Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

My Cup

Maybe the stresses of the world we all lived through in 2017 (and for a few years before that it feels) are finally getting to us all. Maybe it is the accelerating pace of technology and the number of new branches and innovations that has us confused and bedraggled. Maybe it is because we are all getting older and a little more crunchy about the edges…

Where am I heading with this?

Three of the groups, organisations, communities, call them what you will, that I belong to and deeply care about have had some turbulence of late. To be honest some of it is old wounds left to fester, some is exciting new directions, and then there is that boundless puppy enthusiasm that is too harshly kicked (as old dog’s despise new tricks as just a repeat of the old trick with shiny bits).

However there is, one would say, some issue.

For me the biggest problem stems from that of simple discursive maturity, and let me elaborate on that.


Do a quick search on rationalism and you will uncover something akin to this:

ˈraʃ(ə)n(ə)lɪz(ə)m (noun)
the practice or principle of basing opinions and actions on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.
PHILOSOPHY: the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge.
THEOLOGY: the practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religion.’

I personally am fond of the rational use of discourse. It allows us to talk freely about subjects in an open manner and often using concepts or positions that are unfamiliar, and maybe objectionable, to others. This isn’t to say that I forgive malice or abusive discourse, they are not rational so I abhor people who use freedom of expression as an excuse.

Nor does being rational mean that you have no emotion at all. There is always room for passion as long as it is about subject and not aimed at people after being weaponised.

It means that when someone holds a strong position, or more usually presents such an opinion just so that it can be discussed, I can engage with them and appreciate the discussion without seeing harm.

This is how we are to progress. This is, somewhat, in essence that Socratic view of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis. We can have opposing arguments or positions and find a balanced position. A rationale.

So when someone presents such a strong position, but does it in an open manner, I try to engage with them in that same way even if I find their position antithetical to my own understanding. That is also how we learn.

Not only that. If we can discuss, and allow from that discussion a better understanding, and hopefully gain an agreement based on concessions from evidence of a superior position* then it is even finer.

*(Where superior means better for all and not dominant.)

Kingdom of the Kindergarden

However what I have seen a little of recently is too much of what I like to think is the Kingdom of the Kindergarden. The one ruler in the playpen who everyone must respect and no-one else should be heard.

There will be tears. There will be hair pulling and gnashing of teeth. There will be wails, grunts, cries of unfair, and they started it. There will be name calling and sometimes worse, there may be vengeful, painful, abuse.

We can all fall so easily into being the ruler of the playpen. We can all move our toys with velocitous speed from our crib with cries of displeasure and calls of unfair. Some of us may even storm from the room allowing everyone to hear our departure and allowing no one but ourselves to have the last word.

We can all do it.

Some of us do not.

Quiet Departures

When the Kindergarden rules the adults tend to try and calm the situation. They try to ameliorate, discuss, understand and compromise. When that fails, they leave. The adults quietly walk away and allow the children to cry and wail. They stop the discourse because that’s what adults do. Adults are not the masters of the playpen. They are not its citizens.

If there can be no rationality, there really can be no real discourse. The most reasoned voices are not the ones who win, they are the ones who left. A reasoned voice knows that community comes from compromise not from dominance.

They don’t throw a cup, with a beverage in it or not, at a wall. They drink their tea, put the cup in the sink, and walk quietly out of the door.

As for my cup?

Well I have just poured myself a drink and I am looking out of the window…

A Year of Effort

Over the past year I have been publishing results of my attempts to get fitter. Let’s be honest, tweet, blog, vlog, facebook and all. I have had Zombie’s chasing me around parks and updates in the wee hours from the gym.

It started almost a year ago (I started on the 6th January 2017 but it was as close as damn it to New Year) when I decided 2017 was the year to kill the excess weight I had and look and feel better. It was how I felt about my body and my overall health.

Since then I have lost about 60 pounds (to be fair I lost nearly 70 but have fluctuated up a little in the past few weeks due to lack of gym and running time and holiday over-indulgences). I still have some way to go, about 15 pounds now since I threw some back on. But I am confident that it I can achieve it and I have set a date of 2019 to lose that weight so I don’t have to push myself.

This post is the last time you will see the fitness graphics from 2017 and it shows a general high level of activity. In total last year I did nearly 5.5 million steps which is an average of 448,215 steps each month or 14,736 steps (about 14km) each day. None of that includes the gym time and the efforts to make a better diet.

I was aiming at doing this for a year to make a lifestyle change and I think I have achieved that Where I go from here is about 15 pounds lighter and to keep up the exercise that I do. I will probably randomly keep you informed (unless you follow my runs and I start getting chased by zombies at which point you are going to hear about it much quicker).

year ago I honestly couldn’t run for 3 minutes without feeling very tired and out of breath and running up the stairs had started to make me sound like a steam train puffing up a hill. Now I can jog for an hour (usually between 6-10Km) and sometimes twice a day and feel satisfied. I am concerned that there is a toll on my knees and back, but for now I can enjoy feeling better.

I also know that I have the ability to dedicate myself to a very strong cause and to carry through with it.

Which means I probably need to find a goal for this year…


“It was the best of times…”

“…it was the worst of times”

For those of you in the know the quote is of course from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it may have also been the start to some Victorian Novel by Charles Dickens called Tale of Two somethings-or-another.

So why am I using it?

Well it is simple, 2017 has been both a horrid and good year for me. I am going to Vaguebook a little and not fill in the exact details of what made it either bad or good. It just was.

This is just me off-loading a little to the world and saying that 2017 despite how it looked from the outside was pretty much a massive up and down period in which far too much shit hit the fan at the same time as having some excellent moments.

Is there a real message that I want people to take away from reading this? Probably not. Just that you can have both amazing and awful at pretty much the same time. You can have life-changing times where you learn from both the positive and negative things that occur.

How about 2018?

Well I wish I could say that there is some new dawn, a brightest time approaching, but there likely isn’t. It looks to be both up and down as well.

At this point life is a roller-coaster. I am affected by so many other forces that I cannot actively control the destination, but I am able to help navigate the path and in doing so maybe make it a road easier to travel.

So what was this?

Did you not read the part about vaguebooking? I am marking a point. It is the end of the year and I wanted to place a reference that it was bad, and also good. I wanted to remember that despite all the pain of 2017, there was also some massive highs.

In life we often focus too much on the lows and they can stay with us for so much longer. Especially grief and loss. So the good things that happened at the same time can become consumed by the bad.

So this is a marker to remind me that it wasn’t my horrible year (I’m not the Queen, I don’t do Latin). It was both good and bad. In fact it was probably both the best and the worst.

London Perl Workshop is Amazing: I didn’t organise that shit :)

I had an amazing London Perl Workshop, because I didn’t organise that shit.*

I had an amazing London Perl Workshop *because* I didn’t organise it.

For the first time. It was the first time I have ever been at one I didn’t organise. I got to experience that. The London Perl Workshop is amazing.

The first two reactions I got from two organisers will stay with me a long time. Thanks Neil and Katherine that was awesome, and yes I was really happy all day 🙂

I went to my first, ever LPW talk, it was by Dave Cross and it was really good, how awesome is that? All the talks were awesome.

All the ones I saw I loved and I think I smiled throughout them. More on that on my work blog later.

The organisers are stunning, and I love them.
The London Perl Workshop was amazing.
I love that now as a speaker.
I am now also just an attendee :).

I got to go to the after event and I wasn’t just the person who was in an emotional collapse being thanked by everyone but too drained to engage properly. I was alert and truly happy. I was always happy to be the organiser, this was different, this was me being happy being around the people I have known for years and rarely get to socialise with.

I’m not just as the person who organised it (though I am still the person they give thanks and a lot of love to and that almost made me cry, in fact as I write this I am welling up with love and pride for all of the community I love).

The London Perl Workshop was amazing.

Thanks Neil, Katherine, Rick, Pete and Lee.
Thanks to all the volunteers.
Thanks to all the speakers.
Thanks to all the sponsors.
Thanks to all the attendees.

The London Perl Workshop IS amazing.
I love my community.

The London Perl Workshop is Amazing.
I didn’t organise that shit 🙂

* I may have had some slight involvement but it was less than 2% of what I did on previous years and had no worries associated with it. Sorry for using the word shit it just seemed to flow off the tongue and as Mr7 points out Daddy has a potty mouth.

The ‘Approved’ Conundrum

There is a well known parents website (whose title suggests a single gendered focus) who have become an increasingly powerful presence and influencer. Quite recently I have noticed with increasing frequency that their awards or recommendations for products are now appearing on the packaging of those products.

I have no issue with this happening as the site should rate things if it wishes and getting crowd-funded response helps other consumers, so all good. But there is an issue and I think it will worsen and is unbalanced in regards to objective rating.


The site has paid advertising and sponsored products. It also has competitions for submitting reviews on particular products. It has vouchers and offers that are exclusive to its readers. Now any one of these shows some slight favour, but nothing ‘bad’, right?

The reviews of the products are fair (broadly) and the way the ratings work is by mob decision, so that isn’t bad. Except I think you could game this system and get good response and I will highlight one way I can think of.

I have a product, it isn’t unique but it is new to my company. I want a high pickup and I want awards so the new product will fly off the shelves, I also want stores to stock it so need a high demand.

  1. Send free review copies to site owners in a fancy box with a few extra goodies as thanks for reviewing, but don’t insist on a good review. (This tactic will influence people, we all like being treated well).
  2. Offer a lot of discounts to visitors of these sites, make them special. (Increase demand).
  3. Run a competition that anyone can enter (spreading the word).
  4. Run promotion at the people who enter competitions or use discount codes to get further discounts on products and special extras and mention that a good review is loved, even tell people of the special packages that some reviewers get. (This will help to reposition any 3.5 out 5 star reviews into being a 4 – you want to be fair but 3.5 is almost 4 right?)
  5. Any site where the reviews are more positive and increasing push further offers and targeted advertising.

There is no guarantee that this will absolutely work, but if the product is good enough and you keep it subtle but pervasive you will see a change in behaviour and uptake.


So I think that you have to treat this in a balanced way. If you are a product advertiser who gets an award on a site like this then you shouldn’t advertise on the site. It is too much collusion and too much chance of bias.

Put it this way, if you had a bad review on the site and a worst product award you wouldn’t spend any money there and would consider it toxic. I think you have to do the same if you have great reviews.

It is a way of keeping a moral equilibrium. If you are the site owners you maybe want to think about the whole model you have created. A system that allows direct influence via numerical reward for products that (although may be fairly reviewed and loved) directly influence people’s spending has a responsibility to be fair.

You can’t be fair when someone is throwing money at you and your model is to take their discounts, advertising and free products. It is always going to affect your rating either positively or negatively.


Paradise Trilogy

Paradise Found

So if you have hid your head under a rock for the past few days you may have missed the news about the Paradise Papers. This is another large group of financial documents, similar to last year’s Panama Papers, that detail the wonderfully creative avoidance of tax by the mostly super rich.

To many of us this just seemed like an expected news round, like the revelations that say governments spy on us as much as each other, or that elections and media agencies are targeted by foreign powers with agendas. It isn’t news if we expect the world to happen that way and we just dolefully accept it as such.


Personally I think we should drop some of our weary cynicism and try to engage with the news here. We have seen that the online world now has a strong voice, it is often visceral but the effects are physical. maybe it is time for us to voice our general displeasure.

Paradise Lost

The problem is that we have become so indoctrinated to the ideas that this is what happens that we are insulated to the cost. This is a bankruptcy at the heart of our systems of finance and distribution. It will eventually affects us all and when crashes happen, as they will, they are devastating.

Already the news cycles seem to be waning. Partly this is because like some apocalyptic Chinese curse we are currently stuck in an Interesting Times of news cycles. Where the cycle is a monocycle with a missing wheel, a jet engine and a coked up, blind and epileptic rhinoceros as the rider.

If I were to be suspicious I would hazard that there is a collective push back by a cadre of hidden oligarchs to quell this particular piece, and the Panama papers round and lifespan might support that. but I also have to balance it with dodging the Rhinoceros.

Paradise Regained

One of the most prominent elements of the news coverage has been the element of legality. Like when Tim Cook of Apple in the past declared they paid every dollar they were due to. We are told that those in the spotlight have done nothing illegal.

I hadn’t presumed they had, that’s silly to think so. This is why they have clever lawyers. This is why they have teams of accountants. This is why they have political influence that creates vague definitions and applications of law.

This is tax avoidance not evasion.

They haven’t committed a crime, per se. But what does that mean? In the UK it is pretty much illegal for me to beat my children with a stick. But that is not a universal law. So if I holiday in a country where they allow beating with a stick it is all okay as long as Ii obeyed the non-beating in my domestic homeland. Like Apple I am now taking the stick to children in the right territories.

It isn’t illegal, but it might be immoral.

If you want to stay abreast of the stories you can follow the page linked below. it is a good starting point to know who and whom so that you can conduct searches elsewhere.

It may be time we kept up the conversation on this.

Wrimo Time

It is that time of year again the National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo as it is known to its participants. As usual Leigh Keating and I will be joining in on the madness and frustration that makes up this event.

In previous years I have both won and lost (winning is writing 50,000 words in a month) at the event but I have always started with at least a direction to take, this year is different. this year I have 3 directions and I am not sure I like any of them so I am doing all three.

So what are they… I am not going to tell you to be honest. Not at this moment, not right yet. Enough to say they cover a prose story (future fantasy), a slice of semi-autobiographical and prose contemporary story and a section that is more document or artefact.

If that is intriguing, good. if not, also good 🙂 I may or may not return to keep you updated. You can join us all in nanowrimo and if you are in the North West you can join our region. We also welcome people on Facebook in the Regional forum.


The S-Word

This month I am doing the #inktober challenge as I am an avid doodler. My doodles are not good but I enjoy doing them.

The other day it was Sword. Seeing as my brain is broken I interpreted that as s-word and it reminded me of a few things.

To start with it is what #1 son says when I say that word. Daddy said the s-word. 

Which ties in to a joke that Lee Mack tells. He asked his 8 year old kid what is Brown and Sticky. And his kid said ‘shit’.

I asked #1 son the same and he said ‘Poo’ as he knows that mum doesn’t like them using swear words.

At the same time there is the fascination both my kids have with the Poo emoticon. #1 son likes it because it is Poo and Poo is funny. #2 son has a non neuro-typical outlook and declared the cuddly emoticon Poo to be a Happy Chocolate Ice Cream. Personally I like #1 sons joy at the world and #2 sons way of seeing it.

tl:dr: this is what I doodled. 

The Happy S-word Ice Cream

The Happy S-word Ice Cream

Love Your Community Feedback

This is just a quick post to note down a thing that I like to do and that I would encourage others to do. We all have communities whether we realise it or not, we have peers, friends, online groups and like-minded followers.

Most of us post to social media, or to private forums, or just to closed groups, and at some point you are going to say something daft, or make an error like a bad C&P, or (as is frequently the case) technology betrays you.

At some point someone is going to correct you.(1) If you say something in public they are likely to respond in the same public way. You can do two things about this:

  1. Fix it but get all butt-hurt at them for mentioning it.
  2. Fix it and thank them properly in the same public forum.

I like to opt for Option 2.(2)

Now sometimes it is especially sensitive, or you get supremely embarrassed by being corrected, you basically prefer that people correct you in private. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do option 2. It means you need to reinforce your preferences with that person so they know for next time.

As mst is always saying to me: ‘don’t attribute to malice what can easily be explained away as ignorance’.

Sometimes you need to educate people as to your preferences, and sometimes you need to tell them more than once. Doesn’t mean you need to get butt-hurt when they try and help you. You thank that person, they took the time to engage.(1)

(1) Even if they did it to be mean, small-minded, or have a sense of superiority. You get to be the better person by having the decency to reward their efforts.(2)

(2) If I ever manage to do this consistently I will be amazed as I am nothing, if not, a hypocrite who has to write blog posts to remind himself to be a better person.

Proud of #1

This week I had a conversation in the car with my 7 year old #1 son. It broadly was about what he wanted to be when he was older and how he wasn’t sure. This is the paraphrased version:

Me:  You can be whatever you want to be
#1 Son: Like what?
Me: An astronaut, a doctor, a scientist, a Minecraft developer, anything
#1 Son: An Astronaut! How do I do that?
Me:  Well when someone wants to be an astronaut he has to train hard and be healthy, or he might have a special skill like a scientist or an engineer
#1 Son: He or She daddy
#Me: [Pause] Yes. Yes you’re right it can be he or she, thank you. Should we use they so that it doesn’t matter who they are?
#1 Son: Yes
#Me: So when they…

I couldn’t have been more proud to be corrected on equality by my own 7-year-old child. 🙂