Saturday, 13 December 2008

Scary stunts....

On last nights local news was a strory about a Yorkshire man who had won £7 million on the Lottery.

How very lovely for him. But what made the story a real joy was that the man was a stunt actor - ohh err how terribly exciting the news crew and all the viewers must have thought.. but then..... the story was about to take a down turn.

News man: "So what kind of films or programmes have you worked on as a stunt actor, have you ever been hurt?"...
Yorkshire man: "Well I am a stunt actor for Heartbeat...."


Can you imagine!! a flamin stunt actor for Heartbeat, whats the most dangerous thing that ever happens in one of the dullest shows ever to be produced...

"Oh nooo, I have slipped on a rogue ham sandwhich.... quick quick call Nick Berry, these litter bugs must be shot"...
"Arghhh" went the scream as Mr Brown got his slacks caught in his bicycle chain..

Must be a real hairy job that, stunt acting for Heartbeat, goodness, how his wife must worry.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Badgerisms - The Musical Quiz!

Recently Badger has been mostly ticking improvisations on popular hits.

Points will be awarded for guessing the original tune and artist. Submissions in the comments please. First prize is a signed original Badger-designed christmas card.

1) Some Badgers they love one another...

2) Don't you wish your Badger was strong like me - dontcha

3) I feel like chicken in tights

4) This could be Badger for everyone!

5) Come on feel the Badge (NOOOOO!)

6) Just grab a Badger and dance

And while you're here, if you haven't already done so please visit and blog it and stuff so that other people who read your blog will also kindly come and tell us what matters. Thank you muchly.

Friday, 5 December 2008

1000 things that matter

We need your help. We're making a film and we need to know what matters to you.

So, we've just launched and we're keen to get 1000 entries as fast as possible.

Please spread the word :) We know you all have great ideas and lots to say... and we look forward to hearing your entries.

Go on. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Snowed in...

I bring this to you after having a jolly good sweep of the satellite dish to gain an internet connection.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

More walks of the wintery kind...

I love that I can take pictures like this without having to get in my car....

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Displacement activity

I am still writing my article.

Here are all the very clever things I have learned in the past month......

  • Ant and Dec still rock
  • Being in possession of a pair of silicone breasts does not necessarily mean that you are not smart, sassy and witty 
  • Cheryl Cole is as genuine as she is gorgeous and really needs to come round to our house for tea
  • Fat, bald men who can't dance make surprisingly good telly
  • Lip gloss in Russian proportions is a difficult look to pull off
  • Kerry Katona likes pastry
Excellent. Article coming on nicely then. 

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Wintery walks..

We woke to snow and sunshine this morning, so we went for a walk up the hill behind the house.

I took my camera and this is what I found....

Saturday, 22 November 2008

am I getting old, or what....?

In 1992 I  was far too busy listening to  On-U Sound and marching with militant to take them seriously. 

in 1996 I was far too busy being post-natally depressed to give a monkeys about their disbanding, let alone call the help-line that was set up by the Samaritans to support their distressed fans.  

But in 2008 I can't help but notice how - like a cheesecake or a chili con carne - Take That are much better for having spent a short spell in the fridge. 

Thursday, 20 November 2008

On the 15th day of November my neighbours gave to me...

... one Chocolate Orange and a brace of pheasants for our tea.

*ends singing*

At 6pm Badger and I are taking said brace of pheasants down to the local pub where the lovely and eccentric landlord (who used to produce Thomas the Tank Engine) will give us a demonstration of how to make them eatable. For they are not, yet. They are just hanging by the front door just as they were when they arrived. Heads, feathers, etc.

This brings us to a dilemma. We happen to live somewhere that offers a plentiful supply of free meat most of the year round. The local farmers have said we can have rabbits for free, provided we do all the yukky bits for ourselves. 

Free range? *check*
Zero food miles? *check*
No carbon footprint? *check*
Low cholesterol? *check*
Cute snuffly noses and floppy ears? *check*

After much discussion we have concluded that if we aren't prepared to eat the local, free meat offered to us then we probably shouldn't eat meat at all. And, having been veggie and also done the almost-veggie-but-I-eat-fish thing, I don't want to give up meat again. We do eat veggie at least half the time, and we only buy free range meat, but that's as far as it goes.

Now, proper veggies I can respect. My little sis hasn't eaten animal bits for a long time and is very serious about it. Fishy-tarians I can also dig - there is something different about fishes, they don't have limbic systems and raise their young like other mammals... and we don't rear them in horrible battery farms. (Oh ... actually we do, but we pretend not to and can choose to buy fish responsibly).

But, it turns out that I might just be a dont-make-me-think-about-it-etarian. Which sounds to me like a synonym for 'hypocrite'. So, I searched YouTube for a video that might instruct me how to prepare a pheasant, in the hope that I might be de-sensitised by the time we go for our lesson this evening. And, OMG it's horrific. Badger and I are in pieces.

Not the blood and guts... that wasn't too bad actually.

No, much worse than that.

The video soundtrack is "You're beautiful" by James Blunt.

Some people are just twisted.

Friday, 14 November 2008

How (not) to reference

I am currently writing an article on postmodernism (Derrida, Lyotard, Kristeva et al)  and its influence on the intersubjective school of  psychotherapy (Schore, Stolorow, Hargaden and Sills et al).  

I am getting in a bit of a pickle (Crosse and Blackwell 1922). 

Not necessarily because I worry that I don't know what I'm talking about (although that doesn't mean that I do.) The beauty of using postmodern theory is that you can fully admit to simply making up stories about the world because, ultimately, all we do make up stories about the world (Grimm and Grimm 1812)

My jam (Weller/Buckler/Foxton 1977) is with academic referencing.

Were I writing an article using specific theories or techniques such as the Drama Triangle (Thespis 534 BC, Euclid 300 BC) or the Script Matrix (Wachowski and Wachowski 1999) it would be straightforward enough. But when you are writing about the pervasive philosophical movements of modernity, the ownership of  knowledge becomes significantly less clear.

At what point does something become part of the canon of received wisdom, I wonder? (Del Shannon 1961). Writers frequently refer to 'paradigm shifts' without referencing Thomas Kuhn's seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Is Kuhn twitching in his grave at not getting a mention? 

Do I really need to reference 25 impenetrable French philosophers if I use the term postmodern?

(As a mildly amusing aside, Derrida once confirmed that a quarter of his work was impenetrable. "I am a French philosopher", he declared. "If 25% of my work was not impenetrable, nobody would take me seriously." At least I think it was Derrida, but frankly I just can't be arsed to look it up.)

I have no wish to be accused of plagiarism (Harrison 1971) so I shall err, naturally, on the side of caution and reference everything - including the kitchen sink (Osborne 1956). 

There is a devil in me, though, that would love (Lennon/McCartney 1967) to just write 'Wikipedia' under the heading references

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

We made a film...

The DVD I've been working on most of this year is now ready to go to press.

This is a sneak preview - the actual DVD has seven films on different themes, so it was a little tricky to capture into just one trailer, but I think you'll get the idea.

Most of the content is aimed at professionals - therapists, MH workers, doctors, A&E staff etc.

The DVD also features a reading by Caroline Smailes and an interview about In Search of Adam, which is lovely.

I'm dead chuffed with all the people who took part - they were honest, authentic and shared in a really generous way.

If you'd like to spread the word that would be appreciated. All proceeds are going to fund services for people who self harm. DVDs are available from

Thanks to Badger and to Ms M for their efforts too - watching hour after hour of rough-cuts and never telling me they were bored...

Soooo. Um. Only say nice things please because I'm not really interested in editorial criticism at this point, with it having been finalised and all that, and I tend to take it to heart.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Doing our bit for global warming.....

Bob* is the best alarm clock I have ever had. He is shaped like a weeble (he wobbles but he doesn't fall down) and has a clever little button on his back giving you access to a variety of functions which you will soon wonder how you lived without. 

Bob's timer mode is invaluable for those times when you are cooking a four-minute boiled egg whilst lying in bed. (We don't use this as often as we might, as Badger has a remarkable gift for judging the exact time an egg needs to be boiled for. She gives it a quick weigh in her hand, declares the amount of boiling it requires and then executes it with precision. Nor does she require me to get out of bed. It is one of the many reasons we will never let anyone steal away our Badger. )

Bob also has a date/year mode. I can't actually think of an occasion when I have needed to know the exact date on the moment of waking - heavens above, is today the date of the American election or is it bonfire night? - but I often wake and wonder what year it is - it's 2008: that means I am a proper grown-up and have a job to go to. Bugger. 

Bob's most useful function - apart from the obvious waking-me-up-in-the-morning part - is that he tells us the temperature.

At first it was fun.  Ooh, Bob says it's 15 Celsius in our bedroom. I would never have known that otherwise. Thank you lovely Bob. 

Then it got serious.

On Wednesday morning Bob informed me it was 12 Celsius. It's a bit parky, said Bob. I suggest you jump straight into the shower or you'll freeze your bits off. 

On Thursday morning Bob informed me it was 11 Celsius. It's more than parky, said Bob. Get dressed under the covers and forget the shower 'cos the bathroom's no warmer. No-one will ever know....oh, and by the way it's 2008 and you are a proper grown-up with a job to go to. Sorry. 

On Friday morning Bob informed me it was 10 Celsius. In my bedroom. Are you completely mad, asked Bob? This is not a house, this is a milking shed. Someone has merely persuaded you it is a house with the clever addition of some windows and a kitchen. You are insane to live here. I suggest you stay in bed, call in sick and ride it out. It can only get warmer. (We know it is a milking shed, by the way, because Daddy Farmer tells us every time he sees us that he used to milk his cows in our living room.)

From November 1st landlords in the UK will be required to issue their tenants with energy efficiency certificates, assessing the property on an efficiency rating from A to G.  We suspect our landlord may have to apply for a new 'H' rating, applicable only to cow sheds. 

And so we are braving the arctic weather with only a log fire and some outrageously expensive night storage heaters for company. Thank heavens for n-a-p, is all I can say. 

*Those of you who bothered to follow the link will note that Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..........High School Musical? I await my Christmas present with baited breath....

Thursday, 16 October 2008

On Badger Brains

The climate change book is ticking along nicely. Badger has done some amazing illustrations, including these lovely frogs. She enjoyed drawing the frogs so much that she hardly ticked at all while she was working away at them.

Today we are mostly drawing brains. And I had one of those 'aha!' moments where a bunch of seemingly unconnected things suddenly came together.

Recently Badger's talent for spontaneous rhyming couplets has reached new heights. They were always tuneful and perfectly scanning, but when Badger ticked the answer to a question on University Challenge we were really impressed. The challenge was to complete the final line of a John Betjeman poem ...

Red hair she had and golden skin,
Her sulky lips were shaped for sin,
Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack'd,
The strongest legs in ...

'Pontefract!' ticked Badger. 

And she was right. Badger isn't into poetry - Betjeman's charitable request for friendly bombs to fall on Slough has passed her by. So, you can imagine how astounded Ms M and I were. As was Badger - who claims that she wasn't even sure of the meaning of the word Pontefract before she ticked it out.

So. We have a Badger who knows that she is going to sing but not which words might come out, and who completes poems spontaneously with correctly scanning and rhyming vocabulary, only partially aware of the meaning of the words being used.

And then, just now, I had to sketch a diagram of the brain, separating tasks by hemisphere. This stuff isn't an exact science, we are still very wobbly on what we do know about the relationship between the mind and the brain but we've got some rough ideas. One of the most well understood areas is language - the consequences of injury to parts of the brain being particularly obvious when they manifest in speech.

Conversation requires both sides of your brain. The left-brain (the logical, reflective side) stores vocab - the appropriate words to use for things and people. The right-brain (the creative, emotional side) stores tone, cadence, accent and meaning.

Badger is clearly a right-brain dominant person. She is very creative and spends most of her time engaged in stuff which can't be simply calculated or worked out. She even does the maths for her web designs by intuition - choosing a number and then guessing how much to adjust it by (a right-brain process, where calculation is a left-brain process). 

Badger's brain is positively brimming over with extra dopamine - this is what confirms her neurological diagnosis of tourettes. Her blood tests show far higher levels of this vital neurotransmitter than an average person. Our crude understanding of her tourettes is that it's a bit like spraying the inside of a computer with a fine mist of water. Everything still works but you get a lot of short circuits as well - generating activity that perhaps wasn't directly intended.

What's got me all excited is this connection:

1) Badger's brain is mostly firing on the right side when she's being all creative (which is most of the time).
2) So, any spontaneous firing is also more likely to kick off on the right side.
3) Badger says that she is aware of the urge to tic a tune, rhyme or rhythm.
4) Badger says that the actual words which emerge are a complete surprise to her. She only knows what they will be when she actually hears them out loud.
5) The words come from her left brain.
6) The words seem to be primarily selected on the basis of how they sound / fit, but are also then frequently influenced by some sort of context - just not necessarily the obvious one.
7) The choice of words may or may not be related to Badger's right-brain activity around meaning ... where no scanning / rhyming word fits the context Badger often makes one up out of bits of other words.

Badger's therapist has commented before that she doesn't believe the tics are utterly random - that they do have some meaning, at least in their selection. This is something I've observed as well, though sometimes it's harder to determine what that meaning might be than others.

And now I wish I knew more about neuroscience.

What this really illustrates though is the extent to which neurological differences such as tourettes, autistic spectrum disorder and aspergers really are primarily differences. Whether the difference turns out to be an asset or an impediment is then determined by a whole bunch of other factors, mostly environmental. I have no doubt that in the right small tribe Badger would be revered as a soothsayer or shamen. A walking 8-ball. You never know what you're gonna get next, but it's certainly not meaningless.

Oh, and I hope you like the frogs ... :)

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Irrational economics

I lived on the edge of the city (as in the square mile where the banking is done in London) for several years, and I can understand the peculiar fascination I feel towards the current meltdown as being heavily influenced by the general unpleasantness of having to share space and transport with so many merchant bankers.

I feel a little disappointed that I haven't finished The Survival Paradox quicker, because one of the themes running through it is the unreasonableness of the modern obsession with 'rational' economics.

Firstly, there is a difference between 'rational' and 'reasonable'. There is a wonderful 'rational' solution to the 'Fox, Chicken, Grain' puzzle, in which a farmer has to use a small boat, in which he can only transport himself and one of his cargo (fox, chicken or grain) at a time, to cross a river. Leaving the fox with the chicken, or the chicken with the grain will result in disaster. The rational solution is satisfying to work out, but the reasonable question remains: why is a farmer carrying a live fox around with him?

The number of important decisions made daily on the basis that they are rational is something that genuinely concerns me. Particularly when at its core, western rational economics has an apparently bonkers principle: compound interest.

Older civilisations recognised that compound interest wasn't viable, because while value was still linked to concrete stuff (be it gold, sheep or grain) a debt or investment subject to compound interest would one day require you to pay back more 'stuff' than there was on the earth. Which would be silly.

When we magically unlinked value from the concrete world and created the paper based currency we know as money today it was intended to be a 'promise' which could be exchanged for real gold when the time came. But even 300 years ago, over confident banks released more paper money than they could back up with gold in their vaults, assuming that the flow of gold would be so continuous that as long as their hands moved quicker than the investors' eyes then all would be well. Then there was a war and the gold supply dried up and some of the paper money became worthless.

Fearing that this might happen again, instead of passing legislation that prevented banks from issuing more paper than they had gold, in 1833 a law was passed 'guaranteeing' the value of the paper currency, so that people would continue to have confidence in it, even in times of low gold supply. (It was only passed in England and Wales, there is still no legal guarantee of bank notes in Scotland).

So - here we have a prime example of what I have been calling 'The Alpha Trap' in action. Alphas have privilege. The status of an alpha is a result of the status quo - whether that is a set of collective beliefs which holds them to be special (king, queen, priest, soothsayer) or a common understanding of today's survival problems which frames them as an appropriate solution (politicians, CEOs, football managers). So, what is the number one priority of an alpha? 

Maintaining the status quo - because this is what affords them their privilege.

The Alpha Trap is particularly rife in rational economics. 'Rational' Economics is a game which relies upon most of the participants having a rough understanding of the 'rules', while a few alphas gain advantage by having a more in-depth understanding and a closer position to the levers. House prices are linked to interest rates because we believe them to be, and so on. The people who repeatedly reinforce the rules are of course those alphas who personally benefit from being able to expertly play the system. If we decided the rules were nonsense then those alphas would quickly find themselves unable to maintain their privilege.

Wouldn't that be kind of fun?

I have to admit that I am reacting to each further news bulletin promising impending doom with a little bit of glee. And also sadness, because I've read that one tenth of American families are more than 3 months in arrears with their mortgages, and I've no doubt that those people are experiencing stress and pain. What interests me though is how a government can dress up a rescue package as being for the benefit of those people when it is so clearly geared to the advantage of the financial sector. If you want to prevent families having their homes repossessed, pass a law preventing repossessions.

For global politics I can see the current crisis as wonderful and positive. Do I sound insane? 

The reason for my optimism is that capitalist westerners are caught in a set of thinking where we confuse having more 'stuff' for being better people. To solve the impending Climate Change crisis we're going to have to cooperate with other societies who don't have as much 'stuff' as we do, and frankly we collectively look down upon those people because they don't have iPods. If we don't shift our attitudes rapidly then we'll see millions, even billions of people in the undeveloped world die through human-generated natural disaster during the next few decades.

So, I'm looking at the markets falling, and the banks collapsing, and the government experts backed into a corner where they finally admit that 'rational' economics isn't actually a proper science, despite all the numbers and graphs and formulas, and is really just a widely held set of beliefs ... possibly even superstitions ... and I'm excited. Because normal people are losing their faith in the status quo of rational economics, and starting to ask the question "what next?"

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Introducing The Survival Paradox - Badgered up!

You'd be forgiven for thinking that if something was "badgered up" it was in less than working order, but in our family it means quite the opposite.

Above is a screenshot of some Badger magic.  Click here to get a pdf download of the opening gambit of the climate change book we've been working on. 

Even better than a cheap vodka, it has been filtered by both the producer, Julian and the super-clever Ms Melancholy, before being passed to the ultra-talented Badger for a final 'badgering up'.

The book uses a split between the left hand page (graphics, cartoons, graphs and illustrations) and the right hand page (body text) to try to engage both sides of your brain in the discussion. Badger has whisked up the illustrations based on my rubbish approximations, and suddenly it feels like a really-really-real book.

I've still got the very ending chapters to complete. And then there will be A Big Announcement. Because something quite amazing is happening when we launch it.

We've got some very early feelers out to publishers - so far it's quite positive, but if you happen to own a massive publishing company and want this book then do feel free to email ;) We are also considering web-publishing via something like Lulu, because it would allow us to keep it available all over the world, and not get buried in the normal distribution and territory issues. There will be a significant web presence because of the Very Exciting Secret Thing, so one more click to order the book doesn't feel like a barrier.

So - please feel free to download this taster, and email me or comment here if you have feedback. (Especially typos ... as nmj and Cas both know first hand, there is no such thing as perfect). 

The book is designed to be accessible to bright 13-year-olds as well as non-academic adults. It's wide ranging in the content - animal behaviour, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economics, climate science, philosophy, politics - so the assumption is that no reader is an expert in all those areas, but that every reader has first-hand experience of being a human being.

The latest title, by the way, is The Survival Paradox: Why Global Climate Change has a Silver Lining.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

PS I have Aspergers....

Badger and Stray are watching Chelsea vs Man United. I am cooking Sunday lunch. 

Lovely smell, says Stray. 

Kuszczak? asks Badger, a little bewildered. (The Man United substitute goalkeeper had just been brought on to replace the injured Van der Sar.)  

No, says Stray, the lamb. I can't quite smell Kuszczak from here. 

I thought that was a bit odd, says Badger.....

....because I can only smell Van der Sar. 

Badger, who has synaesthesia, is astonished that the rest of us can't smell people on the tele.

Van der Sar smells faintly of stale urine (Badger is a Chelsea fan after all);  Joanna Lumley 'absolutely stinks' (of perfume, Ms Lumley); Gordon Brown smells musty, and there are some people who smell so much that Badger just can't watch them. 


Friday, 19 September 2008

Badgerism of the day

In very serious musical theatre style, we just were treated to:

Come to the western side of town ...
Where there's a badger in a crown!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Good problems to have

Last week, when I was on a tube train in Boston, I spluttered and coughed my way through a bit of slow burn asthma, explaining to the tallest member of Team Geek that my server was overloaded by the Black Boxes widget, and that I didn't normally cough this much but I wasn't used to the pollution.

Wow said he. You have some really great problems right now: you can't breathe because you're not normally exposed to pollution, and you're outta bandwidth because your viral went ... viral.

A great insight.

These are really, really good problems to have. Thank you universe.


25000 hits today. Widget displayed 9000 times since last night. 600 new choices / blog entries. 15000 mystery blogs visited by blackboxers. Wow.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

While I was sleeping ...

.. the number of registered Black Boxes blogs and pairs of choices they've submitted soared over the 2500 mark.

While I was under the duvet, snoozing off my jet lag, over 6000 calls to the server were made by more than 1000 different people Blackboxing.

At least 3000 visits to a mystery (but not random - it's all based on your choices) blog were generated by the widget. 

It is now installed on more than 300 blogs - maybe many more (I can't be more precise because the log files are so huge that I can only analyse 12 hour snapshots until I get the abridged one at the end of the month).

Thank you to everybody who has said lovely things about the widget ... and about me. I have to re-thank the other members of team-geek for incredible work in scaling it up to cope with the staggering enthusiasm of the blogging community. They rocked my binary world.

I should also thank Caroline, firstly for giving me the opportunity to do a lovely widget for her, but also for putting her complete trust in me, as I only had a couple of days to execute it which left little space for tweaking. The team at TFP were similarly brave in giving me the go ahead even though I'd only written a few sentences in description in an email. 

My big question when Caroline and I hatched the idea was will people 'get' it? I can't believe how many people totally get it.

For me, the embracing of blackboxing (omg I love that it has a verb, and corresponding nouns "blackboxer/ee") is more than just a pat on the back for having made something fun. As a geek I have always found it painful that other people didn't always see the internet as real life. Many times I've had people ask me "yeah ... but what about relationships in real life?" ... as if somehow the bits of me that blogged and forumed (new verb, I like) and g-chatted weren't really alive. 

Newsflash: It's all real. It's all us. And, whether it was a tiny seed of change or a dramatic revelation, last night, while I was sleeping, the Black Boxes widget and the bloggers who've embraced it, changed someone's life.


This episode of chasing-sheep was brought to you by the letters POST and GET and the numbers 1 and 0.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Go team geek!

It was the moment I had been dreading since the day the Black Boxes widget was embraced with such enthusiasm. I fired up chasing sheep and instead of a Black Box there was a black hole. The server was out of bandwidth due to the amount of data passing back and forth between 'blackboxers', who were doubling every 30 hours and then faster and faster.

By a stroke of luck the tipping point occurred late on Friday (US time - fortunately the UK were asleep) and I just happened to be hanging out with a whole troop of alpha-geeks in one of our hotel rooms in Boston. 

There was a flurry of clunks and swooshes as the laptops opened. We were living the alpha-geek dream: an emergency that genuinely required the application of the obscurest titbits of knowledge we collectively possessed. The clock was ticking and we were ready to save the day.

At first glance the answer had to be simple. After all, it's a pretty straightforward little widget - how hard could it be to find the right blog to send people to based on their choices? But no ... this particular puzzle held a lot more complexity than you could ever imagine. And, for an ordinary person, that would have been a disappointment. Luckily, for an alpha-geek the fact that your first three ideas are nowhere close to a solution is what makes it really start to feel like fun.

5 alpha-geeks, one beta-geek (self-termed and behind the camera), one designer / technical editor and a project manager. Go team geek!

We divided up the tasks and tested various theories. We implemented a fast-fix that we knew would only hold out for a couple of hours, and then we combined our collective problem solving capability and worked out a beautiful solution. I hacked a temporary version of it that we could have up and running that night, and the boys put together an amazing super-charged-version that will take over this week, and means that the widget will be able to handle up to 100 users per minute.

We tapped keyboards, opened terminals, installed stuff, researched stuff, tested, failed, tested, failed better, tested, failed even better and then, at 4.30 am Boston time, we uploaded our solutions and congratulated ourselves on having saved the day. (Or possibly just the widget, but hey, we geeks have egos too and we rarely excel at the heavy lifting stuff).

I can't thank my fellow geeks enough. They totally blew me away - partly with their sheer brilliance but mostly with their complete commitment to finding a solution. They rocked.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Missing Stray......

Boxers look depressed at the best of times. Here is a Boxer who is missing her mummy. 

Now tell me you don't feel just a bit sad?

Friday, 12 September 2008

This summer I have been mostly.....

...playing mum.... our Badger and her broken paw...

...and her sicky-vomity bug.....

...and Stray and her sicky-vomity bug....

...and Master M because...well...I am his mum after all...(not to mention the sicky-vomity bug)

...but mostly to this little nest of swallows on our bedroom balcony.

Frank, Badger's pet killing machine ginger tom, thinks we have opened up a take-away. And so at 5am each morning, at the start of the morning feeding regime, I have been on the balcony shooing away the killing machine little darling to try and preserve the lives of our swallow family. And yes, I did say 5am. Every morning. For 6 weeks. 

Alas, I fear that I have failed in my task. The babies visited the balcony every day after fledging....and then there were only two. I think I found the remains of baby number three on our bathroom floor. To be fair to Frank he had eaten most of it. Waste not want not is Frank's motto.

I think the swallows have finally tired of the Yorkshire rain and left with their friends for sunnier climes. 

And presumably to tell the African cats tales of the strange tiny ginger tiger that lives on our balcony. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

While the cat's away...

Stray is currently in the States, talking grown-up talk with publishers. 

Badger, Master M and I  were idling away the evening wondering what particular kinds of naughtiness we could get up to whilst she is away. 

Let's watch Nigella whilst we eat, said Badger.  Yay!

It's not that Stray disapproves of eating in front of the tele. It's just that - along with perfect pitch and a photographic memory - Stray has this weird 'perfect taste' thing going on. She can't eat whilst watching cookery programmes as she can taste whatever they are cooking, as well as whatever she is eating.  It's a bummer.

And so we ate our pudding in front of Nigella for the first time ever - Badger with a pot of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food and me and Master M with a Muller Crap-Corner. 

Boy, do we know how to enjoy ourselves.

Badger was slightly perturbed at Nigella's unique presenting style.
Why is she gyrating round the table? exclaimed a bewildered Badger. She's postively fornicating!

She's not quite fornicating, Badger, said I.

What exactly is fornicating? said Badger.

Look it up, said I.
No good will come of this, sighed Master M. He is 13 years old. He knows precisely what fornicating is. 

Badger googles fornicating.

Well that's not Badger-friendly! exclaims a shocked Badger. 

Indeed not. Nigella fornicating around the kitchen table is most definitely not Badger-friendly.
I imagine Stray is missing us quite a lot. 

Tourettes marketing...

Creating awareness and challenging common myths created by the media is difficult for the Tourettes Association.  This is my attempt at a little marketing for them...

Monday, 8 September 2008

Black Boxes...

Clever Stray has made a very beautiful and clever blog widget based on how different choices can effect your path in life - the theme of Caroline's new novel, Black Boxes - and we hope you'll join in by taking part. You must make a series of choices and then you will be taken to a mystery blog of another person taking part who picked similar answers to you.... who knows where your answers may lead! You can also put the Black Boxes widget on to your own blog.

If you decide to do that, here are the instructions:

For blogger - there are 2 styles of templates, old style and new style. To add the widget to a non-blogger template, follow the old style instructions.

If you don't know what kind of template you have then you probably have new style!

To add the widget to a new style blog template:

Log in to your blog. Go to "Layout". Choose "Page Elements". Choose to "Add a page element" in your side bar. Choose "HTML / Javascript" as the type of element. Give your new element a title, and into the content area paste exactly the green code below (only the green stuff). You can write text above and below it if you like, but the whole of the green stuff must be in there, intact.

To add the widget to an old style blog template:

Go to your template. Insert the green code in the area which defines your sidebar. Feel free to email me (Badger - as Stray is now away in distant lands creating other magical things!) if you have problems.


<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" id="blackBoxesBlogWidget" width="176" codebase=",0,0,0" height="250" align="middle">
<param value="always" name="allowScriptAccess"/>
<param value="false" name="allowFullScreen"/>
<param value="" name="movie"/><param value="high" name="quality"/><param value="#000000" name="bgcolor"/> <embed pluginspage="" quality="high" allowscriptaccess="always" align="middle" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="250" src="" bgcolor="#000000" allowfullscreen="false" width="176" name="blackBoxesBlogWidget"/>

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Things I have noted whilst mostly sitting....

My rucksack has never had so much use... nor has the Wii. I have Gold in every cup in every CC in Mario Kart! I use my rucksack for carrying all manner of things now, from Tea, to cauliflower cheese, to books and warm potatoes.

My toes have been exposed to fresh air for the longest amount of time in my entire life, I have never really seen them before. I still hate feet though. I will not let this cure me of my foot fear, and I do wear my toe sock if I feel any slight breeze in the air. My toes are way too long its distressing.

I miss my bike - but I don't miss the burn in my legs from the hills. I miss swimming more....

I feel guilty for being lazy and think that maybe I should be hoping up and down the village at least once a day, not to mention somehow helping around the house.

My right leg is some what skinnier than my left now. I look unbalanced. It is heading toward becoming a bird leg. Like a sparrow or finch you understand, not a girly bird leg.

I know I am bored and obsessing when the highlight of my day was that the website used BADGER as their e-petition example name.

In other dull and broken news:-
I can not believe the Caravan club have not responded to my hate email. Unless of course their ISP works as quickly as their drivers, in which case it will arrive in my inbox some time next spring with a thousand others stuck behind it.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Knitting a widget

'Tis amazing what you can make out of numbers.

I am stirring all my numbers and letters in a big pot, and when they have baked for long enough something exciting will emerge.

Not long now ... 

Friday, 29 August 2008

pushing an elephant up the stairs.....

Stray is working on the last two chapters of  the climate change book. The one-last-heave philosophy is taking its toll. 

Its 9pm, and she has been working on it most of the day. 

Stray: I need a nap. Can you wake me in an hour?
Ms M: 40 minutes is the optimum time for a power nap. Any longer than that and you go into REM. 
Stray: And then what happens?
Ms M: ....pauses....there's a joke here somewhere if only I can find it.......
You wake up singing impenetrable lyrics, inspired by Durkheim and relevant only to sociology students.
Stray: Shit. What happens if I sleep for two hours?
Ms M:  You go into Coldplay.
Stray: And?
Ms M: You wake up either wanting to slit your wrists or sing songs about saving humanity, or sing songs about saving humanity that make the rest of us want to slit our wrists. 
Stray:  And if I sleep all night?
Ms M:  You go into U2......and wake up with  a narcissistic disorder and I have to kill you.* 
Stray: Wake me up after just the 40 minutes then.

* Q: What's the difference between Bono and God?
    A: God doesn't walk down Grafton Street thinking he's Bono. 

Friday, 22 August 2008

the songs of love and joy......

Badger has a unique form of Tourettes Syndrome, according to her neurologist.

She has mostly singing tics, which come in a variety of forms. Sometimes she will replace key lyrics from songs with the words Badger or shmaow eg. I'm In The Mood for Schmaowing. Much more fun the The Nolan Sisters' original, I'm In The Mood For Dancing, although we have yet to work out exactly what it is to schmaow.

Sometimes she has a kind of singing echoalia, where she repeats your words but adds a tune of her own (eg Master M, put your laptop away!)

Badger's most recent singing tics, however, have made us smile the most. She is singing a kind of musical-theatre-style libretto to accompany any activity, complete with over-articulated-consonants and desperately-earnest-tone. The songs of love and joy, we call them, mostly because of the many references to love and/or joy. (eg the potatoes of love! at a particularly delicious batch of potato wedges served up by Stray.)

If you were at a Cameron Mackintosh production, you might want to poke your own eyes out. In the context of your own dinner table, however, it is much more amusing than I can begin to describe.  Badger's tics fill us all with love and joy.
We have had a very sad little Badger since she broke her right paw, raving at our neighbour's house. She had a little sing in the ambulance on the way to the hospital (Just Grab a Badger, and Dance to the tune of Let's Face The Music and Dance, much to the amusement of the paramedic). And then the singing stopped. No more songs of love and joy. No more musical theatre Tourettes style. 

Mario Kart and Master M are playing a critical part in Badger's recovery. Master M is happy for any excuse to be glued to the sofa with a controller in his hand, although Badger says that watching me play Mario Kart is marginally more painful than her broken ankle. Apparently I play 'like a mum', just because I don't think it's big or clever to overtake on a blind bend. 

We are hoping for a swift recovery. Life just isn't the same without the songs of love and joy. 


Sunday, 17 August 2008

A broken Badger...

Following on with Strays theme...

It takes roughly 5 pints of ale and 2 seconds to break your paw... oh, and some sort of techno induced dancing!

It takes one strong farmer to carry the broken Badger home over his shoulder...

It takes a very stubborn Badger to refuse all help for hours until such time as needing the upstairs toilet and being unable to crawl up the stairs without screaming in pain... which alerted my rescue operation by Stray and Ms M.

It takes gas and air on board a long ambulance trip to make a Badger talk even more nonsense than she was on just the beer...

Yes... you guessed it I have broken my ankle/foot dancing at a post pub house party in the village (who would have thought!) it is actually my fifth metatarsal I have fractured I believe to be precise. Ms Mmmm and Stray have been looking after me very well indeed. I will be in plaster for 6-8 weeks. Owie.

I also have not ticced any songs about love or joy since. It would seem that sad Badgers do not tic happy songs. Goodbye West End theatre Tourettes style. :(

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Badger love...

Is it possible my liking for Badgers is bordering on obsessive.... ?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

It takes 18 minutes ...

for the local voluntary fire service to reach our village.

Dogs can detect fire much faster than people.

Bank statements burn at a particularly high temperature.

Having your chimney swept yearly is an excellent way to prevent chimney fires.

The fire-brigade are very lovely chaps and chappesses who do a fantastic job.

13-year-old boys are not overly impressed by the idea of a ride in a fire engine.

When you live in a remote rural community the emergency services dispense with the normally lengthy interrogation and get on with dispatching help to you.

Ruby never barks without good reason.

Neighbours may piss themselves laughing when you pop down the pub to tell them that the fire brigade are headed for your house and not theirs, but this is just their way of showing support. They will later offer tea / beds / help cleaning up. (Not required but appreciated).

The fire service will fit 10-year smoke alarms before they leave.

Discussing whether it is the landlord's responsibility to have the chimney swept does not prevent a chimney fire.

Ruby will be getting a very large bone tomorrow.

Rearrange the statements above to work out what our Saturday night was like.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Wuthering Heights and all that....

People say strange things to you when you move to the back of beyond. 

What do you do with yourselves? (Answer: mostly we chase the sheep.)

Don't you get bored? (Answer: only when the sheep won't play out.)

Isn't it just really miserable when it rains?

I find this last one hard to understand. I have lived in various places around the country and none of them have attracted me because of the marvelous way they just come alive when it pisses down. Hackney, inner city Manchester and the suburbs of Bradford deserve a particular mention for their capacity to induce suicidal feelings after days of endless British drizzle.
Tonight it has been drizzling, or mizzling, as we say around these parts, which is a particularly persistent form of drizzling. I couldn't watch tele because we had no reception. I couldn't listen to the radio because we had no reception. I couldn't surf the web because we had no internet connection. I couldn't chase the sheep because they won't play in the rain. 

In the absence of any other amusement I sat on the balcony and watched the mist roll round the tops of the hills before meandering aimlessly down into the valley. The sheep were tucked sensibly behind the walls, and the mizzle was mizzling for Yorkshire. 

It was bleak. It was dour, grim, stark and forbidding all at the same time. It was positively Wuthering Heights, if Wuthering Heights were an adjective. I couldn't think of any place I would rather be. 

In a not-at-all-clunky-or-contrived link, there is plenty of Wuthering-Heights-induced excitement around these parts at the moment. 

The local news reported this week that George Clooney and Johnny Depp are in the area, for yet another remake. A quick google search indicates that La Jolie, Natalie Portman and/or Sienna Miller are also involved. That's the local B & B full up then, unless the girls decide to bunk up together in which case you might get a room if you book quickly. 

A film crew in the neighbouring village, however,  turned out to be filming the new ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights. I am fond of Sarah Lancashire, but Angelina Jolie she is not. 

Stray wouldn't let me ask the film crew if anyone famous was hanging around (Ms M, please, no....) or even what they were filming (I said no!) or if they needed any extras (at this point she started to rock.) She used to be on the tele-box, so is way cooler than me when it comes to meeting famous people.

I have, however, discovered that Jean-Luc Picard lives about five miles away. Don't tell Stray, but I think I can track him down. I have the sheep on the case. 

Friday, 1 August 2008

The first crop...

Today I dug up my potatoes! This is the first time I have attempted to grow them and I was not optimistic.... but then I started digging and joy upon joy I discovered proper potatoes down in the dirt, like real ones from a shop.. woo.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Any one for adrenaline?

On Saturday evening I opened the back door to grab some dog food from the big metal bin we keep it in and heard a funny rasping noise in the field behind the house. I looked up and saw that one of the tups was rubbing himself against the wire fence and sort of coughing. He was also foaming a bit around the mouth. These particular tups are mostly Leicesters and they're not known for surviving ailments. I rushed back in to find Badger, hoping that her agricultural college days might have instilled some knowledge about sheep-coughing.

She dutifully came to give a second opinion and suggested that perhaps he was dehydrated, and I should go and take a closer look. Suddenly he bolted, running for about five meters before he was restrained by the yellow hose-pipe which was tied around his neck. I have no idea how but this fellow had managed to not just loop the hose around his neck but actually tie a proper knot in it as well. 

Most of the rams around here have horns and you'd be foolish to get into a croft with one that might be unhappy, but Leicesters are horn-free and very friendly, so it was only out of fear that he might take fright and choke himself further that I decided not to hop the fence and try to get it off myself. Instead I legged it to the farm where I found the farmer and his family having a BBQ, and so it was only a couple of minutes before the farmer was in the field sorting it out. Phew. He said that there's no doubt that the Tup wouldn't have survived much longer. I kept expecting Michael Buerk's voice to cut in with some dramatic cliches.

Ms M thinks I am disproportionately invested in the well-being of critters (though I'm not averse to them ending up on my plate with some roast potatoes). I was rather worked up about the near-strangling of the Tup, but assumed I'd had my adrenaline for the weekend. This was not to be the case.

On Sunday night little Ruby had a run in with an over zealous farm dog up the road. Ruby was largely oblivious to the gaping hole in the top of her leg, which was quickly doused in sheep wound treatment (the dog's owner is a Defra vet) before we rushed her to the emergency vets. Ms M did a stirling job of maintaining a decent speed over the tops in the dusk while somehow avoiding the dozens of suicidal sheep, rabbits, baby lapwings and even a proper hare who threw themselves into our path.

The vets were wonderful (with me, as I was in a far worse state than Ruby), patched her up temporarily and dispatched us with antibiotics. On Tuesday Ruby had a procedure done to take away the bits of skin that weren't going to be viable and fix the whole thing up. The interim period was interesting, but I'll spare you the gory details.

So. Tuesday was already an event filled day. Ruby has a heart murmur which means that sedative is to be avoided, but luckily she's very compliant so she got through her little op with just a local. The vets claim she was as good as gold. I believe them but suspect that if they'd had to kneel on her head to get her to stop wiggling then they might not tell me anyway.

During all this I'd been doing a very good job of patiently waiting for news about The Triangle Book. I'd submitted my audition last Thursday, expecting to hear back late on Friday. I am not good at waiting under the best of circumstances. By Monday night I was pretty much rocking.

Now, I know that for many of you, the idea of writing a 500 page text book on geometry is strangely less than appealing. But for me, this is the holy grail. This publisher write the best learning books I've come across. I love their books, most of which are best sellers in their class. I don't know how to communicate what this means to me ... it's like coming up with an idea for a chocolate bar and being asked to produce it by Cadburys.

Anyway, on Tuesday night I finally got the nod. As in, yes, they think they want me to do it! Eek! So, in about 2 weeks time I'm off to the US for a few days for some training. 

I enjoyed doing my audition chapter so much that I can hardly stop jumping about with excitement at the idea of doing the whole book. It's my idea of heaven.

It feels like a really important project. Geometry (and algebra, because frankly you can't do geometry without it) is so pure and beautiful. Plus, Master M is going to rock at this stuff by the time I'm done. If I do it right it will help millions of people to grasp the fundamentals of mathematics for many years to come. How cool is that?

There are still a couple of steps in the process to come. And I'm still in the final stages of the climate change book - we keep getting 90% done and then moving the goal posts at the moment. I'm on second draft of the first 80% though, which feels good.

I should take a moment here to thank Badger, who came up with the idea that I should contact the publisher and offer my services. And also for her excellent artwork on my audition. Badger is part of the appeal to the publisher - the fact that I have a designer who is so well suited to doing the fancy bits is perfect. We're really a package deal, so I hope she's feeling pleased about it too, even if the square-root signs make her feel a bit sick ...

In other exciting news, nmj's book The State of Me has dispatched from Amazon today!  Ms M and I will be fighting over it this weekend no doubt ...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Wallaby and a Hedgehog..

Whilst I was posting the picture of the Hedgepig yesterday evening, he returned by the back door. Ms M kindly gave him a plate of cat biscuits, and Wallaby Cat thinking it rude to leave our guest eating alone joined in.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Today in the Dales...

This young Hedgepig came to visit yesterday.. and how odd that as I write this he is at the back door paying another visit.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Surely that won't sell ... ?

Bold fabric conditioner have released a new fragrance: White Diamond and Lotus Flower.

As diamond is a famously hard and chemically unreactive substance which, it follows, has no smell, Ms Melancholy and Badger have concluded that the name was mixed up at the last moment.

Why anyone would want their washing to smell of cheap cider, vomit and their mother's Charlie is beyond us.

P.S. in more random TV bloggage, Ms M dreamt last night that Andy Peters - former darling of children's TV who is currently irritating the life out of us impressing us all on Celebrity Masterchef - was awarded an OBE for 'Services to Goose Fat'.  Analyse that. 

Thursday, 24 July 2008


In the last couple of weeks I have been working on two writing projects which couldn't be more diverse.

On the one hand, The Survival Paradox is about the inevitability of the human struggle to balance short-term self-interest against long-term community-interests. It is about what makes the issue of Global Climate Change so challenging: not the technical aspects but the social aspects. The barriers to saving our planet are all socially constructed, existing solely within our collective imagination. There is no Rational Economics, there is no Nation State, there is no spoon...

The Survival Paradox is about our felt-truths. Felt-truths are the rules and meanings about the world which we have gathered in a sensible attempt to reduce the chaos and uncertainty which we experience. The fact that they are so effective, and so affective, does not make them true. The only real truth lies in mathematics and science, and it exists as ratios; the world beyond numbers. 

(Our number system is social constructed - there is nothing special about the number ten unless you choose to count in tens).

Truth does not have units of measurement. It does not come in pounds or dollars.

Truth comes in circles and triangles, and little else.

The Survival Paradox is a search for the truth, which is that there is little truth in our world. This statement is itself a meta-narrative and thus a Liar's Paradox. It is an attempt at truth with continuous doubt; a book that seeks to prove the fact that almost nothing can be proved. *sigh*

No wonder I am tired. Envigorated and utterly grateful to have been on this journey, but exhausted.

The other writing project is my audition chapter for a deal to write a book about geometry. It is exclusively about triangles, circles and ratios. It seeks to help the reader find the proofs for themselves.

Yin yang, and all that jazz.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Wii are a familii

From left to right: Badger, Ms M, Stray and Master M.

There is absolutely no truth in any rumour that we have spent this evening making wii-miis of everybody from blog-land. None at all.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

More photos...

I am not wanting to bore anyone with my photos.... its just I was quite proud of these ones I took today and I wanted to share them. Ms M and Stray will be back with wise words very soon I am sure, but for now you get my pictures of the Dales.

Wet Dales..

Its wet and showery up here, but a good opportunity to take pictures of angry sky's, however it required great patience waiting for that rare sun burst to brighten the foreground.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Dear Daz... (Proctor & Gamble)

I am messaging you after my distress at your intrusional TV advertisement.
I feel disturbed and disgusted since witnessing it for a number of reasons, mainly its sexual connotations with such vile characters clearly portraying British pervness. When I saw your advert all I could think of was filth. Is this your way of encouraging us to wish to be clean? I feel that you should know that your advert is disturbing and would never encourage me to buy your washing powder. I suggest you sever all ties with your Marketing strategists.


Ps. I have aspergers.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Stop Press: new title

Following mixed responses to the previous title, the new question is: Would you buy a book called

The Survival Paradox

What makes the threat of Global Climate Change the greatest opportunity ever presented to the human race?

The Survival Paradox is a two-dimensional tension: the needs of the individual versus the needs of the group, and the best solution in the moment versus the best solution in the long-term. In short, The Survival Paradox is: 'me, now' versus 'all of us, in the future'.

I'm working with the book's originator today. He is over in the UK about to go on holiday, and we've just done a scary restructuring exercise. It feels absolutely positive but also reminds me of the process of moving a large, semi-complete lego construction from the dining table as a child. I sort of know that if I'm careful enough and steady enough then it will be fine but it feels hazardous all the same. 

What if I drop it?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Words and pictures

44,000 / 80,000 words done in the Global Climate Change book. At points it has been more, but these feel like 44,000 good words. It's quick now. I think and think but when I write it's rapid. 1500 words an hour at top speed. 

The neuroscience stuff I've been learning has really helped. It feels solid now. Like a book made of triangles.

Speaking of books made of triangles, the textbook-publishing-people loved my idea for my 'audition chapter' for the-best-book-about-triangles-ever-written. They actually said LOVE. In capitals. I had presented one main idea and two backups. They said 'don't worry about the backup ideas, the first idea is PERFECT.' In capitals.

Isn't that lovely?

This company has a great track record for best sellers. When I was nine I had a wonderful teacher called Mr Long. He was a hippy. He had long hair and a beard and he sat at his desk strumming on his guitar all day. He had time for every one of us. It was before the national curriculum, in the days when learning didn't mean ticking boxes. He taught us in small groups, according to our interests and strengths. Mr Long taught me and two other children all about triangles. Sin and Cos and Tan and Pythagorus. He told my parents that one day I would be a writer. 

I am rather taken with the idea of writing a best seller about triangles.

I would dedicate it to Mr Long.

Monday, 30 June 2008

I would've called it a wasted weekend, had I not felt such a sense of achievement...

I am a psychotherapist, for those of you who don't keep up. Stray is an engineer*.
(That bit is relevant, honest.)
This weekend, Stray nicked took up my place at a workshop on neuroscience: a Jungian perspective on the mind-brain relationship and it's implications for clinical practice. 

Not to be outdone, I embarked upon an engineering project of some considerable challenge. **

Stray learnt lots and lots of clever things and is developing some rather complex ideas about how our neurobiology informs the wider socio-political development, as part of  her  book on Climate Change. I am guessing that she made an enthusiastic and knowledgeable participant, despite being the only non-clinician in the workshop. 

I am not impressed. That ain't nothing, I tell you,  compared to the skill it required to get my techno-balls a-rolling-baby. 

*and software developer/film-maker/writer......
**Techno-Balls: Hi-tech perpetual-motion power-driven marble run. Age 8 upwards.