Month: September 2018

Weekend Reading

  • The outrageous plan to haul icebergs to Africa
    If towing icebergs to hot, water-stressed regions sounds totally crazy to you, then consider this: the volume of water that breaks off Antarctica as icebergs each year is greater than the total global consumption of freshwater. And that stat doesn’t even include Arctic ice.
    Given the state our planet is in, this is anything but crazy, and it’s sad that it’s come to this.
  • Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson Trade Coaching Lessons
    Favored to win their third straight championship, Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors face more adversity than fans realize. Kerr speaks with his former coach Phil Jackson — who led two teams to 11 NBA championships — about surviving success.
    Mindful coaching of athletes. Something that is starting to pervade football in the UK (and is massively missing in the NFL).
  • This 94-year-old hands out chocolate bars to strangers. And people love it
    Every Saturday, Bob Williams walks into a Dollar General store in Long Grove, Iowa, and buys a box of Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. Williams hands two to the cashiers, a third to the person behind him in line and then sets off around town handing the rest out to anyone he sees.
    Life goals. Except not that weird Hershey’s nonsense.
  • Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room
    Score one for the human brain. In a new study, computer scientists found that artificial intelligence systems fail a vision test a child could accomplish with ease.
    We need not fear the robot uprising! (yet)
  • A Good Man, and Thorough: The Genius of ‘The Big Lebowski’
    In the published screenplay for The Big Lebowski, a character named “The Dude” is introduced in the stage directions as “a man in whom casualness runs deep.” Of all the Coens’ movies, The Big Lebowski is, at least on the surface, the most ambling and aimless.
    20 years old, still funny. Abide.
  • I Made One Simple Financial Change and It Lowered My Spending
    A few years ago, when I was reporting a story on personal finance, I became fascinated by a concept that behavioral economists call the “pain of paying.”
    How come all these ‘tips’ mean more work. Where’s the one that I can do less but not be worried about money?
  • ‘The Very Top Guy in the Stasi was Personally Involved in Figuring Out How to Destroy Punk.’
    Punk rock was revolution-minded from the get-go, at least about aesthetics. Its political consciousness bloomed later –- most vividly in the U.K., then in scenes around the world. Yet for all the anti-Thatcher, anti-Reagan bluster, punk can lay direct claim to just one full regime change.
    Bonkers amazing. And in the climate of today, apt? How those in power fear ANY challenge.
  • A Prescription for Forgetting
    “You’re dead,” said the meditation guide. “You’ve been dead a long time.” I start crying. “What do you see?” she asked. I whimpered, “My dad somewhere, cremated, maybe a river, gone for decades. My son is older. He has a family. He thinks of me sometimes. I can’t stand it.”
    Life is so complex. Then you add emotions.
  • Paralyzed people are beginning to walk with a new kind of therapy
    Kelly Thomas woke up in a Florida hospital four years ago with no recollection of the car accident that had robbed her of the ability to walk.
    Proof that we still don’t know so much about our own bodies and minds. Wow.
  • How does a food become a trend? Ask cauliflower.
    First came the cauliflower steaks, thick vegetal slabs, roasted and served like cruciferous T-bones. Then there was Buffalo cauliflower, breaded and fried and generally chicken-shaped.
    I asked one the other day. I say ‘asked’ it was a more a good roasting he got.
  • Why do we hate wasps and love bees?
    The researchers involved say that this view is unfair because wasps are just as ecologically useful as bees. The scientists suggest a public relations campaign to restore the wasps’ battered image.
    Wasps are assholes. Screw the science.
  • Urban bees are living healthier lives than rural bees
    Bumblebees are making it in the city. Research published in the Royal Society B found that bumblebees living in urban areas experience healthier lives than their counterparts in rural habitats. Their colonies are larger, better fed, and less prone to disease.
    ‘Mon the bees!!
  • Henry – Rob Delaney
    Note: I wrote all of this except the last paragraph in April or May of 2017. I changed names as well, except for Henry’s. I’m on the bus to go see my son Henry at the hospital.
    A hard read, but honest emotions always are.
  • iPhone XS Camera Review: Zanzibar
    Mambo vipi (what’s up) from Zanzibar! I’m here capturing an amazing Ker & Downey experience at Asilia’s Matemwe Lodge and have been testing the iPhone XS along the way. When I learned about the new camera upgrades this year, I was a little underwhelmed.
    One of my primary uses for my iPhone is to take photos. I am SO getting an upgrade.
  • Reckoning With Pinegrove
    On a muggy July night in 2017, Pinegrove guitarist Nick Levine was stabbing a hot needle of indeterminate origin into my flesh. I was getting my first stick-and-poke tattoo. The design was a single square.
    Been a fan for a couple of years but hadn’t heard of any of this. Not good.
  • Scotland launches an ad campaign that confronts homophobes and racists
    Today, Scotland is launching an ad campaign that confronts transphobia and racism. The campaign is funded by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government under the One Scotland campaign, which aims to tackle hate crime.
    MORE OF THIS PLEASE.
  • Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information
    Last week, I ran an ad on Facebook that was targeted at a computer science professor named Alan Mislove. Mislove studies how privacy works on social networks and had a theory that Facebook is letting advertisers reach users with contact information collected in surprising ways.
    Fuck Facebook. I can’t leave it as a lot of friends and events are on there, but it’s a pain to lock it all down too. But you can.
  • Fortnite Is So Big It Can Bully Sony and Nintendo
    Fortnite is undeniably one of the biggest games in the world, but today we saw an example of just how big it is. Sony’s long-standing (and, frankly, embarrassing) stance against cross-play with other consoles is finally coming to an end, and Fortnite is pretty much leading the charge.
    Might be time to try this?
  • The Man Behind the Scooter Revolution
    Two decades ago, a Swiss inventor laid the foundation for the big mobility innovation of 2018. Like so many inventions, the scooter was a child of necessity: Specifically, the need to get a bratwurst without looking like an idiot.
    Ha, always thought they were built for kids.
  • Christine Blasey Ford shows us vulnerability is strength, not weakness
    Christine Blasey Ford clarified her intentions at the very start of her testimony before the Senate judiciary committee. Three words especially—”I am terrified”—have reverberated.
    Been dipping in and out of the hearings. What a strong woman. What a monster of a man.
  • Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics
    There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it. Physicists don’t know what it is exactly.
    Yay science! We know nothing!!

Reading to escape

There were two routes I used to walk to my primary school, both of them down main roads that spanned the top half of the town. One took me down Townhead Road and offered the chance to nip in to a corner shop for some illicit sweeties, the other took me off Bonhill Road and into the lane that ran behind some off the houses, passing a piece of long (and still) neglected waste ground before arriving at the gates. It wasn’t a long walk, 10 mins if you were in a rush and hurried, not that I ever did.

Depending on the time of year I’d change my route on the way home, but most days I simply retraced my steps. Head out the gate, turn left and back past the area of waste ground and its mass of weeds and bushes. It was an odd location to have your first encounter with a naked woman.

My walks home were always slower than my walks to school. It wasn’t that I particularly enjoyed school, I was definitely more concerned with getting there on time than rushing to get into class, but I was just never in that much of a rush to get home. My Mum likes to tell the story of my Aunt Irene, who lived on the route home, phoning my Mum to tell her not to worry that I wasn’t home yet as I’d stopped and was sitting on her wall and had been for a while. Daydreaming no doubt.

Just as I had been the day Aunt Irene phoned my Mum, the day I encountered the naked woman was another one where, no doubt, I was plodding my way home, thinking about everything and nothing, lost in another daydream as I turned left out of the gates and started past the area of waste ground. And there she was, completely naked, sitting up and facing me, her legs spread wide open. To this day I can remember thinking it was an odd way to be sitting, closely followed by thoughts about the state of her pubic region even though I wouldn’t know to call it that for some years to come. I was in Primary Six, aged 10.

That school year was memorable for other reasons mostly because my teacher frequently indulged my burgeoning reading habits. I grew up around books and have fond memories of wandering the rows and rows of books in the local library as a child. It didn’t take me long to graduate from the basement which housed the children’s books, to the grown up main floor with its towering rows of books, shelf after shelf of wonders waiting to be discovered. At home there were several bookshelves crammed full and my parents were happy for me to read whatever I picked up and pretty soon I was reading books like 2001: A Space Odyssey – my first foray into sci-fi, before Star Wars flipped that script – and I found a book of short stories by an author called Richard Bachmann that utterly gripped my imagination like no-one else had before (bonus points if you know who that pseudonym belongs to).

I always used to have a book on the go and in the past have joined in various reading challenges, the type where you aim to read x number of books in a year. However a couple of years of those quickly removed the joy of reading, the time-sapping wonder of being lost in a good book, as it became a purely time-based activity; better read faster or I won’t meet the challenge! As I much prefer to be able to read at my own pace, I’ve stopped doing those.

More recently I’d been attending a Book Club, a fraught activity that only occasionally added to the overall experience of reading the book itself. Not that the books were bad, per se, most of them were wonderful choices but I soon realised that whilst it can be academically interesting to discuss a book with others, ultimately it sucks all the enjoyment out of it for me. I don’t read to think, I read to escape.

I am no longer attending Book Club.

With no Book Club, and no reading challenge to spur me into action, I’ve been in a bit of a reading drought recently, retreating to some old David Sedaris columns (collated into books) which are my book equivalent of binge-watching Friends episodes, and waiting for my reading mojo to return. I have an unfinished Atwood on my Kindle, and I started The Slap but it’s not exactly holding my attention. So I’m currently casting about to find something without much success. Recommendations are welcomed.

One day in primary school, as I’d finished my class work for the morning, my primary six teacher Mrs. Trotter picked out a book for me. Growing up I’d been through all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books, and the book she suggested was of a similar ilk – these days it’d be called a ‘young adult novel’ – and it featured a young boy who spent a lot of his time daydreaming, wandering around, and who was much more interested in the animals he came across than the people he had to interact with. I have NO IDEA why she picked it for me, none, nope, not a clue. The book was called The Boy from Sula and it was probably the first book I can recall that really pulled me in to an imagined world, a book that grabbed my imagination and whisked me away to the beautiful Scottish island world in which it was based.

That’s the kind of book I still enjoy, it doesn’t really matter the subject type or setting, it can be a thriller, a romance, a sci-fi, a social critique, if it’s written well enough to draw me in and let me lose myself for a few hours then it is, by my own loose definition, a GOOD BOOK.

The Book Club I had been attending was, at best, semi-regular and to be honest a lot of the joy was more about the people and whatever brunch was on offer, than the book itself. It started off as a Yelp event but when the Glasgow community was given the Game of Thrones treatment, one attendee decided to keep organising it even though it’s not for me any more, I have been lucky enough to be prompted read some wonderful books because of it; The Other Mrs. Walker, The Sudden Appearance of Hope, All the Light We Cannot See, Station Eleven, to name but a few.

However, and perhaps more importantly, the one thing Book Club taught was when to stop reading.

It doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but as the entire premise of a Book Club is that someone else is choosing the books, I guess it’s understandable that I’ve not been able to finish a couple of them, that I’ve had to stop reading them because I just wasn’t enjoying them.

This may seem obvious but is a complete odds with how I was brought up, a book is not something you do not finish!

As a child, books were granted an almost hallowed status, backed by the hushed tones of the library and the deep frowns that would appear on my parents faces when a book was seen to be mistreated. Respect was a word frequently associated with books, and with all the weight and heft of reverence they were offered, the act of not finishing a book was an insult to every book ever written, or so it seemed. Add in my reliance on books as a way to escape the trials and tribulations of primary school, and it’s fair to say they occupied a fairly elevated place in my world.

Because of that I used to soldier on with books I wasn’t enjoying, determined to finish lest I was to insult the author with my heinous behaviour, or maybe I just felt I was letting down my parents and teachers, the very people who bestowed on me a curious mind and a desire to learn, not to mention their continued encouragement which gave me my love of reading in the first place.

But no, I’m a grown man, able to make decisions for myself. If I want to eat Coco Pops for breakfast I will, and if I don’t want to continue reading a book then I won’t.

Recently this happened with a Book Club choice, the Booker Prize winning The Sellout, no less. No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get past the pages of rambling descriptions that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I would read a little, put the book down and pick it up the next night, re-read a few pages, and put it back down. I repeated this for about a week, finally slogging my way through the first 100 pages or so and came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t enjoying this book at all. It’s a meandering show-off of a book that read like it was written by someone who was enjoying the writing process a little too much and left me feeling, well, not a whole lot of anything.

This was not the relaxing enjoyment that I associate with books and I started to resent having to spend the time doing something I don’t want to do. So, I stopped reading it. A surprisingly hard decision to make. But given I had a few decades of behaviours to fight against, the looming Book Club date, the fact that this was a Booker Prize winner (and I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve read before) and it isn’t really surprising that I didn’t find it easy to quit a book. I might go back to it some day, it’s still on my unread shelf, and hopefully it was just the wrong time to try and read it but I decided that no, I wasn’t going to finish it. Book Club be damned!

When I moved, and cleared out two entire bookshelves worth of books to charity shops, I found it pretty easy to part ways with all the books I’d read. Those books were in the past after all and I know if I really take a notion to re-read a book then I can always get a copy somewhere. This is despite the fact that I rarely re-read books, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve re-read ANY book, and two of those re-reads were a certain book suggested to me by Mrs. Trotter.

Books are an escape.

My primary school years were dotted with small incidents of bullying and not fitting in and I quickly found that the way to steer clear and avoid those incidents, even in a classroom setting, was to bury myself in a book. Don’t disturb Gordon he’s reading, Mrs. Trotter would say, and I’d be left alone to roam the Isle of Sula.

I had good childhood, I know I wasn’t unhappy and for the most part my memories of the playground are good ones, but I know I was much happier if left to my own devices, left to dawdle home in a daydream, along the lane that skirted the area of waste ground where I had the encounter with the naked woman, spread-eagled as she was across the pages of a magazine. I can remember toe-ing at the pages of the magazine, flicking past image after image of awkwardly posed women, all in various states of undress. Page after page and I couldn’t help wondering, where were all the words?

My interest waned and with a final kick to send the magazine further into the depths of waste land bushes I headed home, pausing to watch a squirrel run along the top of a wall before disappearing into the high branches of a tree. I wondered what his story was, where he was going, and what adventures he might have on the way.

Weekend Reading

  • Ditch the almond milk: why everything you know about sustainable eating is probably wrong
    In food and drink, we all want to do the right thing. We want to shop and eat sustainably. But, sometimes, it is easier said than done. Our willingness to jump on the latest eco-trends and unquestioningly accept reassuring labelling can lead to unintended consequences.
    Another week, another article about food. Time to get my own farm?

  • The iPhone’s autocorrect is a blessing and a curse. A longtime Apple designer explains why it’s so hard to teach software to read your mind.
    I have a confection to make. Ugh! No, I don’t want to bake a cake. Let me type that again. I have a confession to make. I worked for many years as a software developer at Apple and I invented touchscreen keyboard autocorrection for the original iPhone.
    Ducks sake, how hard can it be!

  • Probiotics labelled ‘quite useless’
    Their study is among the most detailed analyses of what happens when we consume probiotics. They are seen as healthy and good for the gut, but the results found they had little or no effect inside the body.
    Made up advertscienmenting isn’t real? WHO KNEW!

  • Illusion of control: Why the world is full of buttons that don’t work
    Written by Have you ever pressed the pedestrian button at a crosswalk and wondered if it really worked? Or bashed the “close door” button in an elevator, while suspecting that it may, in fact, have no effect whatsoever? You’re not alone, and you may be right.
    I love this stuff.

  • How Hevesh5 Builds Amazing Domino Chain Reactions
    19-year-old Lily Hevesh is obsessed with dominos. She spends hours upon hours building insanely intricate designs and chain reactions before knocking them down. Sound like a strange way to spend your time? Tell that to the nearly 2 million people who’ve subscribed to her YouTube Channel.
    Mesmerising.

  • Dining fine: should you be charged £50 for missing a restaurant reservation?
    Customer no-shows are a huge problem for restaurants. Running at 5% to 20% per service, they cost the industry up to £16bn a year, according to the booking platform ResDiary.
    I say yes. If you don’t have common decency to cancel a booking then £50 should learn ya!

  • New Wireless Noise-Canceling Tech Is Faster Than the Speed of Sound
    A lightweight earpiece technology promises to meet or beat the performance of the best premium noise-canceling headphones without blocking the ear canal or covering people’s ears like heavy earmuffs.
    If you are reading this aloud, these headphones have already cancelled you out. Or something.

  • The Man Who Raised a Fist, 50 Years Later
    In the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, tucked between a gas station and what looks to be an abandoned warehouse, sits a former ceramics factory that now houses the studio of Glenn Kaino, a prominent conceptual artist.
    Still such a powerful image.

  • Why Egypt is building a brand new mega capital city
    Cranes are hovering over a new town in Egypt – but this is no mere overspill like Stevenage or Crawley. The new administrative capital, or NAC (so new it doesn’t even have a proper name), is mooted to be the biggest planned city ever.
    Whoa, this is crazy. Like re-building Glasgow.

  • There’s a name—and a laundry product—for that pile of lightly worn clothes in your bedroom
    Unilever knows a lot about how you do laundry—or don’t. For example, you know that pile of clothes draped over your bedroom chair? It’s the one made up of stuff you’ve worn once, that isn’t quite dirty yet.
    Monetise everything!!

  • Good Things Will Happen Keychain

    I do so wish I could afford to buy you ALL one of these.

  • Stress and Memory

    I have a bad memory, and this makes a lot of sense as to why.

  • The Copenhagen Letter: a set of principles for ethical technology
    The techlash has sparked a most welcome interest in the ethics of technology (there are hundreds of university courses on the subject!) and with it, a bustling cottage industry in the formulation and promulgation of “statements of principles” meant to guide technologists in their work.
    Only 20 years too late? But are we really expecting this to be followed?

  • The secret life of fungi: Ten fascinating facts
    They’re all around us, in the soil, our bodies and the air, but are often too small to be seen with the naked eye. They provide medicines and food but also wreak havoc by causing plant and animal diseases.
    They are everywhere right now, little squishy mushrooms. One day I’ll learn which ones I can pick.

  • I Caught My Husband On Tinder, And It Saved Our Marriage
    Marriage is freaking hard work. Anyone will tell you that, but what they don’t often tell you is that you could try to do everything the “right” way, and it will still be hard. My husband and I were DONE.
    More proof that life and relationships can evolve, even if it’s really hard to make it happen.

  • A Mind is Like A Parachute
    “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
    Zappa quote is my new life quote, I think.

  • A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come
    Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well. On December 31, 1999, we threw a party.
    It’s all so so awful. Stop the ride, I wanna get off.

  • The “beautiful mess” effect: other people view our vulnerability more positively than we do
    Admitting mistakes, seeking help, apologising first, confessing one’s romantic feelings – all these kind of situations involve intentional expressions of vulnerability, in which we may fear being rejected or being judged negatively, yet we grit our teeth and go ahead anyway.
    Essentially, we are all a lot less fucked up than we think…

  • He Saw Our Darkness
    Wait — that’s … Johnny Cash? On a U2 album? The crisp, deep baritone was unmistakable. I perked up my ears and heard Cash sing of a strange pilgrimage through a dystopian landscape of soulless cities and anomic, eight-lane highways, driven by dark religious longings.
    Legend.

  • The New Science of Seeing Around Corners
    While vacationing on the coast of Spain in 2012, the computer vision scientist Antonio Torralba noticed stray shadows on the wall of his hotel room that didn’t seem to have been cast by anything.
    Pretty sure I’ve linked to an article about guns that can shoot round corners. If the robots get wind of this we are screwed.

  • Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say
    Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. Many, then, rely on audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. You can listen to the latest bestseller while commuting or cleaning up the house.
    Why is this even a question?

45 miles

My first bike was a Boxer. It was royal blue, with chunky tyres and these days would probably be called a mountain bike (for kids, it was tiny). It was the smaller version of the Grifter, which itself was a BMX/off-road kinda thing with the most totally awesomest twist-handle gear shift just like an actual motorbike! My best mate’s big brother had a Grifter and ohhh how I would covet that bike. Not that I’d ever have touched it, he was a bit scary…

I can’t remember learning to ride my bike beyond vague memories of my Dad running along behind me telling me to pedal faster, nor can I recall when the stabilisers first came off and I flew solo for the first time. No doubt there were scraps and cuts and bruises but I didn’t lose any limbs so it can’t have been that traumatic. But that little Boxer was just the stepping stone to my first proper grown-up bike; The Enterprise (note: I am not a Star Trek fan so this wasn’t as big a deal as it may sound).

The Enterprise was a black behemoth with straight handle bars. I desperately wanted a racer (drop handlebars) but no, it was the touring bike stylings for me. I’m still not sure why my parents bought me it, probably because it was cheaper, but I have a sense that I was a bit disappointed by it, such was my desire to NOT have a BMX like all the other kids. I’ve always been contrary that way, and is largely why I have no fashion sense at all because going WITH the crowd is so dull! The Enterprise was the first bike I had that had gears, all three of them, and that opened up an amazing realisation.

Gears mean you can go faster, and going fast is FUN.

The first time I did Pedal for Scotland, some 8 years ago, I had no real idea what I was letting myself in for. I’d done some training, and my friend had done it the year before so I felt that it was at least achievable. And I finished it with tears in my eyes as I rolled through Murrayfield Stadium but my god it was a bit of a slog at times. And that’s before you get to the hill on the way out of Avonbridge; a never ending beast with a sharp incline at the start (8%), which eases off to a mere 6% as you climb to false summit after false summit. But it did not defeat me! and hey, thigh muscles are SUPPOSED to feel like they are on fire, right?

I don’t get out on my bike often enough, and it’s been a few years since I attempted cycling from Glasgow to Edinburgh but a year or so in the gym had me feeling reasonably confident about tackling it this year, despite having only managed to get my bike out for three short training rides.

I was right, being a bit fitter this year definitely helped and made the good bits of the ride, and there are many, all the better. For all the hills you climb, you are rewarded with some stellar views and the best bit of all…

Free-wheeling downhill.

Going fast is fun.

And being a fairly large chunk of human being, with thanks to the laws of gravity and some reasonably slick tyres, I reckon I was easily above 25mph at some points, including one utterly glorious section where I didn’t pedal for about 5 mins, carrying enough momentum to coast up the small crests on the way before gathering speed again on the next downhill section.

It was utterly joyous; out in the fresh air, whizzing down a long straight and when I started absent-mindedly weaving to and fro across the road I realised that this is why I like cycling and I silently admonished myself for not doing it often enough. For all the painful hills, the rattling vibrations through your hands (that no gloves seem able to quell), the accidents, punctures, and aching legs, those moments, when the sun breaks through the clouds as you coast magnificently along are magically carefree and childlike.

As we neared the finish the sun started to break through the day long grey, a last hurrah for a fast fading summer. We crossed the line, collected our medals, then found a quiet spot to rest our weary bones. And what better way to end a day out than collapsing in a sweaty heap on the grass, lying there as the sun shone through the endlessly scrolling clouds. A rare indulgence, and yet another forgotten childhood pleasure.

Weekend Reading

  • Innocent people with dirty-sounding last names face the “Scunthorpe problem”
    Sitting through roll call in school is already bad enough if you have a last name like Weiner, Butts, Cummings, Medick, Dickman, or Suconcock. But if that sounds rough, just try getting past the first stage of an online registration process.
    Seymour? Is there a Seymour in the room? A Mr. Seymour Butts? (yes, I am 8 yrs old!)

  • Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound
    Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds.
    Part of the reason I post these Weekend Reading posts is because I read all the articles I link to, and I would never post something I hadn’t read. So you are all keeping me accountable, thanks!

  • How wonder works
    When I was growing up in New York City, a high point of my calendar was the annual arrival of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — ‘the greatest show on earth’. My parents endured the green-haired clowns, sequinned acrobats and festooned elephants as a kind of garish pageantry.
    Ohhh how we all desperately need more wonder.

  • Reading with a pencil
    The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book. —George Steiner  There’s a way of reading that is like writing.
    One for the people who can’t even crack the spine of a book…?

  • Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing)
    At the heart of this town lies a building that is a veritable temple to the area’s most famous creation, the humble Lego brick.
    Ambitious but I hope they manage this.

  • The importance of being Idles: Trauma, masculinity and immigration
    The provocative Bristol-based five-piece are midway through their headline set at London’s Visions Festival and that’s the cue for them to drop Danny Nedelko – a blistering new anthem for the anxious pre-Brexit era.
    Seeing these guys in October. Nice to read about their sensibilities ahead of the aural onslaught I’m expecting!

  • Top tips for staying on Twitter as Jack fucks it up
    Well. It’s not looking good for Twitter at the moment as its founder is announcing even more potential shitty plans for ruining his website further. I know some of us are exodusing, making our way over to Mastodon.
    Despite the recent blocking of infowars asshats, still some great advice in here.

  • Short Animation TINK Takes You on a Lovely Rube Goldberg-esque Adventure
    TINK is a colorful animation by motion design studio Mr. Kaplin that showcases the intricate workings of a fictional Rube Goldberg-like machine.
    Well that’s just bloody gorgeous.

  • Carbuncle Cup: six vie for title of UK’s ugliest new building of year
    The Carbuncle Cup is given by the magazine Building Design to one of a shortlist of buildings its readers select as their least favourite of the last 12 months.
    Great name, horrific monstrosities.

  • All the world’s a stage. And these women are radically changing that world…
    Evie Manning is a theatre-maker from Bradford. Rhiannon White is a theatre-maker from Cardiff. Together they are the driving force behind the Common Wealth theatre company.
    More! Encore!!

  • ‘The Personality Brokers’ Conjures the Mother and Daughter Who Helped Us Think of Ourselves as Types
    Merve Emre’s new book begins like a true-crime thriller, with the tantalizing suggestion that a number of unsettling revelations are in store.
    From memory I was an INTP a long time ago. These days I feel more like a WTAF?

  • Watch your step: why the 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science
    In recent years, the 10,000-steps-a-day regime has become entrenched in popular culture. You can barely walk down the street without someone stomping past you wearing a FitBit; when Jeremy Hunt was health secretary, he was often pictured with his poking out from his shirtsleeves.
    Linked to something along these lines before, once again do your research people!

  • Female monkeys don’t trust males, even when they’re obviously right
    Female monkeys are reluctant to follow the example of males even when they would obviously benefit from doing so, new research has found. The behaviour, which the researchers said echoes some human traits, is rooted in the tendency of male vervet monkeys to roam between groups.
    For god sake, if the MONKEYS know it’s true….

  • Shooting and editing great photos with Halide and Darkroom
    We love Halide — we picked it as our favorite third-party camera app for the iPhone. We’re also big fans of Darkroom, which is our favorite photo editing app. Not only great on their own, these apps work brilliantly together to allow you to shoot and edit fantastic photos. Let’s take a look.
    I occasionally bookmark links just for me but this one is pretty handy so thought I’d share it too. iPhone only y’all.

  • Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite
    A stint managing premier client relations at the Cosmopolitan revealed secrets that probably should stay in Vegas. Oh well. In Las Vegas, the ultimate sand trap-turned-capital of capitalism, there’s no better byword for sophistication than the Cosmopolitan.
    Just makes me want to visit it all the more (once I’ve won the lottery of course).

  • Sorry, Pal, I Don’t Want to Talk: The Other Reason People Wear AirPods
    Rebecca Dolan: Wearers of AirPods have adapted their daily behavior to the product in ways even its designers might not have foreseen—as a cloak of invisibility.
    Yes. But. This has been applicable to headphones FOREVER? No??

  • Where Do “Messy Bisexuals” Fit Into the Bi+ Community?
    For reference, this friend of mine has been married for eight years to a woman. A woman he loves and cares for deeply. He’s monogamous. He’s faithful. He’s open and communicative with his wife. Recently, he told her that he needs to experience an intimate connection with a man.
    Already linked to friends on FB I’ll use the same comment: “Wherever they damn well choose?”.

  • I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration
    I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay.
    Trump news, sorry. But this both offers a glimmer of hope, and a terrifying insight.

  • 25 of the New Words Merriam-Webster Is Adding to the Dictionary in 2018
    If you don’t spend most of your time on the internet, it can be hard to keep up with the evolving lingo of the digital age.
    OK, sometimes I don’t read ALL of the articles I link to… tl;dr …

  • Major opioid maker to pay for overdose-antidote development
    A company whose prescription opioid marketing practices are being blamed for sparking the addiction and overdose crisis says it’s helping to fund an effort to make a lower-cost overdose antidote. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced Wednesday that it’s making a $3.
    Reality is increasingly fucked, and resembling some Atwood-esque dystopia.

  • How Many Hamsters Would it Take to Power Your Home and Would This Be Cheaper Than Coal Power?
    OMG the internet is amazing. Get your FULL geek on with this one.

Gigs for the soul

“Fry your onions in garlic!”, he shouted.

It was another evening in the Barrowlands, the ageless dance hall turned gig venue. It was late December, 1991, and I was there to see the Silencers, ably supported by the wonderful Humpff Family (wonderful in both name and in their rock/ceilidh stylings). As we were waiting for the Silencers to come on stage, the audience was starting to gear up and the noise was steadily increasing as more and more people came in and jostled their way into the crowd.

It’s the same at every gig. A guitar tech wanders on to the stage to plug in a guitar and is given a rousing cheer, every gap between playlisted ‘intermission’ songs is met with whoops and hollers. It was at this point of the evening that, in an achingly art school moment, a friend attempted his parody of the casual gig goer and their catcalling antics.

“Fry your onions in garlic!” he shouted.

Near us, heads turned in bemusement. Some people laughed and, further into the crowd ahead, a handful of people shouted back some inaudible response. Then the band came on stage and it was all lost in the maelstrom. It’s a silly moment, but it stuck in my head in that way these silly things are wont to do, and it always comes back to me whenever I go back to that dance-hall.

My memories are scattered with such things. I may barely remember who played which venue, or which song a band opened with, but I was there when a topless man, painted bright orange, went stumbling and rolling down the hill at Balloch Park, to the accompanying sounds of a didgeridoo courtesy of Hothouse Flowers. I was there when three people, one after the other, all caught their foot on the bottom step of the little raised area in the ABC, I was there when Guy Garvey pointed right at us during our favourite song.

There is something intoxicating about a good gig with a good audience. Being in the right spot helps, too far back and you are with the talkers and moaners, and alas these days there is a ‘too far forward’ as well; that is a space for young people to bounce and jump and elbow and have their own moments of glee and abandonment that I still remember from my own youth. The best gigs aren’t just about the band and the music; Faithless at the Academy on their farewell tour which was rammed full and for a change it seemed like everyone was up for a good night, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble urging the entire audience to crouch down and laughing as we all eagerly complied, the rousing rendition of We Are Sailing delivered by everyone in the Academy as we were promised the band would come back on to do an encore if we sang loud enough.

This year has, quite deliberately, featured quite a few gigs already, with many left to attend. I’ve double booked myself on more than one occasion, eschewing Superorganism for Idles, and more recently Ladytron over The Prodigy but only because the latter are playing at the single worst venue I’ve ever attended; the SEC, aka the Big Red Shed. For many years it was the largest non-stadium venue in Glasgow, hosting the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters etc but, thankfully, we now have the glowing UFO-esque Hydro, and the Barrowlands has reaped the benefits as the SEC focussed more on ‘events’ than gigs. Thank fuck.

Attending more gigs than I normally do has had the bonus effect of increasing my tolerance of gig arseholes. They still frequent every gig I attend but I’m much more likely to brush off their antics as just that, antics of people who’ve had a little too much liquid refreshment, or otherwise – I’m looking at all you middle-aged pill poppers raving away at The Orb gig a few weeks back – and I’m just not letting them spoil my enjoyment of the evening. If you wanna spend the money to go to a gig and talk your way through it, that’s cool. I’ll either move, or politely ask you to shut up, but either way, ain’t no skin of my nose.

I’ve enjoyed ear-bleedingly loud gigs in the smallest venues (hello Slime City/These New South Whales/DZ Deathray at the Hug & Pint) to the completely overwhelmingly over the top visual effects offered by Roger Watters at The Hydro (if you aren’t in total awe of a 60foot high laser pyramid, including dissecting rainbow shards, then I don’t even know…). From the wonderful one woman and a guitar styling of the tiny pixie punk Stella Donnelly, to the Olympic Park stadium filling, ridiculously turned to 11, Foo Fighters. I’ve also taken chances and caught bands I’ve never heard of and been rewarded more than is fair, and making more of an effort to catch support bands has, in turn, proved to be a great decision (Gurr and the aforementioned Slime City being the stand outs, so far).

Occasionally you luck out completely and the support band just happens to be one of your favourite bands too! So it was last night when the mighty Garbage rocked up at the Barrowlands, and were ably supported by Honeyblood, a band I’ve now seen 4 times from headlining the smallest (The Hug & Pint, capacity 100) to supporting the Foo Fighters at Murrayfield (capacity 70,000) and yes, there are themes to my venue and band choices and no, I don’t care.

Fundamentally my joy of going to gigs is hearing music in a rare and raw state, away from production studios and I still love the fact that I can go into a gig with an expectation and have it utterly blown away. Gorillaz have some beautiful songs, some slow paced numbers but their live set is full of energy and M1A1 might well be one of the best opening songs ever? Add to that the joyous feeling of being as one with thousands of other people; arms raised to LCD Soundsystem, feeling the bass move through me, I could have been anywhere as I was utterly alone and lost in that moment along with a couple of thousand other strangers.

These moments of joy, of connection, of passion and positive energy feed my soul for days. The music may vary, but give me an artist who performs, who sweats, and screams, and jumps, and puts themselves into every moment on stage and I’m sold. These are the stars, the people who clearly belong on the stage, who feed off the energy we supply and give it right back in droves. They can be quiet, they can be loud, but if the connection is there then it is an entirely other thing. From the screaming Skin of Skunk Anansie who WILL make you rock out no matter how hard you try and fight it, to the dulcet coaxing and smiles of Guy Garvey, the ability to own a room and make it yours is a special talent indeed.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the shared joy that is the cover version. Pick the right one and you have an instant massaoake; Royal Blood did it with 20th Century Boy, KT Tunstall drops a kazoo led Seven Nation Army into one of her songs (which works way better than you’d expect!), Hot Chip seamlessly blend Dancing in the Dark with All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem, and last night I left the Barrowlands still happily teary-eyed thanks to Garbage ending the night with a cover of Starman.

I rarely leave a gig without a smile on my face, a lightness in my step. Music can raise the spirit, can soothe and coddle, but a good gig is that and so much more. My soul is sated as I step out on to the street and start the journey home, already looking forward to the next one.

An ode to the slow cooker

It looks like summer is fading away and, as we head into my favourite season, it’s time to look out the blankets and (far more importantly) my old friend the slow cooker.

Ohhhh wonderous maker of stews and soups! I know you can do more – I have the books that tell me this – so I apologise that I don’t make better use of you but, let’s be honest, your convenience is your strength and I am little more than a chopper of foods, ready for your welcoming pot.

I tend to stick to simple recipes, brown some meat here, chop some veg there, add some stock and herbs, and we are ready to rock. I’ve done pulled pork, split pea and ham soup (a childhood fav), and numerous variations of stews.

There really is something wonderful about coming home on a chilly evening and being greeted by the welcoming aromas of a homemade bolognaise or chilli.

I feel an ode coming on…

The simplicity of your being,
the open welcoming pot,
calls to me at the chopping board.

The blade falls,
vegetables split and scurry,
escaping from board to floor (to bin).

On the stove a warming pan,
ready to play its part,
the sizzle of beef sears the air.

Half moons emerge,
spicing the air,
and soon to be golden brown (texture like sun)

One by one,
the pot is filled,
meats and vegs galore.

Broth is added,
the lid is set,
and you begin your magic.

Hours later a waft,
a deep rich aroma,
red wine and herbs bubble.

Autumn has arrived.

OK, suffice to say that Elizabeth Barrett Browning doesn’t need to worry but it’s true. I love autumn, I love the changing temperatures and those sneakily glorious blue skies days that are best enjoyed beneath hat and scarf. Ahhh yes, tis the season of warming comfort food and I don’t think there is any better device to accompany the changing of the leaves.

Weekend Reading

  • New No’s by Paul Chan
    After the 2016 election, artist and writer Paul Chan wrote the following poem that he called “New No’s”. I ran across this several times at The Whitney; it’s part of their great exhibition An Incomplete History of Protest.
    Print and put up in every school and workplace!

  • If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer
    Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million – 5% of our population – today.
    Science says… (as ever, it’s all about balance, something humankind just isn’t that great at)

  • This company embeds microchips in its employees, and they love it
    When Patrick McMullan wants a Diet Dr Pepper while he’s at work, he pays for it with a wave of his hand. McMullan has a microchip implanted between his thumb and forefinger, and the vending machine immediately deducts money from his account.
    Geek G says YES! The rest of me says ouch, wtf, and what does this mean for the future?

  • Scotland’s free tampons show the true mark of an evolved civilization
    This week, Scotland became the first nation in the world to guarantee free sanitary products to all students at schools, colleges, and universities. It’s part of a £5.2 million ($6.
    Once again, proud to be Scottish.

  • The New Old Age
    I am five years older than my mother was when she died of breast cancer, in 1982. She was sixty-five, which now seems ­merely middle aged. I don’t know what expectations she had about aging; I doubt she had any, especially after her diagnosis, but I know what mine are.
    Hold those you love closely. Life is far far too short.

  • How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love
    Travel is no longer a luxury good. Airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet have contributed to a form of mass tourism that has made local residents feel like foreigners in cities like Barcelona and Rome. The infrastructure is buckling under the pressure.
    This! Plus tourists visiting cities and only sticking to tourist stuff. Get off the beaten track already.

  • This Is Personal
    There’s this miracle happening at home right now. And before it’s over, I feel like I need to put it on paper — just to make sure I have some documented proof. Riley, our six-year-old daughter, wants to be like her parents.
    More men need to say these things.

  • Listening for Silence With the Headphones Off
    Immersive portable audio—the ability to be out in the world while listening to your favorite music privately, on headphones—is a relatively new phenomenon. In 1972, a man named Andreas Pavel more or less invented it.
    Out in a country park last weekend I paused and listened to the silence. Magical when you can find that space.

  • Alexa Is Losing Her Edge
    It’s easy to imagine a world in which “Alexa” is synonymous with talking computers, or Echo with smart speakers—just as Kleenex is synonymous with facial tissue, Xerox with copy machines, or Google with online search.
    I have Alexa. My usage hasn’t really expanded beyond the first few things I learned.

  • Begging the Question
    I do not know anyone who would be like this just to wind people up. Nope. I do not. *coughs*

  • ‘Growing up, we were the weird ones’: The wizarding, mermaiding, cosplaying haven of Epic Nerd Camp
    Okay, campers, everyone into the pool for fourth-period mermaiding. Or, merfolking, if you prefer. “We are sirens of the sea! Lie on your back and make love to the sky,” instructed Amber Kofman, waving her high-waisted aqua tail above the water.
    More spaces, more tribes, choose love.

  • Inside the slimy underground hunt for humanity’s antibiotic saviour
    The first time Naowarat Cheeptham ventured down into the Iron Curtain Cave, one day in 2011, the darkness was all-consuming. Turning away from the steel ladder – the only route back to the small square of sunlight far overhead – the biologist forced herself to continue forward.
    One day you will die. We will all die. Humanity will die. Bacteria won’t cos it’s smart than us.

  • Nostalgia is gaming’s biggest trend
    Tanglewood is a glitch in the matrix. As only the second video game released on the Sega Genesis since it was discontinued in 1997, it shouldn’t exist, but it does — a humble, beautifully realized 2D adventure platformer.
    Retro gaming isn’t about graphics and nostalgia, it’s about playability. Pick up and play!