After 7½ years together, Jen has finally merged our stationery collections.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I was a font geek as a child too, as you can see from the calligraphy nibs and the dry-transfer lettering in the photo. But I also found what I can only assume are GCSE English notes:
Discursive essay writing
- Begin by capturing the reader’s interest by something surprising or interesting.
- Write a few paragraphs putting forward the argument(s) you disagree with and explain why you disagree.
- Write a few more paragraphs on the points you support and explain why you support them.
- Save our strongest arguments until last.
- In the last paragraph, leave the reader with something to think about.
My grandfather passed away on Friday night. He’d been very frail for a couple of years, we knew he was dying and his doctor asked him earlier in the week if he’d prefer to die at home or in hospital; he died peacefully in his sleep two days later.
I’ve not mentioned this particularly widely because I’m ok; I don’t need people’s sympathy or condolences. Aside from at my sister’s weddings, I’ve not seen my father’s parents in about 20 years, partly because I fell out with my grandmother in the late 1990s for 15 years, so the only contact I had with them was tersely civil thank you letters in reply to birthday and Christmas cards. The combination of the geek-detachment I have, of my anxiety and of being on a low dose of antidepressants means that my main conscious emotions are mild anxiety at the prospect of travelling up to his funeral in Leeds and mild frustration at the break in routine. I do realise this is unsympathetic and somewhat inhuman of me — and I do also feel sympathy for my family and a little sadness that I won’t ever see him again — but he is someone who, whilst I loved him as a part of my family, hasn’t really been much of a part of my life for almost half of it and I’m generally detached about things like this in any case.
It would seem, however, that my subconscious is not quite so heartless and detached or as good at managing grief.
Nainie (my maternal grandmother) passed away five years ago now and, by my teens, I was much closer to my mam’s parents than to dad’s. My conscious, bless it, appears to have conflated the suppressed and barely-experienced emotions about grandparental deaths into an odd dream last night. I dreamt that, for some reason (I forget the backstory), I was walking into 1950s or ’60s Dolgellau and had the opportunity to walk into Nainie’s sweet shop. She didn’t know who I was, obviously, and I didn’t have any predecimal money, so I couldn’t buy anything, which upset me, but I did get to say hello and shake her hand, which I subsequently related to my cousin, who was also there (but in the now, not on the 20th-century side of whatever portal I’d travelled through). I woke up actually crying, something I don’t remember experiencing before.
Evidently, I’m not the remote, disconnected, unemotional bastard I thought I was.
(Just to reiterate the point I made at the start, I’m fine — I don’t need sympathy or condolences. The therapy I sought has been achieved by writing this post, even if noone out there ever reads it.)The image of the Graveyard at St. Michael & All Angels in Newburn, Tyne and Wear, is taken by and copyright (© 2010) of Andrew Curtis. The image of Eldon Square, Dolgellau is taken by and copyright (© 2012) of Trevor Littlewood. Both images were found on Geograph® Britain and Ireland, a project to create CC BY-SA 2.0-licensed images of the UK and Ireland, indexed by OS grid reference.
So I’ve written to my MP about the Leveson amendments to the Crime and Security Bill being debated in the House of Lords tomorrow.
I would urge any British readers to contact their MP and any members of the Lords who they feel able to write to. In case it helps, the text I sent to my MP is below:
Dear Mr Lord,
As well as being one of your constituents, I am also a pro-bono director of the Open Rights Group and a campaigner for digital rights.
Last weekend, I was both pleased and nervous to see that a cross-party consensus was coming to fruition on the implementation of Lord Leveson’s recommendations on the regulation of the press.
Unlike many, I am not too concerned that some regulation (be it underpinned by Royal Charter, statue or something else) will provide too great a hindrance to our free press, essential for any democracy. After all, Finland’s press regulation is underpinned by statue and they regularly top Reporters Without Borders’ ranking of press freedom around the world.
With any legislation introduced with haste, however, I am always cautious of the unintended consequences. This is particularly a concern when there is a cross-party consensus on a contentious issue, as it means the minutiæ don’t always receive the scrutiny they deserve.
The reason I am writing to you today is that, with Crime and Courts Bill in the House of Lords tomorrow, there are some *serious* concerns around unintended consequences. (The notes and amendments are online at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0137/amend/pbc1371803m.pdf, in case you don’t have order papers to hand.)
Having discussed these regulations at length with many learnèd colleagues at the Open Rights Group and elsewhere, we have some major, serious concerns around conceptual flaws in the language and definitions in the text.
The intention of the legislation is to ensure that major media organisations who refuse to sign up for the regulatory body are penalised further if they behave immorally. The definitions in the text, however, could cause immense unforeseen harm to small Internet publishers who were never intended to be regulated by Lord Leveson.
To be clear, I am not advocating some form of lawless online “Wild West” where bloggers may defame people to their hearts’ content — our existing laws around defamation and invasions of privacy need better enforcement both online and off, as we’ve seen with the behaviour of some of our newspapers over the last few years.
To explain our concerns here, however, Apple could use these new provisions to chill disclosure of newsworthy product leaks such as http://www.macrumors.com/2011/12/26/2011-biggest-apple-product-leaks/. Companies like Monsanto could use these provisions to discourage public criticism of their strategies. Energy companies could use them to threaten and chill coverage of Climate Change or profiteering. Perhaps even whalers could use them to silence Greenpeace supporters.
I know that this is noone’s intention of these new regulations but, from reading amendment NC29, any website that carries adverts or that is run by someone who engages in consultancy work could be construed as being “in the course of a business”; many bloggers have guests, co-writers and translations that plausibly qualify as being “written by different authors”. It’s entirely feasible that a corporation could threaten litigation under these measures to chill the kinds of legitimate discourse essential to any healthy, functioning democracy. Furthermore, amendment NS5 offers no comfort in this regard.
These corporate litigants don’t have to be right and, as is so often the case, an issue doesn’t even need to go to court to have a chilling effect. If a complaint were to go to court, the “exemplary damages” provisions would mean that even a successful blogger could still be forced to bear the complainant’s costs. With such high stakes, most bloggers would just fold rather than risk such enormous penalties. As drafted, the amendments create new weapons for corporate litigants that worry me and others greatly. Even the Hacked Off campaign have accepted that the current drafting is poor: http://hackinginquiry.org/news/hacked-off-calls-for-all-non-profit-publishers-to-be-excluded-from-press-self-regulation-scheme/
Now Lord Lucas has tabled an amendment that seeks to limit the unintended damage in this area, inserting to the “exclusions from definition of ‘relevant publisher’” the words “a publisher who does not exceed the definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise as defined in Section 382 and 465 Companies Act 2006.” Such a change would, at a stroke, reduce the damage caused by the current wording, without neutering the key principles of hampering the less-moral members of our press.
Concerns have been raised about “gaming” this exclusion with the use of smaller subsidiaries, however the Companies Act 2006 again comes to our aid in this regard, as our statutory law already has a need to prevent such gaming, of course. More details on this can be found on the Open Rights Group’s blog, at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2013/gaming-can-be-avoided-bloggers-can-be-protected-from-the-crime-and-courts-bill
I would beseech you to do anything you can to help ensure that, in regulating the more immoral actions of some of our press, we do not inadvertently over-regulate non-profit bloggers — many of whom, like myself, are your constituents — by applying to them punitive damages even in the event of unsuccessful challenges to their legitimate speech.
Thank you for your time in reading this somewhat verbose letter. I look forward to reading back from you once you have a chance.
Some of this post might be a little graphic about physical illness. You probably don’t want to be eating whilst you read this.
So, last night, all the signals failed between Waterloo and Clapham, meaning trains were completely fucked; a friend of ours over the road spent an hour to travel the eight-minute journey between the two.
For over 20 years now, I have suffered from panic disorder. If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, you probably can’t understand the crippling nature of them. I first experienced a panic attack after a concert for Devon Youth Choir at Plymouth Pavilions. The concert went really well; there was no reason for me to be anxious, particularly after the event. At 16, I’d performed in front of large audiences before but, after we finished, I needed to go to the loo and I sat there hyperventilating for what felt like forever, until my stepfather came to check on me and he and mam helped calm me down.
Then came university interviews. I was very nervous before all of them, but the first one was easily the worst. I was interviewing for an awesome course at Kent (BA, MA, DÉUG, L-ès-L and M-ès-L in French; I’d've hated it!) so, rather than taking the sleeper from Plymouth and arriving in Canterbury at 8am, I stayed overnight with my aunt and uncle in Watford. This was my first introduction to Imodium, and the lovely cooked breakfast my aunt made me didn’t stay in my stomach for long. I was ill at Watford Junction, at Euston, at Victoria (where my first experience of a peephole and cottaging confused and distracted me for long enough for me to stop being ill and get on the damn train), on the train, at Canterbury and at UKC. As you might have gathered, my panic attacks come with nausea and diarrhœa.
My panic attacks were sporadic for a while, but became particularly problematic when I was at university. After I moved in with Scott, I had a 45-minute bus ride to UEA (I got an offer from Kent I was never going to meet) and, at times, the idea of travelling this far without easy access to a toilet; it took me a long time to realise that my stomach wasn’t the problem — I was diagnosed with IBS whilst at uni and had to intercalate my third year because I was so often so ill and had an appendectomy the same year.
The stomach problems and panic attacks settled down for a while after my appendectomy and I started to think the problem had been solved. Though the problems came back after a while — when I was asked to work on-site for M&S at Stockley Park, panic meant I was unable to do so. Whilst I got past that, it became a problem at work, I was prescribed medication and made some progress.
Things have been up and down over the last eight years. In December 2011, my GP suggested reducing the dose of my citalopram, as I had generally been a lot better. Messing with my dosage completely fucked up both my stomach and my head — citalopram is also indicated for IBS. After a particularly traumatic New Year’s Eve, I restored my original dose, which we have since raised, as it’s no longer being as effective.
So there’s the background. Last night, as I mentioned, Waterloo was fucked. Not just a little delayed, but completely fucked — no trains leaving the station for four hours. My main mistake was leaving it too long before working out alternatives to trying to head home: by the time I was working out where I could crash the night in London (as I really wasn’t going to get home), I had already started panicking.
Jen was out for the night in town, with a friend who lives in Soho, so I went and met them in the pub. Cue panic attack in the pub toilet. So we went back to his flat, so they could drop me off to crash on his sofa before they went back out clubbing. I managed to keep the next panic attack on hold until they’d gone back out, but suffice to say I was somewhat unwell.
Spending the night in a Soho penthouse is somewhat less fun when you’re not feeling great and when you know there is nothing you can do to calm it down. I was at the nearest I could get to a “safe space” and couldn’t get home for the night, so I just had to curl up on the sofa and sleep.
I woke up ok (and in surprisingly little back and neck pain), but still felt pretty dreck (too little sleep and having spent a fair amount of the night either sat on the loo or clutching it isn’t exactly good for the soul) so, after sipping some more water, I headed home and spent the day napping and watching the Game of Thrones DVD commentaries.
It may seem ridiculous that, at the age of 37, something that most people find relatively normal — being in a situation you can’t control — can be so completely crippling. For more context, I haven’t visited my parents (on Dartmoor and in Gloucestershire) in nearly 15 years, because the idea of the train journey petrifies me. My mam and Geoff have moved house in that time; I have never seen her new place. My grandmother is having a 90th birthday meal the weekend after next, in Leeds. We’re not going because I know that the entire journey would be one of the most stressful things I could subject myself to. In the last 20 years, I have been abroad
twice thrice — once shortly after my appendectomy, with Norfolk Youth and Community Service, once to visit one of my best friends in the south of France and once to Paris with work. I can no longer go on protest marches, as police oppression of protest means I simply can’t risk putting myself in that situation.
Like many people, I suffer from an invisible disability. But in the Global North, we don’t like to talk about mental illnesses. And we’re not very good at treating them. The NHS is a wonderful, wonderful thing (or, at least, was and hopefully will remain so, despite the government), but it is not good at mental healthcare. Given my panic attacks have become more common again and I’ve become less good at stopping them in their tracks, I’m gonna have to talk to my GP again. Let’s see if, this time, I might actually get somewhere.
I’m sharing this because, particularly when experiencing a panic attack and shortly afterwards, it’s difficult to remember that you’re not alone. It’s difficult to push past the shame you feel at being so fragile, so pathetic. Real grown-ups aren’t scared by something like a train journey or a difficult commute home. An unexpected situation doesn’t lead most people to need to spend half an hour on the toilet, trying not to throw up and trying not to cry.
According to the WHO, panic disorder prevalence in Europe is just over 0.3% — I am probably not the only person you know who suffers from panic disorder. You might suffer from panic attacks yourself. Remember: you are not pathetic and you are not alone. And your doctor may be able to help.After searching for free images to depict panic or cancellation and delays, I drew a blank. The two images in this piece are credited in their captions, but are both used without permission and I do not hold the copyrights. This is probably a contravention of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Please contact me if you hold the copyright in either of these images and can discuss licensing.
I’m a big fan of alternate history as a genre and I definitely like Stephen King’s œuvre, but the premise of this novel — that there’s a time portal to 1958 and the protagonist goes through to try to prevent the JFK assassination, assuming this would lead to a better world without the Vietnam War (escalated by LBJ) and the assassination of Martin Luther King — really intrigued me.
I’ll be spoiler-free as much as possible, but it’s nice to see that King doesn’t paint 1950s America as some halcyon utopia. Whilst many things are “better” than in the now, there’s all sorts of things that were unempirically worse — the US South was still segregated, social morals were much stricter and the Cold War was at its height, with the Cuban Missile Crisis being in the middle of the protagonist’s time in The Land of Ago. The protagonist needs to wait out five years before JFK’s visit to Dallas, so there is plenty of colour added to this time period.
There are several moments that are genuinely moving, but there’s not a huge amount more I can write without spoiling the plot for anyone who’s not read it yet. If you’re interested in 1950s/1960s America, the JFK assassination or alternate history and an “obdurate past”, then I’d strongly recommend you pick up a copy.
We were watching a quiz show Jen likes, before going to bed last night, and there was a question about the nationality of Victor Frankenstein (born in Naples, described himself as Genevese and built his monster in 1790s Ingolstadt, in Bavaria, since you asked) and I realised that, shamefully, I don’t own a copy of Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).
We’ve been digitising our DVDs (so that we don’t have to devote quite so much shelf space to plastic boxes containing media that’s inconvenient to use), so it would be stupid to buy a film on DVD when I only really want a digital video file.
So I googled
buy film "The Curse of Frankenstein". And I googled
download film "The Curse of Frankenstein" "buy now". And I looked on Amazon.
Now I don’t know if this film is available digitally anywhere else or not. But the only place I could see to buy it online is iTunes. We can’t play it on iTunes on our TV (which is hooked up to an Ubuntu machine); there is no way of playing films bought from iTunes on Linux (though you can authorise up to five computers to access your iTunes media). If there is anywhere else to buy this film as a digital download, they need to spend a lot of time looking at their SEO; and, whilst Google didn’t mention it at all, Netflix does have the film (and we do pay for Netflix), but not in their UK catalogue. Lovefilm, of course, we can’t use on Linux, and they only carry it as optical media anyway.
I spent substantially longer than my patience would normally allow looking around for this; most users would type, click twice maybe, and give up. I have no way of legally purchasing a copy of this film.
And they wonder why people pirate.Poster image served directly from Amazon UK, copyright © Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. and is used without permission, ostensibly for the purpose of criticism and review under section 30(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Yet again, a post I wrote several days ago but didn’t publish. Sorry about that.
It’s really quite impressive. You log into Wolfram Alpha and into Facebook, then grant Wolfram Alpha permissions to scour your Facebook data and it generates a host of information for you.
As well as the obvious stuff (how old am I, to the day, where do I live and what’s the population there and so on), it generates pretty charts about almost everything. Apparently 92.2% of my updates are links and this is my posting distribution:
(I can’t work out how to get it to tell me who the loners on the right-hand side are, I’m afraid)
There’s more, including word distribution frequencies, which is my most-liked post and so on — and you get even more if you have a paid account to WA.
All very impressive, in any case.All images are copyright © 2012 Wolfram Alpha LLC — A Wolfram Research Company — and are used without permission for the purpose of criticism and review under section 30(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.