Month: June 2018

Weekend Reading

  • Philosophy shrugged: ignoring Ayn Rand won’t make her go away
    Philosophers love to hate Ayn Rand. It’s trendy to scoff at any mention of her. One philosopher told me that: ‘No one needs to be exposed to that monster.’ Many propose that she’s not a philosopher at all and should not be taken seriously. The problem is that people are taking her seriously.
    Academic arguments aside, if it works for you, it can’t be all that bad. Can it?

  • Disposable America
    A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America.
    As we ban plastic ones, look at the staggering impact such a simple impact can have.

  • A new way to love: in praise of polyamory
    I have never enjoyed typical monogamy. It makes me think of dowries and possessive prairie voles who mate for life, and historically all monogamous relationship models have owned women in some way, with marriage there for financial purposes and the ownership of property.
    An old article that I missed at the time (mentioned on Guilty Feminist podcast episode I listened to last week)

  • Apple Is Figuring Out What’s Next
    Apple used this year’s WWDC to demonstrate a number of areas in which it is playing offense. This isn’t a company content with letting others control the user experience found with its devices. However, one of the major takeaways from the WWDC keynote was found with something not announced on stage.
    One thing Apple has done well recently, NOT reacting to the ‘latest thing’.

  • How Rorschach’s inkblots turned personality testing into an art.
    Just after April Fools’ Day in 1922, Hermann Rorschach, a psychologist who used a collection of symmetrical inkblots to treat patients with manic depression and schizophrenia, died of appendicitis in Herisau, Switzerland, at the age of 37.
    And definitely the best character in Watchmen

  • The Brexit Short: How Hedge Funds Used Private Polls to Make Millions
    Private polls—and a timely ‘concession’ from the face of Leave—allowed the funds to make millions off the pound’s collapse. After the dramatic intro, Boulton jumped straight in with a huge exclusive, declaring he had “breaking news.
    I don’t do much politics here but this is a doozy. Well done Brexiters, we’ve been played.

  • The Neuroscience of Pain
    On a foggy February morning in Oxford, England, I arrived at the John Radcliffe Hospital, a shiplike nineteen-seventies complex moored on a hill east of the city center, for the express purpose of being hurt.
    Pain isn’t always bad, but it’s always different.

  • Joe and the Whale
    The day Joe Howlett died dawned perfectly.
    You really should live your best life.

  • Why Women Don’t Code
    Ever since Google fired James Damore for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” those of us working in tech have been trying to figure out what we can and cannot say on the subject of diversity.
    There is a lot of change still required!

  • When It Comes to Sunscreen, the SPF Isn’t as Crucial as You Think
    Buying sunscreen can be a daunting process. What do all the numbers mean?
    Timely with record temperatures up here in Glasgow this past week.

  • The next time you think about doing a bit of working class tourism and dressing up in ‘poorface’, read this
    Every now and again, a minor celebrity or institution will announce that they are “challenging themselves” to “be poor for a day” in order to raise awareness of the plight of people living in poverty in the UK.
    The ever wonderful Jack. They know the reality of this.

  • Going Through The Emotions
    It’s the Instagram filter from hell. It’s the Snapchat face-swap of your worst nightmares. Cognitive distortions are the mental filters that we put on situations, experiences, ourselves and other people that make everything seem less than enjoyable.
    As I get older I seem to be getting angrier, at least my music choices are. Sleaford Mods then.

  • Where Is Barack Obama?
    Barack Obama was six months into his post–White House life when Donald Trump found a new way to grab his attention.
    Remember Obama? There is a reason he’s quiet.

  • The life of a stock photo model
    The Distracted Boyfriend meme, based on a stock photograph of a man looking on at another woman while his partner watches in disgust, has been a phenomenon. There’s now another backstory to the woman’s life.
    It just gets better as you scroll!! hahaha

  • The truth about gaming disorder, from Fortnite to World of Warcraft
    Gaming disorder may be a newly recognised condition, but disordered gaming is anything but new. In 2010, a Korean couple was arrested for fatal child neglect spurred by an obsession with Prius Online.
    Always wary of articles that state ‘the truth’ but yeah, this seems pretty on the nose.

  • Read This Article!!!
    How many exclamation points does it take to exclaim something? One, a human of sound mind and a decent grasp of punctuation might say. The exclamation point denotes exclamation. That is its point. One should suffice. But, on the internet, it often doesn’t. Not anymore.
    Guilty! As charged!!

  • Science Finds Exactly the Right Amount of Coffee You Should Drink a Day
    A team of German researchers, led by the molecular biologists Judith Haendeler and Joachim Altschmied, thinks it has discovered clues about how coffee works its caffeine-fueled magic on our heart health and how much caffeine we should drink each day to see the best benefits.
    Science is never wrong!!

  • The Dunning-Kruger Effect: we are all confident idiots
    In a lesson for TED-Ed, David Dunning explains the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias in which people with lesser abilities tend to rate themselves as more proficient than they are.
    And everyone, EVERYONE, suffers from it (also this is the second time I’ve heard this term in a week aka Baader-Meinhoff)

  • Scientists Have Identified 6 Types of Disgust
    You probably have a pretty good sense of what’s gross. Creepy crawlies, bodily fluids, and gas station egg salad all fit the bill.
    Excuse me while I barf in this bin.

  • Learn the “HALT” Method to Control Your Impulses
    Definitely need to give this a try, as both an emotionally compulsive shopper and eater!

  • Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test
    The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room.
    Science is never wrong… except when it is.

  • Tropical Forests Suffered 2nd-Worst Loss Of Trees On Record Last Year
    Last year marked another record year of loss for tropical forests. About 39 million acres of tree cover disappeared in 2017 – an area the size of Bangladesh – according to data released Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.
    This isn’t even ‘news’ these days. We are killing the planet and no-one cares.

  • Winners of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    The winning images have been selected from this year’s edition of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year competition, with the Grand Prize being awarded to Reiko Takahashi for her image of a humpback whale calf swimming near Japan’s Kumejima Island.
    Reasons to work harder to save our planet. Wow.

  • A baby was treated with a nap and a bottle of formula. His parents received an $18,000 bill.
    On the first morning of Jang Yeo-im’s vacation to San Francisco in 2016, her eight-month-old son Park Jeong-whan fell off the bed in the family’s hotel room and hit his head. There was no blood, but the baby was inconsolable.
    Yes, it’s a story about the US medical system. But that’s what we are headed for in the UK.

  • Neat Experiment Suggests Crows Are Even Better Tool-Makers Than We Thought
    New research shows that crows can recreate tools from memory, a capacity previously thought impossible for birds. Crows are super smart—we knew that already. In addition to understanding causality and analogies, they can remember human faces, plan ahead, and hide their food from others.
    OK, so now we have to mindful of robots AND crows. Yikes.

That was London

I have been and went to that London and it was good!

Mind you there was a small blip at first. I was primarily there to see the Foo Fighters perform at Wembley Stadium, so you can imagine my confusion when I realised, only a few days before heading down, that they were, in fact, performing at the Olympic Stadium. This rendered my ‘clever’ hotel location booking a bit redundant but that’s what I get for not checking the detail.

I’m calling this the ‘London effect’ as it’s not the first time I’ve gotten locations wrong …

A few years ago, I was down in London and on arriving at our hotel for the weekend I boldly marched up to the reception, stated my name and said I had a booking (does anyone else have that mild panic the minute you say that? what if you’ve screwed up?? Ahhh read on…). Blank looks ensued from behind the reception desk, my name was repeated back to me, and confirmed that yes, my name was McLean, but no, there is no booking with that name. I hurriedly retrieved my phone from the depths of a pocket to show that I did indeed have a booking, howverydareyou, and I was proven right! I did have a booking.. at one of the hotel chains other locations… Oops.

Oh well.

London is, as always, mind-boggingly big and awkward and messy and loud and diverse and a bit scary and wonderfully friendly, and continues to be all these things all at once. I love it. Even the touristy bits which I’ve seen plenty of have a certain appeal, and sure, maybe it didn’t matter where we were as the sun shone all weekend long, so sitting outside a pub in Shepherds Green was just the nicest way to spend a Thursday evening after getting the train down from Glasgow that afternoon.

Friday was Foo Fighters Day and we set out early to give us time to wander and enjoy the sunshine, walking from the hotel through the edge of Notting Hill, on towards Kensington Gardens then down into Hyde Park. It was all very lovely and very warm. From there we hopped on the Underground out to Stratford and located a small bar and sat there for a while before heading to the stadium.

Stadium gigs aren’t for everyone, but being part of 100,000 odd people dancing and singing and cheering to the same songs that you love is oddly uplifting and despite the volume of people I always come away from these things feeling more connected and positive via the joint experience, than in any way disconnected or de-personalised due to the sheer volume of people. It’s wonderful.

Also wonderful was bumping into the single other person who I knew was going, I mean what are the odds! (yeah yeah 100,000:1 I know).

The gig itself was every bit as rock n roll ridiculous as you might imagine, in the best possible way. I’m pretty sure the Foo Fighter amps all go to 11 and they are so unashamedly ‘hey we are doing a big rock stadium gig’ that it’s infectious… I mean an amazing 10 minute drum solo as the kit rises and rises up above the stage? C’MON!! They are virtually a parody of themselves but with enough of a knowing wink that it never feels false; this is not a band who take themselves seriously. They do, however, take their performances seriously and so, just over 2.30hrs later (and 15 mins beyond the curfew) we all bide our goodbyes and sang our way out of the stadium, the WHOAAAAA aaaaoooo chorus from Best of You on repeat.

Sidenote: Dave Grohl is a ridiculous man, as sweet as he is loud. Calling a good third of your audience assholes for not having attend a Foo Fighters gig before and GETTING AWAY WITH IT… can he do no wrong?

Needless to say Saturday rolled around in a bit of a haze – no YOU were drinking pints of Pimms – which is why we were lucky that we found a nice little bistro for brunch before setting off into the city to the hustle and bustle of Borough Market.

That afternoon I was lucky enough to catch up with some blogging friends for a few shandies. I think the last time I saw some of these lovely people was about six years ago (at yet another bloggers wedding), and in that lovely way that happens when you are in the company of ‘good people’, we all just picked up where we left off. Of course social media helps, but it was so lovely to spend time with them. Maybe an old skool bloggers meet up is overdue?

Another hazy start on Sunday (perhaps there were a few too many shandies?) and some time to myself found me wandering once more through the parks in the sunshine, pausing to meditate under a tree, then getting caught up in a massive Hari Krishna parade, before finding my way to the South Bank to spend the day with a lovely friend of mine.

We spent the day hiding from the crowds and the baking hot sunshine in the Hayward Gallery (the Lee Bul exhibition is well worth a look), and then exploring the new ‘wing’ of the Tate Modern which is vast and as always full of the usual mix of installations and art (the most impactful was a timelapse video from Suzanne Lacy – The Crystal Quilt).

The day was rounded off with more beer, even more great company (including a surprise visit which only added to the joy of the weekend), and the last underground train back to the hotel.

I must not leave it so long again. I spent most of the weekend with a smile on my face (for many different reasons) and as we travelled back to Glasgow, little memories kept floating into my head and I’d start smiling all over again. More blessings to be counted.

At one point during the weekend the topic of having a ‘tribe’ came up, and my weekend in London was a perfect example of this. When I first started blogging I had no sense of where it might lead. We were a small band, and on my first visit to London I tentatively suggested meeting up with some of them. It was a nervous wait but as more and more people turned up (15-20 of us) the more I relaxed I became because these were, in various little ways, all ‘my people’ in one form or another.

Fair to say that my weekend was full of highlights and wonderful new memories (even a hotel room that barely dipped below about 28C all weekend no matter what we tried had no impact on my mood). From the Foo Fighters, to friends, to lots of fun, I’m only really writing this post so that I don’t forget any of them.

And yes, I’m already making plans to go back again.

Weekend Reading

  • Can our phones solve our love lives?
    It would be most of our first choices to have relationships in the real world; but for many of us, it is a great deal more plausible to pursue them with, and via, our phones. Phones provide exemplary compensation for the frustrations of living with actual people.
    Solve? My phone IS my love life!

  • This Dr is demanding to be addressed by her title, and the men aren’t happy
    A woman on Twitter had the audacity to ask to be referred to by her earned title of Dr and, unsurprisingly, drew ire from a gaggle of angry men online.
    The end of angry men cannot happen quickly enough

  • Open Ocean: 10 Hours of Relaxing Oceanscapes
    Be wowed by the brilliant hues of our blue planet and the incredible animals that live therewith this 10 hour loop.
    So sooooothing. Bliss.

  • My Boyfriend, My Husband, and Me
    Married Women is a column that explores how women are redefining the rules of matrimony. Rob and I were together for 12 years before we decided to open our marriage. It happened not that long after we had our last child.
    Relationship structures are changing, slowly, surely. Evolving.

  • Europe’s GDPR Is Killing Email Marketing, to the Disappointment of No One
    For the past month or so, inboxes the world over have been awash with emails about updated privacy policies and new permissions required by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You probably haven’t been reading those emails, and that’s bad news for email marketers.
    It’s been great, really has helped tidy up my email inbox

  • I Tried to Fast it Away
    Friday, June 15 marks the last day of Ramadan this year, a sacred month for Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, once a crescent moon has been detected.
    Interesting article on faith and modern day Muslims.

  • The Science Behind Incredible Bubbles Explained by Pro Bubbler Melody Yang
    With a lifetime of bubble experience under her belt, Melody Yang of the Gazillion Bubbles Show shows the method behind the madness. Much of the formula and nuances of technique are, unsurprisingly, proprietary.
    WOW. Amazing bubbles!

  • ‘Shocking’ level of sexual harassment at music festivals
    Nearly half of female festival goers (43%) under 40 say they have faced unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival, new research suggests. Overall, 22% of all festival goers have faced assault or harassment.
    Sadly not surprising.

  • Russia Wants to Vaporize Space Junk With a Laser. There Is No Way This Will Go Wrong.
    Russian scientists are developing a gigantic space laser. Sounds like the villainous plot of a James Bond film – but it’s not.
    I thought we had all agreed not to weaponise space?

  • The US May Soon Have The World’s First Space Force
    President Trump announced today that he is ordering the creation of a sixth branch of the military: the Space Force. “That’s a big statement,” he added. How do you know something is a big deal? When the speaker tells you it is.
    I thought we had all agreed not to weaponise space? (Revisited)

  • Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation
    In my Future of Workflow article from last year (published soon after the news of Apple’s acquisition), I outlined some of the probable outcomes for the app.
    Could be a BIG step forward (this post is powered by Workflow)

  • The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You
    Before dying at the age of 39, Blaise Pascal made huge contributions to both physics and mathematics, notably in fluids, geometry, and probability. This work, however, would influence more than just the realm of the natural sciences.
    I’ll use my favourite word for this kind of thing, balance. It’s all about balance.

  • When did all my friends get too busy to see me?

    Truth.

  • Scientists believe we could cure the common cold in the next 10 years
    Some people get barely any symptoms and recover rapidly. Others end up confined to bed, surrounded by used tissues. For those with compromised immune systems or respiratory conditions, it can even be life-threatening.
    Moonshot! This would be a great step forward.

  • Man 1, machine 1: landmark debate between AI and humans ends in draw
    It was man 1, machine 1 in the first live, public debate between an artificial intelligence system developed by IBM and two human debaters.
    Hmmmm not convinced.

  • Stop talking about Godwin’s Law: real Nazis are back
    Comparison of modern times with the 1930s used to be a joke. It’s not funny any more. We have to call them out; we must not look away.
    As another comment says, Trump is already a few steps down the same road the Nazis took. He is Hitler.

  • Elon Musk emails employees about ‘extensive and damaging sabotage’ by employee
    Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to all employees on Monday morning about a factory fire, and seemed to reference possible sabotage. Now, CNBC has learned that Musk also sent an e-mail to all employees at Tesla late on Sunday night alleging that he has discovered a saboteur in the company’s ranks.
    Rocky times for Tesla.

  • Biohacker Who Implanted Transit Chip in Hand Evades Fine
    Australian biohacker Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow has made himself into a real-life cyborg. In April 2017, Meow-Meow implanted a chip in his hand.
    My name is so so boring now.

  • Marcus Aurelius on Mortality and the Key to Living Fully
    “Death is our friend,” Rilke wrote in an exquisite 1923 letter, “precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.
    You only have one life, live it.

  • The Future of TV
    When I was nine, I loved watching Thundarr the Barbarian. To see the cartoon, though, I had to wait until Saturday mornings, then endure several more hours until the appointed broadcast time.
    I do wonder what the world will look like to my 2yr old niece. TV is not just on the TV.

  • Feminize Your Canon: Olivia Manning
    Our new monthly column, Feminize Your Canon, explores the lives of underrated and underread female authors. The British novelist Olivia Manning spent her dogged, embittered career longing, largely in vain, for literary glory and a secure place in the English canon.
    One to follow, and learn from.

  • Want to Change Society’s Views? Here’s How Many People You’ll Need on Your Side
    How many social activists does it take to change the world? No, this isn’t the setup for some lame joke. It’s a question no one really knew the answer to. Until now.
    This is why the small noisy minority make such an impact.

  • On Being an Arsehole: A defense
    The trouble for philosophers is that they find disagreement to be one of life’s higher pleasures.
    FUCK YEAH

  • What Ever Happened to All the Moon Trees
    Only nine months after the near-disaster of Apollo 13, NASA decided to try again with Apollo 14. For the mission, three astronauts were chosen – Edgar Mitchell, Alan Shepard, and Stuart A. Roosa.
    I did not know about Moon Trees. How did NO-ONE keep track of them?

  • World Airports Voronoi
    Each region is closer to a particular airport than any other. This partitioning of the sphere is called a spherical Voronoi diagram. The point at … is furthest away from any airport in the above dataset; … from the nearest three airports.
    Because I’m a geek and diagrams are cool. Shut up.

  • The best employees are not the agreeable ones, according to Adam Grant
    Cheerful and helpful workers are beloved by their bosses, and just about everyone else, really. Enthusiastic optimists make for great colleagues, rarely cause problems, and can always be counted on.
    It me.

  • Learning to be happy with the imperfect
    A couple of years ago I received some counselling and I got insight into some of my behaviours that were leaving me feeling ‘not happy’ with myself. Essentially, I am a classic ‘perfectionist’ who is always looking ahead, who never focuses on the present, and who never acknowledges any achievements.
    It (literally) me.

Clap your hands

I walked home from work the other day. It takes about an hour at a reasonable pace, but that day I was in no rush at all. The sun was darting in and out between fluffy clouds and there was a gentle breeze in the air. There were flowers everywhere, vibrant green hues in the branches overhead, and the recent rains had swollen the river enough to give it a pleasing burble as it meandered its way downstream.

There is something very soothing about walking with no real purpose, letting your body find its own pace, feeling the connection your foot makes with the ground and how your body reacts to that. A simple way to stay, literally, grounded and able to take in the world around you in all its beautiful detail, a simple way to feel alive as your skin reacts to the wind brushing past and the warmth of the sun on your face.

I’ll typically listen to a podcast as I walk, sometimes losing myself in the conversations (and it’s always conversations that fascinate me the most). Sometimes I’ll laugh out loud, sometimes I’ll realise I’m on the verge of crying at as a tear rolls down my cheek, sometimes I’ll be so lost in thought that I don’t even realise I’ve stopped listening to the podcast as my brain has veered off on a tangent.

It’s such a simple pleasure afforded to me thanks to some fabulous weather recently and one I should take more often. It’s time that is completely free of pressure or expectation – one benefit of being single and living alone as there isn’t anyone waiting for me – and I can let my brain relax and let the stresses of the day slowly fade to nothing. No matter how hard I try, I can’t achieve this feeling sitting at home. There are too many reminders of chores that need done, tasks that need completed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve walked home, and the walks have become meditative in quality. Sometimes they can be melancholy (which is no bad thing), sometimes they can be energetic and uplifting, and most times they leave me with a sense of calm, a happiness that descends and highlights how lucky I am and how good my life is.

It’s not something I write about all that often, after all no-one likes the humble brag but I think it’s important to find a balance so if you’ll forgive me, let me count my blessings.

1. A loving family

We’ve been through wonderful highs and soul destroying lows together and I realise more and more just how lucky I am to have a family who love me, who support me, and who put up with me! My parents brought me up to be a considerate person, a curious person, and without them I would not be the person I am today. Equally, my little sister continues to inspire me to be kinder and better, and I could not be happier or prouder seeing her become a Mummy.

2. Close/old friends

There aren’t that many of them but what my closest group of friends lack in number they more than make up for in every other way. If I’m ever a bit flat, or ever too full of myself, these are the folk to keep me grounded and balanced. We pick up where we left off, old jokes are mercilessly recycled year on year. These are the people who’d help me hide a dead body.

3. Friends and acquaintances

The biggest group by far, and I’ve already written about how many of them are connected. From the bloggers to the gym goers, the Yelpers and the ex-colleagues I try and keep in touch with as many of them as I can. It’s not always easy, and definitely not something I’m good at but they are all good people so it’s never a chore.

4. Other life stuff

I have a job. I have a roof over my head and food in my cupboards. It’s easy to take that for granted, just as it’s easy to take my (mostly) good health as just the way things are. I’ve worked on both my mental and physical health a lot these past couple of years, and will continue to do so, and that is a blessing in and of itself as well.

Of course there is much more to all of this.

The bottom line here, one that I don’t state all that often, is that I am happy. I have a good life, even on the crappiest of crap days, all of the above hold true. There is always a new day on the horizon. I am happy, and for once I really wanted to show it.

Weekend Reading

  • Why are (some) Star Wars fans so toxic?
    With at least one new film every year, you’d think it would be easy being a Star Wars fan in 2018, but it isn’t. That’s not because JJ Abrams killed off Han Solo in Episode VII, or The Last Jedi snuffed out Luke Skywalker.
    I love Star Wars. It’s my childhood universe. How can it bring so much hate?

  • Ersatz Free Trials
    On Monday Apple announced that they are officially supporting so-called “free trials” for non-subscription apps. The reaction has been a breathless celebration that Apple has finally relented and given developers something we’ve been asking, no begging, for since the dawn of the App Store.
    Apple are relentless at maintaining their cashflow. This shouldn’t be a surprise.

  • Meet the people who still use Myspace: ‘It’s given me so much joy’
    Almost every day, Kenneth Scalir takes a trip to the library or a cafe near his home in Sherman Oaks, California, to spend about an hour on his favourite site: Myspace.
    I missed Myspace completely. I already had my own website so didn’t see the point. Glad it’s still going.

  • Zaha Hadid’s only house finally completes in Russian forest
    New photographs and a movie reveal Zaha Hadid’s only completed private residence – a house in the Barvikha Forest near Moscow, for a man she called the “Russian James Bond”.
    Such a towering talent.

  • The Four Rules for a Good Book Club
    The first rule of book club is: you have to read the book. It’s one, I’m happy to report, the ladies of the film Book Club are willing to follow.
    The book club I attend is withering and dying (I think). Maybe time for a new one, with rules!

  • Don’€™t Eat Before Reading This
    Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals.
    A true voice is gone. Here’s where it (mostly) started. RIP A. Bourdain.

  • Seduce Me! The Untainted Sweet Sounds of Accent-Riddled Podcasts
    “BBC English” was once a byword for the poshest British accent, the one that featured all the old vowel gliding (hee-eh for hair), along with the bits and bobs that many of us forget when trying to simulate classy British. Like the intrusive R.
    Some great podcasts. However the smoothest voiced one I’ve found remains 99% Invisible.

  • This Is What It’s Like To Not Own A Smartphone In 2018
    Four years ago, I wrote about having no regrets for being a “dumb phone” user. At the time I was an anomaly: 58% of Americans, according to Pew researchers, owned a smartphone; that figure was around 80% for people in my age demographic. Now, I’m a clear oddity: 77% of U.S.
    Interesting, the further into the margins some people are pushed, the more they embrace them. For better, or worse?

  • Sturgeon announces Immediate pay rise for NHS staff
    Scotland’s First Minister has announced that all NHS staff earning under £80,000 a year will receive an immediate pay rise of 3%. Nicola Sturgeon also hit out at the “hostile environment” caused by the UK government’s immigration policy and called for relevant powers to be devolved to Scotland.
    No, it’s not enough. Yes, it’s well overdue. But it’s done and I see this as a good thing.

  • The Belt That Listens to Your Bowels
    In 2005, Barry Marshall, an Australian gastroenterologist and researcher, shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery that peptic ulcers are caused not by stress, as was commonly thought, but by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori.
    [insert favourite Dad joke about farting]

  • A Love Letter to Butch People (That Is Accidentally About My Dad)
    I’ll start with a bad joke: what’s the difference between my father visiting my house and a butch person visiting? My father says he’ll take out my trash and fix my leaky sink; the butch does it without saying anything.
    This is why I read so many articles. I find ones like this that help me learn.

  • Minimalism. It’s About More Than Clutter.
    Embarking on a decluttering and minimizing endeavor can be difficult. In fact, it can be downright scary at times. This is because minimalism isn’t just about your stuff—it’s also about your why.
    I need to do another round of decluttering. I’ve been in my flat a year and WHERE DID ALL THIS STUFF COME FROM!

  • Giving Myself A Dress Code Changed My Dang Life
    There are a lot of aspects of my day that I dislike. My commute sucks. I hate having to figure out what to have for lunch. I’m not a huge fan of doing chores.
    As a 44yr old man who is happiest in a t-shirt, should I be mixing it up?

  • Americans are reading poetry again because of Instagram
    Poems, it seems, are just another form of shareable content. For the first time in more than 20 years, poetry reading is growing in the US, according to new survey data released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
    Art will find a way.

  • Next year, people will spend more time online than they will watching TV. That’s a first.
    It’s finally happening: Next year, people around the world will spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to new data from measurement company Zenith. In 2019, people are expected to spend an average of 170.
    But how much of that online time is spent watching TV online?

  • A trans woman shares her love letter to the NHS
    You may be aware that before moving back to the UK in December I’d spent the last few years living in America, during which time I came out as a transgender woman and commenced hormone replacement therapy in the USA’s barbaric and expensive ‘healthcare’ system.
    A tiny beacon of happy joy. Ohhh yes, dear reader, I cried.

  • Inside the Binge Factory
    “What do you think about gas in the tank for the long term?” asks Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice-president of original content.
    Takeaway, they both know exactly what they are doing, and make decisions based on whim.

  • The Ascension of Cauliflower
    Food companies are capitalizing on the low-carb, gluten-free trend by using vegetables like cauliflower to replace flour, rice and other simple carbs.
    All hail the … ohhh ffs, whatever food is the next big thing I guess (I thought it was peas?)

  • Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children
    The TV legend possessed an extraordinary understanding of how kids make sense of language. For the millions of adults who grew up watching him on public television, Fred Rogers represents the most important human values: respect, compassion, kindness, integrity, humility.
    Replace ‘Children’ in the title with ‘fellow human beings’ and we might have a better planet.

  • WIRED’s pick of the best podcasts for curious minds
    Podcasts are more popular than ever. Thanks to 2014’s podcasting hit Serial everyone who owns a mixing desk and a microphone has started to create their own. Sometimes the choice of what to listen to can be overwhelming.
    I’m walking a lot, which means more podcasts. Some belters in here.

  • Ten tips to help you communicate with a person with sight loss
    It’s packed full of information about the latest news, views and developments in the eye health and sight loss sectors.
    Always learning.

  • The Jankó keyboard, an 1882 replacement for the traditional piano layout
    The Jankó keyboard is a musical keyboard layout for a piano designed by Paul von Jankó in 1882.
    I’m relearning/refinding my piano skills. No, not on one of these.

  • Gossiping Is Good
    Word on the street is that gossip is the worst. An Ann Landers advice column once characterized it as “the faceless demon that breaks hearts and ruins careers.
    I am rubbish at gossip. The whole X is with Y, or A cheating on B, stuff. Always passes me by.

  • When does hungry become hangry?
    Have you ever been grumpy, only to realize that you’re hungry? Many people feel more irritable, annoyed, or negative when hungry – an experience colloquially called being “hangry.”
    WHEN I’VE NOT HAD MY BREAKFAST YET!! Ahem…

  • Apple killed fun
    There was a time when visiting Apple’s website, or one of its stores, was an explosion of color. I recently came across this random page from 2008:
    So true. Can you imagine a range of laptops in the old iPad Nano colours?

  • The new rainbow flag is a design disaster—but a triumph for LGBTQ inclusiveness
    Is literalism killing our symbols? In the quest to appease LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) seeking representation, Portland-based designer Daniel Quasar has proposed an update to the iconic rainbow flag.
    Perhaps time for a brand new flag? (Ha, can you imagine the uproar!)

  • Today’s Masculinity Is Stifling
    As boys grow up, the process of becoming men encourages them to shed the sort of intimate connections and emotional intelligence that add meaning to life. In hindsight, our son was gearing up to wear a dress to school for quite some time.
    Growing up, I can’t even imagine how we (myself included) would’ve treated a boy if he turned up at school in a dress. Progress is slow.

  • The Lifespan of a Lie
    The most famous psychology study of all time was a sham. Why can’t we escape the Stanford Prison Experiment?
    A flawed experiment that is easily understood and processed, but that we know is wrong? Could apply to many things right now.

  • Slip Coaches: Back When British Express Trains Detached Passenger Cars at Speed
    According to British railway lore, the “slip coach” was born when a rail official was riding in a train car that came an unexpected stop. The rest of the express train kept going while his carriage glided to a gentle halt in front of a midway station.
    WTF, how did I not know this was a thing?!

  • ‘The Good Place’ Creator Mike Schur on Season 2’s Debate-Spawning Finale
    No comedy on television churns through more story ideas, in more surprising ways, than NBC’s The Good Place.
    SPOILERS! Wonderful wonderful spoilers. CANNOT WAIT for it to return.

  • The Church of Interruption
    Sometimes I am startled to realize, in the middle of a discussion, that I have offended or hurt some of the people I’m talking with. First, know and accept this: I have a friend who is a wizard. He is an ancient and wise wizard, and we have tea together.
    Ever had someone interrupt you (people who identify as female, I know you have!)?

  • The Shining Overlook Hotel rug: Hicks’ Hexagon officially licensed (240x170cm)
    The most iconic carpet in film is now available as officially licensed luxury rugs and carpet runners for your own home. About the designer: David Hick’s fusion of pattern, colour, antique and contemporary has influenced many designers of both home and fashion.
    WOW YES! I’ll definitely buy one of hold the front page how frickin much?

  • The Art of Enjoying The Burn
    After inspecting my ankle, the doctor told me to strengthen it by doing a hundred calf raises a day. I try to do them whenever a few minutes present themselves: when soup is heating, coffee is brewing, or something is downloading. After a few dozen reps, the calves really start to burn.
    And the more you go, the harder you work to achieve it. I feel this (literally, was at the gym last night!)

  • It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care
    As a purely descriptive matter, it’s surely true: We are all going numb. As Donald Trump makes war with Canada and peace with dictators and human rights abusers, the narrative is that everyone’s lost all feeling.
    I don’t post about Trump on here deliberately, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of what he’s doing and the horrible, disgusting acts being carried out in his name.

  • The most important study of the Mediterranean diet has been retracted
    In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet.
    SUCK IT OLIVES!! Sorry about that, I just really don’t like olives.

Derren Brown

I’m writing this a few days after the event, just in case there were any lingering effects. I fear my mind may never quite recover…

Note: NO SPOILERS INCLUDED.

I’ve seen most, if not all, of Derren Brown’s TV shows. From the one off specials to the early series that were broadcast in a late evening slot on Ch4. He is not without controversy and I’ll happily admit to, still, remaining sceptical about how he does what he does; is it magic, is it manipulation, are there stooges involved, is it all fake?

Or perhaps it’s a little bit of everything? He is first and foremost as he readily admits, a showman, he is trying to entertain using methods and tricks that can be learned. A lot of the show is based on suggestion, on convincing an audience, or a few members of it, to go along with something even though they aren’t really sure why.

It helps that he is engaging, smart and quick-witted – helpful when something goes wrong, which it did… or may have?… the night we saw him (I have yet to discuss this with friends who were there the following evening!) – and the careful layering of ideas, coupled with alleged explanations of what he is doing, even down to the vaudeville style stage tricks (with a gorilla) all make his show a very entertaining evening.

Mind you I’m not convinced that any of the explanations offered were completely true, nor am I convinced about that ‘mistake’. A fumbled word here, a mis-step there, is it all part of the show, all designed to keep us a little unsure and off-balance?

Ultimately, whilst I have some understanding of how he does what he does (I guessed two things correctly) it’s still a very impressive mix of techniques and skills that delivers some mind-bending results. One word continually sprang to mind as I sat there in disbelief; HOW?

If you’ve watched any of his TV shows you’ll have seen some of the acts he performed before – this is a greatest hits kinda tour – and whilst each segment of the show stands on its own, the very final reveal confirms it’s been carefully planned all along and that you have been manipulated from the minute you walked in and sat down.

Ohhh and what a final reveal, it’s a double whammy that builds on one ‘impossible’ finale to before delivery a second that beggars belief, and I definitely wasn’t the only one, you could feel the slow build of realisation ripples through the audience… is that… did he… but he said… accompanied by gasps, faces held in hands, mouths agape… (OK, that was mostly just me).

What a wonderful evening of mind boggling entertainment. Part of the fun in seeing him perform live was seeing if I could spot anything, anything you couldn’t catch on TV. I think for the hour and a half I caught maybe two or three little moments, but even now I’m not sure if they mean, or meant, anything at all.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to lie down in a dark room for a few days.

Podcast: No Such Thing As A Fish

Probably the most popular podcast I listen to, so likely won’t be news to many of you, but without fail No Such Thing As A Fish has managed to educate and humour me with every single episode. Some are funnier than others, some are definitely more quite interesting* than others, but regardless it’s never not a wonderfully silly listen.

The people behind it were/are all researchers involved with QI (*hence the rather horrible wording) and each week each of the four panellists (aka QI elves) bring one fact that they discovered in the past week, along with some background research of other interesting and related tidbits. It sounds dull, but the four main members of the team are engaging, witty, knowledgeable and funny, and keep the entire 30-40 mins light, fast paced and mostly hilarious.

It may be a little on the geeky side, but it’s the only podcast that makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis.

Note: there is some swearing and depending on the topic, it can be quite rude, but that’s half the fun!

You can access episodes only here to give them a whirl.

Or, you can subscribe to future episodes using this RSS Link.

Weekend Reading

  • 10 Strikes and You’re Out – the iOS Feature You’re Probably Not Using But Should
    For many years now, iOS has offered an option in the Passcode section of the Settings all: “Erase all data on this iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts.
    tldr; the timeout between attempts increases, would take 4 hrs to get through all 10.

  • Wearing glasses may really mean you’re smarter, major study finds
    If you wear glasses I’ve got some good news: you may well be smarter than the average person. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications has found that needing to wear glasses is associated with higher levels of intelligence. But you probably knew that already.
    Does having glasses but not wearing them as often as you should, count? (does asking that question rule me out?)

  • Have donut holes gotten smaller? This compelling vintage chart says yes.
    Today is National Doughnut Day, a day with a surprisingly long history — but there’s more to doughnut day than pastry celebration alone.
    Any mention of timbits and you get a slap…

  • What Starbucks anti-bias training day was like, according to employees
    “To be welcomed as a customer means that not only do I allow you in, but it means that I’m glad you’re here, I want to serve you, I want your business. And I don’t draw distinctions between you and other customers in terms of your value.”
    Good and bad sides. Surely the fact it was even needed speaks volumes?

  • Is It Really That Bad to Let Your Dog Sleep in Bed …
    We get it. It’s hard to beat snuggling up in bed with Buster, your big, fluffy, cuddly collie. But you can’t help but wonder: Is canoodling with your pup at nighttime sabotaging your sleep? It’s hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes when they’re begging you to let you share the bed.
    Sharing for a friend (‘at’ a friend?)

  • The Midlife Unraveling
    In my late thirties, my intuition had tried to warn me about the possibility of a midlife struggle. I experienced internal rumblings about the meaning and purpose of my life.
    I am complete in my unravel. Time to start re-ravelling.

  • The miller’s tale: poverty, obesity and the 45p loaf
    Cinnamon Square craft bakery, in a historic building in Rickmansworth, near Watford, has been full of children on their half-term break learning the ancient art of proving and kneading dough.
    The fact that this isn’t surprising or even shocking is very telling.

  • Getting to Know the ‘Power Gut’
    Sometimes, you look at a guy in the gym and think: Huh, he’s got a bit of a gut — bet he doesn’t work out very hard. Then, said guy proceeds to lift a 1978 Volkswagen bus over his head with one arm while still doing lateral lunges. Congratulations, you’ve just met: The Power Gut.
    YASSSSS!! It me!! (not really but I’m so using this as an excuse).

  • 21 Vending Machines From Around The World That Are Already Living In 3018

    AND WHY ARE NONE OF THESE IN GLASGOW!!

  • This baby’s first word was ‘Alexa’
    Mama, dada . . . Alexa? It’s not a classic “baby’s first word,” but it was 1-year-old Joe Brady’s pick.
    OK. Baby repeats sound. Why is this a story? It’s what babies do!

  • Neville Southall: ‘I’ve got a bit of flak because I stick up for sex workers’
    The former Wales and Everton goalkeeper discusses LGBT issues, Theresa May, skeletons, the agony of Loris Karius and why he really dislikes Piers Morgan.
    Southall for PM?

  • Own Goal: The Inside Story of How the USMNT Missed the 2018 World Cup
    Hadn’t even realised they weren’t gonna be there.

  • 17 F*cks You Should Finally Stop Giving When You’re A Grown And Mature Person
    We arrive in this world completely clueless, expecting life to be this pinky, Utopian place where justice is always served, milk flows instead of rivers, and people are actually nice to each other. And, if you ask me, that is a place I truly wish to be in.
    Huzzah! More things to not give a fuck about. Sorry… ‘a f*ck about’.

  • How Chris Froome won Giro d’Italia thanks to ‘spectacular’ stage 19 victory
    It was one of the most dramatic days of sport in recent memory: Chris Froome, after three weeks of injury, uncertain form and struggle, staged a spectacular 80km solo break on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia to overturn a three-minute deficit and snatch an overall lead that he would never relinquish.
    The more I read this, and other fact checkable articles, the more I’m convinced they aren’t doping, just a level above everyone else.

  • The US Army’s new algorithm tells you how much caffeine will hit your body’s peak performance
    The Army wants you….awake. Since at least WWII, US military scientists have been tinkering with the human brain to keep pilots, soldiers and staff alert despite lack of sleep. Their enemies have as well: The Nazis infamously plied their ranks with methamphetamines (also known as speed).
    If it isn’t 4 cups don’t even tell me.

  • San Francisco Voters Uphold Ban on Flavored Vaping Products
    The measure is considered the strictest in the nation. Voters backed it despite an expensive advertising campaign funded by a major tobacco company.
    GOOD! Feels like vaping is more popular than smoking these days. Still as inconsiderate, no matter what ‘flavour’ of smoke you belch out into my face.

  • In Praise of Extreme Moderation
    Why does it seem like you can’t throw a paper airplane in some offices without hitting a person who is training for a marathon, planning a 10-day silent meditation retreat, or intending on scaling Kilimanjaro? On top of working 24/7 for a company that doesn’t pay overtime?
    Yes to this. It features a word I’ve used on this blog before many times, “balance”.

  • Impatient former Hong Kong librarian arrested after stealing customers’ personal data to borrow books faster
    A bibliophile who used to work as a librarian in a public library has been arrested for using the personal information of about 130 customers without their permission so that she could quickly borrow their loaned books.
    And I thought having 18 unread books was bad!

  • A New Tech Manifesto
    Six demands, from a citizen to Big Tech.
    Sensible, people focussed, easy to implement. Yes to these.

  • Standing On A Little Ball of Dirt
    “You’re just standing on one little ball of dirt and spinning around one of the stars. From that perspective, do you really care what people think about your clothes or your car?” ― Michael A. Singer
    When a quote lands, a quote lands.

  • Norman, the world’s first psychopath AI
    A research team at MIT’s Media Lab have built what they call the “world’s first psychopath AI”. Meet Norman…it provides creepy captions for Rorschach inkblots. A psychopathic AI is freaky enough, but the kicker is that they used Reddit as the dataset.
    Reddit users eh. Look at the surprise on my face.

  • Emotional eating, binge eating and friends – some definitions
    Howdy comrades! I’ll be writing monthly updates here about how I’m getting on with my binge eating recovery shenanigans since I got home from Green Mountain, as well as sharing some resources that I’ve found helpful.
    I’m definitely somewhere on this scale on any given day.

  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Electric Scooters
    I wanted to hate the scooters. I really did. Before going to the Los Angeles region last week for work, I had heard about the area’s invasion by dockless, rent-by-the-minute electric scooters.
    A lot of my posts feature stories from the USA. Why? Because electric scooters will be over here soon enough.

  • LEGO and Augmented Reality
    There’s no doubt in my mind that augmented reality is going to be amazing and that people will build incredible new experiences with Apple’s ARKit, version 2 of which was announced earlier this week at the company’s annual World Wide Developers Conference.
    I had almost these exact thoughts! Ohhh that’s cool but… Also, the proliferation of kits isn’t helping.

  • “The Directors Series” Presents Free Immersive Studies of Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson & Christopher Nolan
    Humorist and movie critic Joe Queenan once stood outside a theater after a screening of Jurassic Park and asked each exiting viewer if they knew who directed the film they’d just seen. Only five out of the ten who talked to him, he reported, could name Steven Spielberg.
    Be still my aching movie geek. There goes a weekend!

  • Colin Moncrieff – my experience of being a Clowndoctor at Robin House Hospice
    Dr Cous Cous (Colin Moncrieff) regularly visits Robin House – one of the CHAS hospices in Scotland. Here he tells us about his experience of being a Clowndoctor and the rewards he gets from visiting the children at Robin House.
    I’m presuming this all happens before any of the kids have read/seen ‘IT’.

  • Is the Age-Old Quest for a Baldness Cure Reaching Its End?
    A few years ago, Dr. David Weinstein started to lose his hair. “I really was pissed off,” he explained to me recently, in the tidy, tiny conference room of a co-working space in Manhattan.
    Meanwhile, I’m pondering completely shaving my head… embrace the baldness.

My Ever Shrinking World

Say yes more than no (it can lead to amazing things).

Whilst not quite a mantra, this is definitely something I’ve been trying to be better at in an effort to be more spontaneous and social. Sometimes it can be a battle to get out of the door at all, but I find if I have plans with other people I’m more likely to make the effort to get my lazy arse up off the sofa as I don’t like letting people down (which I realise is heading into the ‘I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED, LOVE ME!!!!’ territory but that, as ever, is for an entirely other post or, you know, the entire subtext of this blog. Whatever.)

Here’s the thing. I’m a middle-aged man, fighting off looming old age as best I can using a variety of methods; I try and be good to my body by feeding it well and moving it often, I try and be good (better at least) to my brain by letting it pause now and then, I try and keep my soul active and connected to the wider world by reading and listening and learning from people who are smarter than me but still speak my language in terms of sensibilities and world views, and I take note of opposing views and artefacts as best I can.

And lastly, as some of you may have noticed, I can be quite the little social butterfly(*). That said, sometimes I say yes a little too readily (PLEASE LIKE ME AND LET ME BE YOUR FRIEND!) and sometimes I’ve said yes then changed my mind later to make sure I’m not overdoing things… what a funny thing our minds can be; BE BUSY! OK I will! WHOA, not THAT busy, now go lie down in a dark room!!

I recently had occasion to say yes, I swithered but that little voice in my head perked up and delivered it’s usual reasoned thinking; Say yes but have a plan to cut things short if you need to. This is not a new thing, and it’s part and parcel of being me, sometimes I just timeout and have to leave. I’m never sure why or when it’ll hit but I tend to plan for it.

I digress. I said yes when a friend invited me out for drinks. Big whoop, right?

It was a Sunday (before the last bank holiday) and I swithered a bit but ultimately decided to push myself to get up off of the sofa and I’m so glad I did! If I hadn’t have said yes to the offer of going for a few beers with a couple of people from the gym, then I wouldn’t have ended up goinging for a curry with them that evening, during which we agreed to go walking up a hill the following day in the same company, plus two adorable staffies.

All in all it was a lovely, random, unplanned couple of days and in one of those little quirks of life, it turns out that one of said lovely couple grew up in my hometown of Dumbarton. I only found this fact out the following weekend as they invited me for a barbeque just because it was sunny (did I mention that they are lovely?). Anyway, it was fun to have someone from my old school to chat to about things from back in the day, even though there is a few years between us (I’d left secondary school a couple of years before she entered). Given I have virtually no contact of note (Facebook doesn’t count) with people I went to school with and haven’t ever really had the need or desire to think back to my school days, it was a bit surreal to actually be chatting about some of the teachers and classrooms of my youth.

From saying a simple ‘yes’ to meeting some (new) friends I met at the gym, to chatting about my old school with someone who happens to come from Dumbarton as well just proves that the world really isn’t all that big.

Mind you, given some of the coincidences that have occurred to me over the past few years I’m starting to wonder whether it’s the world that’s shrinking or somehow I’m just starting to occupy more connected space in it? Is this really just that whole six degrees of separation thing at play? Perhaps it is, and I only really need to dig in to some of the connections I’ve made in the wonderful Venn diagram that is my life.

It all starts with a small knitting cafe/shop in the West End of Glasgow called the Yarn Cake (go for the knitting, stay for the cakes!)…

I was in Reading, I think, speaking at a conference and I attended a talk by a woman by the name of Chris Atherton. Her talk was fascinating and I was lucky enough to chat to her later on (my ability to converse semi-coherently whilst fairly drunk is my key networking skill!). She mentioned she was visiting Glasgow in a few weeks to help paint a friends new shop, a fact which fell out of my brain until she mentioned it on Twitter a few weeks later, stating ‘anyone I know in Glasgow’ that she’d be around for a drink. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it along to meet her and replied, via public Twitter, as such.

My reply tweet prompted another friend of mine, Ann (of the wonderful daily quote emails that you really should subscribe to), to message me to ask how I knew about the Yarn Cake? Ann knew of the Yarn Cake as she is a knitter and hails from north of the border (like all good people), and when I said I’d only heard about it via Chris, well it turned out Ann knows Chris too. Not a massive coincidence perhaps, as our professional careers have a bit of an overlap but still… given I only know Ann via blogging, it’s a lucky connection if nothing else, right?

Venn circles : Work, Blogging.

Ohhh and the owner of the Yarn Cake, the wonderful Antse, I later I got to meet at an event (more on these in a bit). I chatted to her for a while before I asked what she did, and lo and behold… the circle was complete. Well, one of them.

Now let’s fast forward a few months, my (now ex)girlriend was getting into knitting and I mentioned the Yarn Cake to her. The shop ran social evenings for knitters to get together and hang out (and chat and knit and eat cake). She went along and met someone named Sara who I also got to know when the three of us went to the Scottish Tattoo Convention later that year. Sara also invited us along to watch Roller Derby as she was involved with the local Glasgow team (which we was loads of fun).

Venn circle : Roller Derby.

The next circle of this little Venn diagram was first formed when I moved into Glasgow. Recently divorced, I started looking around for some other ways to expand my social circle and stumbled across the Yelp community. I had been using the app to find places to eat and drink, and things to do as I ‘rediscovered’ Glasgow for myself and saw that there was a “Pakora night” happening and, after a sip or three of Dutch courage, I ventured along to one of Glasgow’s beloved curry houses and, there in the basement of Mother India, was another suggestion that my world was shrinking.

Before turning up at the Yelp event I had messaged the community manager and she had warmly invited me to come along. So as I opened the door and ventured inside I was hoping to bump into her first so there would be at least one person I ‘knew’. Lo and behold the first person I spotted was a guy I worked with! Excellent, I thought, I know someone here. What I didn’t know at that point was that the guy I knew, was the husband of the community manager.

That was the first of many wonderful Yelp events through which I was lucky enough to get to know a lot of amazing, vibrant, lovely people, many of which I consider to be good friends. And through those early events, as I started to get to know more people I realised that quite a few of the women were also involved in the local Roller derby team and knew Sara .. and the world shrunk a little more.

Venn circle : Yelp.

Zip forward a few years, the Yelp community is no more (booooo!) and I’m now a regular at a gym that I originally found via Yelp. It’s a progressive type of place that is very protective of its inclusive atmosphere, it’s no real surprise that the majority of attendees are people who don’t identify as male. Equally, given the crossover of Yelp and Roller Derby it’s not really a surprise that quite a few of the attendees all play/played roller derby together… so I already knew a fair portion of the people at the gym before I started going.

Venn circle : Gym.

Now let’s go back to the start. When I wandered down to Byres Road that day, the day I said yes, and met my friends from the gym? Well that lovely couple also occupy a couple of Venn circles as they too were involved in Roller Derby. This is all getting a bit ridiculous now. But wait! As I arrived they were sitting with a guy that they knew, and that I knew from a completely OTHER group of friends! And at this point I’m about ready to concede defeat and just presume that everyone in Glasgow knows everyone else.

But was it always this way? The Yelp/Roller Derby/Gym links wouldn’t have been available to me without the internet and social media, which makes me wonder if I would know even half of the amazing people I do today without it?

Many (many) years ago when I started this blog, there was only a handful of other people in the UK who were also partaking of this new online publishing nonsense. They were all, without exception, far more accomplished writers, thinkers, and all round human beings than I, but because they were so few us around they couldn’t get rid of me. I commented, linked, and emailed back and forth and started to build some friendships*. I was lucky enough to get to meet several of them in real life, coaxing them out to the pub on a couple of my visits to London. Yup, we were doing ‘meet ups’ before MeetUp existed, that’s how old skool we are!

I’m still lucky to be able to call many of those same people my friends, I’ve met them a few more times, been invited to their weddings, even spoke did a reading at one of them (which was a surprise for me as she hadn’t actually told me about it so I only found out when they announced “and next, Gordon will read an excerpt from My Love is like a red red rose”).

I’ve probably fallen out of touch with more than my fair share of these people as well much to my shame, I really must do something about that…

This, for me, is the HUGE upside of social media; the ability to make connections with like-minded people regardless of where they are. Some of the people from the early blogging days now live outside of the UK but I still have a tiny portal through which to watch their lives unfold and expand, and it makes me so happy to see so many of them prosper (did I mention how talented and downright amazing they all are?!).

Closer to home the effects are even greater. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty busy most weeks and that’s entirely because I’m reaping the fruit borne of all these connections (as those with access to my Facebook Events page can testify). From gigs, to theatre visits, to gin festivals, to hill walking, to barbeques, to fancy dress parties, to weddings, there is so much love and laughter in my life I feel very blessed.

Saying yes more than no is a nice phrase but can be hard to achieve at times. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to go along to an event where you don’t know anyone is scary, and can be emotionally tiring and I know I’m very lucky, not everyone is able to do what I do. Equally there is a lot to be said for saying no, for taking time for and by yourself.

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will not be surprised that this is something that, despite my calendar showing otherwise, I’m quite careful to keep in balance. Sure I may be out every night of a given week but I protect my gym nights, it’s all I do that night and sometimes even that can be a struggle. No, not the gym part but the being around other people part.

There is a flip side to this as well. If you are the person inviting others, and they say no, it’s worth keeping in mind that maybe they wanted to say yes but couldn’t. Don’t stop inviting them no matter what it feels like to you, they aren’t saying no because they don’t want to spend time with you, but because they want to spend time with themselves. Invite them again, and maybe ask if it’s ok to keep inviting them in the future. You’d be surprised how many people get stressed when an invite arrives, even for something minor.

Looking back over the past few years it’s easy for me to see that the larger my little weird Venn diagram gets the better I feel about my life, the more connected I am to people the more grounded I feel. These connections are a subtle form of self-care at times, a massively overwhelming one at others, but it is something I know I need. I’m a sociable person, an extroverted introvert, and I’ll continue to say yes as often as I can. After all, who knows what might happen tomorrow?


  • Somewhere in my brain I gently categorising people I have relationships with; my family, my closest dearest loved ones, my friends, and general acquaintances. I’m very lucky.

Weekend Reading

  • Poverty lingers a septic wound, choleric, stenching, bursting rancid all over your Sunday best.
    You jest at scars, that never felt a wound, I muttered to my phone screen as an avatar of a sneering man stared back, his grainy face positioned just to the left of his barbed jab about why a ‘bestselling author needs to be begging for tips on Twitter’.
    Heart wrenching post from Jack Monroe. Never presume what others are going through. Appearances invariably are NOT as things actually are. Life is complex for everyone.

  • The Unconscious Rules of Personal Space
    The distance you keep from others is an elaborate, instinctive dance. President Trump has a signature handshake. It hit the world stage at the United Nations meeting last year when he grabbed Emmanuel Macron’s hand and appeared to aggressively pull the French president closer.
    When did consideration of others stop being a thing? Can it be a thing again please?

  • Why You Should Stop Being So Hard on Yourself
    Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies. It’s time to ease up. Yes, it’s an obnoxious cliché, but it’s not just self-help fluff.
    Mental health is hard work. A lot of that hard work is about quieting the voices.

  • Being Bored Is Fun and Good, Sorry
    The importance of idle time.
    It’s been a long time since I’ve been properly bored.

  • Why we owe it to ourselves to spend quiet time alone every day
    By not giving ourselves the minutes — or hours — free of devices and distractions, we risk losing our ability to know who we are and what’s important to us, says physicist and writer Alan Lightman.
    Are you spotting a theme yet?

  • Mount Everest Isn’t (Necessarily) the Tallest Mountain …
    What next, the world is flat? Goddammit Science, stop this nonsense right now.

  • The Internet Is Applauding For This Girl Who Helped Her BF Understand Her Anxiety With This Handy List
    Let’s talk about anxiety; it isn’t something new because a majority of today’s generation has it. But people need to understand that general anxiety and anxiety disorder are two different things.
    This is wonderful. And useful. Usederful? Wonderuse?

  • ‘Pain au chocolat’ vs ‘chocolatine’: Pastry-name war heading to French Parliament
    Should one of the best known French pastries be called chocolatine or pain au chocolat? This is a debate that has been going on for decades in France. A group of right-wing French MPs are bringing the question to the French National Assembly as they are fighting to promote the term chocolatine.
    Ahhhh France. Finger on the pulse as always.

  • Treatment centre for cryptocurrency addicts opens in the Scottish Borders
    The residential treatment course for “crypto addicts” is based in Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire.
    I can barely spell crpytocurency…

  • The friend effect: why the secret of health and happiness is surprisingly simple
    For some, eating alone can be a joyous thing: forking mouthfuls of pasta straight from the pan, peanut butter licked off a spoon, the unbridled pleasure of walking home from the chippie alone on a cold night. But regularly eating meals in isolation is a different story.
    All the quiet alone time isn’t always great. Mental health is hard!

  • Earth-Moon Fire Pole
    My son (5y) asked me today: If there were a kind of a fireman’s pole from the Moon down to the Earth, how long would it take to slide all the way from the Moon to the Earth?
    Smart and funny. XKCD is one of the few things I read every single day. The What If stuff is genius.

  • Your multivitamins aren’t helping you live longer
    You probably have a jar of multivitamins somewhere in your house. And it’s probably useless. There’s a good reason we thought they were necessary: For centuries, sailors who spent enough time at sea would often become lethargic, bleed from their gums, lose their teeth, and bruise like crazy.
    Funny, I just thought they would help me live a little bit healthier every day. Never equated multivits with long life? Just me?

  • One million French smokers quit in a year amid anti-smoking measures
    France has seen a sharp fall in the number of people smoking daily, with one million fewer lighting up from 2016-2017. a survey suggests. Such a drop has not been seen in a decade, according to Public Health France, which carried out the study.
    Alas, one million French ex-smokers are now getting fat on pain au cho… sorry… chocolatine.

  • Hip Hop Fan Freaks Out When He Hears Rage Against the Machine’s Debut Album for the Very First Time
    I consider myself lucky to have been a child of the nineties. As you know from Portlandia’s tribute to the decade of slack, it was a time when “people were content to be unambitious and sleep to 11 and just hang out with their friends.
    I can sort of remember when I first heard that album. I’d love to still have some of those moments.

  • The Good Posts: Chapter One
    This is the first of a whole series of posts that will be going up, and will eventually be bookified.
    SPOILERS!! But could be interesting if, like me, The Good Place has been a breath of fresh air.

  • Your Next Glass of Wine Might Be a Fake—and You’ll Love It
    Ari Walker had been working in the wine business for a few months when the dreams started. He didn’t know much about wine; he’d left college and taken a job at a distributor because his wife was pregnant and they needed money. But the more he tasted and read, the more entranced he became.
    Why can’t Science leave things alone?

  • A Brief History of America’s Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese
    Being a judge at a macaroni and cheese competition in San Francisco taught me a lot about American food. The competitors were mostly chefs, and the audience—the online tickets sold out in minutes—was soaking up the chance to be at a “Top Chef” kind of event, but more urban and cool.
    Mac and cheese. At once the most overhyped, yet delicious, food ever?

  • Why Kevin Durant’s Shoes Keep Falling Off
    IT’S DEC. 6 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a sold-out crowd files into the Spectrum Center. The world champion Golden State Warriors are in town for their lone trip to the Tar Heel State this season.
    Look, I’m nuts about NBA so I think I’m allowed one article now and then, ok?

  • Seriously, WTF Is Cockroach Milk? Here’s The Real Deal On This “Superfood”
    Understandably, you might have some questions. Here’s everything you need to know. Yes! But if you’re thinking it’s crushed up cockroaches somehow made into a liquid you’re going to have to pour into your cereal — like a really gross almond milk — you’re way off the mark.
    OK. I *think* we are going to far now… (but… how DO you milk a cockroach??)

  • Columbia and Yale scientists found the spiritual part of our brains—religion not required
    Scientists seek to quantify everything—even the ineffable. And so the human search for meaning recently took a physical turn as Columbia and Yale University researchers isolated the place in our brains that processes spiritual experiences.
    Sorry about the wine comment, Science, you can stay! I can confirm, in a test case of one (me), that this certainly rings true. Yay science!!

  • US preacher asks followers to help buy fourth private jet
    A US televangelist has asked his followers to help fund his fourth private jet – because Jesus “wouldn’t be riding a donkey”. Jesse Duplantis said God had told him to buy a Falcoln 7X for $54m (£41m).
    And the gullible eejits will probably buy him it.

  • There are two types of water, and a new study finds they behave differently
    It’s not just poets. Chemists also like to wax lyrical about water, because there’s nothing like it.
    Look, Science, I thought we had sorted this out… stop blowing my mind!

  • David Sedaris on his most overrated book and how bad people can make good art
    David Sedaris’ long literary career continues with the publication of Calypso, a new book of essays out today. It’s both his warmest and darkest book to date, commingling his typical observational humor with a more introspective examination of family, aging, and death.
    I AM GOING TO SEE HIM WHEN HE IS IN GLASGOW AND IT IS VERY EXCITING OH YES IT IS

  • Under The Skin: Why That ‘Arrested Development’ Interview Is So Bad
    Why this story? I had this conversation with several people last night after an interview with the cast of Arrested Development ran in The New York Times ahead of the show’s return to Netflix.
    Ugh. Men. These more subtle tactics and comments feel all the more reprehensible. Ugh.

  • Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis
    It’s that time of year again, when Mary Meeker unloads her highly anticipated internet trends report for the Code Conference crowd in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
    Worth a gander if you use the internet (which you are, right now. Honest. Ask a Scienti… ohnevermind)

  • Bodies Are Weird and Interesting and Cool… So Why Don’t We Love Them More?
    Bodies are weird, eh? They’re also weird to write about. I’ve been feeling a lot of things lately about the way we treat our bodies and the way we talk about them.
    Great post, my own body image issues pervade but maybe switching how I talk about my body is a start?

  • Poverty lingers a septic wound, choleric, stenching, bursting rancid all over your Sunday best.
    You jest at scars, that never felt a wound, I muttered to my phone screen as an avatar of a sneering man stared back, his grainy face positioned just to the left of his barbed jab about why a ‘bestselling author needs to be begging for tips on Twitter’.
    Heart wrenching post from Jack Monroe. Never presume what others are going through. Appearances invariably are NOT as things actually are. Life is complex for everyone.

  • The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time
    “As ignorable as it is interesting.” That’s the classic definition of ambient music, stated by Brian Eno in 1978 on the sleeve notes to his album Ambient 1: Music for Airports. And he should know, since he basically invented the genre three years earlier with his album Discreet Music.
    A few in here I hadn’t listened too, perfect for lazy summer evenings.

  • Toy Shining
    After the release of Toy Story 3, I came up with the idea of using PIXAR characters to tell other stories. My friend and Pixar director, Lee Unkrich, is a big fan of Stanley Kubrick’s movie The Shining, so I thought this would be a perfect place to start.
    Remember when the Internet was full of stuff like this? MOAR PLEAZ!

  • Bye, Chrome: Why I’m switching to Firefox and you should too
    You’re probably sick of hearing about data and privacy by now–especially because, if you live in the United States, you might feel like there’s very little you can do to protect yourself from giant corporations feeding off your time, interests, and personal information.
    Checked your data from Facebook and Google? Concerned? This is for you.