bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Redshirts Aren’t Likeliest to Die — and Other ‘Star Trek’ Math Lessons
    The original “Star Trek” series isn’t just a milestone of science fiction, it’s also a treasure trove of mathematical ideas — as discovered when we attended “Star Trek: The Math of Khan” at the Museum of Mathematics.
    Star Trek in FAKE NEWS shocker. Honestly, what IS the world coming to?

  • “Many American adults are wary of pedophiles”: The best internet advice for traveling to the US
    So you want visit the US. You’ve packed your bags, gotten your documents together, maybe paid for a pricey tourist visa, to sprawling land of barbecue and purple mountains.
    A gentle reminder to everyone across the globe that we ALL live in a bubble of some sort.

  • An Open Letter to Those Praising the New York Times “Tomboy” Piece
    Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece entitled “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.” I saw the title and wanted to avoid it but then I saw people praising it and celebrating the need to reclaim “girlness” from the over-correction of trans-affirmation. I was troubled.
    I linked to the “Tomboy” piece, so I’m linking to this as well. I think both have valid points, but I’d rather be informed than not.

  • How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All
    Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
    Confirms what I presumed was happening anyway. (tip: Amazon price tracker)

  • Here Are Some of the Best Signs From the March for Science
    Tens of thousands of people gathered in hundreds of rallies around the world on Earth Day in what was described as a “celebration” of science and support for evidence-based policies.
    I do love a smart sign.

  • Video: CNY bowler sets world record by rolling 300 game in 86.9 seconds
    Syracuse, N.Y. — How fast can a bowler roll 12 consecutive strikes and achieve a perfect game? For Ben Ketola, the answer is 86.9 seconds.

  • For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period
    A close friend of mine recently asked me to edit an important professional email. We’ve known each other since we were 8 years old, and in recent years he’s devolved into somewhat of a Patrick Bateman–esque, white-collar psychopath.
    Yes. To this!

  • Long live the grimacing emoji
    Emoji are wonderful way for us to communicate all that might otherwise go unsaid: brewing rage, feeling as busy as a bumblebee, a desire for hamburgers, sexual frustration. But there is one emoji so universally applicable that it stands above the rest: the wide-eyed, grimacing emoji.
    Oddly I use the laughing hysterically with tears emoji way more (because my life is HYSTERICAL y’all!)

  • A Fitbit Helped Police Arrest A Man For His Wife’s Murder
    Richard Dabate was arrested this month and charged with felony murder, tampering with physical evidence, and making false statements following his wife Connie Dabate’s death in 2015, according to the arrest warrant.
    Murderers 0 Internet of Things 1.

  • Where did all the saxophones go?
    A saxophone screams. A saxophone honks. It doesn’t jam or shred or flow. The saxophone isn’t like a piano intro or a guitar solo. In modern music, it can feel, well, outdated. There’s no song in the Top 40 right now with a saxophone solo.
    Clearly they weren’t in Paisley for the Gerry Rafferty tribute last weekend.

  • A New Day Dawning: How “Check Your Head” Invented the Beastie Boys
    Here’s a little story that must be told. When the Beastie Boys released Check Your Head on April 21, 1992, they weren’t sure whether they still had an audience.
    One of my fav bands, with an assured place in music history almost disappeared. Funny how life works.

  • Go Ahead, Have That Fourth Cup of Coffee
    If you’re one of the millions of Americans that downs coffee or other caffeinated beverages to get through the work day, here’s some good news. A new scientific review on the safety of caffeine says drinking up to four cups of coffee, or about 400 milligrams of caffeine, is pretty safe.
    Phew. Ohhh hang on, four ALL DAY? Next up people will suggest de-caff is better… (I can crack through 4 in a MORNING FFS).

  • Resistance
    “If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others…
    Short quote, big impact.

bookmark_borderI want choices and I want them now

Modern life is consumption. Modern life is the internet. Modern life is choice. Choose everything. Get exactly what you want. When you want. At a cost.

This is where we are as consumers. If I can find something online, and it’s what I want, I can order it and it arrives at my door in a few days. As the type of person who is careful what he spends his money on, and who will research most purchases of any value so knows exactly what he wants, it’s a perfect storm.

To be clear, I do get a little obsessed when it comes to making purchases online. For example, I’ve even researched and bought a specific tin opener (made by OXO), and no I’m not ashamed! I know what I want and in the age of the internet, the age of the smartphone with a billion apps to cater to your every whim, why should I have to settle for less?

Now flip this view on to three different items, two of which are typically they most expensive ‘purchases’ anyone ever makes – buying a home, buying a car, and choosing a TV package.

I won’t comment on buying a house as I’ve not done that for a long time, and very few people are able to buy a house that is exactly as they want it (or Grand Designs would be out of business).

But the other two irk me.

TV packages

I’ve been a customer of Sky, and as I have a NowTV box and subscription I technically am,  but I’m currently with BT. I mostly watch things on the BT Sports channels (or rather I mostly watch things I’ve recorded from the BT Sports channels), and occasionally I delve into the ‘terrestial’ channels 1-5. Outside of that, I’d estimate that once a month I might watch something on, say, a Documentary channel, or Food channel. But, by and large, the actual number of channels I watch is no more than 10.

Number of channels I have in my TV package? About 80.

Given that I watch through a box, surely there is a way for BT to know this? Surely that then could be offered to me, at a cost which I’d happily pay, as a personalised TV package?

So rather than paying £30 a month for 80 odd channels when I only watch 10, charge me £1 per channel plus £5 for the ‘personalised’ package?

In fact, I’d argue that it’s not about the cost, it’s about the user experience. Whilst my logical brain says I wouldn’t pay the same money for fewer channels JUST to have all the extraneous guff hidden from MY tv guide, my emotional brain says HELL YES!! Charge me the same but only show the channels I want!!

And no, ‘Favourites’ is not a solution.

Car packages

I’m currently pondering replacing my car. The term of the lease is up so I have a decision to make – keep it and pay the final lump sum, hand it back, or bump for something ‘new’ (new to me) – and as the car is starting to show signs of expensive bills on the horizon, I’m leaning towards something new(er).

My criteria for a car is simple enough. Have reasonable running costs, have bluetooth so I can play my music choices from my phone, don’t be that horrible pee yellow/green colour that Honda offered me the last time I looked.

That’s about it.

However, if money was no object what I’d really like is to choose my gadgets. Bluetooth, heated seats, keyless entry, remote boot opening, reversing cameras…

As for the rest of the car, sure it needs to look ok, but if it has an engine and goes then that’s the ‘car’ bit sorted.

But no, depending on which manufacturer you look at, the spec levels all differ, some offer ‘packs’ to upgrade that include some things, but not all, and no that pack can’t be installed with that other pack. Why?


Everywhere else we have choice. Some say too much choice, which frankly I think is bullshit, but if every other industry can get the hang of this changing world, why can’t these two? When oh when will the customer be put first?


Yours, a spoiled rotten perennial who likes moaning about things of absolutely no importance.


Crisp morning air snaps at my exposed legs, gravel scrunches under my feet. I start the timer and head off, full of purpose on this bright Sunday morning.

It’s cold in the shade of the trees but I know I will warm soon enough as the dappled light throws long shadows across the pathway. I follow the well trodden route down to the water, following the laughter of squabbling ducks which dash from shore to sanctuary as I pass.

Further along the loch opens up before me and adds a further chill to the passing breeze. In the distance a boat bounces on wave tops as it speeds north. I maintain a more sedate pace. Two legs on land.

A dog appears at a trot ahead of me, approaches, slows, and investigates me briefly from afar, before turning and leading the way forward. It’s a small wiry breed, tiny frantic legs pumping as it heads back from where it came, taking me to the jetty where it stops by its owner. I smile as I pass and continue on as the path starts to rise.

Soon I am climbing the hill, onwards onwards, one foot at a time, breath quickening, stride shortening, sweat forming. Pump those arms, focus a few feet ahead, smile at passerby as your legs ignite, calf muscles spasm, thigh muscles scream.

On it rises, steeper now, but I will not stop. It will not defeat me. I glance up ahead, not long now, I can do this. I am doing this.

And then the slope eases and flattens and I lift my head and look out across a grass covered hill, through spring buds on branches, to the mighty Loch below. The sun dashes through gaps in the clouds, splashes of astonishing colour sway in the breeze. I slowly fill my lungs and my pulse slows from a raging torrent to a syncopated melody.

I wander on, head high, lush green and dazzling blue fill my view.

I find my way to a park bench.

I sit.

I am here.

I am now.

I close my eyes and stay a while.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

Busy week + reading things printed on paper = short list today!

Plus it’s Earth Day, so go outside and appreciate this amazing planet of ours!

  • Selling Mark Zuckerberg
    Until recently, Mark Zuckerberg’s most iconic public appearance may have been the image of the young startup founder sweating through his hoodie onstage while journalist Kara Swisher grilled him at a tech conference in 2010.
    Part of me feels a bit sorry for Mr.Z, he has grown up in a strange world (admittedly of his own creation) in the public eye for the large part.

  • Robert Taylor, Innovator Who Shaped Modern Computing, Dies at 85
    Like many inventions, the internet was the work of countless hands. But perhaps no one deserves more credit for that world-changing technological leap than Robert W. Taylor, who died on Thursday at 85 at his home in Woodside, Calif.
    Fair to say you wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t for him.

  • The Coffee Revolt of 1674: When Women Campaigned to Prohibit “That Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor Called COFFEE”
    We denizens of the craft-roasting, wi-fi-connected 21st century know well how to drink voluminous quantities of coffee and argue our opinions.
    From now one I will only be ordering coffee like this! “I’ll have a newfangled, abominable, heathenish flat white please!”

  • The best tweets ever (nominated by Kottke readers)
    Twitter, in principle, could have been invented at any point in the history of the internet. A big networked message board with an upper limit of 140 characters? It sounds like something a resource-conserving developer would have invented before web browsers existed.
    Best ever? Well they are pretty good.

  • Write, Never Marry, and Other Love Advice from Simone de Beauvoir’s Editor
    DA: I think that really it’s the only thing that can be done, so it should be done, and I’m ashamed I didn’t do it. People nowadays are all becoming so money-minded, so materialistic. Greed is very, very powerful. Greed is the worst thing.
    Life advice from a 99 year old is ALWAYS worth hearing.

  • Balenciaga’s $2,145 bag is just like Ikea’s 99 cent tote
    Who wore it better? Balenciaga or IKEA?
    Clearly a post-modern, pseudo-ironic take on the bourgeois acceptance of IKEA. No?

  • MSP Speaks About the Importance of Talking About Depression
    MSP James Dornan has written an amazing piece for us on his experiences of depression, and the difficulty men in Scotland have in speaking about how they are feeling.
    Not necessarliy a ‘scottish’ thing, but worth a read anyway. And if you need help, there is no shame in getting it.

bookmark_borderWrite way forward

This year I’ve deliberately kept to a schedule here on this blog. Tuesdays and Thursdays I post something, Saturdays are for the Weekend Reading compilations, so aside from monthly roundups, I’ve gotten into a routine of writing. That was the point, to make myself write more.

Sometimes it’s a bit forced, but sometimes it feels easy. There have a been a few bits of creative writing thrown in and they have (I think) mostly worked, but overall it’s about getting used to writing. I had gotten away from it here, away from writing in my journal, away from any notion of picking up the novel I started as part of NaNoWriMo.

I think it’s starting to pay off though. I’ve kept the schedule here, I’m writing in my journal more often (important for other reasons) and more recently some ideas for my novel have started to percolate. I think the time away from it has helped and I’m hoping that, with an empty weekend (what a novelty!) ahead I can sit down and progress things a little.

That said, there will be large parts which I’ll be rewriting but that’s ok, I’m not actually as bothered by that as I thought I might be. I’m more excited that I’ve a clearer idea of some character motivations and hopefully they’ll push the story in a slightly different direction and help me get towards the end. Oh yeah, I’ve had the start and end figured out for a while, in fact I’ve probably had about 75% of the damn thing thought through until you get to the last quarter before the final chapter. There I seem to stall and can’t quite get a handle on how I get from X to Y before heading to Z.

I’m not sure if the blog schedule has helped, or whether it’s just now that I’m starting to get past last year and the flat move, and starting to look ahead. And in that very spirit I’m not focusing on why, just the act of writing itself.

Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be able to say I’ve written a book?

bookmark_borderHappily Downsized

My recent move to a smaller flat was prompted by a few factors but I decided to use it as a chance to downsize and minimise my belongings.

Moving from a large roomed two bedroom flat to a small roomed one bedroom flat made more sense financially, and enforced a level of de-cluttering . That process was, in hindsight, the culmination of the last few years of trying to have less, but it was the push I needed to tackle some of the things I’d been avoiding; it’s easy to put off sorting through your clothes when you have a large double wardrobe for yourself, but not when you’ll only have a small single wardrobe in your new flat!

I’ve been in the new place a few weeks now, and I’ve mostly adjusted to living in the new space. There a couple of niggles but nothing major, and whilst I do have a jam-packed hall cupboard (which will get a sorting out this coming weekend), everything has a place and it’s starting to feel like a home. Next steps are to get some artwork up on the walls, which is prompting some interesting decisions as I don’t have the wall space to hang everything I own, and maybe a couple of new cushions (my new sofa came with two that match it but that’s not really the look I’m going for!).

There is the bonus of having a garage to use as well, which is holding my bike and a couple of boxes (tools and bike stuff), but overall I’ve fitted into the smaller space well.

Perhaps too well! I realised at the weekend that I have an entire small set of drawers that is empty, and a small bookcase which has some token items in it but which I could probably get rid of as well.

Longer term my aim is to replace what I have with better quality items, be they antique or not. I’ve still got a lot of IKEA furniture – two tall, one short bookcase, the TV unit, and two chest of drawers – that I will look to change out at some point, but there is no rush.

The other long term aim is to avoid the temptation to re-clutter! I’ve bought a few books recently and they are on the shelf alongside the other novels I’ve never read, but as soon as I’ve read them they’ll be passed on. Other than that, I’ve purchased a few household items to help organise the space I do have a little better and I think that’s where I’ll be focusing short-term. A few smart ideas to help store things, to make the space look bigger than it is, and I should be sorted.

And then there are the vanity items. The aforementioned cushions fall into that bracket, but the purchase of my lime green sofa was part of a deliberate move away from duller colours (my living room was mostly dark browns and deep reds before) to embracing colour far more. A few tweaks here or there (and possibly the purchase of a dark mustard yellow coloured footstool) and I should be set.

I do enjoy this aspect of being in a new space, a chance to re-invent through necessity, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m also re-inventing myself; counselling for the mind, bootcamp for the body. A friend of mine commented as much recently, saying that he was proud of me for getting help with these things, and that I was setting an example, tackling all of this at once.

And for once I’m doing my best to take his compliment to heart. I am doing a lot, I am working hard physically and mentally, and this weekend, after I returned from bootcamp and I sat on my newly delivered sofa, I looked around my new living room and smiled.