The following posts have no fixed theme or style, but I hope you enjoy reading them!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Life Goals

My housemate Paul has life goals and lots of them. His goals are the things that he would like to do, the life he would like to live in the future and the possessions he would like to buy. It's very aspirational, and I sometimes feel a bit inadequate that I don't have aims or focus to my life like that.

My goal is very simple. To be content. Of course, it's not as simple as it sounds, because I probably have to live ethically, have a good social life and do a variety of things that interest me (to name a few) before I can be content. But as long as I fulfil my main goal, contentedness, then the route there doesn't bother me. But it does to Paul. Of course Paul wants to be happy as well, but he can't be happy without fulfilling the lesser goals that support the main goal.

At work we would call the main goal a level 0 goal. It is very aspirational and woolly and covers all areas because it can be interpreted in many ways. The next goals down (level 1 goals) can be more specific and cover only one area of development. At work, the level one goals are set by individual departments, whereas level zero goals are set by the top levels of the company. These feed down to level 2 and 3 goals at work, but I won't bother with them for the point of this post.

The question to ask is this: which type of goal should we focus on? At work, focus on the level zero goals would be pointless because they are so vague that they don't mean anything. The only concrete thing on it that I can remember is the aim of cutting down how much we are ill in the company. We can supposedly choose how often we are ill and therefore cut the number of days we take off sick per year (averaged per person). Yeah whatever: if I'm sick then I'm not coming in, but if I'm well I'll be there. The rest of them are along the lines of "provide world-class service to customers" and other vague rubbish like that. So we have to focus on more sensible goals like "Reduce waste in our area by X% by introducing X procedure", which would be a level 1 goal.

That would imply that Paul's approach of setting himself small specific goals is the correct one. However, there are a couple of caveats to it that mean that I don't follow his approach very often.

The first thing is that I don't like the formalism. I don't like planning at the best of times, so thinking of sensible life goals is not my idea of a good evening in! Having formal short-term goals also sets yourself up for stress if you are not attaining them. Paul's not happy when his goals don't match up with where he is at that point, and it would stress me out too.

Secondly, I don't know what makes me happy. I am sometimes happy and I can't pinpoint the reason, and sometimes unhappy without knowing why either. And it's hard to say where I want to go with my life if I don't know what makes me happy. I'm happy this evening but couldn't explain why. It would be awful to pin your hopes on goals, only to find that achieving the goals wasn't fulfilling.

So which is right? It's not an easy question to answer, but I'll tell you more about whether it's working for me in a post soon.

Happiness is a bit of a mystery so don't expect all the answers but at least you'll find out where I am with my life because I haven't blogged it recently.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Question #8

Tom Bennett, how was Spilsby?

Ever since you disappeared mysteriously from my school in year 7, I have wondered

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Neuroscience research

This article suggests that when you create new brain cells, it disrupts old memories. This thoroughly backs up my own experience. During revision for exams, I find that as I learn new things, the old things drop out of my head as quickly as I can fill it up.

To me, this seems to have a few consequences, the first couple of which I have written here. You can probably think of more.
-Brain training may be useful, but has the side-effect of destroying old memories.
-We should not spend time learning pointless information as it might replace important older information

More importantly, it also suggests that people are finally progressing in neuroscience research, and even drawing connections between the small-scale structure of the brain and its function.

Brains are cool and a mystery (James Bond is also "cool and a mystery", as is Mornington Crescent (the game))

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Why so many of my long-term friends are girls

Because you can't replace someone who understands you and what is in your life, and you can't replace someone who you understand and who will open up to you and tell you their feelings and their latest gossip. That group tends to be the girls

But it's much easier to replace someone who talks about football and who you have a bit of banter with. That group tends to be the guys

It's sad because I probably make more close friends who are guys and enjoy spending time with guys, I just don't keep in contact with them as well. Perhaps it's because guys are rubbish at keeping in touch.

Advice #39

Don't put couscous in your yoghurt - even if you're sure you've seen your friend do it... [it was probably white chocolate flakes or something similar, in any case, it WASN'T couscous]

In other news, my soul is apparently "like a gone-off yoghurt"

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Advice #38

To strike up conversation with a randomer working in a large organisation, one of the best conversation starters is
Is your HR department as bad as everyone else's seems to be?

Even the most reserved accountant will get highly animated and fill the next twenty minutes with tales of frustration and anger - by which time you will hopefully have found something else in common (hopefully a happier subject)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Tea News

First Class Teas has disappeared completely. Its shop closed on 23rd December last year and I went to visit them on their second-to-last trading day. It was sad to see the shop getting ready to close from lack of custom, when they are a rare shop in actually caring about tea and about drinkers of tea. After that date it functioned as a mail-order tea company that I bought from a couple of times. They had amazing tea at very good prices. There are some teas that I will miss greatly - I'm not sure how to replace the "Cambridge Summer Blend" that is a favourite amongst my friends, for example.

I visited the website just now and discovered that it has gone. Tragedy. I'm sure the Materials Possy and others who have experienced First Class Teas will join me in a little moment of contemplation at this time of sadness

Sunday, 6 September 2009

My life - updated

Well, a lot has happened since the last time I mentioned anything. I think the best place to start would be at my last newsy post here.

I mentioned three things: being asked to move out of our house, having an insecure job and having a good holiday.

The landlady changed her mind so we can actually stay in our house. It's not a perfect house, not least because my room measures around 8' by 9', which is okay but I'd like more (and I'm not usually a person who says they need more of anything).

My job is still not secure, and incredibly, they have still not decided what I am going to be doing in the company. I don't think I'm going to be made redundant in the next few weeks, but dragging it out for months doesn't help morale in the place. Still, I'm less concerned about that now because we have a rolling one month contract on the house so we can basically move out very quickly if the job disappears. Everything is connected, as people always say.

The holiday story doesn't quite end there either. I mentioned that I ended up closer to two people and less close to a third. Well, that trend continued. I ended up dating one of them and seeing a lot of the second, while the third doesn't really talk to us and seems to have given up on The North, or at least our little corner of it, and is desperate to leave without saying another word to anyone. I don't like falling out with people especially when it affects a large group of people, but despite efforts to include him in social activities, it's not happening because all he wants to do is leave.

It seems like the last month has just been a progression of what has gone before. But then what do you expect? I mean, who are you to expect that my life fits into short blog-post size chunks? People like you are very infuriating when you start pushing me around and forcing your expectations on me. How dare you?!

If you must, there is one new thing. Martin's girlfriend Kelly has been living in or house for most of the year I have been living in The North, but she moved out recently. She has been a good housemate in my opinion, added a little je-ne-sais-quoi (spelling?) to the house. I have hardly lived with only blokes the whole time I have been here (despite all the anticipation that I was feeling). Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Building Suspense

I have not posted for almost two months and only three times since June, and yet people still stumble across this blog. I know because I had an e-mail telling me that somebody arrived here for the 3300th time (since records began) over the weekend. That doesn't mean that I have many readers, but surely I still have a couple. Which means that I have a duty to write something. I feel that my time is freeing up now, for the first time in a while, so don't get your hopes up too much, but there may be posts appearing here in the coming days

Thursday, 9 July 2009


The name of a book involving an animal who eats oil and ends up eating marmite sandwiches with the queen.

Also wanted. The book

Thanks for Roz for awakening this fascination in a children's book I had forgotten existed. But with a storyline like the one explained above, it can only be good, right?

Monday, 6 July 2009

A month without a post

When you get out of the habit of blogging it feels very strange to come back to it. I can hardly believe it has been almost a month. I have been battling with myself a bit because I don't really know what I should put in a blog post.

Until recently, privacy has not really concerned me. After all, most times we lose our privacy is in a beneficial way to us. We put our information on facebook so that friends can contact us, or to make it easier to exchange photos, and there is a whole load of other information that we might want to share. We have CCTV cameras so that criminals can be caught and keep us safer. I'm pretty law abiding, and surely the police don't have time to watch everyone. They only have time to look at particular sections of the footage where there is something wrong happening. We allow our internet traffic to be monitored for the same reasons, and our bank details are being monitored for our spending patterns to see if they vary suddenly because we have had cards or details stolen. We give companies our details of what we buy every time we buy something online or get a loyalty card. This allows companies to discover what we like so they can target their marketing so we are aware of new products, and they also pay us in loyalty points for the privilege.

Unlike many people, I don't believe there is some big 'evil' socialist agenda to all this. I don't really think that people are collecting information about us all so they can control us better. However, I think the technology is almost there that someone with bad intentions could start to use our information against us. An article in Time magazine (that I only flicked through or didn't buy) got me thinking about it. They say that use of tracking from mobile phones along with shopping habits from banks and loyalty cards would allow companies to target marketing more closely than ever, placing shops in the right locations or making person-specific advertising. At the same time, video analysis software is gettin better and better and could soon allow large amounts of CCTV to be analysed with a lot less hassle than by sitting people in front of screens. It's still a little way off, but probably not that far, if the price of computer processing power keeps decreasing as it is, and with companies like facebook holding onto our details long after we even close our accounts, things that happen now could come back to bite us.

Blogging is not really a part of this, especially because the blog is anonymous to all but the people to whom I tell the address. But it does leave me being careful what goes on here. And just recently my life has got lots of parts to it that I need to be careful about talking too much about.

I couldn't just keep you holding on on without telling you (my loyal readers) what has been going on though. After all, I haven't spoken in Rachel, ChrisE or indeed anyone else for far too long. So here is the rundown, in a slightly more secretive manner. I might tell you more later, when I find an interesting way of telling all the interesting stories attached, because there are interesting stories attached to all of it, especially the last bit of news.

Firstly, we have to move out of our house. That means searching for a new one and all the hassle and panic of househunting with an upcoming deadline after which we are homeless.

Secondly, my job is at risk. So are a lot of people's, but my company has reached the stage where it is culling large amounts of staff and we have been told we are at risk. That would all be fine in times when I could go and live at home for 3 months, find another job and move out again. But right now there are not many jobs, and I might be given the boot just after signing a new six month contract on a new house, which would leave me stranded in The North without any good reason to be there! Urgh!

Thirdly, I had an awesome holiday in France. I went with three people, two of whom I am now much closer to, and one of whom I'm less close to. That's why I don't want to talk about it in detail though. I'd have to be very careful to write about the people who came, and it would be odd to write much about the holiday without mentioning the people I went with. Our holiday was great though, full of variety both in the country or in a city. We had experiences to tick boxes in every section possible - cultural, scenic, awe-inspiring, challenging, celebratory (I had my birthday away), sporty, unexpected, lazy. And it was cool. I'd definitely do a road-trip/camping holiday with friends again. Awesome. I might put something better if I find a good way of writing. I just don't have creative juice today

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

European Elections 4th June 09

There are European elections coming up, and I would expect a large turnout following the expenses scandals of the past few weeks.

I ask you to be reasonable.
There are some MPs who have effectively committed fraud by taking money when they were not allowed.
And there are also MPs who have taken money that you might not agree with, but they have stayed within the rules. I feel sorry for MPs on that. Anyone would take money if they were offered it, so it's hard to judge them badly for using the expenses system they were given. Many asked for advice from those in charge. Everyone in the country has been examining them and they haven't had the chance to defend themselves as they would have done if the expenses system had been investigated internally.

If you want to change the system, then fine, but don't vote for a silly party as a protest - because they could get into power! It's proportional representation in the European elections, so they don't need many votes to get an MEP.

For a critique of the BNP, for example, have a look at several articles that bristling badger has written on it and in particular this one

Friday, 29 May 2009

Question #7

Who'd have thought it?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Advice #37

Does your house smell of weed? Are you parents about to visit? I have stumbled across a type of tea that tastes great but also according to my housemates, smells of weed. So, if you have guests who don't approve, just let them smell the tea and they will think all the smell came from the tea and not from any more sinister sources. It is
Oolong +Raspberry from Birt and Tang who, by the way, make other excellent tea too.

NB. This will not remove the smell, nor is it a guaranteed solution. If it doesn't work, remember that it was all martin's idea, not mine!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Do you really think that love is gonna save the world?

I saw Nina Persson recently, when she visited the UK with her band A Camp. She is a lovely lady, if a little quirky. In fact, her manner is summed up by something in the warm-up act, Kristofer Åström, a softly spoken Swede who played relaxing solo guitar and voice, with the odd harmonica part thrown in. We were almost asleep standing up listening to his relaxing with his gentle tones, and did a bit of a double-take when he introduced his next song as being called "Blind Motherfucker". I suppose it is probably a Swedish thing and not just a Nina Persson or a Kristofer Åström thing, but it kinds of sums up Swedes, because they manage to be very chilled, relaxed and easy-going, while at the same time being a little bit more open and matter-of-fact than the English.

A Camp were very good. They were sharp and engaging and played a good mix of songs from both albums. I am still amused that the first album is from 2001, before the last two albums were conceived. It seems strange not to play the Cardigans songs in the middle, as they fill a gap somehow. The lyrics are unmistakeably from Nina's imagination, as they cover love about everything else, and are slightly quirky, with lyrics like
Love is a fire; a hot, hot blaster
and we're the Belgians burning in the Congo sun

However, most of the themes covered in recent songs are themes already covered in previous albums, so now is a good time to discuss the themes in her lyrics.

This post is an attempt to answer the question "What is love?" from the angle of the Cardigans. It's almost the only thing they write about, but they do it so well because they capture it in a way that is real, with the intense emotion of real life. I was looking for some evidence and I looked up the bonus DVD that came with their album Super Extra Gravity. In that, Magnus says "Nina's always writing about unrequited love and how difficult everything is". Also, in Musik Express (the German magazine) Nina is quoted as saying "auf diese Platte hat schon jeder Song etwas mit Beziehungen zu tun", describing Long Gone Before Daylight. For those who don't speak German, that means "on this record every song has something to do with relationships".

Love is used to describe a lot of different things. In a Christian perspective, love simply means "displaying kindness". Love is an action and not a feeling. But love is often thought of as a feeling. It's a feeling of devotion, or of dependence, or of obsession. It's a feeling that may mean a collection of different things, and can be different things at different times. It could mean that you can spend forever in someone's company or maybe it means that the feeling won't die with time apart. Perhaps it's not always good, but the love comes because some of the times together are the best times ever. Is it something that reflects on how they interact physically or how well they understand one another, or how accepting they are of each other's faults? Whatever, it's the same feeling. But it comes in different guises which is why the Cardigans are able to write so much on the subject.

According to the Cardigans, the good, happy part of love is almost secondary to the pain it causes. From the first album in 1994 they made it clear that things were not all plain sailing. Cloudy Sky contains these lyrics:

I'd paint the grey sky blue
and just for you
so don't tell me you want the rain...

...I've always tried to find
what satisfies your mind
but I will never know

And the famous single Lovefool is a screaming desperate call for her lover to stay with her - helpless with the feeling that her lover has fallen out of love.

By the release of Gran Turismo in 1998, the pain of being in love seems unbearable. If you haven't heard it, listen to Paralysed (Track 1) with the volume turned up and the bass even louder. Even without the words, it's a powerful song, but with the lyrics...
This is where your sanity gives in / and the love begins
Never lose your grip / don't trip, don't fall
You'll lose it all
The sweetest way to die's even more powerful. Or listen to Do you Believe (Track 9), which I quoted in the title to this post.

When Long Gone Before Daylight arrived in 2003, it was clear that the message was this: if it's not horrible and painful, you're not doing it right. I've said it before and I'll say it again: And Then You Kissed Me is the saddest and the best song ever written. The song is about an abusive relationship in which the abuse makes the love stronger if anything
baby you hit me!
Yeah, you punched me right in the heart
and then you kissed me...
and then you hit me...

The message is this
True love is cruel love

If it doesn't hurt, it's not right. And this is the theme for most of the album. You're the storm says you're the storm that I've been needing and For What It's Worth shows what kind of a difference to life love makes.
A four-letter word got stuck in my head
the dirtiest word that I've ever said
and it's making me feel alright

The four letter word is love, and saying it changes everything about her relationship. It goes from being a care-free festival of joy to something dirty.

After all this, it's incredible that any of the Cardigans are in relationships and even married. But some of the other songs show the lure of love. Happy Meal II from The First Band On The Moon is about the feeling when you invite a new boyfriend back home for a meal. The words...
no one can be happier than me

...sum it up.
And Then You Kissed Me (a song mentioned earlier) explains as well why you would go through so much pain to be with someone you love.
It hit me like never before
that love is a powerful force

Even recently, A Camp released the song Stronger than Jesus, and guess what is stronger than Jesus? Love.

In fact, say the Cardigans, the good side of love is so good that you don't mind the bad stuff that comes too. Take Step on Me, for example, where she protests that her man is walking all over her. Despite that, the love makes her say go ahead and step on me along with some tongue in cheek lyrics about him standing on her foot - this is weird Nina at her best (You'll break that foot that you're standing on / I'll walk with the other one)

Not everyone will agree with what the Cardigans think of love, but most of them are in long term relationships or married, so they must be doing something right!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Advice #36

If you like drinking tea and make a whole pot, then get a tea cosy. Or even better, get your sister to make you one (thank you sister!). It will keep the tea warm for about an hour and half so you can keep enjoying it. If possible, you should take out the strainer or tea bags after 5 minutes or so because otherwise it will keep brewing.

You could even get a plunger teapot if you really want to do things properly!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Being decisive

I have come across distinction you can make in the language you use when coming to a decision, and it helps me illustrate a mindset that I try to follow to an extent.

"Making a decision" takes all responsibility for the consequences. You can make a decision about what food to have for dinner, or which movie to watch. It implies that you could have decided something else but chose not to. There was a delicate balance going on in your brain, but you decided to take the decision and the consequences that came with it.

"Coming to a conclusion" implies that you gave all thoughts a chance to settle. Once this is done, there is often no decision left to make. There is a right answer that you are destined to reach if you think about it enough. This is a good way to tackle really big problems like choosing a career or deciding whether to make a big purchase. As long as you don't rush the decision but mull it over carefully over a decent period of time, there will often be only one sensible option left. It also means that you should not regret the decision. The solution chose you more than you choosing the solution. Or that is how it feels. I hope that by doing this, I can be happier. After all, even if the decision turns out to be a bad one, it was obviously the correct decision based on what you knew at the time.

This all ties in very much ideas of free will and theories of consciousness that I have been reading about recently. After all, the second option does not seem to entail a conscious decision. But then perhaps even "making a decision" is a purely biological reaction of nerves sparking each other in sequence, and the outside influence of a conscience is an illusion. The study of consciousness makes fascinating reading, and I hope to write more on the subject in future.

I leave you with a question. Is it better to decide something quickly or to wait and be certain that your decision is correct? The former sounds best in many situations, but perhaps the latter will stop you from changing your mind... which could be the decisive factor

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Question #6

Who needs stand-up comedians when you have got a global economics downturn?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Question #5

What's she gonna look like with a chimney on her?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


This is a wonderful website, an attempt to bring tea-lovers together by allowing them to log what tea they drink and what they think of it - how they steep it, what they drink it with, etc etc. Of course I signed up immediately.

I'm not without criticism for it, because it is still developing, but it could be incredible! I am imagining a website where you can search for a type of tea, and find different suppliers or variants on it. I am imagining a website where you can search for a particular brand of tea and find out how long to step it for and at what temperature and, for example, what happens if you accidentally brew it for a few minutes too long. There could be discussion in forums. There is already a way of "following" tea drinkers whose opinion you respect, just like adding a friend on facebook or adding a website to your favourites. It could really become a wonderful resource, and I'm sure that it will be within a few months. So if you like tea, WATCH OUT!

The link to the website (and my particular my own "tealog") is on the sidebar. Not sure how much I'll put on about what I drink, we'll see whether it stands the test of time

Monday, 20 April 2009

Question #4

What do you want?

[What tone of voice did you ask this in? This may influence the response you get. Incredible!]

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Advice #35

Don't cast nasturtiums. It's like slander and it's rude to talk about people behind their back.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On the Ashwell prison riot

The recent riot at Ashwell prison shows that we really need to reconsider what we want from our prison system. We immediately ask why it happened and what we could have done to prevent it.

But these are the easy questions to answer, and the answers will come out with the result of the inevitable enquiry that will follow (announced on Sunday). We will probably find that prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. After all, recent reports on the Ashwell riot said that there were sometimes only 6 staff for 600 inmates, which is obviously not enough for a group of prisoners including high-level criminals. (although the prison was for class C prisoners, some of the inmates were ex-class B with the rating
downgraded to keep within the rules). On the good side, any enquiry is likely to say that the response was very good. Within a short space of time there were riot police on the ground, road blocks a mile away from the prison in each direction, and helicopters scanning the nearby fields. The police were thorough (or appeared so to the public), watching over those on their Easter country walks in police helicopters and paying visits to local residents to reassure them.

Any enquiry will need to give some reccommendations. Apart from the obvious issue of requiring more staff and more space, they may encourage the use of permanent, experienced staff over that of cheap contracted labour. The enquiry really should emphasise closer controls on prisoners. After all, this is a prison in which inmates are sometimes given keys to their own cell. Perhaps it would make sense if prisoners could not communicate across the whole prison. This may have prevented riots spreading, and prevented fires to the extent that we have seen. Some would argue that it was a disaster waiting to happen, and observers have already suggested that it may be the start of a series of riots this summer.

What we are less likely to hear is information about the nature of the argument that caused the bad feeling. It is also not likely to tackle the key questions lying behind it, but the politicians should be discussing these issues with urgency.

Why are people in prison?
-Is it a punishment?
-Is it a time away from society for reflection for the criminal?
-Are they locked away for their own safety?
-Are they locked away for our safety?
-Are they locked away to look after them because they are mentally ill and there is no other place for a mentally ill person to live?

Perhaps it is a combination of those reasons that depends from person to person. Maybe there are better alternatives than prison for some of those people. Prisoners who are kept away from the public for their safety deserve better conditions and we should aim to make their lives fulfilling. But the needs are different for those in prison as a punishment.

To me, it seems obvious that many people will not like being in prison as prisons are currently designed. Prison as a punishment is not likely to be a pleasant experience. In that case, we need some safeguards to prevent unhappy prisoners from trying to leave and find a better place. As long as the aim of prison is to make it unpleasurable, a large security force is necessary. What I am getting to is that a radical re-think of prisons is necessary to cater for our needs, and then we can fund them accordingly.

So why are the politicians not moving more quickly? I think it is their endless wish for everyone to like them. Politicians no longer go into politics idealistic and forward-thinking. They are sheep that follow the public and do not lead them. That is the reason why for so many years politicians have been similar irrespective of which party they belong to. I think they are waiting for debates in the newspapers to guide opinion on how to treat prisoners. There is disagreement round the country on the issue at the moment, but the Sun, the Telegraph and the Mail will surely help to find a concensus. Only when the most votes can be won, will politicians act.

The country is ruled by the media and even politicians are afraid to move without their support.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Under-fire tea still perfect

Tragedy has struck. Until recently, tea was seen as being perfect in most ways, having flavonoids (that have antioxidant properties), being calming and reducing blood pressure, and also aiding slimming if that's what you want, preventing tooth decay, and many other things.

However, tea has been under fire in the news recently. The first one is that tea prices have been 'surging', as reported by the BBC. Apparently tea on the world market has almost doubled in price because of fears that demand is ahead of supply by 70,000 tonnes per year and because tea producers such as India, Sri Lanka and Kenya (the second, third and fourth biggest tea producers) are having droughts which threaten reducing production even further.

But hang on a minute, the deficit is only 1.9%. If someone told me that I'd have to forgo one cup of tea in fifty because we were running out, I wouldn't be that upset. In fact, I'd feel better if we spent a little more on tea because with prices rising, the producers and pickers might earn a little more. I'm not an expert in economics, so you might shoot me down on that one, but in any case, it's hardly a tragedy or "The new oil" as the BBC are intent on suggesting.

The second news item to attack tea was also featured in the BBC, as well as the Daily Mirror and the Los Angeles Times. A study was done on people in the northern Iranian province of Golestan, where people are apparently known for drinking hot tea. A strong link was found between increased levels of oesophageal cancer and those who drank their tea at hot temperatures. This is obviously horrific and terrible. However, just because the study was done on tea-drinkers, it doesn't mean it only applies to tea. The study was done on tea-drinkers because so many people near the university in Iran drink tea, no other reason. The authors themselves pointed out that there has been suggestion in other studies that all hot drinks could cause cancer, citing articles linking between hot alcoholic beverages and oesophageal cancer, and describing damage done by hot drinks in general.

In any case, it only really becomes a problem is at very high temperatures (65 degrees minumum) whereas the english tend to have milk and therefore drink it colder (apparently).

What this article says is
"be careful not to scald yourself on hot drinks"

Because you could scald your throat, not just your mouth. Scientifically it's more than that, and I don't want to demean the work of the scientists, because it is an interesting study and talks about long term risks, not just short term ones. However, in terms of advice to the public, it shouldn't change much. Don't burn yourself, it's not complicated, and it doesn't mean that tea is terrible because it burns you when it's hot. So do not fear.

It was a great journal article too, because of some splendid phrases that you could only find in a scientific journal. They are totally awesome dude...

"all patients underwent oesophagogastroduodenoscopy"

"Our study found that almost everyone in Golestan Province
drinks tea."

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Interesting fact for the day

The first flowering plants were in the cretaceous period. I know, that doesn't sounds interesting, but I was interested, and you might understand if you read on

From my extreme curiosity in dinosaurs as a child I still have the book on dinosaurs in the "Usborne Spotter's Guides" series copyright 1980. Usborne were perfectly justified in making books in the same series for birds, butterflies, garden flowers and even ponds and lakes, but dinosaurs?? Maybe I just don't understand because I'm not a "spotter", but I thought there was a good reason why people can't just go out and "spot" dinosaurs. What were they thinking!??

This book clearly describes which dinosaurs were alive at what times. To give you a quick idea, the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the first life was 3.8 billion years ago, and humans only arrived under half a million years ago. Dinosaurs lived in the Triassic period, the Jurassic period and the Cretaceous period, which were from 225 and 65 million years ago. Dinosaur-like reptiles existed before that, in the Permian period.

Flowers only arrived on the scene in the last of those periods, so lots of dinosaurs existed before there was such a thing as a flower! The Earth evolved stegosaurus, brontosaurus (apatosaurus) and dimetrodon before flowers. These animals never saw a flower!

Interesting fact of the day is unlikely to become a regular feature on this blog for a number of reasons. Here are a few of them: it's been done before, and done better than I would do; I don't write posts every day; I don't have interesting facts every day. This fact was actually my interesting fact for 15 days ago, and it could just as well be called "Interesting Fact For 135 million years ago", but it's hard to claim it to be especially interesting today.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Advice #34

So when you find something that seems impossible and don't know the answer or even how to find out the answer, then
Ask God

"Who knows?"

Because God knows who knows

And if you ask nicely he might just put you onto the person who knows the answer to your question

PS Often a person is good to ask, but it can be hard to find the right person without God's help. Don't ask God directly for the answer to your question, that would be simple and we know that God is not simple. Just ask him "who knows?"

Monday, 23 March 2009


I am grumpy because I have spent 45 minutes defrosting dinner in the microwave and it's not defrosted. And I am doing a sudoku and I'm stuck. It's funny what gets you down sometimes. I guess I'm just tired, but it's soooo annoying!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

My soul resides in your watery fiords fyords fiiords Inlets

-Adrian Mole

Whenever I am typing and get stuck spelling a difficult word like 'recommend', I always go to Not only do you get to watch stick men fighting, but it also tells you which way of spelling it is more accepted, by which version is on the internet the most times. After all, the way that most people spell it is probably right (unless it's a horrible american spelling - being British I'd prefer to spell things the British way). My most recent one was queuing/queueing. I prefer queueing. Many words have the magic e that I learned about in primary school. An e turns bit into bite, because it is magic and lengthens the sound of the i. Likewise with cap/cape, pet/pete, sit/site, rot/rote, crud/crude, (one example for every vowel). The magic e gets dropped when you add -ing onto a verb. Although not magic, the same happens for words like meddle and paddle - the e disappears to produce meddling and paddling.

I think ue is a sound in itself and is different to other words that end in e, so it should be allowed a different spelling rule for adding an -ing. The group include words like glue, sue and queue. If you type them into Google, gluing is suggested as a better alternative to glueing, suing is suggested for sueing, but both queuing and queueing seem to be acceptable. The same is true on the Blogger spell-check On finding that out, I turned to googlefight! The results are in:

gluing = 434,000 search results
glueing = 70,100

suing = 1,300,000
sueing = 48,600

queuing = 790,000
queueing = 386,000

I hate to say it, but the versions without the e seem to win. Those with the e seem to be widely accepted, as both appear in most dictionaries, but they are not as common. A cause or a consequence of this is that Microsoft Word tries to correct the versions with an e.

I like to think I am right, and the world is being skewed by Microsoft pushing its weight around. And I will therefore continue to add my e to these interesting words as I have always done. After all, as this website points out, queueing is the only word in the English language with five vowels in a row. Awesome. We need to keep that!

I have some more words for you to consider: value, subdue, pursue, imbue, ensue, construe, continue, cue
There are lots of them! If the rule is inconsistent, I'll be frustrated

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Kelis hates you so much right now

Morten Gamst Pedersen! Or she would if she had seen you play football yesterday. A lot of sports fans dislike football because, unlike in other sports, the players earn a fortune and the game is dominated by people arguing with the referee or trying to get him to give a foul when they don't deserve it.

Diving is cheating, and referees have the power to book players who dive. It is rarely done, however. Most referees do not do it at all, and those that do give the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Take a look at this dive yesterday - the most obvious and cynical dive I have ever seen (apart from a few by Cristiano Ronaldo perhaps)

It's clear that he didn't get touched and it also didn't look like a man who had fallen over accidentally either. When he got up, he was shouting at the referee to give a penalty. No penalty was given, but neither was Pedersen punished. That gives the signal that it is okay to do. He lost nothing by trying to get a penalty that way. He'll do it again, because although it didn't work this time, it might do next time. Morten Pedersen should be sent off and suspended, because it gives football a bad name and makes refereeing harder to do. When a defender prevents a near-certain goal with a foul, it is an automatic red card. When a striker wins a penalty by diving, that is the same thing. It can change the scoreline by foul play and he should be sent off.

I don't care whether the referee has seen it at the time or not, but the FA should go back to these incidents and suspend people who dive. I always say that a red card should be given to someone who is such a bad player that they are not fit to stand on the field of play. Perhaps they are doing such dangerous tackles that the referee is concerned someone will get hurt, or perhaps they should such contempt for the rules that they need to be told "if you're not going to play properly, then you're not allowed to play at all".

On the other hand, if someone mistimes a tackle, it's a free kick, but it was only a mistake, so the player should be allowed to continue playing. The player is hardly unfit to play, he just make a mistake. Yet week after week, innocuous tackles are punished by cards, but unsporting behaviour is allowed to continue.

While we are on the subject, appealing to referees should be a bookable offence. Even if the player was fouled, making it look worse than it really was, or appealing to the referee muddies the waters. This behaviour is turning enough people away from football so it needs to be more actively addressed. Any foul should be punished by a free kick, but any unsporting behaviour at all should result in a player being punished by suspension or a warning that they will be suspended if it continues.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Rochdale Chronicle Article

Maybe She Wasn't Born With It

If we weren't already convinced, new research has shown the full extent of differences between the sexes. The research, carried out by the Institute for Failed Marriages, lists the reasons for divorce as given by both sides of the relationship. The Institute claim that the survey is more reliable than previous surveys, because it was carried out late at night in pubs, where people are more truthful.

A top ten list has been released, and amongst the usual ones such as infidelity, (number one in both lists), there are a few surprises. Notable at number 4 is "discovered she wasn't born with it and it was in fact just Maybelline", interestingly only one position behind "deteriorating looks" in the men's chart. Women's reasons are just as shallow, with "Forgotten Birthday/Anniversary" coming in at number 3 and "Money Issues" at five.

If you have been told by a partner that they "don't want a partner right now" you can think again, with it reaching just 9 in the men's chart and not at all in the women's. Finally, some food for thought, with news that "Bad sex" was at number 4 in the chart for women, but only number 10 for men. Maybe some things should stay confidential, eh, lads??!!!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Advice #33

Don't pull a face like a baboon's bottom. If the wind changes, you'll stay like that!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Being overly interested in dictionaries

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a dictionary with me at all times, and I don't read a dictionary as bedtime reading. We consulted one today after an odd discussion regarding what comes after bed in the dictionary. Sensible thoughts such as bede and bedazzle quickly gave way to assessments of words like bedangle and bedbath. I am worried that I might wake up tomorrow morning to find myself being bedangled from my bedroom window by a bedaardvark. Which would be horrific and a stunt that you should not try at home.

Incidentally, the words after bed in the dictionary we were looking at were bedabble, bedad and bedaggle. None of which are words in my book (I only have a small dictionary). And now it is time for my bed!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Advice #32

If you can, you should go to the Stag do or Hen do before a wedding, because the more people you know at a wedding, the more fun it is.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Question #3

Would you mind passing the mushrooms?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Bouncey Invigoration

Having mentioned invigoration last week I thought I should comment another source of invigoration that I was involved in last week. I went to see a Reel Big Fish concert. It's amazingly uplifting music, and great to bounce around to. For those who don't know, Reel Big Fish are a ska band, or maybe it's best to describe it as ska punk. I don't understand the classification system very well, but when I have described it to people since the concert I have described it as "really really fast punky reggae" or alternatively, "fast happy music with guitars and trumpets". Anyway, it's the stuff you should listen to if you're a teenager, and if you're no longer than a teenager, then it will remind you of being a teenager and how great it was. It's not like listening to Blink 182, that kind of fades with age and makes you feel old: no, ska music drags you back and makes you young!

Working on shifts as I was this week, I had a night free for the concert and didn't have to go to work until night-time the following day, so I could have a few beers (of extraordinarily high quality from an obscenely nice pub), bounce around til I broke my glasses, stay up late and still not feel guilty. One thing to bear in mind about going to an incredibly bouncy gig and bouncing in a dance floor with hundreds of teenagers, is that it's sweaty. Very sweaty. And worth it

Friday, 13 February 2009

Advice #31

Keep the fishing line taut at all times.

If you let the line go slack, especially if the fish jumps out of the water, then it is more able to pull sharply on the line and snap it. Terrible!

-Courtesy of the man we call X

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Friendly Invigoration

Three friends have recently contacted me after a long period without being in contact, and it is an invigorating experience. It's so nice to catch up after so long. There is an initial guilt that you had not been in contact and that you had not perhaps realised how good it would have been if you had been in better contact. And there are awkward silences where you realise how much of their life you have missed and how much of your life they have missed. And no amount of "catching up" ever quite makes up for it, because you weren't together at the vital moments and you only get the stories once they have been diluted by hindsight, worn down to the bones by the memory and condensed by frequent telling.

That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. In fact, the opposite. It's so good to speak to people and almost always you get on just as well as you always did. And it makes everything much more exciting when you can tell new people about things and talk to people about things that happened when you were last in contact and it's incredible.

In fact, I will be able to meet one or two of the three in the coming days, and it'll be really exciting. I love keeping in contact with people, even though it can be hard work sometimes, and my feeling at the moment is that yes, it's really worth it. And unless there is a proper reason why not, you can get back in touch with people even months or years after losing contact, cos it's great!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Shrewsbury Town update

How can Shrewsbury Town be seen as promotion contenders? I know that being at home gives you an advantage, but it's ridiculous that they have won only one game away from home this season, but won eleven in thir own Prostar Stadium.

If our away form was as good as our home form, they would be runaway leaders like Leicester are in League 1. I really need Shrewsbury to get promoted, because there are a lot more football teams near me that are in League 1 than League 2, so I could watch them a bit more often.

Sort it out!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

First Class Teas

In all the hubbub of the Christmas period, I forgot to mention the disaster that occurred.

First Class Teas closed just before Christmas. This tea shop was wonderful and the wonderful staff in there (like Roger, William and Naomi) introduced me to lots of new teas that I had never tried. In fact, without First Class Teas, I would not be obsessed with tea today, and my life would be very different. The shop sold over a hundred types of tea of all sorts, as well as teapots and other tea-related equipment. It was impossible to go there for less than an hour, as they give you a small pot each, encouraging you to stay as long as possible.

Fortunately, the mail order side of the business is still going, as is the wholesale side (the side which sells tea to other cafes), so we can still enjoy the tea in some way. But I miss the care and attention spent on tea during the time spent there. It can only be comparable to the tea houses of the far east. And they are places that I have to visit for certain.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Milk in Tea coming soon

It's about time I continued this series with some proper experiments isn't it? I had put it on hold for a while but it could certainly be continued now. Taste tests can be carried out on myself and also my housemates, who I have been training (I serve them lots of tea)

The latest additions to the tea cupboard have been yellow tea and ginger flavoured black tea, which are both exquisite. I recommend them both to you

Friday, 16 January 2009

Colin Murray Disagrees With Me

But he did read out my text

It said "An album should be judged by the quality of the second track. I always distrust an album with a good first track"

If I want to find out how good a band is I *always* listen to the second track first. If I like one track, then I'll listen to two or three, and then the whole album. First impressions are important. The first track on the album could be a boring Intro track, or it can often be the only good song on the album and the one that made the band famous. Track two is a much better taster of whether you'll like the whole album. Tracks 3&4 are also good.

After that, less good. Later tracks are much more hit-and-miss. Most albums have at least one filler track that's a bit rubbish at some point in the second half, so it's likely you could hit that one.

This policy might be a bit arbitrary but it's one I stick by and it works for me

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Days of Christmas

It's the thirteenth day of Christmas, or rather, the first day of 2009 that is not a day of Christmas. Hooray!

The song about the twelve days of Christmas chases me round the country every year. It sticks in my head incessantly and won't go away for around a fortnight. Every year I find myself wondering which day of Christmas we are on. I suppose I am slightly fascinated by the possibility of having a song that develops over the course of almost two weeks.

Also, I am always curious about the song and the gifts themselves. Why did my true love stop at twelve days? Was that the plan from the start, or did it just seem like a good place to finish once everyone is having a nice dance at the end? It annoys me that there is one more Lord than Lady. Surely the Lord is a little annoyed that he doesn't have anyone to leap for. Perhaps the recipient of the gifts is intended to be the missing Lady? In that case, is the giver one of the Lords as well?

At which point did the recipient realise that they were going to receive a partridge in a pear tree so many times? And how was the giver so sure that the partridge would stay in the tree long enough to give it? He must have ordered these things a fair while in advance for them to arrive on time. He was lucky that it all went to plan, because it sounds like a logistical nightmare. Perhaps the song is just badly phrased and my true love only actually gives the pear tree on the first day. It could be that in later verses the previous presents are mentioned simply as a reminder of what has been given already. Who knows?

All of the gifts are a bit silly though. Swans seem fairly normal, but they belong to the Queen so unless my true love is the Queen, they are not my true love's to give. Maids-a-milking are also crazy. To have eight of them for the last five days means forty maids, which must be most of the professional milking maids in the county.

The "proper" meanings of the song you can read here

Anyway, these thoughts keep me occupied through the coldest, darkest days of the year, but that is over now, and I will have to find something else to occupy me

The fact that the coldest night of the year is TONIGHT (it's supposed to get down to minus 10 in some parts of the country later) makes the loss of the song a little harder to bear than normal. So forgive me if I shed a tear as I head to bed

Monday, 5 January 2009

Question #2

What happened here?

A food fight or merely a cress mishap?