bookmark_borderTick Tock

Tick tock

I have a clock in every room.

Apparently this is a bit weird, at least according to my colleagues at work. I’m not sure exactly when it became weird though; I don’t think it was mentioning the fact I have a clock in the living room, or the one in the bedroom, but when I said there was a clock in the bathroom, that’s when the puzzled looks appeared and the questions started.

“You have a clock in the bathroom? Are you timing how long it takes to pee?”
“…. you have a clock in … what?”
“Is it for a time and motion study of your bathroom habits?”
“That’s just weird”

For the record, the reason I have a clock in the bathroom is so I know what time it is (obvs).

No, I don’t spend hours in the bathroom, but if I’m running a bit late I find it handy to know the time. Admittedly this is usually first thing in the morning, and is mostly to counter my inability to get out of bed when my alarm first goes off, coupled with my desire to leave the house at 7:15am (because any later and the buses start to get full of people, ugh), but … yeah, ok, aside from that pretty specific reason I don’t really have any good justification as to why there is a clock in my bathroom.

My obsession with checking the time has been with me as long as I can remember. I’d need to ask, but I’m pretty sure there was a clock in my parents bathroom too (hence why I didn’t think it was weird), I’ve worn a watch as long as I can remember (my Dad always wears a watch … apple doesn’t fall far and all that), and like most people who work in an office, my day is governed by the ticking of the clock both to make sure I go to meetings and to countdown to the end of the day.

Outside of work, I’m the person who is always early, sometimes 30 mins or more, because god forbid I’m late, right? (more on this later).

There is no doubt time is a big part of my day, it drives most of my tasks and actions, even the mundane things – like getting ready to go to work in the morning – are governed by a clock. It’s just the way it always seems to have been.

Clearly this obsession is unhealthy, hell, re-reading some of this and it’s positively batty, and logically I know that it adds to my stress levels and blood pressure. It also locks in a set of behaviours which can trigger some not good outcomes (what happens if I’m late? will people think less of me? will I be seen as a failure for not turning up on time? etc etc), including anxiety and stress which in turn drives bad behaviours which in turn … you get the picture.

Spirally spirally spirally EAT ALL THE FOOD!

However over the past month or so it’s been something that, with the help of a trained professional, has been identified and I’m now actively tackling. Turns out that this specific time checking obsession I have is driven by perfectionism, a realisation that has also opened up a whole raft of other behaviours that I need to tackle.

Phrases like constant checking, unrelenting standards, good enough, neural pathways, fortune telling, cognition… and many more. There is a lot to think about, some of it good, some of it bad, and it’ll be a steady path to a different me, one that I am happier with, one that gives himself a break and allows himself to fail. It’ll take time.

Speaking of which, I think step one might be to get rid of the clock in the bathroom?

bookmark_borderLaugh like no-one is listening

The older I get the fewer fucks I give.

I know I will be whatever old man I end up being, but part of me hopes I’ll be an eccentric. Another part of me thinks I’ll just be a bit grumpy, and yet another part of me hopes I’ll expand my tendency towards silliness. This may mean that the little moments of madness that pepper my day, which currently stay in my head or the confines of my home, will be let loose on the poor unsuspecting people of Glasgow.

I do like being silly.

Two lions are walking down Oxford Street, one turns to the other and says “Quiet, isn’t it”.

The tendency to break into song about random kitchen utensils – OHHHH WOAAHH WOAAHHHH SWEET SPATULA OF MINE! – or frequent attempts to dance my way round the living room as I tidy up which invariably end up with me poised, one foot on the edge of the sofa, almost ready to step it over a la Singing in the Rain, these are things which I should keep to myself.

Admittedly these examples are very home specific, but as I walk around the streets on my way to yet another sparkling social event (aka meeting people in the pub for drinks) I usually have headphones on and some form of musical accompaniment and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t stumbled across the perfect soundtrack moment from the movie of your life.

I’ve been an undercover spy walking along Sauciehall Street, a wistful romantic lead strolling the banks of the Clyde, the side-kick in an old time musical sashaying my way along Mitchell Lane (and fighting the urge to throw in a few spins as I go).

Ohhh that I could tap dance.

Perhaps a top hat and cane will be part of my ensemble when I’m an elderly eccentric curmudgeon (ohhh I love that word, curmudgeon, life goal right there!).

I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, “How flexible are you?” I said, “I can’t make Tuesdays.”

Of course, I’ve no idea what kind of old man I’ll be but I don’t think it’ll be that different from the man I am today, hopefully a little wiser and thinner, but I’ve been prone to bouts of silly for many years now and there is no sign of them abating. Instead I will embrace the second half of my life and, as Doris once sang, what will be will be.

It’s a funny thing, being silly for the sake of it. It’s not an attention thing, it’s an outlet, a way to find a balance, or at least it is for me. Life can be so serious!

I visited the offices of the RSPCA today. It’s tiny, you couldn’t swing a cat in there.

I’ll admit silly used to be something I used as way to cope, a way to fit in, and whilst I’ve been lucky enough to find my tribe – a wonderful cross-section of people who, if nothing else, tolerate my frequent sojourns into the land of nonsense – not everyone I interact with gets it. Which is fine, not everyone needs to, right?

Life is too short, there are too few moments to hold on to, but I’m increasingly finding that letting go of things I once thought important are letting me hold on to more of things I value. I’ve not come to this realisation alone, and by lucifers beard it’s been a long time coming (fnar), but it feels good not to always be worrying. That’s the real lesson I’ve learned, for every ying there is a yang, for every worry there is a silly.

Someone walked up to my desk the other day and asked “Can I have a quick word?”, “Sure” I said, “Velocity”.

So, why all the amazingly funny jokes peppering this post, you ask? Well, why the hell not, says I! Then I honk my clown nose, and pedal off down the street on my unicycle (and try and avoid those pesky lions).

Note: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about “Silly”, ohhh how times have(n’t massively if I’m being honest) changed:


bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Falling in Love with Words: The Secret Life of a Lexicographer
    We’re proud to feature “Hrafnkell,” the first chapter of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, by Kory Stamper. We are in an uncomfortably small conference room.
    Words are such wonderful, powerful, beautiful things, this sound like a joyous celebration of a book.

  • The Enduring, Anxious Appeal of Gray
    Looking back, I should have realized it sooner, this problem that I have. The only excuse I can give is that introspection often takes time, and it’s only slowly that one recognizes an obsession, though signs of it may appear everywhere.
    No. NOT 50 bloody shades. Reading this I realise that I have been fighting this too, largely by ordering a lime green sofa.

  • Why It’s so Important to Know About High-Functioning Depression
    Today, Bright Side would like to share a very important article with you. The subject here might not be all that uplifting, but it’s vitally important that as many people know about it as possible if we’re to make the world a better place.
    This ticks many boxes of how I have been, how I am, and how I will be in the future.

  • It took the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube a month to solve his own puzzle
    In 1974, Erno Rubik was a 29-year-old design professor who started fiddling around with a set of wooden blocks in the Budapest apartment he shared with his mother.
    I solved mine WITH A HAMMER!

  • George Saunders: what writers really do when they write
    A series of instincts, thousands of tiny adjustments, hundreds of drafts … What is the mysterious process writers go through to get an idea on to the page?
    Yes, I am STILL writing a book. Although my process is less mysterious and a lot more keyboard bashing based.

  • Why Scientists Are Worried About a Landslide No One Saw or Heard
    If a steep mountainside in a remote national park gives way and drops 200 million tons of rock into deep glacial water, will anyone hear? In the case of the massive landslide that fell into Taan Fjord, Alaska, the answer was no—and yes.
    The continued erosion of earth by humankind, article #3492267. Dear humans, we suck.

  • These Scientists Sent a Rocket to Mars for Less Than It Cost to Make “The Martian”
    On a rocket launched toward Mars. It was India’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan, and a terrific gamble. Only 40 percent of missions sent to Mars by major space organizations — NASA, Russia’s, Japan’s, or China’s — had ever been a success.
    Amazing, stuff, amazing women, this should’ve had a lot more news coverage than it got.

  • Boston public schools map switch aims to amend 500 years of distortion
    A district will drop the Mercator projection, which physically diminished Africa and South America, for the Peters, which cut the developed world down to size.
    One for the West Wing fans!!

  • Can Probiotics Help Your Depression? What We Know, What We Don’t
    What if your psychiatrist prescribed yogurt and vegetables as an antidepressant?
    I think I’d be happier if they could prescribe pizza and bacon and ice cream but whatevs.

  • The General Who Went to War On Suicide
    On the evening of July 19, 2010, Major General Dana Pittard, the new commander of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, got a call from the base’s 24-hour duty officer. A SWAT team had been sent to the house of a young sergeant named Robert Nichols.
    We need more stories like these, more people like this. We should not be ashamed of our mental health.

  • A major New York hospital recommends Hanson, Missy Elliot, and Lynyrd Skynyrd for timing CPR
    Music can be a lifesaver—literally.
    Boooo to lack of pun related headlines: “The Rhythm of Life”?

  • The Onion Struggles to Lampoon Trump
    In January, 2013, Donald Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, sent a letter to the Onion.

  • Creative and Practical Ways To Use LEGO Around the House (Without Stepping On Any!)
    For the last several decades, LEGO has been a standard toy staple found in pretty much every home that has kids (or nostalgic adults) in it. They were first created by a Danish carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1934; since then, over 400 billion of the familiar plastic bricks have been made.
    Some of these are so obvious it hurts (no, not the standing on them bit). Coasters, lamps, ALL ON MY LIST.

  • Back in the Kitchen: A Reading List About Gender and Food
    I’m notoriously grumpy while grocery shopping. Once, my partner and I got into a fight in the Aldi parking lot because one of the eggs in our carton broke.
    Some good stuff in here. I need to get back to cooking more.

  • A Court Will Decide if a GIF Can Be Considered a ‘Deadly Weapon’
    On Monday, a suspect faced federal charges in a Dallas County court for allegedly sending a strobing GIF that triggered a seizure in Kurt Eichenwald, a Newsweek writer with epilepsy, late last year. Light-induced seizures have been fought with lawsuits and TV bans in the past.
    Dear time traveller, yes, this is a thing.

  • What It’s Like To Live With Borderline Personality Disorder
    I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at the age of 14. Relationships feel impossible, my brain never stops running and my stress is magnified. For the first time in my life, I’m sharing my story of borderline personality disorder with the public.
    Once again, we need more pieces like this. More normalising of these things, more understanding.

  • How to Small Talk if You Hate Small Talk
    I have two speeds when it comes to small talk: “Tell me your life story!” or a nice, blank stare. It depends on my mood, how much I’ve had to drink and how much work I’ve just left behind on my desk.
    I’m brilliant at small talk after the fact.

  • How a Dictionary Got Into the Marriage Equality Debate
    It was Friday, morning-break time, and I was not just tired; I was beat, wiped, whipped, laid out, done in, dead. Usually during morning break, I got up for a bit of a stretch, walked around, refilled my coffee.
    Words are such wonderful, powerful, beautiful thi…. ohh I’ve done this already

  • The scents in your body wash, chicken stock and canned drink all come from one company
    What’s the first thing you do upon waking up? If your answer’s brushing your teeth or taking a shower, chances are you’re already using a product developed by Givaudan.
    OK, this is just weird.

  • Becoming ‘Everyone’s Little Sister’ to Deal With Sexism
    When I entered the office for my interview, I saw every head in the glass-enclosed conference room pop up and look over at me.
    FFS it’s 2017.

  • 48 Incredibly Short, Clean Jokes That Are Actually Funny.
    Need a wicked short joke to tell that anybody can hear? Below are 48 of the best clean jokes. Short and sweet. Check them out!
    This is so far up my alley that … ohhh wait, CLEAN jokes.. ok, nevermind..

  • How TV Opening Titles Got to Be So Damn Good
    A sharply dressed silhouette plummets through a canyon of advertisements. A troubled man chomps on a cigar as he drives along the New Jersey Turnpike. Gauzy portraits of broken, poisoned people overlay images of the polluted landscape they call home.
    The rise of good TV mirrored by some memorable opening titles (anyone else get the reference in the quote above?)

  • Amazon, the world’s most remarkable firm, is just getting started
    Amazon is an extraordinary company. The former bookseller accounts for more than half of every new dollar spent online in America. It is the world’s leading provider of cloud computing. This year Amazon will probably spend twice as much on television as HBO, a cable channel.
    Easy to forget just how massive and influential this company is.

bookmark_borderFast Food

OK, confession time. I have a go to, super quick meal that I eat about once a month. It’s not the healthiest, but it’s not bad for you*, and it can be ready in a few mins (depending on how long your kettle takes to boil).

Gosh, I feel quite nervous about this, this is one of my darkest held secrets, and I’m about to share it with the world. Please try not to judge me, or at the very least, don’t be nasty about it.

Right, here it goes.

Tuna, Smash, and baked beans (with butter/salt to taste).

It’s perfect if I’ve had a long shitty day and I can’t even be bothered flinging something in the oven, but I know I want something warm and tasty and comforting (which rules out my other occasional dinner substitute, a bowl of cornflakes) then tuna, Smash, and beans is the way to go.

Yes, on the same plate. Yes, as a meal. Don’t mock it unless you’ve tried it, meanies!

And there has been the added bonus in recent years; it’s gotten even quicker to make thanks to Heinz snap pots, 1 minute in the microwave! Perfection.

Now, I can imagine that you are, probably, thinking I’m some kind of crackpot. Based on discussing this with some work colleagues, and the horrified, quizzical looks it brought to their collective faces, I know I’m kinda out on a limb with this one.

BUT, and I’m convinced of this, I know I’m not alone. Well, I might be alone with this particular ‘dish’, but I know damn well that you’ve got some weird concotion hidden away at the back of your mind, ready to be rolled out in times of need.

Do you have a quick go to meal? Is it a bit weird? I’m always looking for more options (how else would I have discovered the lunchtime joy that is a roll with ham, cheese, and banana!) so leave a comment, spill the beans (geddit!), and share your own fast food dish of choice.

* a portion of Smash (100), a tin of tuna (340), and a snap pot of beans (160) = 600 kcal

bookmark_border3 Star or bust

Do you believe everything you read? Are you happy to take the opinion of the clearly ill-informed over those who weigh their words and provide evidence both for and against what they are offering?

Don’t worry, this isn’t about Trump.

I’ll admit that I like to have a sense of whether something is good or bad before trying it and find myself reading reviews on purchases, bars, restaurants, books, movies and, well, pretty much anything I consume or use. It wasn’t something I really considered noteworthy until a friend of mine commented that she always asks me what I think of something because she knows I’ll have researched the shit out of it (she’s classy with words that way). It hasn’t always been this way.

When the first consumer sites started hosting reviews it was a bit of a novelty, you could rate something using stars and leave an opinion detailing why you thought it was good or bad. It all felt very much in the spirit of how the internet was (or at least seemed to be) back then, it was a good thing to share your opinion, to give a little back to the growing community of geeks and nerds. Back then, (we)blogs were on the rise and a certain Mark Zuckerberg was years away from entering college.

Of course in those early days Amazon mostly sold books and a few other items, it wasn’t the behemoth it is today, but as it grew, and more consumer sites started to appear, so did the power and influence of the reviews. The more stuff that became available to us, the more we seem to want our say on whether it was bad or good, ohhh and here are a few paragraphs of text on why I hold that opinion.

Today, with a mind boggling number of things available to consume and use available – seriously, search Amazon for ‘torch’ and you get 346,724 results, even if three quarters of the items aren’t actually torches that still leaves 86,681 types of torch! – you soon develop the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to reviews, or rather the useful and helpful from the almightily pissed off and BY JUPITERS BEARD everyone is gonna hear about it.

These 1-star reviews are easily identified because they are usually set in ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT IS HOW BAD THIS THING IS, but at times they are oddly similar in tone to the 5-star reviews which are full of praise and reverence for this most amazing of things that you should buy because IT WILL LITERALLY CHANGE YOUR LIFE IT’S THAT AMAZING!

With so many opinions and views available, I know I’m not alone in wanting a way to figure out what the best things are and over the past couple of years I’ve been continually delighted by the consistency of approach, information, and recommendations from The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, two review websites who take detailed looks at products, test them, review them, review the reviews of them (wheat from chaff!) and give you their reasoning as to why X is better than Y (and if you don’t like X then why you should consider buying Z). Essentially they apply more rigor, science, and patience than I do and as a result I’m almost trusting enough of their considered opinion to buy their recommendation without reading their full review (almost, I’m not a weirdo).

Despite being a regular consumer of reviews, for a long time I’d only ever sporadically written reviews on this blog. It’s just never really been a thing I felt comfortable sharing and the few times I have have been mostly gigs or movies and not massively insightful beyond OMG that was totally awesome because I’ve written them too soon after said gig/movie and I’m still caught up in the emotions of it.

However I have been writing reviews, quite a lot of them, just not here. A few months after I moved to Glasgow I realised I wasn’t really exploring it, wasn’t really trying new places to eat, drink, or visit. To combat that I started using Yelp. For the first few months I used it to search for places to go, but eventually I signed up and started writing reviews to ‘give back’ to some of the places I had visited that I enjoyed, particularly those who had old reviews or no reviews at all.

I’ve been on Yelp for over five years now. In that time I became a Yelp Elite and started attending local Yelp community events (which Yelp recently ditched, boooo) and over the last 90 days the 300 odd reviews I’ve posted have been read over 25,000 times. Far far above the numbers I see here. This still staggers me, that the words I write have been seen by so many people and, I hope, helped them make a decision, one way or another. But as nice as the numbers are, my desire to write reviews isn’t solely about that (I’m not that shallow, honest). No, I write them to give back, to put something back out into a service that I have found useful.

It’s very easy these days, with so many free services available, to take without giving back. Recently I’ve been wondering if, in some small way, this aspect of the internet, this expectation of ‘free’ isn’t hurting the world at large. The more people who drop into that mindset and let it permeate their everyday lives, the more society may start to drift and change into something a lot more selfish. Look out for yourself, screw everyone else.

It does feel like the prevailing attitude these days is “why should I bother, someone else will do it”. I can be as guilty of it as the next person, and it’s not much of a leap from that to a larger world view that is selfish and self-centred, a view that is shaped by the information I chose to take in because it is easily obtained and already part of my world view.

And bearing that in mind, is it that much more of a leap to see why Brexit was voted through? Is it really a surprise that Trump is President?*

OK, I’ll admit the leap I’m making here is a large one; from not bothering to write a review to the fact a country voted in an unintelligent brutish man-child as President. It just seems that, at the moment, the world is turning to all those 1 and 5 star reviews, the ones that can’t be trusted because they are singular of view and devoid of fact, and using them as the basis of how society should be.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I think most of us want a world that lies somewhere in-between and we accept that sometimes it’ll be a 2-star place, and sometimes it’ll be a 4-star place, but we know that those 1-star and 5-star reviews need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

* OK, I fibbed. But I promise I didn’t set out to write about Trump…

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • How I Came to the Church of Rock and Roll
    True, in junior high I sang along to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and knew every word on the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack.
    I was lucky, being introduced to Queen at an early age. Their album “Jazz” still resonates.
  • “Tyler, you’re fucking Marla”: A perspective on Fight Club to piss off its devotees
    Content note: there’s a lot of discussion of sex and violence in this post. Also, spoilers for Fight Club, if somehow you’ve made it without watching it or knowing “the twist” for almost twenty years.
    A fav movie of mine, and a fav type of article. Take a movie and offer a different perspective. I’m gonna adopt this one I think.
  • Paracetamol: widely used and largely ineffective
    In this guest blog, Andrew Moore, who has authored over 200 systematic reviews, many on pain, lifts the lid on paracetamol. Effective and safe? We are challenged to think again… People with pain have some very simple demands. They want the pain gone, and they want it gone now.
    Between this and recent articles on Ibuprofen… suffer, people, SUFFER!
  • Texas lawmaker ridicules anti-abortion measures by filing anti-masturbation bill
    Jessica Farrar’s satirical Man’s Right to Know Act would set $100 fine for ‘emissions outside a woman’s vagina’ and require unnecessary medical tests A Texas lawmaker has filed a satirical bill to regulate “masturbatory emissions” as a riposte to a slew of anti-abortion measure.
    Bravo!! Utterly ridiculous how women’s bodies are ‘legislated’ (I may need to save up though…)
  • Why Female Cannibals Frighten and Fascinate
    “Go on—eat it.” With these words, the 16-year-old vegetarian protagonist in Julia Ducournau’s Raw is urged to consume meat by her older sister and classmates at her new veterinary school.
    Not a genre I’m familiar with but this article challenges the portrayal of women in film very smartly.
  • Trick or Treat: Conniving Behavior Discovered in Dogs
    Dogs have the ability to think through their actions and plan deceptions, according to a study in Animal Cognition.
    Nooooo! ‘Dogs are a bit like cats’ shocker! *sadface*
  • On The Frightening Realities of Being a Woman in 2017
    Hi guys! So for anyone who has spoken to me since January 1st, I have been banging on about starting a blog.
    Horrifying and hard to read. One for all men to read and pass on.
  • Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print
    Readers committed to physical books can give a sigh of relief, as new figures reveal that ebook sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing – and the shift is being driven by younger generations.
    I’ve definitely fallen back into buying physical books recently, not sure why though.
  • Vibrator maker ordered to pay out C$4m for tracking users’ sexual activity
    Canadian manufacturer We-Vibe collected data about temperature and vibration intensity, revealing intimate information without customers’ knowledge Sex toy maker We-Vibe has agreed to pay customers up to C$10,000 (£6,120) each after shipping a “smart vibrator” which tracked owner
    Funny? Sinister? Both.
  • Refugees made some of the nicest things we have
    What do Sriracha hot sauce, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Bambi and the Mini Cooper all have in common? They only exist thanks to refugees.
    Mostly so I can mentioned Queen again…
  • Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years
    Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century.
    Wow. I like my ‘me time’ but this is pretty extreme, and utterly fascinating.
  • This Article Won’t Change Your Mind
    “I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She’s totally lying.’ At the same time, I remember something in my mind saying, ‘And that doesn’t matter.’” For Daniel Shaw, believing the words of the guru he had spent years devoted to wasn’t blind faith exactly.
    He’s right. It didn’t. Hmmmm.
  • Norway’s new pixelated banknotes are gorgeous
    Back in 2014, I posted that Norway would start using new banknotes in 2017 featuring an abstract pixelated design on the reverse of each note. Time did the only thing it knows how to do so here we are in 2017 and the bills will begin circulating later this year.
    OK, adding Norway to the list of places to move to (Canada remains #1).