National Unplugging Day – review

reading_pileSo on the spur of the moment, I dived into National Unplugging Day. I’d only just heard about it an hour before and at 9:50pm I switched off my tech… well everything electrical in my house except for my fridge and alarm clock and crawled into bed with a book… my reading pile is rather large… and seems to consist of ridiculously large books right now!

The next day I was intent on only switching on my computer (and router) to check work e-mails, and to have my phone on for work.

I’m not one of these 24hr Facebook/Txt’ists so I don’t have that issue to contend with… but what I do have is… Second Life.

And this is where I failed.

It is a strange addiction, this compulsion to log in and see who’s online. Some days I can stay switched off, like, there are days when I don’t have a mental battle going on: “stay offline… stay offline”, and other days, I find myself logged in before I can’t consciously object.

Sunday was actually easy because I had the afternoon with family and once I was home I was happy to read a book and then go to bed. But Monday, which should have been a work/book reading day, ended up being a Second Life day mostly… if only I hadn’t needed to switch my computer on to check e-mails for work… it’s all too easy to open another tab or double-click that icon that pleads with me to click it!

If I can stay unplugged from the start of a day then my days can be very productive with other stuff… and I like that.

I have few vices in my life I think, I rarely drink, and never to excess, I don’t smoke, and I eat with a healthy mindfulness etc… but Second Life is one of my vices. Partly it is something about the virtual world itself, and partly it is the friendships/companionships/relationships there… however you are brave enough to label them.



immoral or wicked behaviour

– an immoral or wicked personal characteristic

One way I try to talk myself out of logging in is by appreciating the times offline that I have socialised in one form another, from either visiting family, or even having a nice chat with a client at work. I’ve lived on my own for over a year now and while I do enjoy my own company and having my own world revolve largely around myself I do recognise that I need that social contact with others.

Perhaps vice is too strong a word, but the battle I have within myself when I’m trying to curb my addiction/habit makes it seem like that word fits. Perhaps having this battle going on isn’t so much of a bad thing – surely it means I am conscious of some boundaries I have naturally set for myself, whereas perhaps others who grow up around tech and are constantly plugged in don’t have any such considerations. There is scientific research into these thing and the effects such tech has on us, the last thing I heard was how our attention span has dropped significantly during the past couple of decades. This is concerning – I’ve always felt like I’m relatively strong-willed, but to be aware of how easily I find myself logging in makes me worry about the not so strong-willed.


Canadians’ attention span worse than the average goldfish…
New research says average attention span is 8 seconds, a 33% drop since 2000. Are mobile devices to blame?


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National Unplugging Day

28th June, 21:50 – 29th June 21:50

I just learned about National Unplugging Day, just in time to post this and unplug!

In the UK it runs from sunset (9:50pm) on Sunday 28th June to sunset on Monday (in the US it’s March, but feel free to take part wherever you are!) That’s 24 hours without your phone(s), tablet(s), computer(s) or other facebook/e-mail/face-tag-chat whatever gadget or app you have for keeping yourself ‘plugged in’ and distracted from the rest of the world!

Take this opportunity to unplug! I was about to setting into bed with a book anyway.

Monday could be a challenge, but beyond work my electronic world will have to wait… sorry :D

Other days of interest are Earth Hour and Earth Day… hit up my Search box to find out more.

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Posted by on 28 June, 2015 in Books, Computers, Internet, Technology


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Time Travel Methods

delorean I love the idea of travelling through time, hopping in a modified Delorian (Back to the Future), skipping through a wormhole (Farscape), or finding a way with my mind to achieve the feat (Hiro, Heroes). There are so many ways, in fiction (written or on screen), in theoretical science, or in philosophy too I suppose.

Just recently I read Irma Kurtz’s book Then Again which to me had a hint of time travel – the idea being that Irma was observing her past self through a travel diary she found, and in her book she gave her past self some words of wisdom as she retraced her steps.

We must all surely have some occasional “What if?” moments. It was last month when I was having such a discussion with a friend and I brought up the ‘Back to the Future’ film and the ability there to travel back in time and change the past. My friend responded by referring to the TV series Being Erica. I haven’t watched any of the shows but Wikipedia has this to say:

The show stars Erin Karpluk as Erica Strange, a woman who begins seeing a therapist to deal with regrets in her life, only to discover the therapist (Michael Riley) has the ability to send her back in time to actually relive these events and even change them.

I am also now watching the Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman series on Youtube.

In another conversation the TV series Outlander which is based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon:

In 1945, married World War II nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743 [after investigating a buzzing noise near the standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun], where she encounters rebellion and the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser.

This made me recall the TV series I used to watch in the 1990s, Goodnight Sweetheart, in which Gary Sparrow (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst) discoveres a time portal which leads him to war time London.

In addition to this, someone else mentioned, within earshot of myself, a “Dean Koontz book in which the baddie slowed time to nearly stopped to do bad things to people…” I was curious about how the baddie slowed down time, but I don’t know which book it was.

And finally, I have been watching the video for David Hasselhoff’s True Survivor song. The video is from Kung Fury in which the 1980s Miami cop travels back in time, with the aid of some 1980s computers, it is rather silly, but pretty cool.


Through the Wormhole: /

Goodnight Sweetheart:

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Posted by on 26 June, 2015 in Books, Computers, Films, Time_Travel, TV & Video


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Which car is yours?

“The blue one.”

*man fail*

Yeah, so, I took my car for its annual check-up. I parked it up outside the garage and wandered over to hand the mechanic the key. “Which one is it?” he asked. I turned and pointed, and said “The blue one.” Then during that moment I realised there was another blue car between us and it… my brain froze for a moment and then when I regained the knowledge of what make of car I owned I filled him in on the details. “The Renault.” Luckily the car between us and it was something other.

I laughed. Not meaning to sound sexist, but I had just failed at being a guy.

It could have been worse. I could have added that it was the one with four wheels on the outside and one on the inside that I sit by when I want to command it to go forth. These things I thought about as I wandered off down the road, still laughing at myself. “‘The blue one’… you muppet.”

I then spent a couple of hours wandering round Holyhead, around and up and down the mountain, in and out of charity shops, into and out of the Co-op to buy the last remaining ingredient I need to assemble a Battenburg Cake, before returning to the garage to learn the news/its fate.

holyhead_mountainThe top of Holyhead Mountain was covered in cloud when I set off…
wearing only light trousers and a thin sweatshirt.

holyhead_mountain2Still nice views on the way up.

holyhead_mountain_yearWhat a different a year makes! 2014 vs. 2015.

I wondered the whole time if I would soon be car-less. I had recently patched up a hole with a Red Bull drinks can – she’s showing her age now and I have not seen another car I have the least bit of interest in owning or driving. Not that this one is anything special, it’s blue.


I think I would be quite content with not owning a car any more and instead cycling everywhere… I cycle twice as many miles as I drive and I begrudge spending four times as much keeping the car on the road, largely just through vehicle tax and insurance, than I do in putting fuel in its tank to get me places. I can’t be doing with driving the few miles to the shops and back as seems to be the norm for many – I like my exercise, and being green. But I do like driving. I drive so infrequently now that when I do get behind the wheel it’s still a thrill to stick my boot down and flirt with the speed limit, and frighten old people by making a loud noise, and get that adrenaline buzz that I don’t get from anything else, not from cycling.

But no. Surprisingly it passed again, with only a warning on the tyres, again… they’ve been warning me about them for years: “They’re wearing on the inner edges… you need to get the tracking done… they’re [still] wearing on the inner edges… they’re worn on the inner edges, border-line – a hundred-miles more, tops…” I think I’ll get them changed now, and at least get a year out of some new ones before its next check-up, that and change the oil… I can do that myself. Oh and new wiper blades: I was convinced he’d pick up on those.


Posted by on 23 June, 2015 in Cycling, Green Living, Health and Fitness


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A Clergyman’s Daughter


1984It was last year that I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was the reason I bought this collection of Orwell’s work, but I was in the mood to read another novel about a female character – the previous one being Dickens’ Bleak House which I read over two years ago.

A Clergyman’s Daughter is about Dorothy (rather than Esther), who is in her late 20s. The novel is set in the 20th century and Dorothy is the clergyman’s daughter, daughter to the Rector of Knype Hill, a small town in East Anglia.

We begin with her on a typical day as she wakes up and organises the house and things for her father (similar to Esther would do in Bleak House for her guardian, John Jarndyce) – the things her mother used to do before she passed. Dorothy is the woman of the house and keeps things together, and in order, more so than her father gives her credit for, and he doesn’t make it easy for her – running up debts and brushing them off as being of little consequence – really there seems little love between them.

Then just as things are getting on top of Dorothy (or perhaps because of), she finds herself on the streets of London (some one-hundred miles away) suffering from amnesia.

She promptly meets and befriends a young lad who is with a couple of other girls and they go off to find work hop-picking, begging, scrounging, stealing and sleeping rough along the way in order to survive.

When the hop-picking work comes to an end she regains the memory of her past (but not about what happened to her on the last night in Knype Hill) and all the stories that have been in the newspapers, about ‘The Clergyman’s Daughter’ who ran away with a man, she realises, were about her.

Due to these stories about her she can’t immediately return home, but she writes to her father and tries to get him to send her some money. In the meantime she ends up sleeping rough on the streets of London until a relative finds her and sorts her out with a job and lodgings as a school teacher.

This is a further experience of subsistence, but at first she finds a good way to teach the children in her care (I am again reminded of Esther in Bleak House). The children had never been taught as such, they were only trained to impress their fee-paying parents by returning home with neatly written work copied out of books, for example, but at first Dorothy changes all of this and holds affection for the children, that is until the dragon of a head-teacher puts a stop to it.

In the end the school term ends and Dorothy is laid off, but just as she is heading back out onto the streets again the guy from her home village (the one who she supposedly ran away with) rolls up in a taxi to take her back home, where her life returns to how it was before she left.

As I followed Dorothy on her ordeals I witnessed how she changed and when she returned home we read of her acceptance of her now lacking faith in God – she was naturally strongly devout in the beginning. For a short time upon her return she is aware of her changes, but comments that her soul is still the same, she questions things and looks deep within, that is until she busies herself with her commitments and her mind gives in and returns to the monotony of her life as it was.

“…mere outward things like poverty and drudgery, and even loneliness, don’t matter in themselves. It is the things that happen in your heart that matter… Beliefs change, thoughts change, but there is some inner part of the soul that does not change. Faith vanishes, but the need for faith remains the same as before… And given only faith, how can anything else matter? How can anything dismay you if only there is some purpose in the world which you can serve, and which, while serving it, you can understand? Your whole life is illumined by the sense of purpose. There is now weariness in your heart, no doubts, no feeling of futility, no Baudelairean ennui waiting for unguarded hours. Every act is significant, every moment sanctified, woven by faith as into a pattern, a fabric of never-ending joy.”

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Posted by on 22 June, 2015 in Books, Psychology, Religion


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Then Again – Time Travel and Writing to yourself

then_againI’ve just finished reading Irma Kurtz’s book Then Again. She wrote it in response to finding a diary she wrote some sixty years previously when on a high school trip around Europe. She repeats the trip and gives rhetorical advice to her past self along the way.

My initial thought when I began reading the book was that it reminded me of my ponderings about time travel and the idea of visiting my past self, observing ‘him’ and maybe advising. I enjoyed such mind games way back when I was a child and learned of the Back to the Future films. The risk was always something like, well if you did go back in time and say/do that then you would change the course of events that follow and then not travel back in time after all – the time travel paradox. I suppose this is what made me grow out of such thoughts – I grew to accept how things are and that if I changed anything in my past then it would change who I am now, and I think I’m quite at ease with how things are and who I am.

The idea of observing is a nice idea though. Of course I would love to go back in time to witness certain things, like to see my dad who I have no memory of because he died when I was very young. I would love so see him together with my mum when they were young and in love. I would love to see myself playing out on my bike as a child. And beyond my self I would love to see the pyramids of Egypt being constructed. But changing things, I’m too… I’m too… I’m not sure what the word is, maybe conservative, or reserved now. Maybe I should go back in time and change that!

Perhaps if I could I should go back and give advice to myself about petty things, like “Stop ogling the girls in your high school classes because none of them will be your girlfriend, so you may as well focus more of your attention on your studies!” Or, “Enjoy that relationship for now but it will end in a month or so.” I think I would be less hash on my past self than Irma is in her book.

I would like to be a mentor for my past self and help him better himself in a variety of areas, such as making more of an effort with certain school work and cycling at a younger age, eating better, avoiding the parent’s smoking, not accepting the doctor’s ‘solution’ when he handed be an inhaler for asthma and other medication for hayfever – it would have been nice to know some of what I know now. I would have liked to have a heads up on who would be important in my life so I could give them more attention earlier on. I have even considered, if I could, taking back things which of little monetary value now, but would have been valuable back then, such as electronic tech, but I’m likely less materialistic now.

As I read on through Irma’s book I thought about diary-writing, and if we write in such a form, what this value is to others. In fact I considered the value of writing in general. You see, in this digital age where so many of us have blogs, we have this freedom to publish our thoughts and ideas, or stories, to the world with ease, but it seems to me that more people do this than read the thoughts and ideas of other random people, therefore, when we write, who is our audience? The answer is, ourselves. I think, in general we write for ourselves. That is unless we’re lucky or gifted enough, and have gained such an audience, that more people read our work than the average writer is privy to. I wasn’t aware of who Irma Kurtz was before I read her book, but I have since learned that she has been/is “agony aunt for Cosmopolitan for more than 40 years”. With that said, I can appreciate that what she wrote there has been helpful to many people, but her book, which I noticed has a retail price of £16.99 printed inside the cover, made me wonder what value is it to anyone else? To me it seems it was a personal exercise for herself to undertake, and to put it bluntly, I’m glad I borrowed the book from my local library, rather than having had paid that price for it – who would have? Perhaps only some ardent followers of hers. To me she was a stranger, and I don’t regret having read her book because I did glean some points of interest from between the covers, and there are some giggles along the way – I also appreciated her openness about such things as sex and relationships and this coupled with the concept of diary-writing has lead me to write more to myself, for myself, for my future self, if not may past self, but I can’t see me publishing that in any form in order to try and earn a living out of it, or make some money back off of a trip round the world.

Perhaps in sixty years time (when I’ve perfected my time machine) I’ll visit myself now and tell me I’m a silly sod and should knuckle down and write a book already.

I’ll now take this opportunity to nit-pick some of Amazon’s reviews:

‘There is so much that is vivid, wise and excellent in this book. With her generosity of spirit, love of people, untarnished curiosity about the world, laser-sharp observation and wry wit, she would make a wonderful travel companion. I for one, would be thrilled to find her sitting beside me on a long journey.’ Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

I disagree – half the time she doesn’t seem to love people, instead she looks down on them, including her past self, and Val Hennessy, there is the chance that should you find your self sitting beside her on a long journey, she may be in one of her ‘I’d rather keep my nose in one of my books’ moods and avoid all chit-chat with you.

A customer review says: “A disappointing book. Irma is overloading the text with unnecessary details as if she’s on a mission to fill in blank pages in order to produce a book… I found myself skipping long passages and trying to find a thread that would make the story an interesting inward journey but all I found were bits of wisdom too specifically related to Irma’s personal journey. Her musings did not have the depth necessary to make them universal or revelatory.” I think this customer missed the point that the book was written for Irma’s own benefit, and yes, a lot of what she has written in this book is trivial, but that can be entertaining for others, which I suppose is why it got published (or perhaps she got the go ahead to write it based on the concept, prior to venturing off round the world). There is no underlying thread or theme other than that created by her original diary, that is the basis for the book and the journey – as a reader we follow her on this journey as she reveals her recollections, which are largely revelatory to herself.

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Posted by on 18 June, 2015 in Blogging, Books, History, Time_Travel, TV & Video


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Free to be human

I mentioned this topic in my previous post about the many topics that were flitting through my mind at the time.

The thought is this…

Quite often (I think), we, as human beings, don’t seem to be as free as we might think. I’ll use a couple of examples.

Child Birth

On this occasion, this thought of a lack of freeness came to me while I was present during a conversation about childbirth. It seemed, to the mother-to-be, that she wasn’t free to give birth to her child how she wanted due to restrictions imposed on her by the system (or rather, she felt obliged to do as was dictated to her, and I raised the point of doing whatever she wanted). By ‘system’ I mean the NHS or mid-wives, or simply by expectations or what is considered to be ‘the norm’ by society, or even individuals.

Let’s say a mother-to-be wants to give birth to her child at home, or without pain relief, or she wants to have a water-birth… in her own bath-tub, or she wants to give birth to her a child at the top of a mountain… why not? There might be risks involved, or predicted complications, what if the woman isn’t of ‘sound-mind’ to make these judgements, but still, I think, they are her judgements to make. This may put her baby’s life at risk but I believe it’s no one else’s business – it shouldn’t be for a system to dictate to her what she can or cannot do, or how she can or cannot live her life, it really shouldn’t be for anyone else, not society as a whole or other individuals to impose their ideals. The only exceptions might be the father, or close family members, but ideally this wouldn’t mean imposing views or ideals, but a genuine open, friendly and loving dialogue – the system seems to be none of these things: it may have been put in place with good intentions, but often it comes across as meddling.

I think if people were left to their own devices more it could be seen that people wouldn’t act so irresponsibly as we might assume – people would take more care over their own decisions, and it would be seen that people (mothers-to-be) don’t naturally make foolish decisions – they, we, are all just human and should be free to do so.

Or perhaps, to be human is to meddle in other people’s affairs.

Another aspect of childbirth is how we’re all expected, upon birth, to be listed within a system, human number x,xxx,xxx,xxx complete with full name… why do we even have to be given a name?! This could then lead on to points about migration and how we can’t just live wherever we want, such as has been in the news recently with regards to Italy and the topic of immigration… but I shall not get into that any more here.

organ_donation_letterOrgan and Blood Donation

On a similar note, I received a letter through the post this week informing me about how the system for ‘Organ donation is changing’ where I live (the donation of body parts, not musical instruments). Instead it being opt-in, it will become a ‘soft opt-out’. I think this is wrong.

What right do other people have to just take the organs of someone else when they die? And why should we have to inform a system if we don’t want this to happen?

To me, our bodies are immensely personal things, they’re not just a collection of organs, or pieces. To some, the body is a sacred thing. I can accept that [perhaps] once we’re dead we’re not going to care or have a sense of what happens to the physical remnants of what was once us, science seems to dictate this. While at the same time I think organ donation is a good thing (or perhaps this view is one that is slipping) and everyone should consider the benefits of this – perhaps attempts have been made to make people consider signing up to donate their organs but with not enough people doing so to meet demand, so the ‘powers that be’ have given up on trying to persuade us and are now just telling us how it is going to be. I wonder if all the people that are “needlessly” dying because of a lack of available organs had themselves been signed up to donate their own organs prior to requiring one themselves.

I remember when I became old enough to opt-in to organ donation. My mum did the responsible-parent talk with me because she thought organ donation was a good thing to do, and I signed up and received my organ donation card. I’m not sure if there were similar talks at school but I think there should be, but perhaps it’s all too late now – we’re automatically signed up to it whether we like it or not.

Perhaps I’m a little fussy now, or judgemental about the health of other people – I feel like I look after myself: I eat healthily and I keep fit with regular cycling and some running. But not everyone is this way inclined – why should someone who is in need of an organ because they weren’t looking after the ones they were born with, have one of mine? I guess such a person deserves a second chance.

A similar consideration should be made about donating blood, which most of us can do already – we don’t need to be dead for that. But I’ve never given blood. Perhaps I should – what if I have a cycling accident and I myself am in need of blood, yet I myself have never donated – I think, on this basis it’s wrong for me to not donate… unless I’m happy to die because no one had donated blood for me.

I just read this statistic: “A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.” – RCB

“Male donors can give blood every 12 weeks. That’s approximately every 3 months or 4 times in a 12 month period. Female donors can give every 16 weeks or approximately every 4 months.” – ODW

And, “How much blood will be taken? Only about 470ml, which is just under a pint… [which only] take[s] between 5 and 10 minutes [to extract].” (ODW) That’s over 120 donations I should make I guess – that’s four times a year for the next thirty years.

But should blood donation be made compulsory too!? Or perhaps it would be nice if it just became routine for us all.


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Posted by on 17 June, 2015 in Cycling, Health and Fitness


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