Weekend Reading

      No Comments on Weekend Reading
  • We tested bots like Siri and Alexa to see who would stand up to sexual harassment
    If that’s the case, it’s time Cortana’s team—along Siri’s, Alexa’s, and Google Home’s—step up.
    This is weird, or scary, or … something else entirely.
  • People Who Cry During Movies Are The Strongest People Of All
    I’ll admit it: I cry during movies… and books, music, and podcasts. Depending on how my hormone levels are, I might preemptively grab tissues and just watch the movie alone. Though a lot of people smirk when they see me watch movies in tears, I’m really fine with it.
    From a ‘big greet’ I couldn’t agree more.
  • Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media
    With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network.
    tl;dr we are all fucked and big money will always win? Jesus H Christ…
  • Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon
    I am a comedian. You may or may not find me funny, but the fact remains, that I am a comedian. This feels like a defensive start to a column but you will soon understand why. Last year, I was nominated for a Bafta. Me. The quiet girl at school. The awkward girl at college. The funny woman at work.
    I’m a fan of this lovely, silly, funny lady. This article is about more than that though. 
  • Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?
    The digital revolution is in full swing. How will it change our world? The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015.
    Yup, it’s that A.I. thing again, I’m telling ya, it’s … something!
  • These bees successfully taught their friends to play bee soccer 99% of the time
    Not all athletes are born human.
    More proof that bees are cool af.
  • Transhumanism: More Nightmare Than Dream?
    On the eve of the 20th century, an obscure Russian man who had refused to publish any of his works began to finalize his ideas about resurrecting the dead and living forever.
    And the world just keeps on getting weirder…
  • Earth’s Orbiting Junkyard Threatens the Space Economy
    You never see it in those lovely NASA pictures of Earth, but the space surrounding our pale blue dot is a cosmic junkyard. Debris abounds, moving at ludicrous speeds and presenting plenty of hassles for satellite operators who do business in orbit.
    Figures. We’ve fucked up our planet, so let’s start with space. Great job guys!
  • Crazy They Call Me
    Well, you certainly don’t go out anyplace less than dressed, not these days. Can’t let anybody mistake you for that broken, misused little girl: Eleanora Fagan. No. Let there be no confusion.
    Brutal and honest, and well worth a read.
  • Financiers Fight Over the American Dream
    One day in the summer of 2011, Christine Richard arrived at the forty-second floor of a high-rise on Fifty-seventh Street in Manhattan to visit a hedge fund called Pershing Square Capital Management.
    Ohhh goody, more big money.
  • Why Pheasant Island Is Sometimes in France, Sometimes in Spain
    On maps, international borders are two-dimensional: they can be traced out on a flat sheet of paper with latitude and longitude.
    Anyone wanna go on the day they ‘handover’?
  • Exclusive interview: Max Martin
    ”Well, I can only say what I think. I think that a great pop song should be felt when you hear it. You can hear songs that are technically great, songs that tick all the boxes. But for a song to be felt, you need something else.
    Nope, I hadn’t heard of him either. But you know his songs, ohhh yes you do!
  • A girl and her glitter-shooting prosthetic: ‘You can do anything’
    Jordan Reeves’ face lights up when she talks about “Finding Nemo,” remembering how she met the cast of the musical at Disney World last year. “I wore a Nemo-looking dress,” said Jordan, age 11. “It looked like a clown fish, just like Nemo.
    Kick ass inspiration. HER ARM SHOOTS GLITTER!!
  • The Mystery of Mr. Grass
    Mr. Grass and I have just spent a few hours on his porch talking about the factual accuracy of the movie Sully and eating backyard peaches and watching rabbits thump thump across the lawn and taking in the warming Colorado morning, so I figure it’s probably time to get out of his hair.
    No YOU’VE spent hours on this kinda thing in the past…
  • Hidden Figures will become Lego figures to teach little girls everywhere that NASA would be nothing without women
    Forget Lego Batman. The best new minifigures of 2017 are female NASA heroes. On Tuesday (Feb. 28), Lego announced it would soon release a set of minifigures of five pioneering female scientists whose contribution to NASA has largely been underappreciated.
    HOORAY!!!!!
  • How to Bake Scientifically Accurate Cake Planets
    Offered in the hope that someone will make one for me? Any takers??

February In Review

      1 Comment on February In Review

And then it was March. I know February is the shortest month but holy jeez how is it MARCH already!!

Lived

Highlights

I have a new flat to move into! After several viewings, most of which were just ‘not good’ the first one I saw was the best option. Cheaper, and a lot smaller, than my current place, I am midst mass declutter as I type.

Still going along to guided meditation and have started doing a little at home (using the Buddhify app to help). I’m not sure if he’s helping in the day-to-day much yet, but the sessions do leave me feeling lighter.

Also
I’ll just mention the Scottish Rugby team here and leave it at that.

Read

Highlight – The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
My choice for book club, largely because I enjoyed her last novel – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – and a slightly surreal one. Set in current times, the story follows Hope Arden, a woman who no-one remembers, as she lies, cheats, thieves her way through her life before being given a chance at, finally, being remembered. Clever concept which touches on elements of Autistic/Aspbergers syndromes, the current reliance on smart phones, and the prevailing ‘be better/be more’ lifestyles that we are supposed to aspire to. Left me wondering about how people will remember me and challenging my own desires to ‘be better’ (shouldn’t I just be ‘me’?).

Also good

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
Previously mentioned last month, it’s proven timely in my desire to declutter. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a life changing book but reaffirms some basic notions and helped me get through some of the more emotional decisions I’ve had to make (see previous blog post)

Watched

Highlight – T2: Trainspotting

I had tried to avoid the trailers and the hype, and set my expectations low as there is no way they could’ve hoped to revisit the iconic first movie. That said, it’s great. An intelligent, sophisticated update of the storyline, letting the characters age and the resulting chaos feels apt without being over wrought. Great performances throughout, but Ewan Bremner was the stand out for me.

Have to admit I am very intrigued to find out what non-Scottish audiences took from the “1690” scene though, having grown up in the West of Scotland it was pitch perfect in a hilariously scary way.

Note: The scene with the cash line machines, I work about 200m from there!

Also good

John Wick 2 – Utterly violent nonsense but delivered with a knowing sense of style, a simple story line and an excellent physical performance by Keanu Reeves. He’s never gonna be considered a great actor in terms of delivery, but if you do watch this, compare his portrayal of Wick versus Neo from the Matrix. Neo is smart, light, fluid, almost perfect. Wick is heavy, solid and formidable (watch as he clumsily pets his beloved dog). Subtle stuff.

The People v O.J. Simpson (Netflix)
Finally got around to watching this dramatisation and it made me realise how little I knew about what actually happened. I was aware of elements of it but more by osmosis than being tuned in to it at the time. Some good acting mixed with the jarring Travolta.

OJ: Made in America (iPlayer)
I watched this after the dramatisation (above) and seeing the facts laid out… how did he get off? Interesting following on if you picked up on my documentary recommendation from last month too (13th on Netflix).

Listened

Highlight – Pinegrove

Nothing new this month (not really had time) but Pinegrove have been on heavy rotation, largely due to the fact I saw them live last weekend. Lyrically interesting, musically very mid-America feeling (think Band of Horses) but live they come across with much more of a punk attitude than their albums convey.

Bite me

      No Comments on Bite me

Pop culture.

Words used.

Origin unknown.

Meanings conferred.

Brewed in the brain.

Subtleties lost.

Twisted timelines.

Asian whispers.

Playground offices.

Stolen.

Misused.

Appropriated.

Triggered disconnects.

Global memes.

Memories merging.

Pasts colliding.

A nip of this.

Media unknown.

Mix well.

Pilfered accents.

References mashed.

A dash of that.

Decades apart.

Lifetimes passed.

Fashion disregarded.

Delivered without pause.

“Bite me” has returned to my lexicon.

Reasons escape me.

Weekend Reading

      No Comments on Weekend Reading
  • Do Not Pass Go: Interview With The Monopoly Thimble
    Perhaps nobody cares about their clothes anymore.
    Sad times for a thimble, cast aside.
  • The Coffee Shaman
    “The way a shaman comes to light is that, as a child, he’s given fairy tales that are only that: fairy tales. And the shaman has to then penetrate the veil, to understand that there’s really something else beyond.”
    Now, I love coffee but… shaman?
  • 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump
    Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him. Around 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. This new site I didn’t understand. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque.
    My first Trump link in a while, charting the rise of the disilluisioned hate that he rode to President
  • How the price of paint is set in the hearts of dying stars
    Today I’m going to try to explain the real reason that barns are painted red: nuclear fusion. And yes, this is an excuse to take a mad ride around some of the stranger corners of physics and chemistry in order to give you the real, this-is-not-BS, answer to a simple question.
    GEEK TASTIC!! Don’t worry I failed my O Grade Chemistry and I understood this, well, most of it..
  • This Giant Gray Blobby Thing Has Become A Huge Meme In Russia For Some Reason
    In January, someone shared a picture of a sculpture at the medical centre of the University of Leiden, Holland on Russian website pikabu. The sculpture, Margriet van Breevoort, created the piece to symbolize patients experience of waiting to see a doctor.
    Your meme is not my meme.
  • Found: 50,000-Year-Old Microbes Hiding in the Cave of the Crystals
    In Naica, Mexico, there’s a fantastic cave filled with giant crystals. First discovered by miners looking for silver and other valuable minerals, the cave is hot, anywhere for 104 to 140ºF, and it is crisscrossed with ancient crystals of gypsum, which can grow as long as 50 feet.
    AMAZE
  • To the people I know who know Milo
    There are lots of people of my acquaintance who have known Milo for a long time, through his many shape-shifting phases.
    I don’t know Milo, and I’m glad of that. This article makes a strong case for condemning the condemnable WHILST they are in action.
  • Should We Die?
    Radical longevity may change the way we live—and not necessarily for the better. Istvan, an atheist who physically resembles the pure-hearted hero of a Soviet children’s book, explained that his life is awesome.
    Bonkers. But plausible bonkers? (the new fake news?)
  • Cake or biscuit? Why Jaffa Cakes excite philosophers
    It’s a delicious structure consisting of a small sponge with a chocolate cap covering a veneer of orange jelly. It is arguably Britain’s greatest invention after the steam engine and the light bulb. But is a Jaffa Cake actually a biscuit, asks David Edmonds.
    More Geekgasming, and a sweet spot hit. My love for the cake of Jaffa knows no bounds!
  • The Trash Heap Has Spoken
    My grandmother was a mountain.
    POWERFUL writing. As a fat person this is at once uplifting, shocking, and moving (and I’m lucky, I’m a fat man, which seems to be more ‘allowed’ than being a fat woman.
  • Selfies aren’t a sign of the decay of civilization. They’re modern art.
    The internet has a love-hate relationship with selfies. On one hand, everybody posts them. On the other, they are a sign of narcissism. They are linked to low self-esteem. They show that our culture has plunged into navel-gazing decadence and, more than that, they’re annoying.
    Interesting. Both the article and the clever steering away from discussing the extension to the selfie, the selfie stick!
  • A Swedish politician is advocating for the ultimate workplace benefit: paid breaks for sex
    Per-Erik Muskos, a 42-year-old local council member for Övertorneå in northern Sweden, proposed this week that Swedes should take a one-hour paid break from work to go home and have sex with their partners.
    *packs bags*
  • Adulting School Teaches Young Adults Grown-Up Skills
    Transitioning to adulthood isn’t new, but there is a more modern way to describe it: adulting. Get your car’s oil changed? That’s adulting. Cook dinner instead of order takeout? That’s adulting.
    Amusing? Yes. Worrying? Yes. Not being able to ‘adult’ for ‘lack of capacity issues is one thing. Not being able to because you are a moron, something else entirely?
  • I Was a Muslim in Trump’s White House
    When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days. In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council.
    Wow. Another voice that should be heard.
  • Why Nothing Works Anymore
    Technology has its own purposes. “No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet.
    You thought I wasn’t posting an AI/tech related link this week, didn’t ya!
  • Video Games Are Better Than Real Life
    On the evening of November 9, having barely been awake to see the day, I took the subway to Sunset Park. My objective was to meet a friend at the arcade Next Level. In size, Next Level resembles a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant.
    Please refer to article title.
  • Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture
    When new employees join Uber, they are asked to subscribe to 14 core company values, including making bold bets, being “obsessed” with the customer, and “always be hustlin’.
    I’d imagine most of you will have read THAT article (if not, it’s linked in this one). I have never used Uber, and I never will.
  • Men, Is Exercise Putting a Damper on Your Sex Life?
    Men who exercise strenuously may have a lower libido than those whose workouts are lighter, according to one of the first studies to scientifically delve into the relationship between men’s workouts and their sex lives.
    I don’t do much in the way of exercise yet where is the quid pro quo?! (TMI?)

Mission to Mars

      No Comments on Mission to Mars

My dearest loved ones,

I’m writing to all of you in the hope that my words will bring some solace and help you adjust to what is about to happen. You all know how excited I was when they announced this project, you’ve all supported me and encouraged me to work hard to make it happen, and you’ve all been there through my darkest days when I thought it was slipping out of my reach.

From the moment I heard about the mission to Mars I knew I had to be on the crew, all those years staring up at the sky, wondering what lay beyond, the holidays to the Moon bases, and my acceptance to Lunar College were all a stepping stone.

I know now that those early days were just the beginning of a longer journey, one I didn’t even realise I wanted. Getting into space was the dream, remember that family trip to the Armstrong memorial? What a happy time that was! The photo of us all pretending to moonwalk still cracks me up and a print of that very photo will be one of my personal items on the Mars trip.

We aren’t allowed too many personal items, it’s a long journey and the less we take the quicker we will get there but along with that photo I’m taking some other things that remind me of you guys, my crazy family.

Dad, that jumper you knitted me got me through Lunar College and whilst it’s a little worse for wear I think the comfort it will bring may be much needed, our pods will be pretty sparse (it’s a military ship after all) so it’ll be good to be able to snuggle up with it. It always reminded me of my childhood, how you used to wrap your arms around me on cold days to keep me warm, how safe and loved I felt.

Mum, the utility knife you gave me when I graduated is already packed. I’m technically not allowed a ‘weapon’ but I’ve managed to smuggle it aboard all my other trips so it’s going on this one too! That knife has been with me through a lot of tough times but even just holding it in my hand has helped me stay focused. It’s weird I know but it’s got a nice heft to it that, when I hold it, reminds of you. Assured, calming, level headed and prepared.

Andy, well of course I’ve brought all those mixed tapes you kept sending me, maybe I’ll finally listen to one all the way through and realise that you do have some musical taste (I’m not holding my breath but I’ve got about 14 months to kill so…). I’ve also brought that baseball. Yeah, I kept it all these years, it’s been with me everyday since the accident, my own little secret that reminds me that if you can rise above that, then I can rise to meet any challenge. You are more inspirational to me than you’ve ever realised. People once told me that having a little brother would be a pain in the ass (they weren’t wrong!) but they never told me that I’d eventually be looking up to my little brother.

Caz, after everything you’ve been through I should confess something. I stole a little thing the last time I visited, knowing that I was on the shortlist for this mission. I wanted something to remind me of you, something that I could hold in my hand and draw comfort from. I hope you don’t mind, and I figured the twins won’t miss their little knitted booties anyway. I never told you, but my adorable niece and nephew are one of the reasons I wanted this mission so so badly. The future of Earth is so unstable it scares me, so if we can find a better place on, or beyond, Mars then I hope that I can play a part in making things safer for them and their children.

It hurts that I won’t see any of you again, that as we fly further and further from Earth the communication delay will start to be measured in hours and then days. Our last interactions earlier today were the last real time conversation we will ever have. The journey I’m about to embark on is weighing heavy and it’s all these little things that suddenly seem to matter more than anything.

I will miss you all terribly, more than I can express using words but this might be the last chance I get.

I love you all so so very much, I know I’ve not always been a good son, and I know I could’ve been a better brother. I know I could’ve done more, tried harder, but I guess I’ve always been wanting this escape. I need to go now, final preparations are under way and in less than an hour we will leave the Moon behind and start our journey into whatever space has to hold for us.

I believe I am doing this for all of us, a chance for a better future, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.

Right, enough of this! Next stop Mars!!

Decluttering Tyler

      No Comments on Decluttering Tyler

I am not my job. I am not how much money I have in the bank. I am not the car I drive. I am not the contents of my wallet. I am not my fucking khakis. I am not the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

(paraphrased from a movie we don’t talk about)

Three boxes of books and five bags of clothes given to charity, four bags of  assorted rubbish taken to the dump, one bookcase, one box of assorted drinking glasses, and a few lamps gone, and soon to be added to the list of outgoing items are two chests of drawers and a chair bed (sale pending).

It’s embarrassing. Not just the volume but how easily discarded. Shameful.

It’s also harder than I had considered when I set out; clearing through drawers and long closed boxes, finding letters and notes from the past, memories ripped anew. Fresh wounds lightly salted.

It’s also false picture of reality. I am not defined by my possessions, even if it seems that way at the moment, but I feel overwhelmed and confounded by how little so many of these things mean to me. Yet the more I clear, the more determined I become. The things I have will not own me. I am not Jack’s wasted life.

I reckon I’m about a third of the way through this process so there is still a way to go before I’ll be ‘finished’. At least finished enough for the upcoming move, if not finished enough to fully move on it seems.

It’s not just about ‘getting rid’ and I find I’m as horrified by the quantity of things I possess as I am fascinated by what they seem to represent. There is a delight at re-discovering items that have lain dormant in a drawer or on a shelf for too many years, and at times a deep melancholy for those who are no longer part of my life.

I know this is all down to the choices I’ve made, the way I live my life, and all the consequences I have wrought. I am not special in this respect (or in any respect) but it turns out that decluttering your possessions also means decluttering your emotions and finding what you truly value, what you truly need in your life. Yes, I know. There are books about this stuff but I’m finding the doing more effective than the reading.

It’s also tiring. The ‘what ifs’ are writ large in every lost note recovered, every photo found hidden in the crease of a book, every decision to keep an item, or to throw it away. It is cathartic and exhausting. It feels like it has worth, that what I am doing is more valuable to me than any monetary value I could place on the items I am considering, that the act of consideration is a better investment than the physical object itself.

Ultimately, factually, this is all about moving to a smaller/cheaper place. What I’m realising is that it’s a larger change of self than I had anticipated. A change that is wholly welcomed, warts and all. Perhaps I am giving the process too much weight but it’s hard not to when the entire lesson seems to circle back to me and my sense of self.

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

Weekend Reading

      No Comments on Weekend Reading
  • Did a violin teacher from Plano, Texas solve the world’s greatest classical music mystery?
    In 2006, Padgett was part of an orchestra preparing for a concert dedicated to the “mysteries and hidden messages” of Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, Enigma, Op. 36. The Enigma Variations, as it is commonly called, is one of Britain’s most beloved classical music works.
    I love stuff like this, yeah, I’m a geek, bite me!
  • I Work from Home
    ROBERT: Hi, I . . . uh . . . I work from home. OPERATOR: O.K., is anyone else there with you, sir?
    No longer an option but I can see how this could happen…
  • Renewables are no longer ‘alternative.’ Fossil fuels are ‘legacy.’
    Whether to bet on the low-carbon energy transformation now well under way — or stick with business-as-usual. That’s the decision facing investors, from American families with 401(k)s to managers of the world’s largest pension and sovereign wealth funds.
    Hello! 1995 called with an environmental update!
  • There’s a growing body of evidence that butter is actually good for you
    A team of medical researchers have some good news for those who cook with butter but consider it a guilty pleasure: It might actually be good for you.
    I do wish they’d make up their minds!!
  • Here’s What TfL Learned From Tracking Your Phone On the Tube
    At the end of last year, between 21st November and 19th December, Transport for London carried out an intriguing trial: It was going to track your phone on the London Underground.
    Data data everywhere, where it goes… most people seem to know it seems
  • The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster
    In February 2005, after the band won its third Grammy of the night, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. stepped to the microphone and made an announcement about the band’s upcoming Vertigo tour: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, a lot of our long-suffering fans didn’t get tickets,” he said.
    Hate this guy. But nice to know how it all “works” though, right?
  • How to Get Ketchup From a Bottle Without the Wait, Watery Goo and Splatter
    Some foods have stirred important questions: Where’s the beef? Got milk? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? And what is the most effective way to get ketchup from a glass bottle?
    Try this at home! (But don’t complain to me when it all goes wrong)
  • A Grammar Geek’s Confession
    Forgive me, dear readers: I have sinned against grammar and in thy sight, and, as I might have expected, you’ve caught me. I’m referring to the “Verbs” section of The Atlantic Daily newsletter, which includes a series of four links attached to four (hopefully) sonically pleasing predicates.
    Word geekage, you have been warned
  • We Know Almost Nothing About the Animals That Live on Our Faces
    You mite not even have heard of them. The history of humanity’s grand sweep around the world is recorded in our genes and genealogies, our art and artifacts, our literature and languages.
    Skin feeling a bit itchy right now?
  • Some animals kill each other after sex because their distinction between hungry and flirty is blurred
    Sorry, cephalopod enthusiasts. For a second year in a row, there will be no Octo-Sex event at the Seattle Aquarium. In honor of past years’ Valentine’s Day, the aquarium has organized a viewing party as they introduce two octopuses that will hopefully mate.
    Takeaway: Never fuck (with) an octopus
  • The long and troubled history of Apocalypse Now, the video game
    In late January, an exciting and unlikely project showed up on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter: a request for $900,000 to make a video game adaptation of Apocalypse Now, officially blessed by the film’s director Francis Ford Coppola.
    I didn’t even know this was(n’t) a thing
  • Mia The Easily Distracted Beagle Won’t Win A Westminster Dog Show Award, But She’s Already Won Our Hearts
    At the end of the day, dog shows are kind of cruel: How can you expect dogs to just ignore an adoring crowd all around them? Mia, to her credit, stood up for her species and basked in all that lovely human attention.
    Awwwwwwww
  • Honeybees let out a ‘whoop’ when they bump into each other
    Whoop whoop! A vibrational pulse produced by honeybees, long thought to be a signal to other bees to stop what they are doing, might actually be an expression of surprise.
    More proof that bees are too cool for school
  • The Man Who Played with Absolute Power
    In his 2008 TED Talk, Philip Zimbardo introduced his subject by showing his audience M.C. Escher’s Circle Limit IV, a set of black and white tessellated angles and demons. The art, Zimbardo explained, reminds us that “good and evil are the yin and yang of the human condition.
    Psychology from the Stanford Prison Experiment Man (as I’m sure he LOVES being referred to as)
  • This summer, O.J. Simpson is up for parole. How good are his chances of getting out of prison?
    As prison life goes, you could do worse than a stretch at the Lovelock Correctional Center. The inmates at Lovelock—1,680 when filled to capacity—are fed fresh fruit and permitted to watch ESPN. Each 80-square-foot cell is shared by two men.
    I can see the tweets now “OJ who?”
  • Russians Engineer a Brilliant Slot Machine Cheat—And Casinos Have No Fix
    In early June 2014, accountants at the Lumiere Place Casino in St. Louis noticed that several of their slot machines had—just for a couple of days—gone haywire.
    Geniusly “simple” hack

Blogging the Rubicon

      No Comments on Blogging the Rubicon

Caesar (yes, that one) instigated a war by crossing the river Rubicon, so when I heard that a new venture had opened, and taken its name from this historic act of war, my interest was piqued. Let’s see what Crossing the Rubicon had to offer.

They had invited around 40 bloggers, of various shades of disrepute, and as with most new venues we were all keen to try the wares and see just how provoking the menu and approach was. The short answer, never judge a bar by its name (as you wouldn’t a book by its cover), but do judge it by the quality of its food (and beverages). The very short answer, good food and beer are served here!

The longer answer then…

With strikingly painted walls, and a more spacious and open feeling than it’s Squid & Whale incarnation, first impressions are good and a little more refined than the aforementioned venture. It has a nice laid-back feel, the staff were all friendly and welcoming, and it feels like the kind of place you could drop in on a Saturday afternoon, end up staying for dinner, then roll home after last orders with ease…. or maybe it’s just me that does that? Given the array of beer on offer, it wouldn’t be for the want of trying, mind you.

On to the evening itself, once we were all in and seated we were told we would be given a sample of a variety of dishes; a few starters, a few of their curries, and a dessert. Add in some of the excellent beers available and my palate was excited to get tucked in.

Starters included a fresh, thin onion pakora, black pudding pakora, veggie haggis pakora, and crispy chicken pakora. Each was good, the chicken edging it by remaining succulent and fresh and far removed from the usual stodgy fare we all know, with the onion pakora a close second and more of an spiced onion gratin, subtle changes that made all the difference to these dishes.

With those all swiftly dispatched – amongst lots of ohhhs and ahhhhs of appreciation – we moved on to the main courses. Described as ‘Indian tapas’ you’d probably order 2 or 3 of the main courses, and some breads/rice to accompany them.

We got to try several of the main dishes including a coconut heavy Sweet Potato and Carrot korma (a firm favourite at our table), a Tarka Dhal which had a nice kick, a Crispy Tofu Mutter and Gobi Khali Mirch which both came with a tomato sauce that was a little on the watery side for my liking, a Dhal Makani which was rich and subtley spiced, a wonderfully smokey Tandoori Butter Chicken, and finally, my least favourite dish of the night, the Venison Madras which was a bit too heavy on the Juniper for my tastebuds (but others enjoyed it, such is the joy of a mixed crowd!).

We also got to sample a few of the wonderful beers on offer; I opted for a flight including an XPIPA (Wylam & Yeastie Boys), a Crossing the Rubicon (Drygate) lager, and a Redact (Williams Bros) red ale, and also got to try the Bombay Dazzler (Bundo Bust & Northern Monk) a subtle cloudy ale, and the wonderfully named Disco Forklift Truck (Drygate) a gentle mango ale, and the Strawberry Beer (Timmermans) which was delicious but I think a half pint would be the limit as it’s quite sweet.

I was pretty full by this point but it felt rude to refuse the offer of dessert… and boy was I glad I said yes! Described as a ‘chocolate pot’ on the menu, that is over simplifying a deliciously rich, dark chocolate dessert, with a hint of orange and a tiny tickle of chilli, which we found out was made with tofu (I’d have sworn heavy cream and butter!).

And with that, the evening drew to a close. I wander home along Great Western Road, nicely sated, with a new ‘place to take friends when they are in town’ venue safely tucked away in my pocket.

If you are in the area, it is well worth a try, the joy of tapas style eating – order too much food just to try things – and some excellent beer choices, all for a reasonable price. What’s not to like?

When you don’t fit

      No Comments on When you don’t fit

Banged my head again.

I wouldn’t mind so much but it was on the exact same spot on my head that I did it last time, and the time before that. I’m currently taping a wadded up towel round the sharp wooden edge of the entrance so I don’t do it again. Stupid walk-in cupboard.

I should really just empty it out, not that there is much in it but it’s handy, or at least it would be if the entrance was a little bigger.

It’s not that I’m not used to ducking to go through doors, I mean it’s an everyday habit for me. I remember one time visiting a museum, and old building that was no doubt built hundreds of years ago, all stone and wood it was, and I guess there were more people like me around then because the doors were massive! Really tall! I could barely touch the top of them even if I stood on my tippy toes.

Maybe I should buy a house like that, a house built for someone my size, instead of squashing myself into these tiny boxes that everyone else seems to fit in. But if I buy a house that fits me, it only goes to show how much I stand out.

That’s always been my problem, I don’t fit in. I can remember the kids at school teasing me like, somehow, it was my fault I was taller than all of them and the tallest teacher already? I learned back then how to stoop and make myself small, make myself fit. Kids can be so cruel. So brutally heartless. I’d practice making myself small as I lay in bed, sobbing myself to sleep.

Not that things were any different when I went to college. Despite all the supposedly liberal minded people there were still quips about my size, ‘how is the weather up there?’ they ask. Day after day. I didn’t have many friends, and sure, I was popular if they were playing basketball but they soon bored of that – having someone my size who can look down at the basket… well it wasn’t fair on anyone else I guess. So the names and insults would flow, all aimed at making me less than I am, taking me down a peg or two because, somehow, it was perceived that that is what I deserved.

Do they think I choose to be this way? Do they think I want to stand out the way I do? Can’t they tell how much I yearn to fit in?

It’s probably telling that the few friends I have are all women. I learned from them how to make myself insignificant so I didn’t attract attention, learned to be smaller than I am so I don’t rub people the wrong way, watched as they shrunk away from men on the street and in bars. I learned a lot of things from them, things I didn’t want to know, things that they shouldn’t have to do, but I copied them all the same.

These days I’m oblivious to the stares, to the gawkers, the whispered commentary about the ‘freak’ as they walk past me in the street. It still hurts though. People can be so cruel. So heartless. I do my best to ignore them, after all what’s the point of getting angry, that’d only make me more of an outcast, although I’m not sure that’s possible any more.

Sometimes I wonder if there are others out there like me but then, if there were, surely I’d know about them already? Seems weird that I’m the only one like this. But maybe I am. I wish I wasn’t. I was I was smaller.

OK, I’ve finished taping the towel to the door frame, hopefully that’ll stop me banging my damn head on it.

I really should think about emptying it. Or maybe I’ll just moving, leave this tiny place behind… but where would I go?

I mean, I know I’m a giant, but why shouldn’t I be able to live somewhere that fits me properly?

Weekend Reading

      No Comments on Weekend Reading
  • Simply 69 funny jokes by 69 funny comedians
    Just 69 brilliant jokes as written by 69 brilliant comedians. What else is there to say, take it away Spike… 1. Spike Milligan “I thought I’d begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine. 2.
    My kinda humour. Simple & clever. Like me!
  • This New Dating App Will Find You Someone Who Dislikes All the Same Things
    Positivity is often advised whenever you start dating someone new: Along with hiding that you still Instagram-stalk your ex’s ex and consider a box of Wheat Thins to be a suitable dinner, you’re also not supposed to constantly bring up things that you hate.
    I always find it easier to write a list of things I hate. Says more about me than I care to admit!
  • No One Rules The Deep Sea, So How Do We Protect It?
    More than half of the Earth’s surface is not subject to any form of law, and that area happens to be at the deepest part of the ocean.
    As we continue to ‘globalise’ these things matter.
  • Does An Octopus Have A Soul? This Author Thinks So
    For most of us, the idea of having our hands stroked by a rubbery arm covered in suckers is not that appealing. But for Sy Montgomery, author of Soul Of An Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into The Wonder of Consciousness, octopuses are a source of endless fascination and wonder.
    Sharing because Octopus are crazy awesome weirdos
  • This Is Why You Probably Hate Slam Poetry, According to a Linguistic Scholar
    This article originally appeared on VICE Canada. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’ve ever attended a poetry slam, you probably already hate “slam voice”.
    Not been to many spoken word events recently but OMG YES TO THIS!
  • Overthinking Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’: Questions You Never Asked as a Child
    “Pinocchio” isn’t just one of the most beloved and impactful Disney films of all time — it’s a significant film, period, having inspired the world to reconsider anew the potential of animation as a truly cinematic medium.
    Whoa! Ummmm, I mean… this is one dark fucked up movie!
  • Michele Kirsch: My life as a cleaner in London
    “If you go on looking for things, you will never find them,” barked Crispin, a hearing-aid refusnik pensioner with Parkinson’s disease, and one of my former regular clients.
    Frank and engaging piece, wonderfully written too.
  • The Other Kane
    The Alien creature, at one point dubbed “Kane’s son” by Ash, demands birth from the chest of John Hurt in a spectacular and gory fashion. But though Kane was always to father the Alien, the role of Kane himself changed hands during the film’s production.
    RIP John Hurt 🙁
  • What cats can teach us about how to live
    We should celebrate the solitary hunters among us. A philosopher once assured me, many years ago, that he had converted his cat to veganism. Believing he was joking, I asked how he had achieved this feat.
    And no, it’s not ‘how to be a dickhead like a cat’
  • I Asked a Psychopath How to Stop Caring About Rejection
    Wondering what other people think is a classic problem, and rejection sucks. When the phone doesn’t ring, the invitation doesn’t arrive, or you get cut from the team or the job, it’s only natural to feel hurt. But I should say that it’s natural for most people, not everyone.
    I can’t empathise with this, which makes it all the more fascinating.
  • One Woman’s Brilliant “Fuck You” to Wikipedia Trolls
    The “fuck you” project crystallized one Friday night last year. As Emily Temple-Wood video-chatted with friends, an email pinged in her inbox: The note came from someone with a history of harassing the 22-year-old medical student. This man hates women, Temple-Wood thought to herself.
    A reminder that the internet can be very powerful. What a fantastic story of an amazing woman.
  • The art (and commerce) of Minecraft
    Since its initial release in 2009, Minecraft has matured to the point of being a platform for people who want to make art and also for people who want to make money.
    Give creative people a platform, get out of the way, be amazed.
  • Usonia 1
    Few creative professions can point to a single figure as famous in their field as Frank Lloyd Wright.
    Eye candy for design lovers.
  • 5 Books You Might Have Missed in January
    Transformation is in the air during these difficult times, and it’s not just destructive: We’re also seeing peaceful crowds gather in protest, more understanding for transgender persons, and the rebirth of good, old-fashioned resistance.
    Cos everyone should read, even Presidents!!!
  • Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source
    Online encyclopaedia editors rule out publisher as a reference citing ‘reputation for poor fact checking and sensationalism’ Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unrel
    This brings me more joy than it probably should. Ohh and throw a few quid at Wikipedia if you use it!
  • Why the Planet Earth II Episode on Cities Is So Startling
    It gives us a glimpse of our strange future. It used to happen a lot: Teetering home drunk and disconsolate late at night through the shadowy semi-suburbs of north London, I would turn a corner and find, staring placidly at me on the street, the silhouette of a fox.
    Both Planet Earth series but this episode charts a future we aren’t ready for.
  • Joyous Africans Take to the Rails, With China’s Help
    The 10:24 a.m. train out of Djibouti’s capital drew some of the biggest names in the Horn of Africa last month.
    Alas everything is political these days, the rise of China investment in Africa is a global issue.
  • Is My Novel Offensive?
    When Becky Albertalli published her first young adult novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, with the HarperCollins imprint Balzer and Bray in 2015, she never expected it to be controversial.
    Define offensive? Fuck off.
  • Nagbot Sends Mean Texts to Help You Stick to Your Resolutions
    If you’ve made resolutions, you don’t want to forget about them when the novelty of the new year has worn off. Nagbot is a fun texting app that helps you stick to your goals by texting you regular reminders. To create a nag, you enter your name, phone number, and goal into Nagbot’s website.
    If you like this, try the Carrott apps (their weather app is a joy!)