Year: 2016

Weekend Reading

A long week, or so it felt, as the lurgy caught me. Not so much reading, a lot of sleeping!

  • 12 Struggles Of Having An Outgoing Personality But An Anxious Mind
    Outgoing people with anxious minds – or minds that overthink – tend to feel anxiety the most intensely, often because we don’t talk about it. And by “often” I mean never. Our anxiety is a contrast to our big, bold personalities. Strangers would never guess it.
    I manage to keep most of my anxiety squashed down, not always though. Never presume you know someone from the
  • A Neuroscientist on the Calming Powers of the To-Do List
    1. Those who make lists.
    2. Those who don’t.
    And, as one scientist recently argued, those who fall into the former group might hold the secret to being more productive individuals.
    You DON’T make lists? You weirdo.
  • The case of the missing “u”s in American English
    When my American editor asked me to research why Brits spell their words with so many extra ‘u’s, I immediately knew he had it all wrong.
    I donut knuw whut thuy muan abouut extrua ‘uu’s…
  • It’s surprisingly difficult to play guitar in space
    There are so many simple activities we take for granted thanks to gravity. Things like going to the bathroom, eating dinner, and getting some sleep don’t require an undue amount of strategic planning. But in space, even the most basic activities are a challenge.
    Only one man could’ve written this…
  • Tire Inflation 101 — Liss is More
    My father was a mechanic for Buick for a few years long before he even met my mother. Despite still wrenching on his cars to this day, I’ve inherited distressingly little of his mechanical prowess. Basic car maintenance is all I can handle. Changing my oil, for example.
    Yes, it’s American but the principles are worth learning
  • Dead Certainty
    Argosy began in 1882 as a magazine for children and ceased publication ninety-six years later as soft-core porn for men, but for ten years in between it was the home of a true-crime column by Erle Stanley Gardner, the man who gave the world Perry Mason.
    Good writing prevails.
  • Where Nobody Knows Your Name
    Gary Portnoy, the guy who wrote the theme song to Cheers, discussing with Marketplace the financial windfall he got from writing and performing one of the most famous theme songs of the 1980s. Long story short: It was all on the backend, and he gets paid every time the show plays.
    I stood outside that bar in Boston once, didn’t go in though.
  • The 80/20 Rule
    A few years ago, when I was single and desperate to find a boyfriend, I asked my friend Amy if she thought my blog made me undatable. She didn’t have an answer, but she did share an anecdote.
    I have always presumed my blog made me MORE like to get a date.
  • Stephen Hawking: Humanity will only survive by colonizing other planets
    That’s the grim warning by professor Stephen Hawking, who is giving this year’s Reith Lectures at the BBC. While most of his lectures will focus on what Hawking is best known for—research into black holes—he still took the time to make his latest doomsday warning:
    Cheery stuff? Well he also reckons that humanity will pull through eventually (but we should really get the finger out)
  • David Bowie now has a lightning-bolt-shaped constellation named after him
    The Belgian radio station Studio Brussel and the public astronomy observatory MIRA have teamed up to register seven stars—appropriately located near Mars—as a unique celestial constellation in memory of singer David Bowie, who passed away on Jan. 10.
  • A Story of a Fuck Off Fund
    You’re telling your own story: You graduated college and you’re a grown-ass woman now. Tina Fey is your spirit animal; Beyoncé, your preacher. You know how to take care of you. You’ve learned self-defense. If any man ever hit you, you’d rip his eyes out.
    The type of thing I read and hate that it had to exist, but applaud that it does.
  • Gossip Isn’t a Flaw—It’s a Necessary Social Skill
    Let’s face it: gossips get a bad rap. Smugly looking down from a moral high ground—and secure in the knowledge that we don’t share their character flaw—we often dismiss those who are obsessed with the doings of others as shallow.
    Did I tell you about what happened at the office party?
  • Researchers have developed an extremely effective “sarcasm detector”
    Sarcasm might be all over the internet, but it’s still hard to recognize. Researchers want to change that. A new research paper from two professors—David Bamman from UC Berkeley and Noah A.
    Sarcasm? Hard to recognise? As if!
  • Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future
    There’s a little parlor game that people in Silicon Valley like to play. Let’s call it, Who’s Losing? There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet.
    Main point from this article, none of them are losing.
  • The white man pathology: inside the fandom of Sanders and Trump
    You feel your whiteness properly at the American border. Most of the time being white is an absence of problems. The police don’t bother you so you don’t notice the police not bothering you. You get the job so you don’t notice not getting it. Your children are not confused with criminals.
    Given the current hype, a must read.
  • Building Tower Bridge
    In the late 1800s, London was faced with the task of building a new span across the Thames, downstream of London Bridge. In order to allow tall-masted sailing ships to pass through to the Thames’ port facilities, the new bridge could not be a typical street-level, fixed crossing.
    An iconic construction, amazing photos.

The strongest art

The other night I watched Under the Skin.

It’s a movie that has been on my radar for a while now after my interest was piqued when I heard it had been filmed in Glasgow, and when I read about some of the approaches to filming – members of the public were used without being aware they were being filmed (they were told later) – and saw that it was getting such mixed reviews, I knew I wanted to see it. Unashamedly ‘art house’ in approach, the reviews had some critics referring to it as a masterpiece and referencing Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey), whilst others panned it as indulgent, rambling and largely devoid of direction.

Once I got passed the culture shock of seeing the familiar locations of my home city – including one scene shot on the corner of where my office is – and settled into the movie I found I was intrigued by the pacing. At times the movie held my attention, rapt and focused on the imagery playing out before me, and at others I felt a little lost, what was the point of this scene of, largely, nothing? There are several points in the movie where there is silence and little happening onscreen.

Perhaps this was the point, a deliberate contrast to our modern world of constant distraction, at times it was startling and almost uncomfortable to behold someone doing nothing much in almost silence.

The film is, in essence, a fairly simple and straightforward story (leaving the sci-fi elements aside), but the framing, cinematography, and pacing of the movie all seems very deliberate (in this I can see the Kubrick references, the deliberate attempts to unsettle the viewer), and that is what intrigues me. Not the creation of it, but the ideas behind it, how do you pull something like that, a mixture of visuals and sound, what to show when, and why?

I am not an artist in the fantastical sense, at least I don’t feel like I have it within me. I can imagine this story, but not the visuals which feature in the movie – at least I don’t think I can, but then I’ve never tried – and it is this type of art that attracts me, the type that seems to stem from the type of imagination I don’t possess.

For example, wandering an art gallery I can appreciate the skill in a loving rendered landscape, but it is the pieces that challenge me, that don’t conform to my own world view that stay with me.

In this respect the form matters little, I remain in awe of artists who step outside of the boundaries that I seem to have, of expressing things in a way I can’t see.

Of course, my own view of art does have boundaries, they are vague, inconsistent, and aren’t something I’ve managed to pin down but they definitely exist. I challenge them as best I can, for example I still struggle with installation art that is a representation of something normal, but I’m starting to understand that everyone will view these things differently, and experiencing the art is as much of the ‘art of art’ as the item you are observing. Case in point, Miroslaw Balka’s How It Is at the Tate Modern, a large lightless box that you can walk into, sounds – in words I have used myself – a bit ‘art wank’. But experiencing it, being inside it, turning round and seeing complete and utter darkness, then turning again to see the silhouette of others in the same space, previously unseen, was a far richer and more compelling experience than I had expected. It challenged me and my perceptions about what art is, or at least what it could be.

I still struggle with some things declared as art, and as I tip-toe through these items, from interest towards intrigue, I find myself stopping at the edge of a cliff, looking out at a sea of contemporary art that leaves me cold. It doesn’t challenge me, it seems to exist only to exist, and for me that isn’t art.

Ahah! There, in the last paragraph I also nicely capture something I also dislike within the art world. The idea that one form, one display, of art is lesser than another (I am on a cliff, am I not looking down on everything else?). If all art is subjective, how can that be so? But I am speaking of my own view, my own ever-changing understanding of what art is, and what it means to me.

Over the past few years, as I’ve continued to try and push myself to explore more forms of art, I’m naturally understanding more about what it means to me. I am not one for getting up on a stage and performing, I can draw a little but have no real talent, my musical talent relies on diligent practice (which I won’t do), and whether I can write well, or not, is still undecided, but I appreciate and applaud those that can and do these things.

The question is, are they creating art whilst they do so.


I started writing this post immediately after the film ended, with a view to revisiting it before publishing it. I awoke the next day to the sad news that David Bowie had passed away.

In musical terms he fits my artistic preferences. How do you write a song like Space Oddity? I have no earthly idea, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.

Planet Earth is blue.

Welcoming Lucy

18 hrs old

Hello Lucy,

First up I’m really glad that you are no longer bump/wriggles/it; your parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided to leave the discovery of whether you were born a boy or a girl for the big birth day itself. A lovely thing to have that be a surprise, don’t you think? Anyway, apologies, but I referred to you as “it” right up until they told us your name.

But now that they have, hello!

Anyway, Uncle G here, yup, that idiot with the t-shirt, that’s me! Firstly, well done on making it into the world, I know it’s all a bit scary right now but don’t worry, your Mum and Dad will take care of you, protect you, and make sure you are fed, watered and loved. Yeah they’ll screw things up a little and there will come a time (in many-teen years from now) that you won’t really like them but they will always, ALWAYS be there for you, so try and remember that if nothing else.

You’ve already met Gran & Grandad McLean, they are the ones fussing over you because you are their first grandchild! I’ll remind you of this in the coming years, but you really should make the most of that fact, you are gonna get spoiled rotten you are! Not only from the McLean side, and yes I might spoil you a little bit too (don’t tell anyone but I’m a big softie) but I know the Morrisons will be looking forward to spoiling you as well! Win win for you! (Try not to gloat though, no-one likes a gloater, pretend you are embarassed and humbled by the whole thing, yeah? like ‘ohhh another rattling toy? you really shouldn’t have’).

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what else to say to you right now, after all you are largely just a tiny little squishy lump that sleeps, cries, eats, poops and sleeps again. To say your conversational skills are limited is an understatement but if you are anything like your Mother it won’t be long before you’ve mastered the art of speaking without pausing for breath, so I guess I should be enjoying the random noises and burbles whilst they last.

That said, I’m sure your Mum will be quick to tell me when you finally speak your first word – bonus points if it’s aardvark by the way!

You are already seem very expressive and in wonderous awe of this new world you’ve discovered, it’s a lot to take in I know so take your time, you have a whole life in front of you and many wonderful experiences ahead, some of which I hope to be a part of, after all you’ll need someone to sneak you your first drink, teach you your first swearword, and generally do all the things which will annoy your Mum, oh yes, little do you know that part of your inheritance has to include winding your Mum up on my behalf (I’m her big brother, it’s my birth right!)… if you need any lessons, just ask your Dad as he’s got it down to a fine art!

Your Mum & Dad are chuffed to bits you are here I know that they will take good care of you. You are their precious little bundle, who just happens to be absolutely gorgeous and as cute as a button!

Anyway, just wanted to say hi, hello and welcome to the world! It’s a pretty amazing place, a bit crappy at times – hey it’s not always gonna be as good as you have it now – but for the most part it’ll be ok. For my part I’ll do my best to listen to you, be honest with you, and not embarass you too much when you turn 18 (by which point I’ll be 60 and will give even fewer shits than I do now, hahaha!!)

I really can’t wait to get to know you, and if you ever need anything – except nappy changes, I’m not an idiot – then your Uncle G will be there for you, always.

Lots of love and tummy zoobers,

Your Uncle G (the idiot with the t-shirt)

P.S. If you read this at a later date (like, when you can actually read) then please note I made no offers of financial help, and that by reading this you accept the tiny (so tiny you can’t even see it) hidden clause that states you will visit me in my dotage and pretend to laugh at my jokes.

P.P.S. Remember, the word is “aardvark”.

Weekend Reading

Morning constant reader, another swathe of random posts. Enjoy!!

  • How We Learn Fairness
    A pair of brown capuchin monkeys is sitting in a cage. From time to time, their caretakers give them tokens, which they can then exchange for food. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that capuchin monkeys prefer grapes to cucumbers.
    I love this kind of article, helps me understand myself better
  • How could I read more books?
    Agatha Christie read 200 books every year, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gets through a book a fortnight. President Theodore Roosevelt read a book a day, and increased this to two or three when he had a quiet night. But how can mere mortals get through more?
    Yup, I’m doing Goodreads Reading Challenge again this year!
  • Seeing Lili Elbe
    Nine decades before the world knew the name Caitlyn Jenner, they knew Lili Elbe—a successful Danish landscape artist who achieved fame as a biologically male artist before transitioning to her lifelong female identity.
    Now an Oscar nominated movie, an amazing woman
  • All the world’s in a moral panic
    The outpouring of outrage that has characterised public discourse over the past few years shows no signs of abating. A few years ago, many were outraged, first against corruption, and then against those who were not supporting the movement that had sprung up in protest.
    This is what gives me fatigue, outrage fatigue. I don’t even have the energy to…
  • Resolving to Read, Write, and Travel More in 2016
    Let’s be real: My 2016 resolutions are intentionally vague. I tend toward self-loathing, so settling on achievable goals is important for my mental health. But I’m still excited for a fresh year and a fresh start, even if time is a social construct.
    Is still early in 2016, I think I have some ideas but nothing concrete yet
  • The Easiest Way to Lose 125 Pounds Is to Gain 175 Pounds
    I let myself go for a few years and then, on a breezy spring afternoon in San Francisco, I found myself riding my bike down Market Street towards the Embarcadero. I stopped at a red light in the Tenderloin and a worn, reedy man panhandling for change headed in my direction.
    Inspirational and lots of useful advice and thoughts
  • Jessie Thompson
    In a step of unprecedented tastelessness, Milo’s fans then co-opted a phrase that was used to pay tribute to the victims of a terrorist attack, and got #JeSuisMilo trending globally. If you haven’t heard of Milo, he’s kind of like Katie Hopkins except he’s never come second on Celebrity Big Brother.
    The background to this story enrages me, how any human can act like this guy bewilders and saddens me
  • How the Phonograph Changed Music Forever
    Much like streaming music services today are reshaping our relationship with music, Edison’s invention redefined the entire industry These days music is increasingly free—in just about every sense of the word.
    Show this to your kids!
  • The Lightning Before Death: A Tribute to Clive James
    There will always be young men coming up who will find his achievement a clear light. I MET CLIVE JAMES by accident, about five years ago, while navigating the literary nonfiction stacks at the Strand bookstore in New York.
    Not read many of his essays but those I have are always great reads
  • Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman
    William Seward Burroughs is not a talkative man. Once at a dinner he gazed down into a pair of stereo microphones trained to pick up his every munch and said, “I don’t like talk and I don’t like talkers. Like Ma Barker.
    A nice insight to David Bowie
  • From Portrait Painters To College Applicants, Squirrel Obsessives Through the Ages
    If there’s a squirrel on it, it’s probably in George’s house. There are ceramic squirrel figurines, a squirrel rug, squirrel paintings and wall hangings. She has a squirrel light switch cover and squirrel dishes.
  • How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car
    Ten years ago, the room where I’m standing would have been filled with a deafening roar. The air would have pealed with the sound of a dozen V-8 engines, each one trembling atop its own laboratory pedestal as engineers in white shop coats used joysticks to adjust its throttle and load.
    With a woman CEO… I wish that wasn’t noteworthy
  • How Intermarriage Created One of the World’s Most Delicious Foods
    Laksa is said to get its name from the Sanskrit word “lakh,” which means 100,000. A few things are definitive of an afternoon on the coasts of Southeast Asia: inescapable heat, the smell of the sea, and a steaming bowl of laksa.
    Om nom nom!!
  • Why too much evidence can be a bad thing
    In a police line-up, the probability that an individual is guilty increases with the first three witnesses who unanimously identify him or her, but then decreases with additional unanimous witness identifications.
    For those watching Making a Murderer
  • Dinter, bitz, and gwop: The wacky linguistics of British slang in 2016
    If you struggle to understand the teenagers and young people around you when they call their schoolfriend a durkboi and try to cadge some peas, you are not alone.
    Fo shiz! (do the kids still say that? TELL ME I’M STILL COOL!!)
  • Frozen soap bubbles are beautiful
    I saw a sparkle in her eye so I promised to make a film to show her that. She was so excited about this idea that of course she forgot that she didn’t want to put her jacket on.
    Take a few moments to watch this. Beautiful.
  • Track the dangerous squirrels attacking the US power grid
    It’s not just Chinese and Russian hackers that want to take down the power grid. The real cyber enemy lives inside — a true insider threat — and has been attacking national power lines for decades: squirrels.
  • A beautiful exit
    I was 18 years old when I became a lifelong David Bowie fan. That summer, I did my leaving cert, and was counting down the days til I left my parents home. I saw it as an escape from a deeply unhappy household and childhood.
    For anyone who is a fan of anyone.
  • Literary travel: around the world in 10 must-read books
    In 2012, I embarked on an eccentric project. Having realised how anglocentric my reading was, I decided to try to read a novel, short story collection or memoir from every UN-recognised country, plus former UN member Taiwan (then 196 nations in all), in a calendar year.
    More books (I know, I know)
  • Everything in its place with MOOP
    MOOP is an acronym I learned recently, from an essay by Tarin Towers, which immediately caught my attention because of its organizing implications. She wrote: MOOP is a term coined by hikers and other ecology-minded people who use phrases like “pack it in, pack it out” and “leave no trace.
    The uncluttering continues!
  • The man who studies the spread of ignorance
    In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.
    This + social media = a lot

Random question: Would anyone want these posts (and only these posts) delivered by email? Leave a comment.

Hidden words

I can sense it, sitting there, judging me, mocking me.

It taunts me every day. No good, it says.

I ignore it. Then I think about what it holds and it reveals itself to me further, insights and ideas bloom, a rough patch of ground speckled with wild flowers.

Then it changes.

It changes.

From one day to the next, as the viewing angle skews, it morphs before me, pushing itself into new shapes, the end disappearing further beyond the blur of the middle.

I read. Books that are ‘Glorious, unexpected, superbly written’ (I know this because it says so on the front cover, the words inside echoing the declaration).

I read. Articles that are diligent and focused (I know this because the articles flow, words burble gently towards a well crafted conclusion).

I write. Sprawling blog posts that wriggle away from me. Fish out of water, desperate to breathe.

Still it calls to me. Luring me in, time and again.

Read me, it says. Write me, it says. Love me, it pleads.

I turn back towards it. I commit.

In reply it laughs at how easily I am swayed, and dances off into the spotlight of my fears.

In November I wrote a book. I created a sly troll that in all of its ugly beauty, the terrifying mess holds my gaze. I cannot not look.

I read. I write. I love. I commit.

And slowly – oh so creepingly, painfully, achingly, frustratingly, infuriatingly slowly – it bends to my will.

What’s on my phone?

iOS Geek Out Warning!

Where would I be without my iPhone? Lost. Not literally, my sense of direction isn’t that bad, but given that I use it every day to keep on top of personal email and to do list, I use it to order coffee, listen to podcasts while commuting, it holds my bus pass, and more recently I’ve been using it to pay for items (£30 or under) … it’s pretty much indispensable.

It’s not been immune for my desire to slim down as much of the clutter of life as possible and I’ve been slowly slimming down the number of apps I keep on my phone – although I still seem to have several Photo apps regardless of how little I use them – but with a few considerations I’ve even managed to have a homescreen that has a blank row (which is a little false given the folder I have on there too but hey, little victories and all that).


Shuffling apps around, and switching solutions is something I’ve done throughout my time with a smartphone (including my first Windows SPV). I’m always looking for small improvements to my personal working habits and try and keep an eye on app updates and new launches to see if they are better than what I currently have. As such, there have been a few notable omissions/changes (notable to me at least) over the last few weeks which includes removing the Facebook app (for personal reasons) and making the switch from Evernote to Apple Notes.

Take Note

It took me a long time to ‘get’ Evernote, but for me the penny drop when I started using their browser extension that lets you capture information from webpages and emails into Evernote. I’ve used it a lot to keep a running list of ‘things to buy’ (for me and others) and I store useful information there too.

However over the past couple of years Evernote feature development has veered towards business use, not something I can nor want to take advantage of, and the basic feature set has gotten a little bloated. Ultimately, for what I use it for, it’s just feels a bit ‘heavy’.

When Apple announced their revamped Notes app I was intrigued, I tried it out and whilst it is missing a couple of features I’d like to see added – for the love of all things good, let me have parent/child folders! – it does everything I was doing with Evernote.

However, the thought of manually moving 400+ notes over was not an appealing one and whilst I did find a clever script a few months back that looked like it would to help, it didn’t work for me at the time.

Fast forward to late December and I spotted that that script has now been updated. A small download, a double-click and – et voila – it worked first time. If you try it, just let it run even though it looks like it has hung, it is doing something and took about 4 minutes before it threw an error which turned out to be erroneous.

Unfortunately it does leave a little extra text at the foot of each note – metadata from Evernote which is handy as it means you can still search on Evernote tags, it just looks a little unsightly – but it’s nothing I can’t live with and has also prompted me to start going through all of my notes to tidy them up (and delete a lot of stuff I no longer need).

You can get the script here.

Listen to the Music

I’m currently stuck in a bit of quandary.

I tried Apple Music when it first came out but it doesn’t seem massively intuitive and my love of my own playlists just became a frustration so I cancelled my subscription before the end of the free months. However, my new office has limited internet access so I’ve found myself using it with local music (uploaded to my phone via iTunes, which is a clusterfuck I’ll post about another day).

For that usage it’s pretty nice, slick UI for playing albums or tracks, or selecting an Artist. I can make playlists of the MP3s I own (and which are stored on an external hard drive), but that means it’s limited to albums I’ve ripped or downloaded which, as I’ve been using Spotify heavily for the past year, isn’t something I’ve done much of.

I’m not sure where the tipping point will be, and maybe this dual use will continue. Spotify has some wonderful curated playlists, and I can share and collaborate on playlists with others easily too (notably the ‘Glasto 2016’ playlist which we will need to start soon).

So, for now, I’m stuck between two apps which – and I’m very very aware of just how much this is a first world problem – is royally pissing me off. I don’t want two Music apps that do much the same thing!

Aside from that, I’m using iOS more and more, to do more and more things, to the point I’m now pondering why I have a MacBook, and OSX, at all but that too is for another post and another day (to be honest I’m surprised anyone is still reading this post!).

Weekend Reading

A bumper issue this week because I’ve had a little more time to read (because I’m making more time). I think I’ll be more selective moving forward though, but here is what I found interesting this week.

    • Thicker Than Water
      In the 1986 John Hughes-penned film Pretty in Pink, Molly Ringwald plays Andie Walsh, a quick-witted, externally tough, yet entirely sympathetic fashion-savvy teenager with a preference for New Wave. In the way of teenage movie clichés, Andie is from the “wrong side of the tracks.
    • 19 Books To Read Before The Movie Comes Out In 2016
      What it’s about: This is the true account of six soldiers and what they braved during 13 hours when the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound and a CIA station were attacked by terrorists in Benghazi.
      I’m always wary of reading a book after I’ve seen the movie… but then sometimes the movie adaptations are just awful. Lose lose?
    • 15 Highly Anticipated Books of 2016
      Sure, George R.R. Martin probably won’t deliver The Winds of Winter this year, but who needs Seven Kingdoms and an Iron Throne when you’ve got spectacular tales of soldiers, stalkers, royals, and fugitives hitting shelves in 2016? (Actually we want it all, but we’ll try to be patient.)
      I’m two books into the year already, and started my third, likely to be a few from this list too.
    • The Triumph of Email
      Email, ughhhh. There is too much of it, and the wrong kind of it, from the wrong people.
      I don’t mind email, but I’m a smug Inbox Zero kinda guy.
    • You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition
      As the new year begins, millions of people are vowing to shape up their eating habits. This usually involves dividing foods into moralistic categories: good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, nutritious/indulgent, slimming/fattening — but which foods belong where depends on whom you ask. The U.S.
      Backing up what I’ve suspected for a while now, and why I don’t read many articles that tell me what I should/shouldn’t eat.
    • Half the World Lives on 1% of Its Land, Mapped
      In the simple map above lies a stark spatial imbalance: half the people in the world cram into just 1 percent of the Earth’s surface (in yellow), and the other half sprawl across the remaining 99 percent (in black).
      Stuff like this boggles my tiny mind. Earth is frickin MASSIVE.
    • Object of Intrigue: The X-Files’ ‘I Want to Believe’ Poster
      On January 24, The X-Files returns to television in the form of a six-part miniseries. As the premiere date nears, original fans of the show–those who discussed it on the
      One for fans.
    • How “true crime” went from guilty pleasure to high culture
      If you’re like me, there’s nothing better than settling into the couch after a long day’s work and flipping on the television to Investigation Discovery.
      Enjoying Making a Murder and Serial?
    • New year, new you? Forget it
      So here we are again: that time known to publishers as “New Year, New You”, partly because they want to sell life-makeover books and partly because, well… alliteration! I trust we’re all in agreement that “New Year, New You” is preposterous and bad.
      Timely. Happy New Year, btw!
    • When Are You Really an Adult?
      It would probably be fair to call Henry “aimless.” After he graduated from Harvard, he moved back in with his parents, a boomerang kid straight out of a trend piece about the travails of young adults.
      I’ve only skim read this, was too busy tweeting and doing colouring in.
    • Where Hair Pullers Like Me Are Not Alone
      My first thought was that I’d come late to the party. Groups had already formed in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Chicago, circles of giggling teenage girls and the shy, downcast younger ones who remained at their mothers’ sides. I spotted a young woman about my age and sat beside her.
    • Who Controls Your Facebook Feed
      Every time you open Facebook, one of the world’s most influential, controversial, and misunderstood algorithms springs into action.
    • Someone at this museum has a sense of humor
      Holy Fahrvergnügen! Those things creep me out. True that.
      Ha, brilliant!! (check the photo)

Note: Apologies, the links have been borked for the last few Weekend Reading posts and I’ve only just noticed. Fixed today!

I want what I need

I want to read more.

I want to write more.

I want, I want, I want.

Aside: When I was a kid, my Mum used to say “I want doesn’t get” in response to my ‘want’ tantrums. The phrase stuck with me as I grew older and I’ve always liked it; short, simple, perfectly to the point.

The question is, do I need to do either of those things? Well, it turns out I just might.

Over the festive break I spent some time revisiting my NaNoWriMo effort and enjoyed getting my head back into the world that my novel exists within, it felt exciting and – and this is probably going to sound odd – worthy.

I’ve fought against my own self-view of my laziness as long as I can remember, in fact it’s been so long that I can’t even remember where it stems from. I am not, by any definition, all that lazy yet part of my brain insists that I am. I know I have inherited my ‘pottering’ nature from my Dad, my brain constantly ticking over with little things to do around my flat, or more likely on the computer, so most days I always get something done, even if it’s just a few basic chores.

Anyway, having recently had a couple of days away from the internet, with a limited selection of things to do, I realised how refreshing it was not to have quite so many options, my whelm was not over’d, my decision fatigue was not overly taxing and that felt kinda nice for a change. I can totally understand why President Obama has only two colours of suit to reduce the number of decisions he has to make in any way he can (if he was being really brutal, of course, he’d only have one colour of suit but hey, life still needs a little variety!).

The lack of (decent) internet connection was because the four of us that make up our little poly family had retreated to a lodge on the banks of Loch Lomond for Hogmanay, and we’d decided to stay on for a couple of nights into the new year. I’d taken some books, a few games (Exploding Kittens was fun), some colouring-in, and my laptop to let me read over my NaNoWriMo work. We barely had the TV on except for Hogmanay – Hootenanny! – and, aside from a few short walks to get some fresh air, it was a very relaxing time.

It was a great few days of rest and relaxation.

Don’t get me wrong, returning home  to high speed internet was great, but I was immediately aware of having many more decisions to make, my Sky subscription and PS4 clamoring for my attention, not to mention some catchup chores to do.

So I did the chores, played a little FIFA on the PS4 and then turned everything off and sat in my leather Eames chair and read a book. By the time I was ready for bed I actually felt ready for bed, rather than my ‘normal’ state of ‘oh-crap-look-at-the-time-I-should-go-and-try-and-sleep-now’.

The next day I woke up and had the same number of choices, and it was then that it struck me that I am still ‘wasting time. So I’ve cancelled my Sky subscription (as I was just about out of contract) and haved moved to BT – I still want to be able to watch some sport and it has NBA coverage – and I’ve got some ideas of how not to better prioritise my down-time.

This all falls under the banner of my longer term decluttering/minimising goals, the whole point of which is to give myself every chance to be happy and content with my life (which I am, which proves it’s working, which is pushing me to do more to be even happier!). This has all been a few years in the making, and there is probably still a few years to go (after all, it takes a long time to eat an Elephant), but the more I get into it, the more I realise how much I need to do this, how much I need to have a balance to my life even though I’m not always the greatest at maintaining it.

Of course, it’s the turn of the year, willpower and hope run high but I’m doing my best to temper my aspirations in line with reality. There will still be days all I want to do is sit in front of the TV and become one with my sofa. And that’s why God invented Netflix (she’s* a clever one, that God), Amazon Prime TV, and blankets.

* Female pronoun borrowed from @TechnicallyRongo buy his book, it’s fab!
(Yes, I get, like, 3p if you buy it through that link. No, this entire post is not an advertise for his damn book, I just really liked and think many of you will too, it’s an ‘internet people’ kinda thing, look, just buy it, ok?)


The festive season is over, the last few chocolates have been scoffed (or taken into work), and soon it will be time to tentatively approach the bathroom scales and hope they don’t mock too hard.

By now the detritus of the last few weeks has been recycled and dumped, presents received have already been pressed into action, or hidden away in a cupboard only to be the recipient of a puzzled discovery in late August; where the hell did I get this?

Thoughts turn to the months that lie ahead, oh so many months, so much time with which we promise ourselves to do much. Plans are made, diets are started, gyms are joined, and the hope of new habits, better habits, are laid bare.

Less is more.

This is my resolution – in reality, my only aim is to stop NOT doing things – to find a path to less, declutter my mind, declutter my home, reduce my waistline. It was ever thus.

The struggles lie ahead of me, hope is strong in the light of the new year, this sentence sounds like it was taken from a Star Wars movie.

Basically what I’m trying to say, in lots and lots of words (because I also promised myself I’d try and write more… but no that is NOT a resolution), is that I will continue where I left off last year. I will declutter my life as best I know how.

I’ve already made a start by stepping away from Facebook. Once less place that pulls me into negative emotions, not to mention the amount of time wasted on nothing memorable at all. Yes, it might mean I won’t really understand what current meme people are aping, but in the grand scheme of things, as I continue my plummet towards old age and death, who gives a shit?

Anyway, Happy New Year and all that bobbins and, yes as it happens I had a bloody fantastic Christmas and New Year thanks!

Weekend Reading

Happy New Year to you all! A shorter list this week, being posted via my phone on (barely) a 3G signal from the banks of Loch Lomond – I can see the Loch from where I’m sitting – enjoy!!

  • The Believer – Destroy All Monsters
    This article is divided into two parts: a manual and a scenario. The first part, the manual, is an exposition of the game Dungeons & Dragons: what it is, how…
    I have never played D&D, but always found the idea of it fascinating.
  • Going Pro
    I’ve been wanting to do this for five years now and it’s finally happened. I sold my MacBook Pro to go all-in on iPad as my main personal computer. Yesterday, I…
    Second article like this I’ve read and it is making me think, could I do it?
  • The True Story of Roland the Farter, and How the Internet Killed Professional Flatulence
    A plate originally from The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick, published in 1581. Note the flatulentists on the right side (h/t the Lavatory Reader)
    The season of excess suggests this story may be closer to our hearts than many will admit…
  • 7 joyous New Year’s food traditions from around the world
    As you’re counting down the minutes until the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve, you might need…
    A like starting new traditions, but might need to keep this in mind at the end of the year (it’s a while away, I know).
  • No Offense
    It’s strange to edit a feminist website when almost nothing offends you, because the feminist website is traditionally imagined to run on offense.
    This is not…
    Still learning, and this article is an interesting insight that I hope others may find useful.
  • Resolutions, Schmesolutions! 10 Author Quotes In Praise of Indulgence
    Joseph Heller, Miami Bookfair International, 1986
    If you’re stirred by these author quotes, amble down our archive for more.
    We’ve reached that time of year…
    My suggestion: do whatever makes you happy and don’t be an arse.
  • The bigger picture of polyamory
    I have been polyamorous for most of my adult life. It’s something I grew into gradually, through a lot of questioning and curiosity and discussion…
    I’m bookmarking this one for people who ask me what being poly is like, and why I have chosen it.

Yes, I’ve added my own thoughts/reasons why I’ve included each post. not sure if I’ll stick with it, mostly because I’m not sure it’s of any use to anyone but myself. Time will tell.