Saturday, 6 September 2008

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Hybrid cars

If you are feeling the pinch, I suggest saving petrol by taking advantage of hamster power.

Harness the natural zest, enthusiasm and love of life of hamsters by placing them inside your car tyres. This will take advantage of the 'hamster wheel effect' and add a natural, renewable source of power to your car.

Note that food for the hamsters would need to be fed through the air valve.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Quote of the day

"There is no such thing as fun for the whole family"

Jerry Seinfeld

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Olympics: why I am uneasy

And yet, and yet. I don't know how to respond to the fact that this Olympics is being held in China.

Amnesty International's monitoring involves four main areas: repression of activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty.
Each of these areas give cause for concern.

This of course is without mentioning China's actions in Tibet. AI's last report says "The recent protests in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas of surrounding provinces and the subsequent crackdown and media silence imposed by authorities highlighted not only longstanding and unresolved violations of fundamental human rights but also on-going censorship of the media."

Today, as the ceremony proceeds, there are people being tortured by the state because of what they believe or say. At least one person will be executed for one of 68 crimes punishable by death.

I am not sure how to react, but I do think there is something in the 'shining a light on the issue' viewpoint. The more we open a society to outside influence, the more we understand and the closer we come to change. It's understanding that brings change.

But this doesn't leave me feeling anything other than uneasy.

One Olympics, one world, one party state.

The Olympics: why I care

I have never really got into the Olympics before now. I am not sure why, because I love sport. It's possibly because I've never played any of the sports except hockey, and I suppose running. Though my running can hardly be described as running running.

But now I've changed, and I'm excited about these Olympics. I think this is a natural result of several factors, not least that as you get older your circle of interest expands, from self, to community to world. Though there's also possibly a London effect happening - I can't wait for the world's attention to focus on London.

I am also more of an observer of sport now, rather than a participant. I have finally realised that I am no longer going to be a world class sportsman, which is something that crept up on me only gradually. (Is it too late? Even for shooting?) So, I am free to enjoy sport for the story it tells about the world, rather than the story it tells about me.

Next, I believe in the power of sport. It certainly saved and enhanced my life. I think it's essential for human development to experience sport, or at least exercise, and I see it as key to unlocking the broken lives of some of our young men, in particular.

And I also believe in sport as a great unifier. I doubt there is anything that has done more to combat racism in the world than sport. Certainly, in Britain football's contribution to tackling racism can't be underestimated. We've come a long way since John Barnes was pelted with bananas. And it was Barnes' reaction to the pelting that started the journey. The experience of South Africa adds to the argument. And so, yes, I suppose I am arguing there is something about the Olympic spirit and that sport can be used to mend lives, societies and even international relations.

But perhaps above all, the Olympics is interesting because of the stories that it produces. At the last Olympics, there was 0.545 seconds worth of difference between five Gold and Silver medals for Britain. Half a second between 5! That's a lifetime of effort and 4 years of dreaming, boiled down to about a tenth of a second each. Inevitably, this leads to astonishing stories and if anyone doubts the power of these stories they should read The Meaning of Sport by Simon Barnes, the greatest of all sporting storytellers, or follow his blog.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Risk maagement and cricket

Cricket, like baseball, is a game of percentages, statistics and risk. Test match cricket is the ultimate sporting experiment. Is the effect when one side is batting and the other bowling reversed when the roles are reversed?

Over two innings and five days, the best side usually wins. The reason why Test Match cricket is the greatest of all games is because of the character, skill and intelligence that it calls upon each of the players to display.

Today was a great example. Kevin Pieterson, who is the most talented batsman in the world, was beginning to turn the match around for England, who've been in deep trouble for the whole game. Another hour or two from Pieterson and England would have been favourites to win. Pieterson went for glory - a 6 to bring up his hundred - and got out. Earlier, Ian Bell had given his wicket away to the first ball of a new spell by Makhaya Ntini.

The reason this is significant is that both incidents will contribute to England losing the game - it was high stakes. And second, both could have been avoided by a calm assessment of what was worth a risk and what wasn't. This may sound obvious, but I would provide England with the following statistics:

1. How many deliveries into a new spell does the risk of playing an attacking shot diminish?
2. Which shots carry the highest risk and against which bowlers?
3. How many deliveries after an interval does the risk of getting out diminish?
4. Who has the best strike rate (balls per wicket taken) and who has the lowest in the opposition bowling? The idea would be to attack those with the lowest and defend against those with the highest.
5. In-match updates of risk factors.
6. Risk analysis of near misses, especially to provide 5.
7. Regression analysis on the factors which go into scoring a century (i.e. caution after an interval, against a new ball bowler, against the best bowlers)
8. Average levels of (composite) risk taken per ball to score a century.

I am convined that if a risk mindset could be established as part of a batsman's thinking, results would rapidly follow.

Jerry knows

Jerry Seinfeld, tells a story to an aspiring comic, who clearly isn't getting it. But I get it. Do you?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Bad waxworks

I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as brilliant as these astonishingly lifelike waxworks. Is it even worthwhile asking who they are?

Princess Diana, Prince Charles
Tom Jones and Shirely Bassey
Richard Burton and Diana Dors (obviously!)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Crack new music

In a year which I am sure is noticeably lacking in great new music, I have to concede that the current number 1, Dance Wiv Me by Bow's favourite son Dizzee Rascal, is surely the equivalent of musical crack. I've been singing it for two days solid.

And I want to be your latex salesman.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

I am who I am

People talk a lot these days about keeping it real. Being true to yourself. People talk about wanting other people to like you for who you are. Women especially always say how they want a man to love the 'real' them.

I've worked out I'm the opposite.

I just want people to like me for who I pretend to be.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken,
because the greatest danger in life
is to risk nothing.

Those who risk nothing, do nothing,
achieve nothing, become nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their certitude they are a slave,
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks all that he cannot keep,
to have whatever he cannot lose, is truly free.

Adapted By Simon Reynolds, who went to work in the townships of South Africa, and died there aged 21.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Meaning at work

A fascinating article in today's Times about a man who left a highly paid position at Microsoft to go and do something more meaningful. On the way he lost his girlfriend and all his savings. Ooh, a bit like me then!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Radiohead in my local park

Went for a run this evening and who should be playing there but the world's greatest band, Radiohead.

Confirms my suspicion that not only is London the bets place to live in the world but East London is clearly the coolest part of London. North London a close second, way ahead of posh and self satisfied West and South.

Not that I'm going mind. I lost all my coolness circa 2003. And even then it wasn't much. I'm hoping I'm getting so uncool that soon I become cool. Like my Stepdad's bright orange trousers.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Irish keep gatecrashing

What a glorious victory for common sense from an unlikely quarter in unlikely circumstances (all the main parties were for the treaty). Of course, European bureaucrats are already thinking of ways to ignore the vote, just as they always do. Our own Foreign Minister says we must press on with ratification.

But for now the people have spoken: we don't want a common Europe. Free trade yes, more politics and bureaucracy, a firm no.

Studying infinity

I watched a programme about infinity the other night, as you do, called Dangerous Knowledge. Fascinating it was too.

Apparently, infinity comes in different sizes. If you imagine a circle, it is possible to draw an infinite number of lines from the centre to its edge. However, if you then draw another, bigger circle round that circle and extend the lines then you will have gaps beteen the (extended) lines thereby proving that infinity depends on context.

But even more interesting was listening to how great minds like Cantor, Turing and Godel found that there are limits to maths and science. That the ultimate conclusion of logic, was illogical. Turing died essentially trying to prove unprovability.

This surely cuts to the heart of all academia, not least the realisation that even maths and science are forms of art. But second, it shows how all the academic disciplines from philosophy to maths are grounded in humanity. They are all flawed, all illogical. And our attempt to understand the world and impose order on it are all ultimately doomed.

This gave me hope for psychology, as by studying the human directly in 'real life' circumstances, one imposes order through science and yet acknowledges the limits of doing this. This is the scientist practitioner approach, which is at the heart of Bloom Psychology.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Pilot test

If anyone feels like doing this then I'd be hugely grateful! It takes 5 minutes.

Click Here to take survey

The winner is...

So, 12 hugely entertaining if frustrating weeks (from the perspective of the brainless editing which treated the audience like retarded Albanian sprout pickers) and we finally have a winner.

Some truly disgusting antics (Jenny), backstabbing (Alex), outright lying (Michael, pretty much everyone) and many hilarious moments and we learned who was to be Sirallan's apprentice.

4 made it to the final, then 2, and I feared the moment that Claire would be handed the role for her so-called 'transformation'. But you'd need a very large transformation to come back from stabbing a good man in the back.

And after it all, when all the shenanigans are over...

the best human being won.

Monday, 9 June 2008


Don't tell me that ants know what they're doing or how well they work together as a team. I watched some today and they are useless. Don't even bother is my advice.


Today I read about a bike race across America which is completed in 1 WEEK. It's called the Race Across America (RAAM).

Every time I read about challenges like this, like the majority of people I suspect, I long to do it and never do. There is always an excuse: the Marathon des Sables is too expensive and the waiting list too long, the race through the Sahara is the prospect of death, the RAAM how do you cope and enjoy it without sleep?

But let's stoke the fascination and continue to be excited because one day the excuses might stop.

If you are fascinated too and want to know more - you can follow the team here.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Macca vs Larry

Had a near implosion of semi-orgasmic nirvana last night, when Paul McCartney played Anfield and finished in time to allow me to watch Larry David on Curb. It was like being caressed by angels then shagged by the devil. Marvellous.

Macca is of course deeply embarrassing with his 'let me hear you say yeah-eh' and perky demeanour (even during Yesterday), but as I've said before I can forgive this man anything because of what he's done, and what he represents.

I don't know why he holds this place in my life. It's perhaps that music is processed by the part of the brain which does not articulate, so that for some reason the music of the Beatles is likely to express some deeply felt emotion that typically I don't talk about. Or it could just be because that the Beatles are the greatest songwriters ever, by a country mile.

So Macca is the sugary, eternally upbeat perky Dad-at-the-disco cringemaker, who can be forgiven anything because of his place in society and unparalleled songwriting genius. Meanwhile Larry David continues to represent the darker side, an almost equal genius, who says the unsayable and does the undoable and who is, as his advert says, all of us.

There was a moment when I had to decide whether to turn off Macca early to watch Larry or tune over to establish the crucial early plot which you always need to do with Curb.

Macca won. But someone will lend me the DVDs.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cancelling Sky

I like TV. I love live sport, I love Seinfeld, I love The Office, Peep Show, and crap like Californication. I love reality TV. I love the occasional documentary. I like watching Girls Aloud on MTV. There, I've said it.

But TV is not compatible with my new life. I can't afford the time and, given I'm now pressing ahead with a new business, I can't afford the Sky subscription either. So for the first time in 18 years, I've cancelled it.

Instead my new life involves more of these:

I read 3 books over the bank holiday, for pleasure. Books are good aren't they?

I'm a survivor...

I'm not gon' stop, I'm gon' work harder.

Well I'm not because firstly I'm going to have a ruddy good sit down. Phew. That was long, difficult and unpleasant, like a James Joyce novel. I had to lie on my sofa for 3 days afterwards - it's funny how tiredness builds and how much our bodies are under the control of our brains. Mine basically ordered me to rest.

I'm not sure what I learned from the whole thing, but certainly now I'm thinking like a psychologist. I can't prove this of course, but the likelihood of my hypothesis occurring by chance is less than 5%.

And now, a new plan.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Umm Bongo

Do they really drink it in the Congo?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


In we go. My daring (well, it feels daring to me) 5 year career change plan effectively takes me up to the end of these exams, which finish next Tuesday. So I'll be needing a new one. This one has left me poorer, older, tireder, but wiser, happier and more hopeful.

One last hideous leg to get through first. See you on the other side...and now one last reminder, the world's greatest ever advert, of what we should all be trying to do beause frankly VERY SOON WE'LL ALL BE DEAD:

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Some revision stats

Now, I like a good statistic, but not as much as Dan, so given the customer-centric nature of this blog here are some stats to help him out. He requested some information about my revision. Now, revision is somewhat subjective, and much of what I'm doing is learning for the first, not second, time. We called this 'vising' not 'revision', and the estimated vising / revision ratio is:


For every 1 item of knowledge I knew (and revised) I am learning 4 new items (vised).

Other figures:

Estimated number of hours vised / revised to date: 210 (21/34 days total)
Estimated hours to go: 130 (11 days to go)
Total time elapsed: 62%
Total info memorised (vised): 50%
Procrastination %: 20% (per day)
Procrastination % (total since start of vision): 40%
Average number of hours at desk: 12
Hours at desk today: 14
Panic factor: 3/10 (rising)
Boredom factor: 8/10 (falling)

I wanted to show an upward curve of effort to time but my excel skills are now so limited I kept on producing a graph which had % vised totalling 200% by the exams - which Iassure you is not the case. Pathetic. Dan, help.

A rough breakdown of time spent per day is as follows:

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Shelterbox, Myanmar and the fleet of foot

A friend of mine, T, recently completed the Shelterbox challenge which you can read about here.

I heard on the news today that Shelterbox has managed - where governments have failed - to gain access to the scene of the disaster in Myanmar (is it called Burma again now?) to distribute their amazing boxes and no doubt save lives right at the frontline of the disaster. This really does seem to be a great example of a fleet-footed charity making a meaningful contribution where other larger charities (not to mention Governments) cannot.

And though this is in contrast to T, who must be feeling anything other than fleet footed having lugged that enormous box about, well done for completing the challenege but more importantly raising awareness and money for what seems an amazing charity doing incredible work. Go support.

Friday, 2 May 2008


1. I noticed the first murmurings of disapproval from people after not voting yesterday. First time in my life. Is it because I'm old and you are too? Will be interesting to see turnout figures.
2. But do we really need more elected politicians? Does anyone actually know how power for council / local authority / regional assemblies / Mayors / MPs / MEPs breaks down?
3. Does anyone care?
4. I would love to know how the greatest city in the world ended up with a choice between a reformed Trotskyite pseudo revolutionary crony-favouring lizard and an irrelevant Toff.
5. I still don't trust David Cameron.
6. Gordon Brown looks increasingly like a a plastic head on a stick.
7. The weather is shit. Secretly I'm glad.
8. The BBC News really does look like Brass Eye these days. ITV news has done so since before Brass Eye.
9. The Apprentice editors are now looking like bigger idiots than those on the show, and that's saying something after that little toerag Kevin in the week. Their lack of nuance, and faith in our ability to detect subtlety is surely plumbing new depths. Please, just show us what happened.
10. Toe rag. One word? What is a toe rag? Toe rag. It's a rag specifically for toes.
11. Peep Show is back. Best Britsh comedy since Spaced.
12. I like you, and ft you can't handle me liking you, you can just fuck off.

Monday, 28 April 2008

People who are good at statistics

I'm drawn to them. I really like them. And I don't know why.

There's one, Herb Blumberg (below), who creates an audible sigh whenever he comes into the lecture theatre. I'd quite like him to be my real Dad. There's another who always wears a jumper and my heart always sort of breaks when he starts talking. V necks. Still another who was so spectacularly bad at explaining simple concepts and yet lectured with such massive integrity that nobody really minded.

I think the reason is that people who aren't good at maths or stats recognise that people who are are an entirely different species. And they spend time, fruitlessly usually, trying to tell us a bit about their strange world which we know is important but can never really understand. We'll take your word for it. You seem to be convinced, and that's good enough for me. If it's a logistic regression you want, I'll do one. Just show me how one more time.

My journey in psychology has had many twists and turns, but it has been massively enriched by everyone who has tried to teach me stats. And so this one is for statisticians, and those (roughly 70.1% of the population) who love them.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


to the European City of Culture 2008 for a week.


Time drags. It's 11:20 and I thought it was 11:45. I feel disappointed and bored. Time feels like my enemy. I want it to pass. I want to be closer to the end of all this reading.

But I know that with 2 or 3 days to go time will be racing, and I'll look back 3 weeks and see that actually time was my friend. I just didn't recognise it. And I didn't value it properly.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

For Mrs Harrison (sorry Norville)

The Apprentice...and legacy

Watched The Apprentice tonight - utterly addictive as usual. This episode was remarkable for the fact that a truly impressive man got fired, Simon Smith. Yes, he was brash at the beginning and yes he lost control. But this was a man who can be proud of his legacy on the programme. Here was a man who knew his strengths and limitations and played to them. He was honest. He tried to win. And virtually no one else can say the same.

Seriously, don't people care about their own integrity?

Nearly everyone else who spoke on the show lied openly. Nearly everyone who spoke played politics and spent most of the time maneouvering for position in the hope that if their team lost, they could shift the blame.

Do people care only about winning at all costs?

Tom Peters talks about the idea of legacy. Not for a life, a career or even 15 minutes of fame on a reality TV show. He talks about the legacy of today.

So what will today's legacy be for you?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

99 problems...

Accurate portrayal of my life currently:

Friday, 11 April 2008

Exam time

So, for the third time in as many years I brace myself for exams. It's ridiculous at my age, but at least I can see light at the end of the tunnel: these should be the last exams I ever do. However, it doesn't hide te fact that I have to battle with exams. I don't keep up with work, like a diligent girl, I cram like a proper man. So when the exams roll around, I have to lock them in mortal combat. I grapple with them, like a sweaty sumo wrestler, losing all dignity and perspective along the way.

I make hugely complex work plans and stick to them. I cease contact with the outside world. I eat well and exercise. I talk to myself. I sing along to music. The radio becomes my best friend. Contact with shop owners is an event to savour. I constantly have to force myself back to my desk. Waking up is depressing.

Will it be worth it? I don't know. But I have put my heart and soul into finding the right route for me. So I assume that I won't be going far wrong in terms of doing what I am good at. And if I am doing what I am good at, then exams should be easy.

Enough procrastination. Prepare for a lot of psychology related posts. See you on the other side.

Saturday, 5 April 2008


Whilst I ramble on about nothing, living up the this blog's title, I know many of you are concerned about my fitness. People are meeting in village halls up and down the country to ask: yes, but what about the runs round the park? How are the new trainers? People are no doubt thinking of writing in their thousands to demand an update.

Well, the new trainers are fine, the I regret to inform you that the body is less fine. I am the same weight as last year, but less fit. I am niggly when I run, so I don't enjoy it as much. Whereas this time last year I was bouncing round the park and setting records in June (16:30) and August (16:25) today I loped round in a miserable 18:53.

It's time to redouble efforts. Cut excuses. To fight the advancing years.

Today I saw an old man of about 65 shuffling round the park, slowly but not inexpertly. A few years ago I may have seen only his ludicrous tight shorts and a vest. Today I saw a role model.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Friday, 28 March 2008's Obama, apparently

I read with surprise that Obama is virtually now assured of the Democratic nomination.

Surprise because I had no idea this was the case, in fact from my hurried scans of last weekend's papers it seemed that Clinton was in fact favourite, especially given these 'revelations' about Jeremiah Wright.

Perhaps I was distracted by charts showing that against McCain, Clinton was well behind, and Obama still behind but less so. Anyway, it appears Obama will be the Democratic candidate.

I think I'm pleased, I don't really know why. I think it's because I want people to like America again, an only Obama can do that, in my view. I can't bring myself to fully trust Clinton. She looks and sounds a bit shifty, and definitely desperate. And she likes Heather Mills.

There's only one thing funnier....

than someone getting the giggles. That's a serious Radio 4 news reader getting the giggles whilst reading someone's obituary.


Wednesday, 26 March 2008

My new favourite number: phi

This number phi makes pi look like an unemployed layabout from Wrexham!

I read this here and it should interest all photographers, designers, mathematicians, and probably Dan:

Phi is the ratio underpinning a division that has become known by various names: golden rectangle, golden ratio and golden mean among them.

If line A is divided into two sections, one larger than the other (B and C), the golden ratio is achieved where A/B = B/C.

This ratio is 1.6180339887

The golden ratio features in nature and the dimensions of the human body, from DNA right up to the solar system and has been used by man throughout architecture, art and music. The Egyptians understood it when erecting the great Pyramids and the Ancient Greek buildings are full of these golden ratios.

Although this ratio has been rediscovered throughout time, one undisputed milestone in its history was the Fibonacci number series. In the 12th century Fibonacci produced a series of numbers by adding together pairs of numbers.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144,

(0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8É)

The ratio between each successive pair gets closer and closer to Phi as you progress through the series.

Once you start splitting a golden rectangle by the ratio, you can keep sub-splitting it down forever. The spiral this produces exactly matches the growth of the Nautilus shell in nature. Yes, it's all getting a little freaky now.

far and away

I was exploring the murky world (to me, at least) of RSS feeds and came across Awasu who claim to be:

"far and away one of your best choices"

A less than ringing self-endorsement?

Monday, 24 March 2008

The language of...Microsoft?

For reasons I won't go into, I'm reviewing lots of presentations (in Powerpoint) at the moment. And I've had to create a few too.

What struck me is how easy it is to fall into the way of thinking that the templates encourage. In other words, title, big heading, the host of supporting bullets. Maybe some clip art. Even a photo if one is feeling really dangerous.

Foucault argued that language structures thought, and that therefore language structures and limits thinking.

Could the same be true of Powerpoint? Or is this just a cultural problem; a user error?

The Curse of Cursing

Is that like Tourettes?

Furniture Village

It's a village of furniture.

The Curse of Powerpoint

For years I've railed against Powerpoint - I was doing it when it wasn't even trendy, like it is now. But this slide pack on the brilliant Presentation Zen blog does the job so much better than me. Hilarious.

Now here's the real thing. Enjoy.

Saturday, 22 March 2008


I listened to a broadcast by Paul McCartney last year. I'm not even going to START on the whole Heather Mills thing, but he mentioned this band, the Guillemots and so instantly I went out and bought the album. It was pretty good at the time and I really liked it.

Two or three weeks ago I put it on again and my GOD. It is so good now. Like wine, it seems to have come of age. I cannot stop listening to it. It is heartbreaking and gorgeous and I recommend it to everyone. They have a new album out too, I think, as a sort of bonus.

But love was not enough to hold my grip
Can't you just feel my fingers slip
Into those oceans in the sky where people swim
Oceans in the sky calling me in
Oceans in the sky I tell myself
Though I'm not kidding anybody else
They know I'm leaving
They know that I'm leaving this behind

So I'm leaving my best friend
Just for the hell of it
Just for the sake of it
But how much I loved you

I think we're alone now it isn't.

This is very much how I play football too...

I was Neston Nomad of the Year in 1988, after all.

Happiness and meaning

When talking about happiness, psychologists distinguish between hedonic pleasure and eudaimonic pleasure. Hedonic pleasures might be what we understand by being 'happy' and eudaimonia might be what we understand by 'content' or 'satisfied'. One is charatcerised as pleasure (eating, sex, laughing) the other achievement (satisfaction of a job well done, overcoming difficulties to succeed, experiencing 'flow').

We often look down on hedonic pleasures, as though they are somehow less rarefied or worthy than eudaimonia. But psychologists have shown that the two are in fact interrelated. Eudaimonia is consistently accompanied by feelings of happiness. Enjoyment is routinely paired with eudaimonia. Indeed, 'flow' (the feeling of being completely absorbed in a task) is more likely to occur if one is in a happy mood. Happiness appears to heighten an individual’s capacity to discriminate between meaningful and meaningless experiences.

Why is this?

Nature rewards us for activities that are essential to survival. Those activities tend to be hedonic: eating, drinking, sex. Happiness in this form is often sneered at, perhaps because there are characterised as lower or vulgar pleasures.

But happiness is also linked to meaningful activities. Being absorbed in a task, trying, winning from a difficult situation, achieving something - these are all activities which have an evolutionary cost in terms of energy and time. Yet nature rewards us for doing them.

Happiness may play a role in enhancing the experience of meaning .... lending hedonic reinforcement to these eudaimonic endeavors
Professor Laura King, 2007.

In other words, nature rewards activities that it favours. By rewarding meaningful activities, it reinforces them.

Truly, humans are unique in this respect. Nature rewards survival and procreation. But it also rewards effort and being exceptional. To be truly human, we must strive to achieve.

The Curse of Emoticons

It seems strange that people allow other people to get away with emoticons. Emoticons are fine for anyone under the age of about 25. Until that age, the cost of someone mistaking something you write (e.g. taking it seriously if it's a joke and vice versa) is perhaps too high. Your social standing at that age is crucial, so I can understand it to an extent. Second, your writing skills are probably not fully formed so once again it is a little more permissible. But after the age of 30? It's worse than grammatical errors.

But everywhere I see it. From women and men, irrespective of age. It combines with this trend too, which is worrying.

Those who defend emoticons often say that it helps us understand what the writer is trying to convey. Well that's great, but we seemed to manage pretty well without them before this wretched epidemic. Shakespeare didn't help his actors by writing:

All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop? :(

Jane Austen didn't write:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife ;)

No. Writers relied on their own skill and the intelligence of the reader to deduce their own meaning from what was written. In Shakespeare's case, this has led to glorious reinterpretation throughout the ages and a deepening of understanding of what it is to be human.

Emoticons are a safety barrier for toddlers, designed for those who can't write properly or don't trust the intelligence of their readers. Give power back to the reader and to the written word. Cast them off, and bravely step back into the future.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Band of the Noughties...

1960s - The Beatles
1970s - Abba
1980s - U2
1990s - Radiohead
2000s - ???

Suggestions on a postcard please.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Do I shop well?

Due to the interest in the items in my trolley, here is the full list of purchases for tomorrow's delivery. How do these rate in terms of lifestyle choices and value for money? I'd be interested to know.

Products you've ordered

1 Bleach Waitrose £0.72
2 Bold Bold Spa Minerals Liquid Bottle £4.53
1 Bonne Maman Berries & Cherries Conserve £1.75
2 Bottlegreen Lemongrass with Ginger Cordial £3.31
1 Calgon Express Ball Tablets £6.99
2 Colgate Total Advanced Fresh Toothpaste £3.22
1 Courgettes Waitrose £1.09
1 Denbies Surrey Gold £5.49
1 Forest Feast Dried Berries & Cherries £2.69
1 Green Giant Sweetcorn Niblets £0.64
1 Kellogg's All-Bran £0.99
2 Loyd Grossman Tomato & Chargrilled Vegetable Sauce £3.48
2 Loyd Grossman Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce £3.48
1 Mixed Peppers Waitrose £1.38
1 Phillips Classictone White Round Lustres 40W SES £2.69
1 Reduced Sugar Blackcurrant Jam Waitrose £1.19
2 Right Guard Time Released Anti Perspirant Original £4.78
1 Seeds of Change Organic Garlic&Chilli Pasta Sauce £1.78
2 Ultra Soft Toilet Tissue White Waitrose £5.50

1 Activia Cherry Fat Free Yogurt £1.57
3 Activia Fibre Kiwi £4.00
3 Activia Raspberry Yoghurt £4.00
2 Broccoli Waitrose £2.78
1 Bunch of Salad Onions Waitrose £0.59
2 Cauliflower & Broccoli Florets Waitrose £2.08
1 Cucumber Waitrose £0.69
3 Cup Mushrooms Waitrose £2.37
1 Flora Pro-Activ Spread £3.99
1 Spinach Waitrose £1.09
6 Vegetable Curry Waitrose £14.44

4 Perfectly Balanced Tropical Sticks Waitrose £8.60


Now, I love being a student, and I love many things about students. But some of them are monumentally stupid and / or detached from reality.

Today I listened to some students at Strathclyde University responding to the Budget on radio 5. One was doing a Phd in Accountancy and he argued that it was merely tinkering at the edges and that:

1. Instead we should look at stopping 'imperialist wars'.
2. We should look at the 'prevailing culture of unemployment'.
3. Students are living in poverty and would stop drinking if the prices go up.

No doubt he also wants an 'end to all wars' and 'money for jobs'. Anyway, truly ludicrous on all counts.

Monday, 10 March 2008

For all those with special dietary requirements

You'll be pleased to know that tasty Ocado fuses now come free rom Gluten, egg, wheat, milk / lactose, nuts and yeast. Another load off your mind.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbour!

Sometimes I wonder what my neighbours think of me when I sing along (very loudly) to various tunes. I do like a good singalong when I work, and sometimes this must be strange for those walking past my window.

I'm f*cking Peter Kay

Thought you should know.

Lists and inaction

I resolved to blog more in 2008, and I am not doing so. This could be taken as evidence that lists don't work, and by extension that resolutions are useless.

I disagree.

The simple fact is that 'write blog' is no longer appearing on my to do lists. I am simply too busy, and I am recognising this fact on a daily basis. It is not the priority it was, because I have new priorities.

This supports my contention that we must review our to do lists with absolute rigour. To do lists represent our life. Would you be happy with today's to do list as a template for your life? As an obituary? Does it contain the main themes which you want represented in your life? Does it reflect the style in which you want to live your life?

I am not blogging regularly, because blogging has become slightly less important to me than other things. It is this decision which needs analysis, not the practice of list making or goal setting itself.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Hello, my People. I do consider you my people as well. You may have noticed that I have not posted for a while and that, indeed 2008 has been a complete washout in terms of both quality and quantity of posts. 2007 seems like the golden age of blogging.

What I wonder is whether the gap between posts is at all normally distributed? In other words, if I were to time the gap between posts would I have a few that followed immediately, a few more after a day and the most after, let's say 1.35 days (my approximate 2007 average) and then a steady decline?

I think it probably is normal, with two exceptions. It's probably more likely that if I post I am slightly more likely to post again immediately than to post in half a day as would be expected in a normnal distribution. Second, after a certain period (let's say a week?) I am statistically less likely to post again for another week which would leave me with a 'long tail' in my distribution. This is what happened in February.

I realise that this is utterly pointless, but Dan might like it.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Psychology reminder #1

For years psychologists could not explain why some tasks proved more difficult in front of an audience and some proved easier.

Zajonc (1965) unified this apparent contradiciton by proposing that audiences produce arousal within those performing the tasks. Quite simply, arousal makes easy tasks easier and hard tasks harder.

Preparation really is the key to successful presentations.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Attention parents


No need to thank me.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

The wonder of London

London is amazing. Today I met Gloria Coates on the tube. She's a composer. I told her about the long tail and why it might help explain why she is selling so many downloads (I hope I'm right...).

She was off to Wapping and I advised her to get out at Tower Hill and catch a cab so that hopefully she could see Tower Bridge at night. I hope I was right about that too...Although not well-known (not to a peasant like me), due to the enjoyment of our discussion she easily makes my top 10 celebrity 'moments' whilst in London.

The full list is here, for your reading pleasure:

1. Meeting - and shaking hands with - Nelson Mandela outside the Cabinet War Rooms.
2. Doing a comedy scene about Bobby the dog with Harry Hill on Harry Hill's TV Burp
3. Jude Law winking at me - yes winking - when I left the Oxo Tower with a particularly attractive young lady. And yes, I smiled back.
4. Jogging past Gordon Ramsey nearly every Sunday whilst training for two London marathons.
5. Sharing a sofa with Vernon Kay (and, erm, Danny Baker) on GMTV
6. Studying psychology with Martin Sixsmith, who nearly brought down a Government.
7. Making Naomi Campbell laugh on a road outside Victoria Park. She clearly wanted me. I didn't fancy it.
8. Playing street cricket with the England bowler Ed Giddens outside Lords. Truly bizarre. We were all very pissed and used a stick and a crushed up can. At one point we all ran to get on a bus and Ed Giddens did too but no one knew why or where any of us was going.
9.Being in a meeting with Jack Straw. He asked me a question right at the outset of the meeting. I didn't really know what he meant and sort of stammered an answer which was totally inappropriate.
10. Meeting and chatting with Gloria Coates on the District line.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Obama or Clinton?

For me Obama, but I know little about the real issues. I just like the way he talks. Electrifying.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I've been away

and this is where I went.

Friday, 25 January 2008


The horror, the horror. I was right to be cautious - this is a nightmare.


Wednesday, 23 January 2008


I met my beautiful ex in the local pub after a gap of about a year. She's getting married.

Of course the news transports me back to the heat of the break up. The rising panic and sense of incomprehension. The tiredness. The lack of control.

Then the torture of loss sets in. Anniversaries, smells, running routes round the park, food, habits, old photos, shared jokes, shared friends, shared objects. The silence.

The feeling of sadness tonight is not even from events as such, but a kind of symbolic sadness. It's the formal passing of something; being told that it is now final, when it was final months ago. This must give a clue to the special agony of the families of missing people.

Although it still hurts, somehow I know it is natural.

In a way I am glad it hurts. I'm good at sadness. Even on the way home I was flicking through my ipod shuffle searching out the saddest songs. I settled on Always on my mind by Elvis.

I suppose at least I am living a life authentic enough to experience pain like this. At least I tried to love someone. At least I am processing these feelings, rather than trying to fight on without acknowledging them. At least I am a decent enough human being to wish her happiness. I managed to say through a cracked voice when we left that she deserved the best, and I'm glad I managed it because she does.

But I turned away back to my old life and she turned away to her new one, and that was hard. I sometimes have to fight the rising panic of feeling like everyone is making progress and I am going backwards.

I'm not sure what the future holds, but if I am happy with myself then I'm more likely to be happy with someone else. Not certain, more likely. All I can do is think about my best plan, and cling to it.

And for now the plan is to listen to Tom Mcrae.

Tonight I'll walk on water
tonight I'll walk through flame
and sing it to the corner
and still the blood in your veins
til something flickers in me
I feel the motion of light
and slip into the distance
and someone slips into my life
but it ain't you
it ain't you

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Bruce is back

(a bit late I know)

I lo ve you all like the amusing pens my Granny buys me.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Chris Langham

This evening I watched Shrink Rap, where Dr Pamela Stephenson - comedienne turned psychologist - interviewed Chris Langham, the actor who starred in the brilliant Thick of It.

Chris Langham was being interviewed because he had recently been convicted of downloading child porn to his computer and viewing it. He had served a prison term after pleading not guilty to all charges after claiming that he downloaded the images for 'research'. He also claimed that he had been abused as a child.

When the case was going on, I remember taking a hard line on the story, which is unlike me. Langham must have known what he was doing, and as a former vicitm of abuse he must have known the damage downloading such images perpetuates. He deserved everything he got, and more.

Having watched the programme, I now feel differently. I feel desperately sorry for him, and ashamed at my willingness to see things in black and white. Life is so often shades of grey.

I am at a loss to know what conclusion to draw, so let me draw several.

1. The media did not portray all the nuances of this story, which worries me.

2. Television is not a stupid medium.

3. People and life are complex; sometimes seeminly inexplicable actions happen. Where this is illegal, the perpetrator must be punished but sympathy can also be extended simultaneously.

4. Those who recognise these nuances and stand by people irrespective of their wrongdoing are brave.

5. As with the Mark of Cain, and the McCanns, I cannot help but think there but for the grace of God go I.

I am not arguing that he should not have been punished. But then neither is he. I am arguing news stories often get written as much for their saleability as their integrity. I am arguing that we instinctively make shortcuts to certainty.

I am arguing that we must collectively and individually guard against sanctimony, in a nuanced and complex world.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Pewter says what now?

So. My lovely brand new Toshiba laptop which I spilt hot tea on in its first week but is now fine - just needed to dry out like som sort of sordid crack addict - came with some pre-loaded Microsoft software.

Now, this is different form what I've used before, cos when I do Word and Excel it's all different menus and stuff. I am pretty sure it isn't Vista, but how do I find out what it is?

And, whilst you're at it, how do I get myself some of this so-called 'software' and what type should I get?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

100,000 hours

I imagine, if I am really lucky I'll live for another 40 years or so. I might be lucky and it might be 50, but I might be unlucky and it's 20, so let's say 40.

That's 340,000 hours.

Of these, I'll be trying to sleep 8 hours a day. Gulp. 278,000.

I'll also spend 10 years in retirement. And I'll be taking my weekends, thanks. That leaves 186,000 hours.

But I want to know about the hours I have autonomy over. Let's say I'll probably always have daily chores to do - 1 hour a day sounds fair - and I'll probably always have travel to do. Let's say 2 x 45 minute journeys per work day, on average.

I am now down to....guess what?

100,000 hours.

I have autonomy over 100,000 hours. That's it. Then my life will be done. Oh, and during this time, I have to squeeze things in like 1) earning money, 2) having a family, 3) socialising and 4) hobbies. I left out things like 5) blogging and 6) staring into space.

Suddenly I don't seem to have very much time left at all.

So the logical question is, how should I be spending it?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Numbers 20 - 40

21. Go to a party dressed entirely in leather, or velvet.
22. Meet Larry David.
23. Eat at The Fat Duck
24. To visit Japan
25. Learn yoga properly
26. Learn a martial art
27. Listen to the Beatles albums one after another dressed only in velveteen.
28. Cycle across the USA, east to west coast
29. Prioritise my time according to principles of positive psychology
30. Write a book based on the experiences of the second world war generation
31. Offer discrete services to targeted section of the population: young, old, deprived, depressed.
32. Be a reliable friend
33. Buy a guest house and offer walking holidays combined with psychological counselling / coaching
34. Learn about wine in depth
35. Sod it; to own a vineyard in California and make quirky wines
36. Know more about plants and trees and nature, innit.
37. To spend a winter in Anchorage, Alaska, writing to old friends
38. Become a Zen snowboarder in Whistler, Canada and live for the moment
39. To raise a family
40. Retain both curiosity and humility as I get old
41. Be green, in both business and personal life. Not as in inexperienced though, environment wise.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

So the new year is upon us, and now we look forward to 2008. Only two years of this decade remain. I was impressed by what Seth Godin had to say about this:

Here's a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, "I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing."

This is why I am so in favour of new year's lists. They get a bad name, but I think this is because of poor execution rather than anything else. Lists represent action and change. They are a tangible attempt to improve our future. In so doing, they symbolise hope. And without hope we are nothing.

Happy 2008.