsin on our way further east. The four of us—my wife and two daughters, ages 7 and 10—set up our tent, made dinner, then went down to the water.
    My record is 12, set many years ago. I need to practice. A LOT.

  • Urchins and alleyways: a rare glimpse of 19th-century Glasgow – in pictures
    Photographer Thomas Annan captured Glasgow in the 1860s and 70s, at a time when the city had transformed and grown rapidly after the industrial revolution
    Always interesting seeing your home city, picking out landmarks that still exist today.

  • Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever

    The more I read about this feat, and this man, the more bamboozled I am. It’s utterly mindblowing.

  • Open-minded people have a different visual perception of reality
    Psychologists have only begun to unravel the concept of “personality,” that all-important but nebulous feature of individual identity. Recent studies suggest that personality traits don’t simply affect your outlook on life, but the way you perceive reality.
    So this half-full glass is actually… a porcupine? Am I doing it right?

  • Who needs a perfect language? It’s already perfectly imperfect
    Poets, historians, scientists, philosophers – we all seek to capture the world in a net of language. Yet it is the nature of nets to capture some things while letting others slip away.
    English is such a rich language, and evolves faster than we realise.

  • The Bondage-Bound, Feminist Origins of Wonder Woman
    Orgies, a sex cult, polyamory, lie detectors, and bondage. While that sounds like the makings of a fascinating word association game, those words do have one very particular thing in common – well, besides the obvious.
    The movie is packed with wonderful feminist, enlightened ideas, so this is a strange bedfellow of an article.

  • Why ‘Checking Your Privilege’ Doesn’t Work
    “Dear White People: no one is saying your life can’t be hard if you’re white but it’s not hard because you’re white.” This perhaps overly earnest profundity comes from an August 2015 tweet by user Austin (@kvxll), that somehow made its way to my own Twitter feed.
    The problem with privilege is you don’t see it, this opened my eyes to my mistakes and assumptions (and I am the most privileged type of person possible).

  • Taking Muhammad Ali home
    A week before her husband dies, Lonnie Ali changes the plans for his funeral. The funeral she had envisioned is too big, she thinks. It is too complicated.
    Articles I will always read: anything about The Greatest.

  • Apple’s developer conference was chock full of new hardware
    Apple’s annual developer conference felt especially like a show for consumers this year, with announcements of seven laptop updates, a new iMac Pro desktop computer, a new iPad, and a new home smart speaker called the HomePod.
    Apple is doing some new stuff. Some of it is good. Some of it isn’t everything people wanted. Some of it I don’t quite get why. In other words, Apple is doing what it always does.

  • Welcome to Poppy’s World
    It’s hard to explain Poppy to the uninitiated. But I’m going to try. Let’s start with the edge of the Poppy rabbit hole: You see a woman in a YouTube video. She is blond and petite with the kind of Bambi-sized brown eyes you rarely encounter in real life.
    Mentioned as an aside in the Apple Dev Conference… and that’s all I’m gonna say (ok, I will also say… WTF?)

  • How to fall to your death and live to tell the tale
    Alcides Moreno and his brother Edgar were window washers in New York City. The two Ecuadorian immigrants worked for City Wide Window Cleaning, suspended high above the congested streets, dragging wet squeegees across the acres of glass that make up the skyline of Manhattan.
    I am not good with heights, and presume if I was falling to my death, my brain probably WON’T recall this article but… you never know.. right?

  • When you cross a raven, the bird will hold a grudge
    For over 2,000 years, children have been warned of the dangers of hidden agendas through the “The Fox and the Raven.
    I KNEW IT!! Sorry, had some Raven harassment issues a few years ago and no-one believed me!

  • A conversation with Rickie lee Jones
    A video of a conversation that most of you will have heard some of before (earworm activation in 3, 2….)

  • What it feels like to get hit by a pitch
    A baseball is a wondrous little thing. It weighs 6 ounces — the same as an apple — and is the perfect size and shape for the hand. It is the ideal home for the proudest autographs, so white and pristine, resting on the mantel or in the trophy case.
    I’ve started watching a little baseball for reasons I’m not yet sure of, the more I learn the more I can see how people get dragged into it (stats fiends, check it out!)… and then there is side of it.

  • The Exquisitely English (and Amazingly Lucrative) World of London Clerks
    It’s a Dickensian profession that can still pay upwards of $650,000 per year. At Fountain Court Chambers in central London, the senior clerk is called Alex Taylor. A trim, bald 54-year-old who favors Italian suiting, Taylor isn’t actually named Alex.
    Hey ‘disruptors’ I have a new industry for ya!!

  • Turns out open relationships aren’t the most sexually satisfying
    Sex is a big part of most romances, whether a marriage or a more experimental union. A recent survey of Europeans shows that people in the most sexually liberated partnerships aren’t having the best time.
    They missed out the question ‘Are you surprised by this’ to which many poly people would answer, ‘no, not at all’.

LIFX Cloud and BT Broadband Issue – Solved

LIFX Cloud and BT Broadband Issue – Solved

I’ve had LIFX Wifi bulbs since they first appeared on Kickstarter. They are great when they work, but when they don’t you enter the world of Wifi networking and connection issues which is NOT A FUN PLACE.

Thankfully the good people at LIFX Support know their stuff, but as I don’t see this nugget of info on their website, I thought I’d share it here.

Solution

If you have LIFX bulbs and BT Broadband, with a BT Homehub router, check that BT Web Protect (aka BT Smart Protect) is turned off.

You can check this by logging in to bt.com and looking at the settings there. You don’t need to make any changes on the router settings themselves.

Notes
As far as I can figure out; Sometimes BT push a firmware update to the router which will reset some settings. I’m guessing this happened to me recently and resulted in BT Net Protect being re-enabled on the router which then blocks LIFX bulbs connection to the LIFX Cloud.

Your LIFX bulbs will work fine using the LIFX app but it means IFTTT, Alexa, Yonomi and other services can’t interact with the bulbs (those are the three I use I’m presuming others will be affected too).

Frustrating but, thankfully, an easy and quick fix. Thanks to the LIFX Support team for their help.

On Meditating

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Picture the scene; A cloud strewn mountain, a clearing with a lone tree under which a monk sits crossed legged, hands raised with middle finger touching thumbs in a circle, possibly chanting. An ancient ritualistic image, a mystical person channelling his inner … summat or other. This is meditation.

Picture another scene; a grey drizzle in Glasgow, a large room with the faint buzz from fluorescent lights overhead, people sitting in chairs, hands in laps, no chanting. This is meditation?

At the start of the year I started attending 30 minute guided meditation classes after work. A friend of mine had been going for a while and it’s been something I’d been meaning to try so I was excited to give it a shot and find my inner zen (or whatever it is you are supposed to find when you meditate).

I wasn’t really sure what to expect that first day. We were at the Kadampa Centre in Glasgow, a space in a modern building in the Merchant City, across from a Brewdog pub. Inside, and I presume that the architects planned for this in the first place, it looks a bit like it should be an open plan office. Instead there is a small kitchen area, a few shelves with books and ornaments you can buy, but the bulk of the space is dominated by the rows of chairs, all pointing the same way and, in front of them, a small raised platform behind which are three large golden statues of eastern origin.

The other thing that struck me when I walked in was a noticeable air of quiet calm, the same kind of hushed tones and tranquility you find in a deserted church. The few people in the space were chatting quietly, and it was with some reverence that we took to our seats.

A few years ago I tried meditating on my own. I did my research, read articles online and downloaded some apps for my phone. I found a quiet place, concentrated on my breathing, tried to acknowledge when my mind wandered, brought it back, concentrated on my breathing, slowly inhale, slowly exhale. Then the time was up, and I sat for a moment thinking, ok, so that was meditation.

I didn’t feel like it was very successful, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and despite trying it a few more times it just never really seemed to feel right, and I was sure wasn’t doing it properly anyway, I mean if I had been I would’ve felt calm and relaxed, yet all I could wonder was where was my zen? Clearly my mind was too busy, I know I think a lot so, I thought to myself, perhaps meditation just isn’t right for me.

Fast forward to today and, having attend several meditation sessions it turns out I just needed some guidance, and paradoxically, I needed to chill out about how to meditate.

The format the meditation sessions follow is pretty straightforward; the first 10 mins are spent discussing a topic that will be the focus of the meditation (dealing with stress, coping with anxious thoughts, etc), and then 20 mins of guided meditation where you sit quietly, eyes closed, focused on your breathing as you slowly inhale and exhale, before the teacher brings your mind to focus and talks you through visualisation mechanisms to help you process the topic of the day.

For example, for many of us anxiety comes in waves, so we are asked in the session to imagine ourselves bobbing around like a cork in reaction to the waves of ‘stuff’ that cause those anxious feelings. Then we are asked to imagine the waves stretching out over the space of a large ocean, as far as the eye can see. The waves start to flatten out as the anxiety waves are stretched out you realise your mind is calming as you look out to the horizon.

It’s also a lot easier to get into the right head-space when you are in a dedicated place, and oddly in a group of people I found it much easier to focus on the meditation itself, rather than the ‘how’ and, as I left the first session I had a distinct feeling of calmness and lightness of mind. It was at once unsettling and comforting, and I could swear I could feel that my heart rate was lower. I don’t feel that way after every session but I’ve had the same sense of calm often enough now to know it’s not a coincidence.

Alas I’m not attending at the moment as the after-work session now clashes with Bootcamp, but I’m still taking some time to meditate by myself when I can, this time with the help of Buddhify, an app that offers guided meditations on a variety of topics. I tried it a few years back and it never really stuck, but as I enjoyed the guided sessions I’d attend I decided to give it another shot and, as I’ve a better sense of how to meditate, I’m finding it much easier now.

It also has an added bonus of helping me with some of the aspects I’m working on through my counselling, so right now it’s timely that I’ve gotten the hang of this, even if only a little. Mindfulness may be the current in vogue terminology, and I’m aware of the irony of using an app on a smartphone to help achieve this, but the aim of the game is to help calm my mind and to find ways to step back and get some perspective (when Mr. Self Critic rolls in to town).

In our always on world, it’s also nice to just sit quietly and let everything fade away for a while. The world will still turn, the bills still need paid, there are plenty of challenges ahead of us so, if nothing else, meditating is helping me step away and learn to be alone with myself.

18 years old

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Yesterday.

18 years of writing nonsense and publishing it on line.

18 years of blogging.

18 years of reading, and commenting, and following, and then Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram and so it continues.

18 years ago I wrote about Sunglasses.

Everything has changed since then.

Nothing has changed since then.

Here’s to the next 18! And as I’m 18 it’s now legal for the blog to have a drink, the question is, which drink?

Weekend Reading

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  • What If We Cultivated Our Ugliness? or: The Monstrous Beauty of Medusa
    Myth and folklore teem with frightening women: man-seducers and baby-stealers, menacing witches and avenging spirits, rapacious bird-women and all-devouring forces of nature.
    One of a series of articles on how culture/media portrayal of women is … somewhat troubling (AKA fubar)

  • Mossberg: The Disappearing Computer
    This is my last weekly column for The Verge and Recode — the last weekly column I plan to write anywhere.
    I’ve not linked to many (any?) of his articles but no doubt his legacy is a strong one

  • The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts
    At 11:22 a.m. on Thursday, June 20, 2013, an orange Freightliner tractor-trailer arrived at Crain Walnut Shelling in Los Molinos, California. The truck’s driver, a man in his mid-thirties wearing a gray T-shirt, introduced himself as Alex Hernandez.
    OK, I confess. I originally only bookmarked this for FNAR title but turns out nuts are big business! (FNAR!)

  • Essential apps for switching from Mac to Windows
    Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about my shift to Windows from Mac after five years of using a MacBook, and many of you have written to ask what apps I use to replace various Mac-only tools.
    The one thing I baulk over (daily) is keyboard differences – keys and shortcuts – but aside from that my usage of a computer is a lot more evenly balanced. If ‘Windows’ hardware is catching up then they fast become an interesting, and cheaper, proposition.

  • Salvation Mode
    The forgotten joys of the screensaver. When I first encountered Jorge Luis Borges’s “The House of Asterion,” a short story whose narrator runs with madness through an endless labyrinth, a remote feeling of déjà vu eased into one of bizarre, welcome recognition.
    I always did love a good screensaver. Flying Toasters anyone?

  • A Year of Google Maps & Apple Maps
    Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?
    Fascinating detail, and a good example of why owning your own data is more and more important. Well played Google.

  • When self-improvement is self-destruction: The 4 warning signs
    In the age of Instagram, self-help and wellness have never looked more glamorous and appealing, says inspirational speaker Danielle LaPorte. But as she points out in her new book, “White Hot Truth,” sometimes the path to self-improvement can become self-destructive.
    Stepping away from social media always feel rewarding, turns out it could be crucial.

  • “Personal kanban”: a life-changing time-management system that explodes the myth of multitasking
    Multitasking is probably the single most overrated skill in modern life. Only 3% of the population are “supertaskers,”…
    Do more, do more!! Or, you know, just chill out, stuff always gets done. I’m starting to shy away from these types of article, more to life, innit!

  • There’s a dark side to meditation that no one talks about
    We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation ad nauseam. Those disciplined enough to practice regularly are rewarded with increased control over the brainwaves known as alpha rhythms, which leads to better focus and may help ease pain.
    Definitely something I’ve noticed as I’ve been meditating more often.

  • The curious story of how transatlantic exchange shaped Italy’s illustrious coffee culture
    In 1959, Italian novelist Italo Calvino received a grant to spend six months in the US. Once he arrived in New York City, he discovered a disturbing trend. More than 50 years later, Italians are still deeply protective of their country’s reputation as the coffee capital of the world.
    I’m not sure I actually equate Italy with coffee. Not culturally at least, odd.

  • Indonesia’s hijab-wearing Muslim metal group challenges stereotypes
    With their heads covered with Islamic headscarves, the three members of the Indonesian band VoB (“Voice of Baceprot” or “Noisy Voice”) do not look like your typical heavy metal group.
    MORE OF THIS PLEASE!!

  • How a Kids’ Cartoon Created a Real-Life Invasive Army
    Once upon a time, raccoons were strangers to the island of Japan, save for the occasional critter kept in a zoo. That all changed when Araiguma Rasukaru aired and turned a nation onto raccoons’ inherent charm.
    Damn cartoons ruin everything.

  • Pat Kane: Why the Big Yin deserves big, big love as Billy Connolly fades from our sight
    As the supreme comic of human frailty and our subversive bodies — always something leaking, smelling, sticking out or needing covered up — you might have wondered what Connolly would do if his own body started to profoundly rebel.
    He has his critics, I’m one of them, but no doubting the impact he’s had.

  • A Look at How Snapchat’s Powerful Facial Recognition Tech Works
    Snapchat’s “lenses,” more colloquially known as selfie filters or just “filters,” may seem like a totally inane feature. But it turns out the facial recognition technology behind them is advanced, impressive… and a tad scary.
    Part of me is boggled by the science, part of me scared at where this could lead. Add AI to this and… yikes?

  • “I don’t know, let me find out”: learn this phrase. Use it.
    I’ve hit the end of my tether with this fucking election. It’s driving me right up the wall, daily doses of bullshit. Today, it’s one politician making what the Jolyons treat as the worst boo-boo ever. Tomorrow, it’ll be another.
    I’d much rather vote for a party leader who CHECKED HIS FACTS, than one who waffled and lied just to look good. INTEGRITY people, say it with me!

  • The hierarchy polyamorous people don’t talk enough about
    Hierarchies are seen as an inherently negative thing within many polyamorous subcultures, but very myopically.
    Something I always shied away from as a hierarchy always felt rigid and ‘not right’, but I know it works for many.

  • Rebecca Solnit: The Loneliness of Donald Trump
    Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more.
    I know I know, the T word again. I’m doing my best to avoid but THIS article is worth a read. Scarily.

  • Putting off the important things? It’s not for the reasons you think
    All you really need to succeed, according to the writer-philosopher Robert Pirsig, who died last month, is gumption.
    Linked for one word. Gumption.

  • The Meteoric Rise of McLaren Automotive
    These days, new car companies rarely succeed. For every Tesla, there are 10 would-be companies that never get beyond an initial press release. Five years ago, we test drove the first model from a brand new car manufacturer, McLaren Automotive.
    I’m a car geek, this is all completely ridiculous I know but OH MY CAR GEEK TASTIC

  • The Queer Literary Origins of Wonder Woman
    Six months before the Second World War came to an end, William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman—both comics and character—declared his intention for the iconic comics.
    Fascinating look at an iconic character (and I’m seeing the new movie tomorrow!)

  • Why Are We So Afraid of Female Desire?
    There are many stories in history and legend where rampant females are seen as posing a particular threat to the social order. In classical mythology it was the maenads, or followers of Dionysus or Bacchus, who frenziedly tore Orpheus apart.
    Another article tackling another ‘troubling’ aspect of women. Trust me, I cannot roll my eyes any harder at that view, and this article explains why.

  • The third detection of gravitational waves opens up a new, crucial window to study the universe
    When it rains, it pours. After waiting for 100 years since the first prediction of the existence of gravitational waves, scientists have detected them three times in the last two years.
    Our understanding of the universe is expanding fast (which is just as well as Earth is fucked).

  • Is This The Oldest Bottle Of Bordeaux In The World?
    What was Bordeaux like in the 1700s? I want to paint a picture of what things were like back in the 1700s when this recently unearthed bottle was produced. At the time, most wines were sold by the barrel and only rarely bottled.
    Can you still call this wine? Surely it’s just rancid vinegar by now? #boak

  • Mister Softee has team spying on rival ice cream truck
    It’s the harder side of soft serve.
    Not quite on the scale of the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars mind you…