bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

More random readings I’ve stumbled across this week. Note: no post next week as I’ll be somewhere in a muddy field at Glastonbury.

  • How to Avoid the Productivity Rabbit Hole
    This article is by Josh Zerkel, Director of Worldwide Account Management and Training at Evernote. We’re not entirely sure where the kitten photo came from. It’s best we keep it that way. We can haz productivity. And, so can you. Scroll through your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter feed.

  • 20 astonishing holiday complaints
    Presented to you, for your entertainment and pleasure – 20 of the most outrageous, ridiculous and stupid travel complaints made to tour operators A recent survey from Thomas Cook and ABTA reveals 20 of the most ridiculous complaints by holiday-makers made to their travel agent.

  • Does a polyamorous lifestyle reward followers with a better life?
    Actors Ginnifer Goodwin, Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Chloe Sevigny starred in the popular HBO series Big Love which focused on polyamorous relationships.

  • League of Legends prodigy Faker carries his country on his shoulders
    ‘League of Legends’: A marquee event”League of Legends” has swept across the globe in recent years, and tens of millions of gamers now play each month. Check out just how big the eSport has become.

  • Camming Is Not Like Any Other Kind of Sex Work
    I’m in Eevie’s bedroom watching her work. She’s wearing a little black dress and drinking merlot from a shatterproof wineglass one of her viewers sent her after she’d broken a real one on camera.

  • Can Reading Make You Happier?
    Several years ago, I was given as a gift a remote session with a bibliotherapist at the London headquarters of the School of Life, which offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence.

  • The Shittest Burlesque I’ve Seen
    For some time now, on my rounds of the great and the good of cabaret spectaculars, I have found that I dread the mention of burlesque. Not because I don’t like the art form: precisely because I love it.

  • Your Child Should Never Be Forced to Hug Anyone (Yes, Including a Relative) – Here Are 7 Reasons Why — Everyday Feminism
    Two of my good friends had their first baby late this past year. From the get-go, Baby was a cuddly little girl. (Or, as her two moms say, “We assume she’s a girl, but we won’t know for sure until she tells us herself.

  • Calling Yourself Fat For the First Time — Medium
    The word ‘fat’ used to have me running scared. It stung my ears, made my heart sink, and when used by someone else about me, it made me cry.

  • The Straight White Man’s Guide To The 21st Century
    For the modern gent, the 21st century can be an absolute ruddy minefield. A chameleonic landscape of rights, wrongs, and rules where the unknowing and unwilling are met with gleeful admonishment and public shame. A minefield, I say!

  • Laverne Cox: ‘Now I have the money to feminise my face I don’t want to. I’m happy that this is the face God gave me’
    ‘Until recently, I was the transgender person that people were most aware of,” says Laverne Cox, who describes herself as “an actress first and activist second”.

  • The Black Knight Satellite — The Truth is Up There
    The Heavens abound with no shortage of weirdness, mystery and wonder and despite intense scrutiny there is a dearth of solid, factual information; fantastic speculation isn’t going to stop any time soon and that suits your Humble Narrator just fine. Who wants to get weird?

  • Alone
    It’s 3:35 a.m. in the morning. I am standing in an open doorway, peering into a dark wood, wearing only a pair of thermal long johns. Snow is drifting onto my face from a moonlit sky. My heart is pounding. And I am holding an axe.

  • The fascinating, feel-good psychology of Internet cat videos
    It’s 2 p.m. You’re tired, disgruntled and desk-bound. Casting about for something — anything! — to carry you to 5, you contemplate a coffee or an office walk-around. But not so fast, dear office drone, because there’s a guaranteed mood-lifter you can indulge in at your desk.

  • Etsy infuriates the witch community with its ban on selling spells
    Etsy, the online marketplace for buying and selling all things quirky and handmade, is also home to a vibrant witch community. Those witches are fuming over Etsy’s new policy of rigorously enforcing its existing ban on sales of “metaphysical services,” which is to say spells and hexes.

  • Apple Watch: My most personal review ever
    I have been reporting on Apple for more than 20 years now, and in all that time no product has had such an impact on my life as this little piece of hardware and software. I don’t say that for dramatic effect, it has had a profound effect on the way I live.

  • Has Russian radio signal UVB-76 been solved after 40 years?
    Volume dials were turned up, computers began recording, forum posts were hastily typed. Something big was happening. For the first time in a history that stretches back nearly 40 years, the mysterious Russian radio signal popularly known as UVB-76 had issued an order. On Jan.


This post contains no spoilers

I am guilty of posting spoilers. TV show plot twists, sporting results, movie endings, I’ve done them all. But I’ve learned, by being on the receiving end one too many times, to think before I post.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” says some book or other – note to self: write-up your thoughts on the Bible some day, you know, cos there aren’t enough religious nuts in your life – and truth be told it’s not a bad way to live your life. Presuming you are a decent human being and not a complete and utter dickhead to being with, but I digress, back to spoilers.

It took me a while to stop posting them and even today there is that split second moment of wanting to share something with others, a feeling that seems born of social media even though it predates it; I think social media just makes it more immediate and increases the chemicals that are generated by your brain so it feels even more fun.

I understand that it feels good to share these things and I guess our use of social media is still so new that we haven’t had time to evolve much in that area, or have much in the way of emotional engagement or maturity. Social media in all of it’s various forms is still a very basic and crude device. I get it though, that I can now stand on the top of a mountain and shout really loudly and I know people round the world will both hear and respond to me, well that’s a powerful thing.

With great power comes a simple reasoning; just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we SHOULD do something (says the over sharing blogger). I know, I know. Cliché-tastic, right?

Posting spoilers seems to be driven by a desire to be seen, to have an acknowledged moment of visibility, the very same thing that, to this day, has people exclaiming ‘First’ in the comments sections of websites. Yes, that still happens.

Maybe it is our use of social media, our lack of sophistication (I’m generalising MASSIVELY here) that leads to these moments of angst and anger. It can’t be a coincidence that most of the people I know online who, like myself, get more than a little bit irked when people post spoilers, are people who have been online for a long time; where ‘long time’ is relative but is usually at least 8 years or more.

If that is the case, then I guess it’s down to those of us who have been here for a while to help others who are still in their toddler years understand and learn, help them mature their usage (god, what a horrible phrase).

Trouble is, I’m not sure how we’d even start and the bottom line is that if it’s a matter of evolution then I have to face up to the fact that neither you nor I can make it happen any faster.

Part of me gets annoyed with myself too. I mean a lot of what I’m talking about are transitory things. TV shows I’ll vaguely remember in 10 years time, sporting events that will merge into another set of memories, movies that I might re-watch regardless of whether the ending was spoiled for me or not.

These are not things to waste my energy on. These are not things that matter. I know this.

But I really fucking wish people would stop doing it.

bookmark_borderReturn of the bike

Return of the bike

A couple of months ago my bike was stolen.

My bike was one of many stored down there. In fact, despite the note I put round every single one of my neighbours, there are still several bikes locked up the same way mine was, attached to a bracket that was bolted to the wall.

The brackets are there to protect the down pipes from getting hit by any of the cars, solid structures, each with four bolts to keep it in place. Perfect for attaching a bike to using a nice heavy Kryptonite D-Lock (with additional chain).

For a while I kept my bike in my flat, right next to the front door but it always seemed in the way so, having spotted so many other bikes down there, and knowing that it is a secured space it seemed to make sense to do the same.

You’ll imagine my surprise when, as I took the bins down one day, the lift door opened and there in front of me my bike wasn’t.

The metal bracket that was bolted to the wall, or more accurately, was screwed to the wall, was lying to one side, discarded. My bike, and the lock that I’d used to attach it to the bracket, was gone. All gone.

What an odd experience. I looked around thinking the bike might have been moved somehow, I could see all the other bikes were still there and with the metal bracket still there then, perhaps a maintenance person had removed it and a kindly neighbour had taken my bike in?

I rushed round the basement area to double check it wasn’t anywhere else, checked my post box – no notes, ransom or otherwise – and then climbed the stairs back to my flat, trying to figure out what had happened.

I phoned the police, gave them the details. I phoned the insurance company and gave them the details.

I started thinking about buying a new bike (I ended up ordering, then cancelling, a new bike through the Cyclescheme system, the same one I used to get my bike in the first place). I was certain I’d never see my bike again, I mean what are the odds?

Apparently they aren’t as high as I thought.

A phone call on Friday evening for a mysterious Glasgow number that you can’t call back turned out to be from Police Scotland where a friendly sounding man told me he thought he had my bike in the back of his van.

Apparently they’d stopped someone riding a bike and quickly ascertained that the man ON the bike certainly couldn’t have AFFORDED the bike. They asked the man to get off the bike then asked why the serial number sticker had been removed (a common occurence on a stolen bike) and without a reasonable explanation, took the bike from him to run some checks. One of those checks, thank the lord I had fitted non-standard SPD pedals, suggested it was my bike.

The guys turned up later that evening at my flat, I met them, identified my bike from the pedals, tyres (also non-standard) and a few other distinguishing features, gave them a written statement and lo and behold, I have my bike back!!

I received a further phone call yesterday to double check a couple of details because apparently they caught the man who stole my bike, who sold it to the man who was riding it, and he will be getting charged! Again, what are the odds?!

So, I have my bike back. I’m storing it in my flat and looking into ways to make it more theft-proof in the future. I’ve already replaced my stolen D-lock with something better, thanks to this amazing article on The Sweethome. Next up is something like Bike Register, and then further ways to personalise/customise and generally make my bike look cheaper – I’m even considering getting it completely repainted in matt black, chuck some stickers on and be done with it.

Regardless, I’m still amazed that I got my bike back. The Police get a lot of flak so it’s nice to be able to give them some credit and thanks.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

A few things that I’ve read this week (featuring animal selfies and a baby koala!):

  • In 1948, a man was found on a beach in South Australia. The mysterious circumstances of his death have captivated generations of true-crime fanatics. Today, one amateur sleuth has come close to solving the case — and upended his life in the process.
    By the time anyone noticed that he hadn’t moved in at least five hours, the man on Somerton Beach must have started giving off fumes. It was about 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 1948, at the beginning of the Australian summer, and he did not look like the kind of man to sleep in the sand.
  • The Life of a Clown
    A clown wearing whiteface, a psychedelic jumper, and a pair of rainbow-colored Crocs knockoffs has gathered his youthful charges beneath the shade of a spreading tree. The birthday girl is seven years old.
  • The Five Uncommon Habits Of Highly Productive People
    Can you be as effective in 35 hours as you are in 80? Startup veteran and developer Jess Martin thinks so. He has worked tirelessly to optimize his productivity in order to work better, not longer. Believe it or not, people aren’t born with the get-it-done gene.
  • SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines
    They have plotted deadly missions from secret bases in the badlands of Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own.
  • The Cost of Telling Your Truth, Publicly
    In her first memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, Jillian Lauren held back pretty much nothing—about her eighteen months in the harem of the Prince Jefri Bolkiah, playboy brother of the Sultan of Brunei; her substance abuse; her time as a sex worker. She didn’t stop there.
  • When You ‘Literally Can’t Even’ Understand Your Teenager
    A little paradox of Internet celebrity is that a YouTube personality can amass millions upon millions of young fans by making it seem as if he’s chatting with each of them one to one. Tyler Oakley, a 26-year-old man who identifies as a “professional fangirl,” is a master of the genre.
  • Despite Losing Both Legs, One Man’s Rogue Mission to De-Mine North Iraq
    HALABJA, Iraq — Before beginning his work, Hoshyar Ali takes off his prosthetic legs and lowers himself flat onto the ground. The vast field in front of him stretches on toward green hills and the jagged mountains of Kurdistan near the Iranian border in northern Iraq.
  • 16 animal selfies that capture life in the Serengeti
    Do you think warthogs are camera shy? Are anteaters more photogenic than ostriches? Thanks to an international project documenting the mysterious life of animals in eastern Africa we might be able to find out.
  • Alanis in Chains
    No regrets. Growth. Give yourself credit. Everybody is different. Their view of you may not be correct. Does it really matter? Who matters. You … Talk, listen, cry … Learn, learn about you. Be aware. Patience. Be positive. Be hopeful.
  • Hotel Melancholia
    There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. It was normal to skit from Shanghai to Dublin via Vilnius and Rome in a month, and then begin the loop all over again: Athens, Novosibirsk, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Paul Ford
    Software has been around since the 1940s. Which means that people have been faking their way through meetings about software, and the code that builds it, for generations.
  • Koala baby won’t let go of mom while she undergoes surgery. Both survived being hit by a car.
    Mom Lizzy was undergoing treatment for a collapsed lung. The pair miraculously survived being hit by a car on the Warrego Highway at Coominya, west of Brisbane.

bookmark_borderDream Vacation

As we roll into summer (finally!) I’ve been pondering what my dream vacation would be, thinking back over previous holidays both home and abroad, and then lottery-win-daydreaming about what my ultimate vacation would be like.

It’s easy to roll out the 5-star, hell make it 6-star, experience as the greatest dream vacation. A car to pick us up and take us to the airport, no hanging around, waited on hand and foot, first-class seats-that-turn-into-beds on the flight, another car to whisk us to our hotel – our luggage would all be handled by someone else – and a room with large glass doors that opened on to an empty golden beach, palm trees, a beach side cocktail bar and warm blue waters beyond.

And perhaps it’s that simple, after all a dream vacation for me includes a lot of being pampered, being lazy and just chilling out and relaxing. It’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed the last two abroad holidays as they were all-inclusive.

But there is always the conflict, the part of me that wants to tackle a cycling holiday, or a walking holiday, or some other hybrid that would allow me to look back with a sense of accomplishment, a holiday that nourishes as much as nurtures.

Of course there are further considerations these days, how big is my carbon footprint and how much does flying to the other side of the world add to it? (says the man flying to Singapore later this year).

On the flip side I know the types of things I don’t want. I don’t want a Scottish/English/Irish bar. I don’t want ‘organised fun’, I’d rather not have hordes of screaming kids, and like many others I’d rather not be subjected too tourist-ey an environment.

So what is my dream vacation? How would I know?

Actually it’s pretty simple (like me). Gimme some place that is warm and sunny, that’s safe, that is ‘real’, and isn’t full of noisy, inconsiderate people and I’d be quite happy. I can take my music, read books, and generally chill out and I’m all good. If there a few things to do so much the better.

Be it Brighton or the Bahamas, Saint Tropez or Skye, as long as I’m with someone I love I don’t really care about much else.

bookmark_borderThe Good No

I like to think I’m pretty helpful. It’s nice to be nice and all that, and I enjoy the connection it makes, even if it’s only for a fleeting moment; holding a door open and receiving a smile, helping push a broken down car, chasing after someone to give them their dropped glove.

If you are like me you will tend to say yes when someone asks for help. After all, what’s 2, 10, 15, 30 mins of your life in the grand scheme of things, of course I can help…

Being helpful is nice, isn’t it? That little boost of karma and the associated good feels are a wonderful reward. The world seems brighter, birds sing louder and the sun feels that little bit warmer on your face! Saying yes is TOTES OSSUM AMAZEBALLS, FACT!

Except that isn’t always how it turns out, is it.

The few times that “yes” actually gives you those warm fuzzies seem too few and far between, and I’ll admit that there are many times I really wish I had said no.

So I’ve been trying to be more aware and, as I’ve slowly pared back and simplified my life over the past few years, saying no has become A Thing That I Do. I’m still not very good at it but I am finding that saying no is helping me create mental space and balance. It doesn’t always involve someone else, saying no can be an internal decision – no, I won’t go to that event, screw you FOMO – or a part of an discussion with someone else – no, I can’t help you with that piece of work because then I’ll compromise my own commitments. The latter remains the harder of the two for me (the former isn’t always simple either).

I don’t find saying no to others an easy thing. It’s seen as negative, a commentary on the person rather than the act or favour, some people take “Sorry, no” as a diss, a slur on their character. What power that tiny word holds. But why does it carry so much weight?

My guess is that it’s down to my old friend, expectation. If someone asks for help there is a weight of expectation, they’ve put themselves out there, taken the brave step of asking for help so of course you have to say yes! How could you dare say otherwise? What an affront that would be to the the emotional energy they’ve used and the effort they’ve just put themselves through!

I read the following article a few weeks ago and it’s stuck in my head (and prompted this blog post) – Ways to Say ‘No’ More Effectively

“One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong,” Dr. Bohns says. “Saying ”no“ feels threatening to our relationships and that feeling of connectedness.” And we worry that saying “no” will change the way the other person views us, and make him or her feel badly.

Sadly, it often does hurt feelings. “No” is a rejection. Neuroscience has shown our brains have a greater reaction to the negative than to the positive. Negative information produces a bigger and swifter surge of electrical activity in the cerebral cortex than does positive information. Negative memories are stronger than positive ones. All of this is to protect us: A strong memory of something hurtful helps us remember to avoid it in the future.

Even so, psychologists say, most people probably won’t take our “no” as badly as we think they will. That’s because of something called a “harshness bias” — our tendency to believe others will judge us more severely than they actually do. “Chances are the consequences of saying ”no“ are much worse in our heads than they would ever be in reality,”

So, part of being able to say no, a ‘good no’, is to understand that it’s not as bad and awful as we think. Simply put, saying no doesn’t carry as much weight as I think it does.

If nothing else, having this in mind should make saying no, for the right reasons, a little bit easier in the future.