Month: May 2018

Fire walk with me

“Say yes more often than no”

Life is short, far far too short for some and so when something pops up and you have the chance to do something you’ve never done before, AND it’s for a good cause, well, it’s even harder to say no.

And so I find myself signed up to become part of some weird human barbeque experiment?? … I’m sure that’s not how it works but essentially that is what it seems to be, although obviously they aren’t calling it that. Nope, instead they are using the rather dramatic and imminently more marketable term…

cue big dramatic voiceover voice

A FIREWALK!!

What an act of bravado, I hear you cry! He is going to be dancing with death, I hear you swoon! Might he even end up with a very mild scald, I hear you wonder? … Time will tell, but yes I will be walking barefoot across hot coals, and no you can’t bring BBQ sauce to squirt on me when I’m ‘done’.

You know, the more I think about this the more I’m starting to question just what the hell I was thinking!?

But then I remember the far more important reason of why I agreed to do it in the first place.

Rebecca was our beautiful little girl who died of TB meningitis in 2009 at Robin House. She loved music and to DANCE!

Over the last few years through the generosity and kindness of so many, we have raised nearly £30,000 for Rebecca Rocks – money that goes direct to Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) to allow children who attend Robin House to get to gigs and concerts with carers, in memory of a wee girl who didn’t get the chance to.

There have been amazing memories made with these funds (just take a look at the Facebook page!) but we need to keep up the fundraising to keep making those dreams come true!

On 30th June a team of brave souls will be undertaking a Firewalk at Whitecraigs Rugby Club to try and raise £5000 for Rebecca Rocks – we hope you can join us, or support by making a donation!

To add that all up; given that I love music, I have been known to throw some shapes on the dancefloor, and as I’ve never done a firewalk, I could hardly say no.

Of course I may get cold feet (baddummttshhhh) which is where YOU come in dear reader, for the price of a morning coffee or two, you can sponsor me and further guilt me into actually doing this!! Or, you know, you could just throw a few quid in for a very good cause.

Go here to make a donation, big or small they all count. Please mention my name in the comment so they can track it.

Six by Nico: Wonka

This past Easter found me watching a movie I’ve loved since I was a child. It is a strange story of a strange man by the name of Willy Wonka. I have to wonder if Nico was watching too…

As ever I’d been perusing the menu ahead of our visit and wondered how some of the dishes would be prepared and presented – I’m not a fan of liquorice, popcorn, or olives – but as their website says, “remember – a little nonsense now and then is relished by even the wisest of men….” so regardless of my own personal tastes, I was still excited to try this latest menu.

  1. CHEESE BOARD – Gorgonzola Royale / Fizzy Grapes / Celery & Apple Gazpacho
  2. BEETROOT DIB DAB – Heritage Beetroot / Smoked Mackerel Gribiche / Beetroot Sherbet
  3. DUCK SWEETIE JAR – Liver Parfait / Blueberry Chutney / Hazelnut Sable
  4. COD BLACKJACK – Charred Cauliflower / Squid ‘Risotto’ / Liquorice
  5. CHOCOLATE RIVER – Chicken / Chorizo Popcorn / Candied Olive / Mole Poblano Sauce
  6. WONKA BAR – Peanut butter Cheesecake / Amarena Cherry / Chocolate Soil

The apertif, “Fizzy lifting juice”, set the tone. A delicious gin cocktail with popping candy round the rim, which laid out the sweet theme that ran through the entire meal.

But first, as always, SNACKS!

Arancini are a wonder, so unassuming but so deliciously more-ish it’s probably just as well they are small and there is only one on the plate. My white chocolate & white truffle arancini was delicious but all too quickly gone. We also had the sourdough, olives and vanilla butter. Yup, vanilla butter. Subtle and worked surprisingly well.

Next up the Cheese Board, obviously. Dabs of creamy piped gorgonzola, slices of tangy grape served on a crisp taro cracker, accompanied by a delicious thick celery and apple gazpacho. Wonderfully cheesy crackers with a nice sweet tang, and the gazpacho was essentially a celery based bloody mary in texture.

I’ll admit I had to look up what gribiche was and having done so I was still not quite sure what I would be getting. Fear not though, the lollipop that arrived on my plate was exactly that, a shaped portion of chunky mackerel gribiche lying on a bed pureed lentil dahl with a sprinkling of beetroot sherbet. Not a huge mackerel fan but I may now be converted as it was very tasty indeed and worked so so well with the thick unctuous dahl (a bowl of that in the winter months, ohhh my days!). The accompanying assortment of beetroot helped keep the dish light and the freshness played well against the heavy flavours of the smoked mackerel. So far so good!

The Duck Sweetie Jar is exactly that, a sweetie jar rammed full of flavour. A rich, thick dollop of duck parfait, with a sweet blueberry chutney and a few hidden delights in the shape of tiny bright blueberry meringues. Some thin slices of moist and succulent duck with a few pickled blueberries topped off the jar. Alongside that a small toasted circle of brioche, with a duck croquet. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, but each component was delicious and all worked so well together. Duck and blueberry, more of this please (but not so much we end up like Violet and need juiced).

And then it was time for the one dish that made me baulk when I read the menu. I am not a fan of liquorice in any way shape or form and only hoped that it would be a component I could leave aside on the plate. We actually queried ‘how liquoricey’ the dish was, and were assured it wasn’t ‘that liquoricey at all’. And it wasn’t.

What it was was a very subtle hint that definitely didn’t overwhelm the perfectly cooked cod fillet which came with charred cauliflower rice on top. The risotto was wonderfully creamy and, as they did for Vietnamese menu, the squid rings were utterly perfectly cooked (Six by Nico street food idea, a bowl of those!). As well as the squid ink coloured sauce, there was a hint of sweetness brought by adding raisin puree as well and, on the whole, it was a well balanced dish, and definitely not too liquoricey at all. Squid rings aside, it was good but not great.

The next dish did not feature a boat nor Augustus Gloop being sucked up a tube, but did feature some of my less than favourite ingredients, popcorn and olive, but there were plenty of other components to deal with and the whole point of a tasting menu is try new things, right? Served on a bed of pearl barley and sweetcorn the chicken was moist and tender and whilst each component was well presented as a dish it just didn’t work all that well. I’m not sure if it was the mole poblano, or the candied olives, or even the popcorn, but it tasted a little like there were too many bitter flavours competing with one another. A rare miss for sure, but a miss none the less.

Dessert saved the day (doesn’t it always?). A deconstructed cheesecake, with light and not cloyingly dry piped peanut butter, rich tart and sweet cherry reduction, with dollops of white chocolate cream it was a perfect balance, although more like posh PB&J than a cheesecake but I am NOT complaining about that either.

As an extra treat you also get a Wonka Bar! I won’t spoil the surprise but as well as what lies inside there is also the chance to win a Golden Ticket… alas we didn’t win on our visit.

Overall another strong showing. The chicken dish wasn’t for me, and the cod was merely ok but as always the overall experience was good. Six by Nico set itself a high bar and consistently meets it. As always the staff were knowledgeable, relaxed, friendly, and make the entire experience a pleasure and one I always look forward to.

£28 for six courses of wonderful food, plus £5 for an apertif and £5 for snacks (between two) continues to be ridiculously good value. Even adding £25 for the paired tasting menu (which I don’t do often) keeps the entire meal well below £65 a head for fine dining, I honestly don’t think there is better value available anywhere in Glasgow. Once again it’s booking out fast so if you fancy it, get it booked!

Weekend Reading

  • Google’s File on Me Was Huge. Here’s Why It Wasn’t as Creepy as My Facebook Data.
    Google has far more data about us than Facebook. Yet unlike Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking empire, which has been under fire for improperly leaking user data, Google has sidestepped controversy.
    Next up, Apple who announced their own way to check all your data. I’ve checked. Apple has the least data on me of the big ‘3’. Just sayin’

  • Rise And Shine! Astronauts Get Wake-Up Music In Space
    As you might expect, many of the tracks match a theme: Fries’s list includes David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on three separate occasions, and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” six.
    Struggle to get out of bed, wake up like an astronaut!

  • The Endowment Effect: Why You Can’t Let Go Of Your Possessions
    Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Louis Chew of Constant Renewal. Not long ago, I tried assearing some of my possessions. It didn’t go well.
    I can attest to this. Figuring out that the emotions and memories of an event/person are not held in an object was the hardest thing to unpick.

  • The Secret Codes Hidden in the Books of a Scottish Library
    Georgia Grainger had only been working at Charleston Library in Dundee, Scotland, for six weeks when she was met with a mystery. One of the library’s customers, an older woman, approached her with a question and an open book.
    Well this is lovely.

  • Tattly™ — Forever Rainbow Pin
    For the first time ever, Tattly is going permanent. Because we believe in wearing pride all year round. 10% of the proceeds from Ben Wagner’s Forever Gay pin go towards a queer non-profit like GMHC, the Transgender Law Center, or the Ali Forney Center.
    Isn’t this pretty!

  • Yes, It’s Okay to Break up with a Good Man
    Several years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the prolonged and heart-wrenching breakup that persisted in destroying my entire life over the course of many months, a friend sent me an essay she thought I should read. I was officially single and deeply ashamed.
    Posted without comment (but lots and LOTS of thoughts)

  • The Rage of the Incels
    Lately I have been thinking about one of the first things that I ever wrote for the Internet: a series of interviews with adult virgins, published by the Hairpin. I knew my first subject personally, and, after I interviewed her, I put out an open call. To my surprise, messages came rolling in.
    The word ‘incel’ makes me icky, but this is scary.

  • Big Ag turns to peas to meet soaring global protein demand
    In a joint venture at a Wisconsin plant, flour milled from Iowa yellow peas is mixed with water and spun at high speed through stainless steel drums, separating the protein from starch and fiber.
    PEAS and goodwill to all men.

  • The Surprising History (and Future) of Fingerprints
    Recently, for a background check, for a visa, I had to get fingerprinted by an agent admissible to the FBI while I was still in France. No, we can’t fingerprint you, the website of the Embassy of the United States in Paris stated clearly.
    The world it is a changing, just as well we all have unique fingerprints really. Right?

  • How the Vegas Golden Knights became the most remarkable story in sports
    While attending a wedding full of the Las Vegas elite on Sunday evening, Carolyn Goodman kept losing focus on the bride and the groom.
    For sports fans: This is another Leicester City style story.

  • Saving Africa’s wildlife
    Two decades ago, this patch of Malawian forest was almost emptied of wildlife. The last elephants had been poached. The lions had been caught in snare traps. Other species died off as their range was diced by machete-wielding farmers.
    There is some good in the world.

  • Bach at the Burger King
    AT THE CORNER of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays. A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes. The music never stops.
    I like Bach but, yeah, that baroque harpischord is gonna be harsh…

  • Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Netflix Production Deal
    Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service.
    Right now can we just have President Obama give his take on world events every day? You know, FOR MY SANITY.

  • The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations
    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks. It is a scene that plays out each weekday morning across Tokyo. Suit-clad office workers, gaggles of schoolchildren, and other travelers gamely wend their way through the city’s sprawling rail stations.
    I’m fascinated by this kind of thing, gentle social conditioning. Little nudges here and there. Amazing.

  • Following a Tuna from Fiji to Brooklyn—on the Blockchain
    I had just learned everything there was to know about the fish in front of me. Now a small part of its fleshy, red body was in my mouth. Five minutes earlier, I saw a video showing the waters in Fiji where it was caught, where it traveled on ice, and how exactly it ended up inside a sushi hand roll.
    OK. This is odd but clever. Wanna learn about blockchain (and what it actually is), try this.

  • ‘I felt exposed online’: how to disappear from the internet
    Worried about what’s out there about you? You’re not alone. But is it even possible to become a digital ghost?
    Imagine. If you’d done this already you wouldn’t even have gotten a single email about GDPR…

  • Childish Gambino and how the internet killed the cultural critic
    Sometimes, a work of art is so urgent, so rich, you need help to understand it. So it was that, on Tuesday, I found myself searching the internet for things to read about Childish Gambino’s This is America. There was no shortage of options.
    It’s worrying that these things happen by stealth until you are so embedded in the new normal you don’t realise what’s missing.

  • Fuel With This Fruit
    Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.
    *Minion voice* BAAANNAAANNNAAAA

  • Weekend lie-ins could help you avoid an early death, study says
    Many people complain they do not get enough sleep, and it seems they are right to be concerned.
    Thank god, I’m terrible at getting enough sleep during the week, if it weren’t for Sundays…

  • Sarah Silverman Is the Troll Slayer
    You’re gonna need a moment to get used to this new Sarah Silverman, but I assure you it’s worth it. Come with me for a visit and just know, before we go in, that we are a long way away from the Jesus Is Magic Silverman. You know the one.
    Well I never.

  • No one’s ready for GDPR
    The General Data Protection Regulation will go into effect on May 25th, and no one is ready — not the companies and not even the regulators. After four years of deliberation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially adopted by the European Union in 2016.
    I’m sorry.

  • TANK
    A short video, 80s TRON stylee.
    Visually simple yet gorgeous.

  • Are Suicide Bombings Really Driven by Ideology?
    Harvey Whitehouse doesn’t like how New Atheists like Richard Dawkins make religion out to be a mere “set of propositions” amounting to a “failed science.”
    For those in Glasgow, the ‘green or blue’ people exhibit a lot of these behaviours.

  • The World Wants More Camel Milk. Australia Can Help
    Marcel Steingiesser gave up a 14-year career at the world’s biggest mining company to stake his future on what he says is an even better opportunity — Australian camel milk.
    Pretty soon the choice of milk in a coffee shop will be longer than the coffee options… Almond, Oat, Soy, Camel…

  • A new scientific expedition aims to find out whether the Loch Ness monster is real
    It sounds like the start of a low-budget thriller: A New Zealand scientist is traveling with his international research team to Scotland to investigate whether the Loch Ness Monster is real, according to the Associated Press.
    People of Scotland, they must be stopped. We CANNOT let them find out the truth! ACTIVATE NESSIE4EVA.

  • The Songs of the Years, 1925-2018
    Back at the end of 2010, Ben Greenman created a playlist for the New Yorker’s holiday party that featured one song from each year of the magazine’s existence ordered chronologically. At the party, the mix worked like a charm.
    I don’t plan the order of these links, but if I did, this would be a pretty good one to finish off with. Enjoy your weekend!

G to the D for the PR

Do I really have to?

I mean what’s the worst that could happen to a little ole blogger… what? a fine? HOW MUCH!!? Well, shit. ok.

So what do I store. Well, in the database that holds all the comments ever left here (and there have been at least a few) will have your name or pseudonym, and whatever email address and URL you provided, plus the text of your comment.

If you have left a comment, firstly, thanks! It’s such a rare occurence these days it’s always a pleasant surprise. You should also know that I do not, have not, WILL NOT EVER sell your personal data to any other party for any reason, not for all the money in the world*.

If you want me to delete or edit your data I will. If you want to see the exact data I hold about you, I’m sure I can dig that out of the database although as there are only two unique data points to go on I might not be able to meet that request because I think you need three unique data points to confirm a person as WHO THEY REALLY ARE and until then you are all just scammers and ne’er-do-wells.

What else do I need to do here?

I honestly have no idea.

It’s all so very confusing and if, like me, you’ve already received emails from places you didn’t even know you were a customer/member of, it’s a mass of slightly similar but slightly conflicting approaches.

“YOU MUST CONFIRM if you want us to keep in touch with you” blares my first GDPR email of the day.
“Just to let you know… YOU DON’T NEED TO DO A THING” shouts the second GDRP email of the day.
“Your new sex doll has been delivered to…” ummm hang on, that must be spam, or something. I’ve no idea how that got there….

As others have said, GDPR is a triumph of good intent versus awful implementation. I’ve been on a course about it at work and I’m still none the wiser. It’s a bit like the government announced they were building a house, and dumped some timber, a few random tools, some fixings, and a bag of mixed nails and screws and told us all to build a house by May 25th.

It came from a European Directive, so perhaps the real problem is that the Spanish are forever taking siestas whilst the French and Italians argue about who has the best wine, meanwhile the Germans are point blank refusing to have any part in building a wall, and the UK contingent are all scratching the arses and shouting lewd sexist comments at passersby.

What the rest of the world must think of us beggars belief.

Except, it doesn’t. It’s just another embarassing incident that, like Brexit, will be swept under the carpet as if nothing has happened.

I appear to have wandered a little bit off topic.

To summarise my position on GDPR and its impact on you as it relates to this blog, suffice to say that I store very very little data about you, it’s not enough data to identify you anyway, and if you want it changed or deleted, or just want to see what I have, then get in touch.

And with that, I bid Good Day to you Precious Reader!**

* Ok, maybe for a £100billion cos that way I’ll be above the law and not give a shit about you plebs
** Yeah I’m not sure this post was entirely worth the payoff. Sorry!

Weekend Reading

  • The Power of Eddie Vedder’s Voice: Hear Isolated Vocal Tracks from Three Classic Pearl Jam Songs
    A lifetime of rock star excess has taken its toll on Eddie Vedder’s voice but not on his talent. Most recent performances have tilted towards the gentle, the acoustic, the Americana, reflecting his larger embrace of the broad expanse of American music. And yes, he can still rock when needs be.
    This man literally brought me to tears the first (and only) time I saw them live. They opened with Release Me. Powerful.

  • And for His Next Act, Ev Williams Will Fix the Internet
    For years, Ev Williams was saddled with doubts. As a co-founder of Blogger and Twitter and, more recently, as the chief executive of the digital publishing platform Medium, Mr. Williams transformed the way millions of people publish and consume information online.
    I really hope he can but I don’t think it’s possible (see later link)

  • Large, Fluffy Pancakes with Pancetta & Maple
    There are few things that make a Sunday spent with loved ones even more perfect than a large stack of pancakes in the middle of the table. Last weekend, for the first time, I tried the combination of bacon & maple syrup.
    I have not tried making these. Yet. But she sure does know her food!

  • Why is Answering Email So Stressful?
    I have 19,834 unread email messages in my inbox. I’m fine. My coworkers, less so. Just seeing the phrase “Inbox (19,834)” on an open tab makes them tremble and break out in a nervous sweat. But I’m an anomaly—in office environments, email anxiety is the rule rather than the exception.
    Spoiler: it’s about most people being unable to communicate well in the written form.

  • Treadmills were originally designed to punish prisoners
    Says it all really

  • Finland’s rank as the world’s happiest country is very upsetting in Finland
    Finland, a perennial chart-topper on global rankings of well-being and prosperity, has just been named the world’s happiest country in the World Happiness Report. Finns are not happy about the news.
    Sheesh, they’re never happy…

  • How the Million Dollar Homepage kid became the $250m app man
    n a cold afternoon in January 2006, 21-year-old Alex Tew sat in his childhood bedroom in Wilshire, England, watching the final pixels fill up on a computer screen. He was about to become a millionaire. In 4 months, Tew went from broke and aimless to the toast of the internet.
    I remember the million dollar homepage (I’m THAT old). Had no idea he was behind that app.

  • Mumbling Isn’t a Sign of Laziness—It’s a Clever Data-Compression Trick
    Many of us have been taught that pronouncing vowels indistinctly and dropping consonants are symptoms of slovenly speech, if not outright disregard for the English language.
    See. Stop telling me to speak up!

  • You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to
    Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says…
    This. ALL OF THIS. Education is so so important.

  • The rise of Patreon – the website that makes Jordan Peterson $80k a month
    In five years, online membership service Patreon has attracted two million patrons supporting 100,000 ‘creators’ to the tune of $350m – including nearly $1m a year for rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson. So what’s the secret of its success?
    A great service, but have to admit, I’m waiting for the tipping point/backlash/end game.

  • Comixploitation!
    Robert Boyd I gave a talk yesterday at Alabama Song, an alternative art space in Houston’s Third Ward. I was invited to give the talk by Gabriel Martinez, who is Alabama Songs’s… Director? I don’t know if he has a “job title” or anything–they play stuff pretty loose.
    Comic book nerds. This one’s for you.

  • A Truck Spilled 12 Tons of Gooey Liquid Chocolate Onto a Highway in Poland
    The word calorie carries a lot of weight. We know we’re supposed to avoid too many of them, but things get more complicated after that. What, exactly, are calories, and how do I burn them?
    No, I don’t know how many calories are in 12 tons of liquid chocolate but pass me that damn ladle anyway…

  • Dear Book: I’m Having Trouble Getting Through
    Dear Book: I’m Having Trouble Getting Through. It’s not you, it’s me. Honestly. It’s finals and projects and the nice weather.
    Wondering if my fellow book clubbers are struggling with our current choice as much as I am (Embassytown).

  • Why the secret to happiness might be joy
    A few weeks ago I spoke at TED 2018 in Vancouver. It was an extraordinary experience (and challenge!) and I can’t wait to share it with you all when the video posts.
    Lightbulb moment for me. Happiness and joy are distinct (like when I learned the distinction between jealousy and envy).

  • How Tom Wolfe Became … Tom Wolfe
    I was 11 or maybe 12 years old when I discovered my parents’ bookshelves. They’d been invisible right up to the moment someone or something told me that the books on them were stuffed with dirty words and shocking behavior—a rumor whose truth was eventually confirmed by Portnoy’s Complaint.
    A sad loss. We need more people like this.

  • Body clock linked to mood disorders
    Disruption to the body’s internal clock may put people at increased risk of mood disorders, scientists say. A clock ticks in nearly every cell of the body. And they change how the tissues work in a daily rhythm.
    I’m glad the scientists have finally caught up. I thought this was common knowledge?

  • The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver
    For 52 straight days this winter, Shannon Hovey woke up in the company of five other men in a metal tube, 20 feet long and seven feet in diameter, tucked deep inside a ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Nope. Fascinating insight into a job I simply could not do.

  • We Depend On Plastic. Now, We’re Drowning in It.
    This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.
    Ugh.

  • This Armada of Saildrones Could Conquer the Ocean
    Each drone is a 23-foot neon-orange sailboat that catches wind with a solid wing more durable than a cloth sail. As the name implies, they’re seaworthy, autonomous robots, though a human pilot can take control remotely.
    So much we still don’t know about this planet.

  • The True History of ‘Yanny’ and ‘Laurel’
    If you somehow haven’t already over the last few days, listen to this audio recording right now. What do you hear? Is the person saying “Yanny” or “Laurel”? If you heard the second answer, you’re technically correct.
    FYI – I have not listened to this damn thing but as YOU are all talking about it…

  • 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings
    Like everyone, appearing smart in meetings is my top priority. Sometimes this can be difficult if you start daydreaming about your next vacation, your next nap, or bacon.
    For those of you who work in offices… this is genius, funny, and true!

  • Mental Health
    Mental Health, everyone by definition has it. Your brain is an organ. Just like your heart. Yet we talk about heart conditions. We actively from a young age take care of our hearts by exercise. We are bombarded with adverts for healthy lifestyles from trainers to healthy cholesterol butter.
    Inspiring post. This amazing person recently ran the London Marathon. Mental Health is always there for many people.

  • The Dunkirk Soundtrack is Way Cleverer Than You Think.
    I went into Dunkirk with high expectations for the score.
    OMG. Movie nerds, check this one out.

  • Shit My Cats Read: An Interview with Meg Wolitzer
    I never thought it was weird that my cats read so many books. They, these two sisters—Uni and Chloe—came from humble beginnings: the rafters of a garage in central New Jersey.
    Great interview. I knew cats were smart but…

  • The internet’s problems haven’t changed in 22 years
    A 1996 Wall Street Journal article that’s been quietly sitting on the web, waiting for its rediscovery and renewed relevance, has found its moment on Twitter this week.
    22 years. Jesus. I’m so frickin old. (also, see previous link on Ev Williams)

  • This physicist’s ideas of time will blow your mind
    Time feels real to people. But it doesn’t even exist, according to quantum physics. “There is no time variable in the fundamental equations that describe the world,” theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli tells Quartz.
    I’ve read this three times. Once today, once yesterday, once tomorrow.

Master of Suspense

Vertigo is acknowledged by many to be not only Alfred Hitchcock’s best work but one of the greatest movies of all time. It is, and has been since I first viewed it, in my top 5 (usually in first or second place). The sense of creepy weirdness, the growing tension as Scotty pursues a vision of a woman he once knew, coupled with the now legendary reverse zoom shot to impart the very sense of Vertigo that ties the whole slightly unsettling movie together, I have seen it far too many times yet it never feels old.

Both lead actors, as many did back then, tread the line of ham acting at times but if you look past that (and the obvious age gap between lead male and lead female, again a common weird theme that Hollywood continues to perpetuate) I think they both do well to convey two sides of the same coin, both knowing deep down that something isn’t right with what is going on, but both so flawed that they can’t NOT be a part of it, can’t stop it playing out. It’s that very human element of the characters, the twisting of normality into something odd which becomes their new normal, that I find so appealling, so real, so identifiable.

How often have you looked back at a situation you were in the middle of and wondered, how did I end up there? It’s that aspect of humanity that always fascinates me, how we can allow ourselves to, increment by increment, change our world view and accept was is in front us as ‘normal’; The Stanford Prison Experiment can be held up as an extreme example.

It’s this fascination that pulls me back to Vertigo, time and time again I find myself gripped and drawn in to the angst and continued sense of foreboding that bumbles along in the background. Whilst not a scary thriller, I find the slightly off-kilter nature of it all endlessly fascinating; a trait it shares with The Shining (check out the documentary Room 237 for more details on the weirdness that is The Outlook Hotel). That sense of ‘not normal’ is something that, given I haven’t exactly lived a ‘normal/traditional’ life in some ways, maybe makes it easier for me to accept people acting in ways that look odd from the outside yet will likely feel very natural to those living in those moments day to day.

Hitchcock had many flaws as a director, and as a human being, but when he got things right the results are wonderful and his choice of stories are always a big part of that. Add in his talent for visual flair, and a seemingly natural inclination to iconic scenes (played out to grand effect in North by Northwest). His attention to the small moments and how he leans on the details of the performances of his actors, skills learned from his early days in the (silent) movie business help elevate the movie to something more than the sum of its parts and, I believe, earn it the right to be at the top of cinematic pile.

Yet with all that ability to give us grand vistas and sweeping broad themes when Hitchcock started to deliberately limit the scope of his visions and the scale of his sets, think Lifeboat or the ‘one-shot’ Rope, is where he maybe plays best and all of the lessons learned in both styles of movie culminated in 1954 with the sumptuously performed, shot and directed Rear Window.

The setting and backstory is key to helping narrow the constraints of what, and where, things can happen and this in turn lets the actors carry the movie; James Stewart gives his usually solid performance and is the perfect lens for the viewer, the interplay between Jeff and Lisa (Grace Kelly) are light and realistic and the scene stealing asides by Stella (Thelma Ritter) bring this claustrophobic masterpiece to life, seating it in the best type of ‘everyman’ conspiracies that Hitch loved so much.

After Rear Window, Hitchcock moved up and out again culminating in the aforementioned, iconically scened, North by Northwest before returning to the confines of the Bates Motel… and we all know how that ended up.

And so it turns out that my favourite Hitchcock movie is one I often overlook yet is the most Hitchcockian of them all. A nice twist on a straightforward story, some excellent acting, humour, thrills, and of course a sight of the portly Sir Alfred himself (26 minutes in if you want to check). And you can’t really ever go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, can you.

Rear Window is probably the first clever movie I ever watched. It was a world away from his earlier movies with actors moving from scene to scene, location to location, which allowed us a pause, a breathing point during those transitions. His other movies largely have story twists to carry the entire movie (Dial M for Murder is not awash with wonderful performances) but the confines of the apartment blocks in Rear Window forces Hitchcock to adapt and switch styles, once the action starts there is no escape, like Jeff we cannot get away to a different place, we are stuck and have to watch it all unfolded, rapt and stuck on the edge of our seats.

I’m currently re-watching the rest of his movies, and whilst I struggle with the representation of women in all of them – you need only look at Tippi Hedren as an example – but throughout them all is a deftness of camera work and scene management, and a focus on the story above all. Hitch knew how to build tension, how to allow gaps, when to make us laugh, when to make us relax, and embraced all aspects of movie-making as part of a whole experience.

In his wake Spielberg was the next, most obvious, example of a true master of the cinematic experience, building visuals, sounds and knowing that it was just as important NOT to show the viewer details (how many times do you actually see the shark in Jaws?). Even in Hitchcocks earliest films, which were a little too keen to make sure the audience was following along, there is a tension, a knowing nod to the audience that whilst you might know some of the things that are going on, you don’t know everything.

I watch a lot of movies and most of the best examples, or at least most of my favourites, of the genre share some common traits; they are well shot with each frame telling its own part of the story, the directing is tight enough without suffocating the action and muting the story, and you are brought along on the journey with enough detail to enlighten but not so much as to remove the intrigue. That all adds up and helps me suspend my belief and buy-in to the world the movie inhabits. Hitchcock understood that this was key to get audiences to want to watch his movies.

One of the many phrases associated with Hitchcock is “Master of Suspense”, and given the breadth and depth of his work it’s not hard to understand why.

The big question is what to watch next, The Birds? Psycho? or Dial M for Murder?

Weekend Reading

  • Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?
    Roman scholar Plutarch made the earliest written reference to this problem, but it’s clear from his treatise “On Whether the Hen or the Egg Came First” that he wasn’t the first to ask it. In his circle, it wasn’t just about poultry.
    Alas, this still doesn’t explain why everything tastes like chicken.

  • ErrorPort
    It’s a pretty standard pattern. If Apple neglects a product line for five-plus years, it’s dead, Jim. And this one, we actually already knew about in 2016. Still, it’s shockingly dumbfounding that Apple has officially killed off the AirPort product line.
    If only… echoes a lot of my thoughts. Unless there is a much longer game being played, surprised Apple didn’t at least TRY this with AppleTV at least.

  • This Woman Is Her Own Twin: What Is Chimerism?
    Twins often feel like they have a special connection, but for one California woman, the connection is particularly visceral — she is her own twin.
    Learn something new everyday.

  • The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul
    If I get addicted to vaping, I thought, in March, I will always remember this Texas strip mall. I was walking out of a store called Smoke-N-Chill Novelties, in Southwest Austin, holding a receipt for $62.95 and two crisp, white shrink-wrapped boxes.
    I prefer clouds of ‘bubblegum’ flavoured smoke to actual cigarettes being blown in my face, but I wish the whole ‘invade someone else’s air’ thing would stop altogether!

  • Dr. Dre’s Legal Battle With Gynecologist ‘Dr. Drai’ Comes to an End
    Dr. Dre’s years-long battle with a gynecologist who goes by the name “Dr. Drai” has come to a presumably less-than-pleasing end. Dre’s attempt at blocking Dr. Draion M. Burch’s trademark of the Dr.
    Well *I* hadn’t forgotten about… (etc etc)

  • Taboo Week: Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex
    Everywhere we look these days, we’re confronted by references to sex in some shape or form.
    Another great post from this series.

  • My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.
    I’m about to go speak to NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise. These are the remarks I prepared for my speech. Before I begin, I want to warn you that this talk touches on many triggering subjects, including self-harm and suicide.
    All the feels. Also a good ‘primer’ if you want to understand what ‘functioning Depression’ looks like (my term)

  • The Subtle Sexism Of Your Open Plan Office
    Researchers Alison Hirst of Anglia Ruskin University and Christina Schwabenland of the University of Bedfordshire studied the process of a local government moving its 1,100 employees from a series of traditional offices to one big open office over the course of three years in the U.K.
    File under: Why didn’t I realise this before? (Answer: because I’m a man. *sad face*)

  • A spectacular destination for astronomy fans is being built in rural Norway
    I’m saving up already!

  • Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness
    When Jonathan Rauch fell into the doldrums in his 40s, he had no idea why. Life was good: he had a successful career, a solid relationship, good health and sound finances. Then he learnt about the happiness curve and it all became clear.
    Ohhh things really DO get better then? Phew.

  • Can You Overdose on Happiness?
    It is a good question, but I was a little surprised to see it as the title of a research paper in a medical journal: “How Happy Is Too Happy?” Yet there it was in a publication from 2012.
    Give it a few years and we’ll ALL be zapping our own brains (“Alexa, make me happy” Pzzzttttt)

  • The Ultimate Analog Music Is Back
    It’s no secret that sales of vinyl music are at the highest in decades. Even the lowly cassette tape is regaining popularity as some millennials embrace analog music over digital downloads and streaming services.
    Great. Now I need to write a follow up to this. You kids, let analog die already!

  • If You Think You Hate Puns, You’re Wrong
    The English language is almost nightmarishly expansive, and yet there is no good way to respond when someone drops a bad pun in casual conversation. “Stop” seems ideal, but it’s too late—they already did it.
    I FRICKIN LOVE PUNS! But I do not like Velcro, what a rip off!

  • Don’t Blame Phones for Narcissism
    Let me tell you about my selfie face. I like my head to be at a slight angle, one cheek turned to the lens so my eyes are looking at the camera sideways and never straight on.
    And it were ever thus.

  • A New Scientific Study Supports Putting Two Spaces After a Period … and a Punctuation War Ensues
    In former ages, wars erupted over the finer points of religious doctrine, a historical phenomenon that can seem perplexing to modern secularists. We’re past such things, we think.
    Goddammit, I thought we settled this last week.

  • Five fab spring dresses with POCKETS
    Everyone who wears dresses prefers one with pockets, right? Even if you carry a handbag most of the time it’s always nice to have the option of keeping your phone/money/keys close at hand, but plenty of designers and manufacturers overlook this useful feature.
    Because I know some people who like pretty dresses. Also, POCKETS.

  • The Longest Route You Can Sail in a Straight Line Without Hitting Land
    The Earth is about 71 percent ocean. If you start at a port and head into the sea, you’ll likely travel hundreds or thousands of miles before seeing land again. But what course would allow you to travel the farthest distance in a straight line without ever hitting land?
    GEEK ALERT, GEEK ALERT!

  • I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye
    Kanye West wants freedom—white freedom. I could only have seen it there, on the waxed hardwood floor of my elementary-school auditorium, because I was young then, barely 7 years old, and cable had not yet come to the city, and if it had, my father would not have believed in it.
    Kanye wants a lot of things.

  • Why is there stigma around male baldness?
    Scientists say a drug normally prescribed for osteoporosis could potentially lead to a new treatment for hair loss. But why is there stigma around male baldness? And why do men try to “cure” themselves of it anyway?
    I’m actually being increasingly proud of my baldness. Next step will be to completely shave my head. Oh yes.

  • Trump angers Scots with ban on Irn-Bru at luxury golf resort
    White House diplomacy has dipped to a new low after it emerged that Donald Trump’s luxury golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, has banned the sale of Irn-Bru on the premises.
    Fine, it’ll stain the carpets. But won’t that Irn Bru coloured eejit do the same (and is this REALLY how he gets his perma-tan?

  • Yonhapnews Agency
    South Korea’s telecom watchdog said Wednesday it released a new service that locks smartphones when the device detects the user walking more than five steps in a bid to prevent accidents and keep pedestrians focused on their surroundings.
    Genius. Can we get this in Glasgow ASAP please.

  • Every Culture Appropriates
    The question is less whether a dress or an idea is borrowed, than the uses to which it’s then put. Meet the Death Metal Cowboys of Botswana.
    But does that make it ok? (pondering my own appropriations at the moment).

  • Eyes Wide Shut Meets a New Age of Hetero Anxiety
    I just rewatched “Eyes Wide Shut” — or Stanley Kubrick’s unofficial sequel to “The Shining,” as I like to call it — for the first time since we publicly began having all these conversations about the way men treat women.
    Oh no. A reason to watch a Kubrick movie you say?

  • “But That’s Another Story”: Will Schwalbe Talks Books with Book Lovers
    Will Schwalbe has a delightful relationship with books, though that shouldn’t be read to mean that all of his encounters with them are light-hearted. What Schwalbe finds in books that have meaning for him is “resonance,” which a reader will feel within themselves while reading.
    New Podcast alert, this one sounds fun.

  • Make Google Do It… And Then What?
    In the middle of its Tuesday morning I/O presentation, Google played an audio recording of what was essentially an AI-powered crank call. In it, the latest version of Google’s Assistant calls a hair salon and books an appointment — on its own.
    Yeah. These are starting to freak me out *glances at Alexa*

  • The futuristic safety reason behind why UPS electric trucks are so adorable
    US delivery service UPS announced this week that it partnered with UK-based technology company Arrival to roll out a “pilot fleet” of 35 new electric trucks. But what has captured many people’s attention isn’t the new technology—it’s how cute the trucks look.
    But ARE they cute? I mean, really? Draw some eyes on them, Pixar style, then ask me!

  • Number of middle-aged renters doubles in a decade
    Forty-somethings are now almost twice as likely to be renting their home from a private landlord than 10 years ago. Rising UK house prices have left many middle-age workers unable to afford a first home, or as “accidental renters” after a relationship break-up.
    It me.

Vinyl is dead, long live vinyl

How do you pronounce it? Vahyn-l? Vīnĭl?

The living room in my childhood home had a big wide bay window. Standing on either side of the windows were two tall white bookcases my Dad built. They had a deeper base section to house the record player and my parents combined record collection; my Mum was a screaming Beatles fan in her youth, my Dad tended towards folk, but both met in the middle ground of singer songwriters and rock bands.

My parents are both musical, Mum played the piano, Dad the guitar and banjo, both sang in choirs and my Dad still performs at the Royal Concert Hall. Music was a constant part of my upbringing and their record collection was a source of fascination and as I look back on music as part of my childhood it’s clear that it holds the key to my musical proclivities.

Somewhere in that collection was an album with an oddly hypnotic cover. I was around 9 or 10 years old when I came across it, around about the time I was starting to discover my own tastes. Top of the Pops was must-see TV, a radio a necessity, and later a tape deck so the Top 40 could be recorded and played over and over. Yet that album, and the subsequent discovery of other albums by this ‘old’ band called Queen (the joys of the local library music section), was one that would stick with me through the years. From the opening Arabic call it offers piano driven ballads, upbeat rock tracks and still one of my favourite Queen tracks of all time, Fat Bottomed Girls (ohhh those opening harmonies).

That said, music is always about fashion and 9 year old Gordon was doing his very best to ‘fit in’ although I always seemed to naturally veer a little off the beaten track. The first LP I bought was Adam & The Ants, Friend or Foe. It was 1982 and Goody Two Shoes was high in the charts. Yet it was the track A Man Called Marco that grabbed my ear, all minor keys, jangling guitar and in contrast to the new romantic pop the rest of the album offers it gave me an entirely ‘other’ musical landscape to explore.

For a while I collected LPs like everyone else until along came Compact Discs. Tiny silver discs you could smother in jam and they’d still play (no, they didn’t demonstrate that on Tomorrows World, take a look for yourself). My Dad has always been a bit of a tech gadget nut, the acorn didn’t fall all that far, and so we had a CD player pretty early on. The player came with a couple of discs as part of some promotion or another, one of which was Live at Marquee which featured a guitar shredding, monster riff of a track by some American dude called Jimi Hendrix who was singing about a Purple Haze and, whilst I didn’t understand what the heck he was going on about, I sure as hell knew that this noise was something I wanted more of. And I wanted it as loud as possible.

And then it was 1984. The year started with talk of Orwell and Big Brother and then along came a band I already knew, with a new album which gave me exactly some of the noise I was craving. Radio GaGa rightly got the headlines, but it was Hammer To Fall and Tear It Up that continued my path towards rock. Fast forward another few years and I’d rattled through early Iron Maiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and the like, switching my allegiance between vinyl and CD depending on what I could get my hands on.

A few years later takes you to the moment when I walked into the kitchen to the sight of my Dad washing the dishes to the accompaniment of Appetite for Destruction (on cassette tap I should point out). All the kids at his school were talking about it so he thought he’d give it a listen. I quickly snaffled it for myself.

My own CD player soon arrived, a mini-stereo. Just in time for Rage Against the Machine, and whilst the first track I played on it was The Silencers Painted Moon, Killing in the Name Of, was the one that got the “turn that down” shout from downstairs… (I slammed my door and turned it up in protest).

A few years after that, Smells Like Teen Spirit posted on my bedroom wall and a re-introduction to vinyl at Hospital Radio Lennox. 1000 LPs and 4000-odd singles lined the shelves, with regular additions every week. A mixing desk, microphones, even broadcasting live from the Balloch Highland Games (from a caravan, also known as our outside broadcast unit).

DJs never really left vinyl and whilst CDs were useful at times, the joy of getting that crossfade between tracks just right, teasing in the few opening bars before dropping THAT track that always got people dancing. To help raise funds for the hospital radio I used to DJ at parties (think local bowling greens, Aunties and Uncles getting their groove on) and over time you got to know what would work, disco classics for the 40th birthdays, 2 Unlimited for the kids.

Of course let’s not forget the humble cassette tape which was the format for the majority of my music listening through my teenage years. A double tape deck at home allowed for mixtapes, a walkman (my first Boots own brand still the best) gave me freedom to take my music with me everywhere. A habit that persists to this day.

I moved away from vinyl in those years and my CD collection grew and grew; the first CD I ever bought was Bananarama: Greatest Hits (1988), the last was Foo Fighters Wasting Light (2011). Somewhere in the latter half of those 23 years the ‘mobile’ part of my listening habits moved to mini-discs; I had a mini-disc component in my stereo, a personal player, and even a mini-disc player in the car (where it was an obvious upgrade over cassette tape). Alas it never really took off and I was left with a betamax solution in a VHS world. RIP Mini-disc.

Let’s speed things up, it’s 2018 and we’ve zipped on past MP3s, Winamp and Napster and I now stream all my music from the cloud. I have one only device capable of playing CDs in my home (a Playstation) and I’m not even sure if my car has a CD player as I just connect my phone via bluetooth, or listen to (DAB) radio. The future is here and it’s online, bye bye physical manifestations of media!

I should at this point mention that up until last year I still owned a record player and when my parents moved out of the family home their depleted vinyl collection came to me. I spent a few wonderful weeks reliving my childhood through Abbey Road, Andy Williams, Simon & Garfunkel and Queen. I revisited my own LPs – Deacon Blue, Martin Stephenson & The Daintees, Simple Minds – and let the nostalgia wash over me. Such great times and memories to be had.

The scratchy sound on the older Beatles albums, all recorded in Mono, the remembered skip part way through Bridge over Troubled Waters, to my first ever gig to the strains of Belfast Child.

Kadunk, kadunk, kadunk. Time to flip the record over for side 2.

Kadunk, kadunk, kadunk. Flip the record over.

Kadunk, kadunk, kadunk. Flip the record over.

Kadunk, kad… ok that’s enough of that.

I had forgotten the downside to vinyl.

Unless you are playing through a stack of singles (who else had a ‘drop arm’ on their record player?) it gets a little monotonous flipping sides and whilst that can some churlish and, I think, for some it is entirely the point, a way to slow down and be ‘part of’ the listening experience for me it starts to getting mildly annoying.

A long bath is out of the question, kadunk, kadunk, kadunk. Some music to accompany washing up? Kadunk, kadunk, kadunk. Want some background music whilst you tidy up a couple of rooms… you get the picture.

That veneer of nostalgia soon faded, I put the records away and returned to Spotify. I threw together a quick playlist to replicate the songs I’d been playing on vinyl and after a couple of (uninterrupted playback) hours it struck me that the physical manifestation of the albums are not where my memories are stored, I can access the same memories, same emotions just by hearing the music.

It will transport me to the same time and space – The Heat Is On is the drive to my grandparents in Rutherglen – regardless of format. With that mindset I suddenly had a few boxes of vinyl that were, essentially, worthless to me.

So I got rid of them.

I passed a selection to someone who I knew would appreciate them and the rest went to the charity shop. I have no emotional attachment to the pressed black circles other than a mild case of ‘things were better in my day’ nostalgia. My attachment is to the tracks, the music and the performances they held, music and performances which are readily available in other formats, other formats which are decidely less hassle to use.

Editors Note: He’s steering clear of any discussion about fidelity on purpose.

It was World Vinyl Day recently (technically Record Store Day but that just makes me think of the Guinness Book, Norris McWhirter, Roy Castle…) and given the queues outside the record stores it’s safe to say that vinyl is not dead. But why?

I ponder this fully aware that I’m challenging the progress of technology in another area (books) by resorting to paperbacks instead of my Kindle…

The very thing that ends up annoying me about vinyl is perhaps the very reason to embrace it all the more. I mean sure every 20 mins or so you have to get up, or stop doing whatever your doing, to flip the damn thing over but in our always-on hyper-connected world, is that such an onerous task? Is it so hard to tear ourselves away from our screens for those few seconds?

I’ve no doubt there is likely an element of rose-tinted viewing when some people, particularly of my generation, look back at their experiences of vinyl. Yet looking at the people in the record stores today and you’ll find the usual mish-mash of ages, so it can’t all be that.

Putting aside those whose argument is seated in fidelity (hey, I wrote that Editors note ya know!) is this, to coin a phrase from James Murphy, simply “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties” *, a harking back to something deemed to be somehow better without any substance to that argument?

I have no idea what the real answer is and no doubt there isn’t AN answer at all. I’m sticking to my take, vinyl is popular because it’s a way of taking some ownership of your time. In the fight against social media and the tiny electronic miracles we keep in our pocket, it seems that an ageing non-digital format, one that is prone to damage and can only do one thing at a time, is managing holding its own.

Weekend Reading

quotemail #46: stitched together
It me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about communication in the last couple of years, and how intention isn’t magical. We may not have intended to be unclear (at best) or offensive (at worse), but it is on us to repair the damage nonetheless.

Breaking the format for this week, I wanted to highlight this. Partly because it’s written by a very talented person whom I’m lucky enough to call a friend, and partly because it speaks to the very heart of this blog, the title, and my entire raison d’etre. It’s a daily email which I’ve linked to before and, 46 days since it started, has yet to be anything other than interesting, engaging, thought provoking, comforting and just all round wonderful. Do yourself a favour and subscribe (you can look through the archives there too).


  • Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee
    Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee is dedicated to finding the best coffees from around the world and bringing them to you at a great price. We love coffee and we know you do too. Coffee should be freely flowing to fill that BIG MUG of life with great memories.
    Hey, Gilmore Girls fans, it’s ACTUAL Luke!

  • A list of must-read books you don’t have to read
    The editors of GQ have compiled a list of 20 notable books that you don’t actually have to read, despite their inclusion on various must-read lists. For each one, they suggest a replacement. So: Don’t read: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien Do read: Earthsea Series by Ursula K.
    Love this idea. If only I didn’t have 20 not-so-notable unread books on my ‘to read’ shelf already (yes, it’s a physical shelf)

  • Do We Even Need Men?
    I’ve wondered the same thing myself sometimes…

  • Artificial Intelligence Writes Bad Poems Just Like An Angsty Teen
    Was that poem written by an angsty middle schooler or an artificially intelligent algorithm? Is it easy to tell? Yeah, it’s not easy for us, either. Or for poetry experts, for that matter.
    This is the reason I don’t write poetry. Or, is it the reason I’m still an angsty teen?

  • In the Place Where Prince Lived
    In Minneapolis, Prince was everywhere. He held impromptu, late-night shows at Paisley Park, his studio complex in Chanhassen, 20 miles away from the city, testing new songs on audiences that sometimes numbered only in the dozens.
    Gone but will never be forgotten.

  • Margaret Atwood
    A long time ago I was in Barcelona, visiting my Catalonian publishers. I learnt the answers to many questions during that stay – for instance, why does Dalí have so many pictures of folks with lobsters on their heads? (Think about it, but not too intently.)
    Wonderful interview, as sharp a mind as ever. *heart emoji* Margaret Atwood.

  • The Finkbeiner test for gender bias in science writing
    In a 2013 piece, Christie Aschwanden suggested a test in the spirit of the Bechdel test for avoiding gender bias in profiles written about scientists who are women.
    Hadn’t heard of this one but timely as the last ‘sci-fi’ I read was The Power.

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the great 20th-century philosophers. He also invented the emoji
    Eighty years ago, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a brainwave. No, not when he claimed he’d solved all great philosophical questions at just 29 years old (that was in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, completed in 1918 and published in 1921.
    And you kids emoji-ing everywhere thought this was a new thing! (did I verb that correctly?)

  • Requiem for Pianos: Dilapidated Instruments Photographed Among Ruins
    Once standing as symbols of prosperity within the luxurious interiors of grand European villas, these broken pianos have played their last tunes, now rotting among ruins.
    My aching heart. Beautifully brutal photos. Think of all the tunes those pianos have played, the people gathered around them… sad.

  • Why The U.S. Chills Its Eggs And Most Of The World Doesn’t
    Go in search of eggs in most foreign countries and you might encounter a strange scene: eggs on a shelf or out in the open air, nowhere near a refrigerator. Shock and confusion may ensue. What are they doing there? And are they safe to eat?
    Didn’t know this. I’m still keeping it on the list of ‘Why America is a bit weird’ though.

  • One Question for a More Joyful Day
    We were having dinner with our good friends Baxter and Lauren last night, and they mentioned that their daughter Margaux, age 4, has spontaneously started asking a new question at dinner.
    Worth trying? Hey I’ll try anything to get through the days at the moment!

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘This could be the beginning of a revolution’
    She’s on school reading lists and counts Hillary, Oprah and Beyoncé as fans. The author talks about motherhood, #MeToo – and causing controversy
    Smart takes from a quietly inspirational person.

  • The economics of artificial intelligence
    Rotman School of Management professor Ajay Agrawal explains how AI changes the cost of prediction and what this means for business.
    AI is here and it’s not going away. And anything that impacts ‘business’ will end up coming out of your pocket.

  • Michael Hayden: The End of Intelligence
    In 1994 during the height of the Bosnian civil war, when I was head of intelligence for American forces in Europe, I walked through the ruined streets of Sarajevo.
    Fascinating insight into a dark world. OR… a clever attempt to throw us ALL off the scent?

  • Ghostbusters’ Slimer was created in a cocaine frenzy
    We’ve all been there: You get jerked around by studio executives for months on end while you’re trying to create a plausible practical-effects model of a gelatinous green ghost, until finally you get an eight ball of cocaine, go to town on it, and are visited by the ghost of John Belushi to help.
    I might suggest this approach to my boss.. would make the weekly death-by-powerpoint meetings a lot more fun at least!

  • Marvel Is Already Planning MCU Films Through 2025
    The MCU has once again proven it has a choke hold on the box office, with “Avengers: Infinity War” breaking a ridiculous number of records and raking in a boatload of cash on its opening weekend.
    I’m feeling a bit Marvel jaded. And then I went to see Infinity War. OMG WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE!!

  • The Strange History of the “King-Pine”
    Recent pineapple decorating trends. “There is no nobler fruit in the universe,” Jean de Léry writes of the pineapple. Charles Lamb loved the fruit erotically: “Pleasure bordering on pain, from the fierceness and insanity of her relish, like a lovers’ kisses she biteth.”
    You a wonderful pineapple, dear reader, yes you are.

  • Zippers
    YKK or bust? Apparently not.

  • Rain of terror: Egypt to crack down on ‘fake’ weather reports
    Donald Trump may routinely rail against the “fake news media”, but Egypt is going one better by cracking down on “fake” weather reports.
    Come to Glasgow! We’ll show you ‘fake’ weather reports (is it fake if it’s consistently unpredictable?)

  • Please don’t use this study to justify your horrible habit of using two spaces after periods
    Is it better to have one or two spaces after a period? The first study investigating this hotly contested issue is here, and it supposedly gives the win to the two-spacers.
    I am only linking to this because I am gobsmacked people STILL THINK IT’S ACCEPTABLE IN 2018!!

  • Ezra Klein explains why men are “so shit at friendship”
    I’m still not great at this, but trying my best. But it’s hard work for ALL the reasons listed in this article.

  • Taboo Week: That Time I Learnt To Draw A Graph With My Vagina
    Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was diagnosed with vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, lichen sclerosus and a few other related things.
    A great series, and a fascinating article that taught me a few things I did not know about vaginas. Always learning.

  • Rodrigo Koxa breaks world record for the largest wave ever surfed after incredible run at Nazare beach
    Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa has officially broken the world record for the world’s biggest wave ever to have been surfed, with his incredible run at Nazare beach in Portugal being recognised as a Guinness World Record.
    That’s not a wave…. THIS is a wav… OHHHFUUUCC…..

  • 5 Houseplants You Can’t Kill
    Originally hailing from Southeast Asia, rubber plants’ sap was once an important ingredient in producing — you guessed it — rubber. Now known as a go-to indoor house plant, its large, deep green leaves make this plant pair perfectly with any of your wooden furniture.
    GAME ON! I do like a challenge.

  • The Robot Assault On Fukushima
    The night before the mission, Kenji Matsuzaki could not sleep.
    The robot may be doing the hard work but I’m glad that humans are still required to problem solve some of this stuff. Until the uprising of course….

  • Cocaine, boats, and backgammon: The insane life of Rocky Aoki, Benihana’s celebrity founder
    Branson, Musk, Trump, Hefner. All playboy entrepreneurs with an ego the size of Texas, an instinct to go big, and, of course, an obsession with cold, hard cash. But make no mistake, these men were no trail blazers.
    I had no idea. Interesting and repulsive all at the same time.

  • Taboo Week: Fat bodies, uneven skin, and the courage to disrupt
    The number of more positive articles on fat bodies is finally starting to increase, in the wake of the popularity of ‘plus size’ (ugh I hate that term) models like Ashley Graham, Audrey Ritchie and Tess Holliday.
    Another great article from this week of posts.

  • There Is Only One Thing IMHO Can Mean
    Those lovable scoundrels at BuzzFeed, as they are wont to do, have kicked up a new controversy about the breakdown of our shared reality in this time of dislocation and doubt. They have asked people to settle, via internet poll, what the correct meaning of IMHO is.
    I honestly don’t really care… he bragged.

  • Disconnect and take a break from your iPhone by using this little-known feature.
    Having device fatigue? Need a break from the screen? Right now, hidden in your settings, your iPhone has a feature that locks down your phone, making it unusable, while you get a much needed break.
    Clever. Might try this on ‘Switch Off Sundays’.

  • If You’re Going to Read Plays, Read Annie Baker’s
    VICE fiction editor Amie Barrodale recently told me to read The Vermont Plays by Annie Baker. I had never heard of Annie Baker, and at first I didn’t read it. Two weeks later, Amie brought up Annie Baker again. Had I read her? she asked. I hadn’t.
    This article features one of the best quotes about writing. If you want to write but have the fear, read it. I too am a stupid writer!!

  • Biology Will Be the Next Great Computing Platform
    In some ways, Synthego looks like any other Silicon Valley startup. Inside its beige business park facilities, a five-minute drive from Facebook HQ, rows of nondescript black server racks whir and blink and vent.
    Crispr. Learn that name.

  • Parenting the Fortnite Addict
    Every so often a game comes along that conquers the hearts, minds and thumbs of gamers everywhere. Fortnite: Battle Royale is the latest victor in this category.
    Not having kids, and not being a massive gamer, Fortnite has largely passed me by… but seems to be on the minds of a LOT of parents.

  • The Gambler Who Cracked the Horse-Racing Code
    On the evening of Nov. 6, 2001, all of Hong Kong was talking about the biggest jackpot the city had ever seen: at least HK$100 million (then about $13 million) for the winner of a single bet called the Triple Trio.
    $1billion. That’s all I’m saying.

  • ‘My whole life has been a lie’: Sweden admits meatballs are Turkish
    Turks have reacted with undisguised glee to what many have described as an official – and certainly long overdue – confession from Stockholm that Sweden’s signature national dish is, in fact, Turkish.
    Next they’ll tell me the product names IKEA use are just made up nonsense!!

  • How Janelle Monáe (and Black Panther) Travel Through Time and Space
    Black people have a complicated relationship with movement. Our history is a timeline of displacement and transport: Slave ships. Underground railroads. Eviction from gentrified neighborhoods.
    I was lucky enough to see Janelle Monáe live in Glasgow (at the Arches, RIP). Their rise to prominence is fascinating to behold.

  • The World’s Largest Brewers Have a New Weapon: Weak Beer
    To boost sales in Australia, a land where the ability to drink large quantities of ale can be a badge of honor, brewing giants Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Kirin Holdings Co. think they’ve found a new weapon: weaker beer.
    I’m not sure this is the BEST way to counter the ‘fear of being a drunk idiot on social media’…

Time for me

The house I grew up wasn’t far from a large roundabout, you could see it from where I sat at my desk in front of the bedroom window. I used to sit there in the evenings and watch the cars driving up and down the hill, round and round that roundabout.

Of course I wasn’t sitting there with the express purpose of watching cars; I was supposed to be there to do my homework or study for exams but I think it was an important time for me to properly learn the art of procrastination, and I would like to point out just how well that particular skill has served me over the years!

Evening after evening I’d sit there and pretty soon I could recognise a car from the shape of the headlights as they came down the hill towards me, or the rear light cluster as they disappeared from view.

Sierra, Granada, Golf, Escort, Astra, Fiesta, Corsa, Fiesta, Astra, Corsa, Civic, Peugeot 306…

It was a simple distraction yet it was so totally engrossing that I could lose a whole hour just sitting watching cars drive round and round the roundabout, a gentle way to relax whilst completely avoiding what I should’ve been doing and one of a few ways I’d spend my ‘me time’.

Due to the age gap between me and my sister, I spent a lot of my younger years as essentially an only child. I was 7 1/2 when she was born and that difference in our ages always meant we were at different schools, different stages of our lives as we grew up. As such, I was used to spending time on my own, lost in my imagination, creating my own worlds. It’s fair to say I was, and still can be, a bit of a daydreamer.

As I got older those moments moved from my own imagination to the imagination of others as I discovered the joy of books and the wonder of the silver screen. Pivotal moments in each revolve around the same story; the novel written by Arthur C. Clarke that was then adaptated for film by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I read the novel when I was 12 and it was a step up from anything I’d ever read before. I’d already started into Sc-fi with Nicholas Fisks Trillions, a book aimed at children, and descending into the hyper-described world that Arthur C. Clarke created was like walking through the door of the Tardis. It lead me to start exploring ‘older’ books and I was lucky that my father was a voracious reader so there were plenty of books to choose from. Next up was an author called Richard Bachman who also has had some of his stories adapt into movies (The Running Man the most prominent under that pseudonym, but you know him better as Stephen King…).

As for 2001 the movie, I can’t remember exactly when I first saw it but it feels like it was only a couple of years later. I used to watch old movies with my Mum, the old Hollywood Classics with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, the MGM musicals and the like. My Dad took me to the cinema to see E.T. when I was 9, a rare outing, and I have vague memories of being taken to see The Empire Strikes Back around the same time. Both movies are classics but are very mainstream, 2001 was an entirely other type of thing and my first glimpse into the real power of cinematography to present something beautiful, esoteric, and challenging.

In the intervening years, as more and more ways to distract myself became available – hello internet, hello social media, hello smartphone! – I managed to lose the ability to sit quietly by myself and just let time pass. The ability to be ‘always on’ and ‘always busy and productive’ meant I didn’t really notice this slow change of how I spend my time evolving; I guess it’s hard to notice the absence of something you weren’t really aware of in the first place, at least I certainly wasn’t aware of the value of such ‘me time’ activities.

In more recent years and as a direct result of all that decluttering and simplifying stuff I’ve been harping on about here for the last few months, I have more time available and that in turn has started me thinking about how I spend it, what values I attach to both the time/space and the activities I fill them with.

I was chatting to a friend the other day and she mentioned that she’d considered seeing if I was free last Sunday afternoon but she didn’t ask because “you are always busy”. I responded to that honestly and said that she was always welcome to ask but that sometimes I might say yes, or sometimes I might say no even if I’ve nothing really planned.

I didn’t really think about what I saying to her at the time, it just came tumbling out but I realised that I’ve started to be more protective of ‘me time’ as I now see how valuable and needed it is. This isn’t about not wanting to spend time with my friend, but about making sure that the next time we hang out I’ll be in a better, happier place (and hopefully a better friend because of it).

I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t feel like I was failing to meet her expectation of me. I didn’t feel bad for saying it. It was factual, honest and open, and was the right thing to say at that time.

I think a lot of us can give ourselves far too hard a time if we choose to be alone for a while, or turn down an invitation because you’ve already got a lot going on. I love socialising, I love going out, but I also know that sometimes I need to say no and just stay in and let my spoons* recharge.

Despite the gigs and events that litter my calendar, regardless of evenings spent catching up with friends, meals out, family visits and the like, I’m much more conscious to carve out time for me. It’s not always easy as it means saying no, and the flipside is that having TOO much time on my own isn’t all that great either. The real kicker is trying to figure out when I will need more or less of either, as that changes week to week (day to day at times!).

I’m also trying to use my ‘me time’ better, and I’ve been returning to those activities that I now see have additional benefits. Sure I could put on the TV and watch some mind numbingly dull soap whilst endlessly checking social media but I know that I’ll just get bored. More and more these days I’ll use that time to read a book, or watch a movie or documentary, and in the last few weeks it’s also meant time to re-learn how to play piano (which is going much better than I expected).

It’s not always been this way of course, looking back I know I have a tendency to put others first to my own detriment, and it’s taken me some time to get to where I am today, it

Telling someone in your life that ‘I need some me time’ is not selfish, not a bad thing, and definitely should be viewed (by all parties if possible) as a positive choice. As the cliche says ‘those that matter won’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter’**. I am very lucky to have friends and family that know and respect that decision. I don’t use it often because I am careful to keep a day or so here and there to myself anyway – the benefit of being old is that I know I have to do that now – and I never use ‘me time’ as an excuse NOT to go out and have fun with all my awesome friends and acquaintances (and those random strangers, except for that guy that said he might stab me…) no matter how tempting it can be after a long week.

Some days you need to push yourself – Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? – and some days you need to take care of yourself. Thankfully the taboo that is mental health is starting to shrink, it’s getting easier to be honest and most importantly unashamed when you are making decisions that are good for you and you alone.


* very aware I am abusing the notion of spoons being transferable but they kinda are for me, but only because I’m lucky enough to currently be living without any major mental or physical health issues or disabilities.

** Full quote is “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Bernard M. Baruch