Category Archives: memes

Specifically for Alfster and SoRB among others – you know who you are

Here’s an atheist meme I picked up on Adopt-An-Atheist  who credits The Friendly Atheist Site.  I’ve done it more because I’m interested in how others will reply than because I think you give a flying-meatball about my beliefs.  But here, for the little it’s worth is 

The Atheist Quiz

Have you ever…

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge? – No – but one of my favourite jokes has the punchline – “Are you kidding….?  I went there 2000 years ago, got some bird pregnant and they’re still talking about it!”  If that’s not denial of the holy spirit, what is?  My big sis said that the sin against the holy ghost is usually thought to be bestiality, but I’m not sure how they work that  out.  I’ve not notched that one up either.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins,Daniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam Harris) in person? – No – but I did go to hear Richard Dawkins speak when he was plugging was “Unweaving the Rainbow”.
  3. Created an atheist blog? – Well it’s a blog and I’m an atheist…
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone? – No.  I’m an atheist not an evangelist.   I don’t care what you believe so long as you don’t care what I believe.
  5. Been offended when someone called you an agnostic? – Impossible to say.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron? – Huh?
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know? – Just the one, I think.  Maybe two.   Dunno.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc? – Puh-lease.  I have only one life.  Why would I spend precious time trying to prove it?
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family? – Dunno.  Probably not.  It’s a belief-system not a lifestyle.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering? – Er.  Why would I do that?
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization? – Surprisingly, yes, I’ve signed up to the BHA.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony? – No.  But I’m thinking of becoming someone who can officiate at humanist funerals.  Not a thing to do lightly, so I’m mulling it over.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization? – Yes, the atheist bus campaign and the BHA.  
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins? – No, but I do have a chair dedicated solely to … oh, I can’t be bothered.  Dawkins is eye-wateringly good on genetics, but I dislike polemics.  
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism? – I doubt it.  I do believe very strongly we should all be allowed to go to the devil our own way.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize? – No.  Why bother?  
  17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away? – No.  I don’t foam at the mouth.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc)? – No.  Or any other kind for that matter.
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion? – No
  20. Attended an atheist conference? – No
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel? – Who?
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school? – No
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism? – I doubt it. 
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die? – No.  I’ve arranged to have my ashes packed into fireworks and set off at my wake.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction? – No, I’m not a teenager.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place? –  Heh heh.  No.  (There has to be a marian joke here, but I can’t work it out).
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism? – No.  That would be illegal.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count)? – I doubt it.  You’d have to ask my friends.
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills? – N/A
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? – N/A
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”? – No.  And I tend to say “Bless me” rather plaintively after I sneeze.  Pavlov’s got a lot to answer for.
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying? – Eh?
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch? – N-n-no.  Though I have played follow-the-fundy on YouTube.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist? – My father and great-grandfather were clergymen.  So that’ll be a ‘no’ then.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant? – Oh, I don’t know.  I think I don’t list it one way or the other.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service)? – No, but see #12 above.
  37. Subscribe to a freethought magazine (e.g. Free InquirySkeptic)? – Only as podcasts.
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism? – No
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God? – No.   But I did write a chunk of the Wikipedia entry on the atheist bus campaign.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift? – “The Selfish Gene” doesn’t count, presumably.  Call that a “no”.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public? – No.  But then I don’t wear any slogans in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them? – No.  One and only precious lifetime.  Not going to spend it arguing about something that doesn’t exist.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God? – No.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants)? – No.
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it? – No.  I actually don’t celebrate it when I’m single, only when I’m in a relationship with someone who does.  I find it bemusing and rather sweet that people give me presents.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy”? – No
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all? – No.  Confirmation bias and expectations theory have made me an absolutely typical Aries.  Little sheep that I am.  Baa-aaa-aaa.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to?  – Do I look like someone who gives a bleep?
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray? – No.  I still bob to the knees when I sit down in Church.  Pavlov again.  It stops other people chatting to me and lets me focus on why I’m there – wedding, funeral, whatever.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you? – Eh?

And just so you know how you fare, here’s a scale to rank yourself (adapted from Darwin’s Dagger’s suggestions):

0-10: Impressive, but not too far from agnosticism.
11-20: You are, literally, a “New Atheist.” But you now have something to strive for! Go for the full 50!
21-30: You are an atheist, but babies aren’t running away from you. Yet.
31-40: You are the 5th Horseman! Congratulations!
41-50: PZ Myers will now be taking lessons from you.

That’s 5 or so out of 50.  So not a militant then.

99 things a meme can do

A meme shamelessly stolen from the delightful May, who got it from Dr Spouse.  Bold is for have done, italics for would like to do.

  1. Started my own blog – Er, you’re reading it.  I’ve also started one in my own name on the wonderweb and one in my own name at work.  Which is why I’m posting here so much less often and so many of the posts are memes.
  2. Slept under the stars – Don’t think so.  In tents and barns and things, but not under the stars.
  3. Played in a band – Be glad, be very glad that I haven’t.
  4. Visited Hawaii – No.  I do like islands, but prefer them in more northerly climes.  Shetland.  Orkney.  The occasional Hebridee.
  5. Watched a meteor shower – Surprisingly, no.  Watched FOR meteor showers, yes.
  6. Given more than I can afford to charity – No.  Yes.  The Atheist Bus, since you ask.
  7. Been to Disneyland/world – In no circumstances.
  8. Climbed a mountain – What counts as a mountain?  Technically yes, in that I’ve progressed vertically under my own propulsion above 1000′ but actually no.
  9. Held a praying mantis – No.  Tarantulas and snakes yes.  Mantises, not yet.
  10. Sung a solo – See 3 above.
  11. Bungee jumped – Absolutely not.  Far too fond of my spine. 
  12. Visited Paris – Worked there, but not done the tourist thing.  It’s a town.  Don’t like towns.
  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea – Yes.  I watched the Newhaven ferry racing the lightning strikes into harbour.  Fun.
  14. Taught myself an art from scratch – May mentioned poetry here, so I think I will too.
  15. Adopted a child – No.
  16. Had food poisoning – No.  
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty – It’s in America.  It’s in a city.  It’s in an American City.  So that’ll be a No then.
  18. Grown my own vegetables – Yes, not many and not successfully, but yes.
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France – No.  Paris.  Cities.  No.
  20. Slept on an overnight train – Yes, on the train up to the Ice Hotel in Sweden, and incredibly exciting trips to Scotland and back when I was a wee snippet of a blogling.
  21. Had a pillow fight – Yep. Sisters, brothers, boarding school.  
  22. Hitchhiked – No. 
  23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill – No.  Not capable of the necessary lies.  
  24. Built a snow fort – Surprisingly, no.
  25. Held a lamb – Probably.  But my grandma used to keep goats, and I’ve certainly held and fed kids.  They are wildly enthusiastic for food and their tails rotate like helicopter blades.  Enchanting, even after decades.
  26. Gone skinny dipping – Yes.
  27. Run a marathon – No.
  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice – No, though Venice is on my long-list of places to go.
  29. Seen a total eclipse – Twice.  Or been there while they were happening behind clouds, anyway.  Cornwall in 1999 and Ceduna in 2002.  Hope to go to Cairns in 2012 if I can get the cash together.
  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – More times than you can shake a stick at.  I was born on the Cotswold escarpment with views westwards over the Severn estuary into Wales and beyond.  In the winter the sun would set early and to the right, in the summer, it would set late and to the left.  It’s given me a need to live with distant horizons ever since.  My current horizon is a cozy mile away.  I like air.
  31. Hit a home run – No
  32. Been on a cruise – No
  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person – No.  
  34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors – I was born in the birthplace of my ancestors – or in the same house that my grandmother was born in, anyway.
  35. Seen an Amish community – No
  36. Taught myself a new language – No
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – Yes.  It was nice while it lasted, and it’s left me with a sense of deep gratitude that I can pay my bills even if I cannot afford frivolities. 
  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person – Yes.  Disturbing, like something designed by MC Escher.  But smaller than you’d expect.  
  39. Gone rock climbing – No, just sea-side stuff as a child.
  40. Seen Michelangelo’s David – Yes. And the waiter at one of the nearby restaurants was a dead ringer; those Etruscan genes are strong.
  41. Sung karaoke – See 3 above.
  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt – No.
  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant – No.
  44. Visited Africa – No.  
  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight – Probably.  I’ve seen a lot of moonlight and I’ve walked on a fair few beeches.  And as I’ve mentioned recently (was it here?) a favourite activity is driving by moonlight with the lights off.  The moon must be high and at the correct angle to slightly damp straight lanes.  Oh, and I turned my lights off once on the M50, but it was Christmas Evening and there was no one, but No One but No One there apart from me.
  46. Been transported in an ambulance – No.
  47. Had my portrait painted – No.
  48. Gone deep sea fishing – No
  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person – No.
  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris – See 12.
  51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling – Yes, in Trinidad, or was it Tobago, visiting my sister.
  52. Kissed in the rain – Yes.  Snogged like a cheap movie in the Tottenham Court Road in one of those downpours where the sky simply spills itself onto the ground below like a torn tarpaulin.  We even had a begger come up and say “you make a lovurr-ly couple”.  That was the sum of our romantic encounter, but hey.
  53. Played in the mud – That is what mud was for when I was little.
  54. Gone to a drive-in theatre – No.
  55. Been in a movie – Oh, surprisingly, Yes.  Well, a made for tv special.  They filmed Cider with Rosie in our part of the Cotswolds and recruited yokels to turn up at the village fete.  Enormous fun.
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China – Yes.  
  57.  Started a business – Yes.  And ran it for 8 years.    I had employees and everything.
  58. Taken a martial arts class – Tai Chi in Glasgow really should count: none of that “imagine a ball of shining light” crap.  This was “Ye’ve got hiss elbow in one hand and hiss rist in th’other”.
  59. Visited Russia – No
  60. Served at a soup kitchen – No.
  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – No. 
  62. Gone whale watching – No.
  63. Got flowers for no reason – For myself, every week in the summer.  For others, whenever it seems good.  
  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma – I have been turned down on five separate occasions for five separate reasons.  (Had a cold too recently, had acupuncture, they wanted to go home, just come back from abroad, not had enough breakfast).  There’s only so much rejection a girl can take so after that I thought “fuck this for a game of soldiers” and kept my blood to myself.  
  65. Gone sky diving – Absolutely not.
  66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp – No.  I should have done and I could have done, I could have gone to Dachau when I worked in Munich and I knowingly and consciously bottled out.
  67. Bounced a check – Not that I can remember.
  68. Flown in a helicopter – Yes.  Took a helicopter flight with my Big Bro over the 12 Apostles in Australia.  Here.  See.  Look at the nice photies.  Oh, and I read that as “Flown a helicopter” to which the answer is no, but I did stop learning to fly because I enjoyed spinning the plane too much.  I realised that here was a sport that could kill me.  And a friend let me have a go in one of the flight simulators at Heathrow, so I’ve landed a 737 there, in theory at least.  It wasn’t a bad landing but the best Best BEST bit was destroying Terminal 3 by taxi-ing through it.  Deep joy.
  69. Flying over the Twelve Apostles

  70. Saved a favorite childhood toy – Yep.  Big Ted is sitting on the wool box upstairs.
  71. Visited the Lincoln Memorial – No.
  72. Eaten caviar – Not sure.  You’re never entirely sure if it’s yer-actual caviar at these things or not.
  73. Pieced a quilt – No.
  74. Stood in Times Square – No.
  75. Toured the Everglades – No. 
  76. Been fired from a job – No. Though I’ve been ‘let go’ a couple of times.  And that is most certainly a possibility again.
  77. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London – No.
  78. Broken a bone – Not a one.
  79. Been on a speeding motorcycle – Yes.  
  80. Seen the Grand Canyon in person – No. The best thing I can do here is quote May: “Have not been to States. Have you seen the Giant’s Causeway? Helvellyn? The Kyles of Bute? Trafalgar Square? Lavenham? Edinburgh Castle? The walls of York? Wells Cathedral? No? Why ever not?”
  81. Published a book – No.
  82. Visited the Vatican – No.
  83. Bought a brand new car – No.  Though I’ve had some rather nice second hand ones.  
  84. Walked in Jerusalem – No.
  85. Had my picture in the newspaper – Yes.  
  86. Read the entire Bible – No.  But I bet I know it better than you do.
  87. Visited the White House – See 79.
  88. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – Yes.  Rabbits.  We used to pick ’em off with a .22 with a silencer and telescopic sights.  Hard to imagine just how illegal that would be these days.
  89. Had chickenpox –  Yep.  I only have one scar, on my sacrum.  Impressive self-control that.  I picked it up aged 17 from the nasty little boys in the prep-school were I was undermatroning at the time.
  90. Saved someone’s life – No.
  91. Sat on a jury – No – but would be fascinated to do so.
  92. Met someone famous – Arnie, once, in a tiny airfield in the middle of the Arizona desert.  Yes, I have been to the US, but not much and not far and not for long.
  93. Joined a book club – Yes.
  94. Lost a loved one – Yes. 
  95. Had a baby – No. 
  96. Seen the Alamo in person – No.
  97. Swam in the Great Salt Lake – No.
  98. Been involved in a law suit – No.
  99. Owned a cell phone – Errr… yes. Had the same number since 1990.  
  100. Been stung by a bee – Yes.

The Fairy Godmother Meme

Fairy GodmotherI was lying in bed the other day at 4:00 in the morning counting my blessings, when this meme popped into my head fully formed.

Since the panto season is upon us, I offer it up to you for fun.

What good gift did your Fairy Godmother actually give you?

What good gift do you wish she’d given you instead?

What bad gift did the wicked Fairy give you?

What bad gift do you wish she’d given you?

And finally: if you could have one magical item, what would it be?

If you do it, please credit this post.

Here are my answers:

What good gift did your Fairy Godmother actually give you?

The instinct to answer the question “is the glass half full or half empty” with “Who cares!  There’s room for another one in there!”

More simply, I’d rather be happy than sad: I’m glad I can pay my bills instead of being unhappy that I can’t buy the geegaws; I’m pleased that no-one was hurt instead of being angry that thieves wrote off my car.

What good gift do you wish she’d given you instead?

The ability to thrive on four hours’ sleep a night.  20 hours of alert and functional time every day – now that would be a gift worth having.

What bad gift did the wicked Fairy Give you?

Fat ankles.  I’ve never really forgiven the universe for that.

What bad gift do you wish she’d given you instead?

The wit of Mae West – I’ve been trying to work out what she’d say here.

And finally: if you could have one magical item, what would it be?

A house that never needed cleaning.

So there you go – the Fairy godmother meme is my seasonal gift to the wonderweb.

Have fun.

A commentators’ meme

Here’s a meme and a half, courtesy of Solnushka at “Verbosity leads to unclear inarticulate things”.

The rules:

1. List the last ten people who have commented on your blog

2. If you’re on my list then you should do the meme on your blog too [if you would like to – I’m wary of anything that smacks of creating obligations AB]

  1. Reed at Out of Ideas
  2. Healing Magic Hands at The Havens
  3. kelli
  4. Creig Buchannah
  5. Hairy Farmer Family at The Hairy Farmer Family
  6. Alfster
  7. Son of Roj Blake
  8. Paul
  9. Omega Mum at Three kids no job 
  10. Anticant at Anticant’s Arena 

Now for the questions:

1: What is your favourite post from number 3’s blog?  (Kelli)

Kelli doesn’t blog, which is a shame.  She’d post grounded and well-informed posts about whatever her project was at the time – currently motherhood, which has occasionally been difficult, and pregnancy.

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that have moved you? (Anticant)

Not that I am aware of, but I’m charmed by the portrait of him as a mouse elegantly ensconced in a wing chair wearing a paisley silk dressing gown with a smoking hat and pince nez, reading a book.

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on their blog?  (Alfster)

Alas, Alfster is another of my visitors who does not blog.

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from?  (Healing Magic Hands)

She’s in “A medium size town in Missouri” and – if she will forgive me for saying so – she’s from somewhat left of the field, having a labyrinth and a river and a great openness and warmth for people.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7 what would it be? (Son of Roj Blake)

Ooooh.  It’s tempting to say “Don’t be a stranger”.  He’s always ignored my advice in the past and I’m not aware that he needs any now.  On the other hand it’s also tempting to say “take Jesus into your heart as a friend” simply to see the steam come out of his ears.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9’s blog? (Omega Mum)

Nn…no.  Her blog is more of an Awful Warning than a source of useful Hints and Tips.  The Awful Warning that springs to mind at the moment is don’t go cycling commando.

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you? (Reed)

Her use of language.  Her sense of humour.  The letters after her name. Her sheer bloody bravery under fire.  Yes.  Here, for fun, is a post from last year about the crack in the floor at the Tate.

8. How often do you comment on number 4’s blog?  (Creig Buchannah)

Never at all.  His post was spam.  However I dislike revisionism so I tend to simply remove the links and leave the comments.  Besides which there was something about the combination of literacy, unfamiliarity with the language leaps of illogic and non-sequiteurs that appealed to me.

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly? (Paul)

Paul drifted in, didn’t leave a link, and drifted out again.  I don’t know him from Adam.  Or Eve.  Or Kissmequick.

10. How did number 5’s blog change your life?  (Hairy Farmer Family)

Um.  I don’t think any blog has done that.  She’s given me insights into motherhood and rural life, some of which I’d rather not have had

11. Do you know any of the 10 bloggers in person?

I’ve met Reed on several occasions, and adored her every time.  I danced at Kelli’s wedding.  Alfster and the Son of Roj Blake weeded my allotment in exchange for a round or two of allotment golf.  And Verbosity, too, I know, not to mention the Star who I met while he was still a bump.  So yes.

12. Do any of your 10 bloggers know each other in person?

Alfster and the Son of Roj Blake go way back.  Two bodies, one mind.  Reed and Verbosity I know are close and dear friends in real life as well as on the internets.  Reed has met the Hairy Farmer Family, to my enduring envy.  Kelli knows Reed, Verbosity, and the Son of Roj Blake, but probably not Alfster.

Look, shall I draw you a diagram?  

13. Out of the 10, which updates more frequently?

Oh, I’m not sure.  None of them enough for me.

14. Which of the 10 keep you laughing?

All of them.  And crying too.  

15. Which of the 10 has made you cry (good or bad tears)?

See above.

PS – Interesting that the meme assumes that all commentators are bloggers.  And interesting that so many of mine are not.

Unspectacular quirks

The Singing Librarian has tagged me to tell y’all six of my unspectactular quirks.  This is harder than it seems.  I rather like showing off (who’d’a thunk?) so while it would be a pleasure to produce spectactular quirks, unspectacular ones require much more application and effort.

  1. While I rather like things to be tidy, I’m far less bothered about them being clean.  Your immune system – use it or lose it!  I’m well socialised so I do wash, but my tolerance for dirt is distressingly high.  Well, distressing to other people.  
  2. I like jargon.  So much of it is clever or funny or both, and there are times when jargon expresses ideas more concisely than simpler language.  However, I do admit that some people use jargon as a substitute for thought, and I have a long term project to teach myself to write more simply.
  3. Ah Ha!  Let’s make that #3: I have a long term project to teach myself to write more simply. It’s much harder than it looks, writing simply.  I don’t know if I will ever master it.  It’s taking its time: at school I relished the discipline of clawing the meaning out of a piece of writing and turning it into a lucid and logical precis, and the main reason that I still blog is the writing practice it gives me.
  4. I always wear black underwear.  About 12 or 15 years ago I experienced severe social anguish in the dressing room of a health club when a svelt and glamorous woman donned her svelt and glamorous undies and I realised that my un-matching bra and knickers were socially SO-o-o-o inept.  Ever since then I’ve only ever bought and worn black undies.  Not sets – I’m too mean for that.  Just black, and hoped they match.  This is certainly a quirk, and I am far too un-svelt for my knicker choices to be spectacular.
  5. I have three browsers on my PC: Google Chrome, which I am using right now and which I like apart from the lack of a spell-checker; Firefox, which I like but which eats system resources, and IE6 which I don’t like because it doesn’t do tabs.  IE7 trashed my PC, so I trashed it.
  6.  I’ve just been to Shetland for a holiday.  Actually, I think that is rather spectacular, and I’ll write about it next week as simply as I can.  
The rules of this meme are as follows:
1. Link to the person who tagged you. – Check
2. Mention the rules. – Check
3. Tell six unspectacular quirks of yours. – Check
4. Tag six bloggers by linking. – Ah, I feel suddenly shy about this so I am going to invite you to tag yourself.
5. Leave a comment for each blogger.
6. There is no sixth rule, but I agree with the Singing Librarian who things that there should be.      


My omnivore’s 100

I was surprised how few of these I’ve eaten – only 49 of the 100.  On the other hand, it has a slightly North American in flavour – there’s brands here that aren’t that represented in Europe.  I was therefore surprised to discover the list was created by a Brit.  The discovery’s put me in a slightly better mood about the whole thing.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

1. Venisonyes, mainly in Sweden, well, rude not to
2. Nettle tea – yes, though I prefer tea tea
3. Huevos rancheros – no – I’m a European so that’s through lack of opportunity more than anything else
4. Steak tartare – yes – I do rather like the flavour of raw meat – carpaccio’s a favourite too
5. Crocodile – no – I’ve never been anywhere where crocodile is part of the cuisine and I’m not that fond of novelty meats such as kangaroo and ostrich in places where they aren’t part of the heritage, like the uK
6. Black pudding – yes – an English Breakfast’s not complete without it
7. Cheese fondue – yes

8. Carp – no – I’m not sufficiently fond of fish to try carp in a restaurant, though I’d be happy to eat it if it was served by a friend
9. Borscht – yes
10. Baba ghanoush – yes – I had to look it up, but it turns out I have eaten it – it’s seasoned aubergine dip or spread and I do love Lebanese food
11. Calamari – yes
12. Pho – no, but only through lack of opportunity, I cannot think of a single Vietnamese restaurant that I’ve come across outside London, though I do hope there are some in Manchester and places like that
13. PB&J sandwich – no – Peanut butter and jam sandwiches? – I am not a teenager – I feel no need to eat this
14. Aloo gobi – yes
15. Hot dog from a street cart – yes
, mainly in Sweden
16. Epoissesprobably not, though going from the picture, it’s a ‘maybe’
17. Black truffle – no – not sure if I’ve had truffle flavoured oil or truffle scented something
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – yes, but not very willingly
19. Steamed pork buns – I’m not sure if I’ve eaten this or not, if I have it would have been in Europe because British chinese restaurants tend not to serve it
20. Pistachio ice cream – yes – I’ll match your pistachio and raise you chili,  black pepper flavoured, and cardomon (though not all at once)
21. Heirloom tomatoes – yes – wasn’t any other kind where I grew up
22. Fresh wild berries – yes – just last week, and am contemplating making rowan jelly if the berries aren’t over when I get back from my hols
23. Foie gras – yes –
indefensible but irresistible
24. Rice and beans – yes

25. Brawn or Head Cheese – yes – my Ma used to make it when I was a child
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper – no – I like hotter food than most, but I’m not actually stupid
27. Dulce de leche – no – I’ve not eaten it, but only through lack of opportunity
28. Oysters – yes
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda – no, surprisingly
31. Wasabi peas – yes
32. Clam Chowder in Soudough Bowl – no – again this is a North American dish
33. Salted Lassi – yes, and it’s one of the few things I don’t really like, though I do love mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut – yes
35. Root beer float – puhlease.  No.  I’m not saying ‘never’ but my life is rich and full and varied without adding this to my list.
36. Cognac – yes
37. Clotted Cream Tea – yes
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O – yes
39. Gumbo – no, but only through lack of access
40. Oxtail – yes, but not since BSE
41. Curried goat – yes
42. Whole insects – no, and I’d only eat them properly cooked
43. Phaal – no – see note on item 26 – mind you, my view on what’s hot was formed in Bradford and Birmingham, so I do have high standards for heat
44. Goat’s milk – yes – raised on it, since you ask
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more – that’s sixty quid or so, isn’t it?  Call it a yes, though I’m not fond of scotch
46. Fugu (aka pufferfish) – no, this strikes me as being stunt food, like crocodile and insects and I’m only ok with stunt-food in the places where it comes from – it always seems like it tries too hard when it’s exported
47. Chicken tikka masala – yes
48. Eel – not sure, but probably not more than once
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut – no
50. Sea urchin
– no, again this strikes me as being a stunt food
51. Prickly pear – no access
52. Umeboshi – very probably
53. Abalone – no, but more through lack of chance than anything else
54. Paneer – yes
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – yes, actually maybe not the ‘meal’ since I don’t like the drinks
56. Spaetzle – no
57. Dirty gin martini – no, but mainly because I’d never heard of a dirty Martini though I loathe the smell of vermouth
58. Beer above 8% ABV – no, I’m not fond of beer of any description, which suggests that the answer to whether I’ve tasted beer above 8% may in fact ‘yes’
59. Poutine – no, but that would be worth emigrating for
60. Carob chips – probably not
61. S’mores – no, this is a tad culturally specific, doncha think
62. Sweetbreads – probably no
63. kaolin – no, we were a milk of magnesia household
64. Currywurst – yes
65. Durian don’t think so
66. Frogs’ legs – no, but they don’t turn up much in the UK, and there are better things to eat in France
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – I’m calling this a ‘yes’ because I do eat ring donughts from fairs, and other fairground food, though all the examples given are specific to North America
68. Haggis – yes, love it
69. Fried plantain – yes, though it’s hard to find in northern Europe
70. Chitterlings – not entirely sure, I think I may have had a mouthful once, if it’s what I think it was, then it was one of the few things I didn’t take to
71. Gazpacho – yes
72. Caviar and blini – not the real stuff
73. Louche absinthe – no
74. Gjetost or brunost – yes
75. Roadkill – yes. Well, fox-kill, which I suspect counts.   Carrion, anyway.
76. Baijiu – no, but only because I’ve had very little chance
77. Hostess Fruit Pie – no – they’re not available on this side of the Atlantic and I’m not a great eater of factory-made desserts
78. Snails – yes
79. Lapsang Souchong – yes

80. Bellini – no
81. Tom Yum – yum yum
82. Eggs Benedict – yes

83. Pocky – yes
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu – no, dammit
85. Kobe beef – no, again, this strikes me as a novelty item
86. Hare – no, and with complete irrationality I consider hares too magical to eat
87. Goulash – yes, it used to be my absolute standby when I had people round for a meal
88. Flowers – yes
89. Horse – not knowingly, though you never really know when you’re in France, do you?  I’ve not avoided it.
90. Criollo chocolate – no, though I do eat boutique chocolate
91. Spam – yes
92. Soft shell crab – no
93. Rose Harissa – no
94. Catfish – no
95. Mole Poblano – no, but it sounds good
96. Bagel and Lox – yes
97. Lobster Thermidor – don’t think so, which slightly surprises me
98. Polenta – yes
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee – no, coffee gives me stomach cramps
100. Snake – no, and again that strikes me as a novelty item away from where it really is food

I’ve only eaten 49 of the 100, but then I’ve not travelled in North America, which is probably shown by the fact that I had to look up 36 items.  Mind you, I’ve eaten 6 of the 36 I had to look up, so I’ll try things even if I don’t know what they are!

You are what you read – I

“What books have changed how you think?”  The one who asks me this sort of question asked me this the other day.

I don’t know if it’s a meme or not, but if it isn’t out there it damn well should be, so I’m asking Anticant, Charlotte, Hairy Farmer Family, Teuchter, Reed, SoRB, Sol, the Singing Librarian, whether they would like to consider this one, and share with us the books that have changed how and what they think.  It’s an arduous process and an impertinent request, and I know that each of you are busy or pressured at the moment, so please ignore it if it’s not appropriate.  And of course, anyone else who feels like it is more than welcome too.

Anyway, I asked him if he meant how (as in processes) or what (as in content) and he said “both really”.  But the whole list is too long to bore you with in one session, so I’m splitting it in to two.   I’ve listed the books in the order I read them.

Books that have changed how I think

Games People Play – Eric Berne – the whats, whys and hows of how we get stuck with the same old patterns of behaviour with strangers and with our nearest and dearest.   My Ma read this when I was in my teens and promptly started playing more games rather then fewer.  However after thirty or so years of trying, I am now reasonably good at not playing games, though not perfect by any means.  This definitely changed my thinking processes, and it is a book I would recommend anyone to read today.

The Earthsea Trilogy – Ursula le Guin – I’m putting this in the “how” list rather than the “what” list because even though they are fantasies, these books helped me accept that reality isn’t cosy and reduced the amount of denial and surprise I go through.  I still get shocked, but I’m less frequently surprised.  Their impact has lingered and deepened over the years; Le Guin is one of the least self-indulgent writers I have ever read, and I guess these books introduced me to Kantian ideas about about responsibility, obligation and duty, you do what you do because that’s what you should do.  I’m not really a Kantean at all but I try to out-stare reality even if it’s always me who blinks first and looks away.

Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit – Adelle Davis – Davies points out that the devil is in the detail, when she calls one of her chapters “Which apricot, grown where?” in reference to the statement “apricots are a good source of Vitamin A”.  The book itself is a collection of rather dated nutritional advice that I’d hesitate to recommend.  However those four words kicked off a professional lifetime of listening out for what’s not said and poking around for data that isn’t there.  It’s a phrase that definitely honed my thinking tools.

How to Master the Art of Selling – Tom Hopkins – The simplest and most accessible introduction to questions that I’ve come across, whether you want to influence people or discover things.

The Phoenix Seminar – Brian Tracey – a set of tapes and not a book, but this self-help course has given me the tools I use when I have to pick myself up, dust myself down, and start all over again.  I still occasionally listen to these tapes even if I’m more sceptical about some of his approaches than I was at the time.  There is a lot of sense here, and some powerful techniques.

NLP for Lazy Learning – Diana Beaver – I’ve undertaken various forms of NLP training and this was the book that introduced me to NLP in the first place.  I feel very conflicted about NLP: it is cultish, anecdotal and subjective and everything I dislike with my critical thinking head on.  But on the other hand NLP techniques have helped me learn presentation and public speaking, given me a whole bunch of linguistic tools, and taught me a lot of techniques I use at work in problem-solving and analysis.   Diana Beaver is as clear-eyed and un-cultish as you would ever want, and this is a grounded and sane introduction to NLP.   It’s wholesome and healthy even if it might become a gateway drug.

The British Medical Journal – Yeah, I know the BMJ’s not a book, you know the BMJ’s not a book, let’s move on from that, shall we?  This is the first scientific journal I’ve read regularly, if intermittently, and it encouraged me in the habit that Ms Davis started of prodding information to see what it was made of and of going to the sources.  It’s also a journal for generalists and is full of really ikky pictures.  The ones of dental abcesses so bad they’d worn right through the cheek were particularly gross.

Eating Less – Gillian Riley – I’ve written this up elsewhere, but this book and Riley’s weekend course have helped me tackle my addictive eating.  This book has changed how I think in a very literal way by tackling thoughts and habits right there where they occur, in the well-worn paths my synapses created in my brain.  I strongly recommend this book if it is relevant to you.

The Tiger that Isn’t – Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot – an accessible introduction to how numbers are misreported by journalists and turned into lies by politicians.   This book has given me tools to help with my habit of prodding statistics to see what gives.  I’m not sure if its influence will last with me, but I certainly recommend it right now.

So we have the book that taught me how to be honest in my dealings with people,  a set of tapes that helped me manage my emotions and the book tthat’s helping me control my addiction to food.   On the thinking side, there are the books that taught me reality’s real, several that turned my insatiable curiousity into a tool, one that started me on a journey which enriched my linguistic and analysis skills, and one that I’m using to hone my numeracy.


The Privilege meme

I picked this up from the Singing Librarian, and decided that it was an interesting quiz to do.

It was devised by PhD students at Indiana State University – Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka. If you participate, they ask that you please acknowledge their copyright.

My parents were what’s now termed asset rich and cash poor. We lived surprisingly frugally in a great big house so we looked flash on little cash, and it’s left me slightly uneasy about privilege ever since. That, and the combination of being raised by women who spoke like Celia Johnson while growing up surrounded by the inverted snobbery of the 60s and 70s. I notice that today’s young hackerati are perfectly comfortable describing themselves as “middle class kids”, but I still feel slightly embarrassed and uneasy about it.

1. Father went to college.
2. Father finished college.

Sandhurst counts, presumably.

3. Mother went to college.
4. Mother finished college.

She was told she hadn’t studied hard enough to return for her second year, which left her with no good argument to put for me when I… Oh, never mind.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

Well, my sister’s a solicitor and I’m stepping out with a doctor.  Oh, and my father-in-law was a university lecturer. I have to conclude that we’re as professional and middle class as all get out. So, despite the Americanisms, yeah, I guess.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

Had more than 5,000 books in my childhood home, though I doubt it was up to 50,000. As Scout says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “I did not love to read; you do not love to breathe”.

9. Were read children’s books by a parent.

Until I was over 18, graduating from Winnie the Pooh through to Jane Austin.  One of the formative experiences of my life.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.

Private lessons I assume – my parents very sweetly paid for piano lessons and riding lessons.  Pigs were more likely to fly than I was ever likely to play the piano, and ponies and pony-girls just intimidated me, so it was a lovely gesture but a complete waste.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.

No.  The failure of the piano lessons and riding lessons probably put them off.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

I don’t know what or who “people who dress and talk like me” are, and I never watch tv anyway.  Um. My family could have stepped out of an Agatha Christie in many respects (those Celia Johnson voices) or Morse, or the Midsummer Murders even. Is being a murderer with be-a-u-tifully en-unc-i-at-ed vowels a positive representation or a negative one?  You decide.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

No freaking way.  Credit cards for teenagers?  No. Absolutely not. My parents had more than enough problems preventing their own costs from turning into debts to give us little debt-lets of our own.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

Local Education Authority Grant.  I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I was.

16. Went to a private high school.

Er.  Yes. It was pants though. A very nice school for the sweet but unintellectual daughters of doctors. Loathed it. Still get flashbacks.

17. Went to summer camp.

Mmm. Opera camp. Just typing it makes me blink in amazement.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.


19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.

Do guest-houses and pubs in English and Scottish seaside towns count as “hotels”?  They do, don’t they.  In fact my parents were pretty frugal with regards to summer holidays, and we tended to lig off family and friends who lived nearer the coast than we did.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.

Hah! No. None of it was.  It was either second hand (school uniforms) hand-me downs (I had two big sisters) or home made.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.

Surely a 10 year old Fiat 127 doesn’t count?

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.

But all painted by relatives. Pretty good, some of it, though.

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

I’m not sure what this means.  We were a three generation household, grandparents, parents and kids.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.


25. You had your own room as a child.


26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

I can remember being shocked by people who had TVs in their rooms at uni.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

I’d never even been abroad before I was 16. In fact the first time I went to Europe I was 28 or so and married.

31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

Oddly enough, they didn’t, but that was more a matter of their own philistinism than anything else.  I think it was “educational” and so they delegated it to the school to do that. My Ma read a lot of pretty middle-brow stuff, and that was it.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

I remember once, aged 5, being held in front of an open internal door and being told that I could feel the heat coming out of the room (I couldn’t) and that I should learn to shut doors. I also remember having baths by candlelight because of a mixture of powercuts and fuel prices.  I remember frost on the inside of the windows, though that was only one winter. I do remember lying in bed for an hour because it was too cold for me to want to get up. I may not have known how much the bills were, but I was very aware that fuel costs money, and still am.  I cannot leave a light on in an empty room to this day.

So 16 yeses out of 34.  I was raised and educated with middle class values but my parents were surprisingly uncultured: lots of books, but no trips to the theatre, art galleries, museums or concerts.  Privately educated, but definitely on the cheap.   There wasn’t, as I said, a lot of spare cash to go round.  However, I am irredeemably middle class. I’m nervous around plumbers and comfortable with lawyers, and I guess that proves it completely.

Oh well.

Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge – are you up for it?

I tumbled across Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge when reading Charlotte’s blog. Please read Emily’s whole post, in the meantime, I’m cutting to the chase and quoting verbatim.

So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

None of it should be too hard, right?

But all of it really is hard, isn’t it?

I’m going for the two options I’m already nearly doing, I’m afraid, which are the organic and local veg and recycling the packaging.  But since I’m already 3/4ths of the way there with those two, I’m also going to go for the lights-out option one day a week because it’s summer and it should be easy.   The thing that would make the biggest difference is if I wangled a transfer and worked in t’city, because I could get there by public transport.  Hmmm.  Small steps, I think, for the time being.

Failing to plan is much easier in the short term

Longer ago than it’s polite to admit, Bloglily tagged me with the meme to ask how I plan things. I didn’t do it, because I don’t really organise myself, so it never got on a to do list, so I never did it, so it’s all rather embarrassing. However, today I found a sheet of paper I wrote up a year ago when I was working out things that need doing to the house, and it clicked itself in beside the “must do Bloglily’s meme” entry in my brain, and so I offer it here. Pretty, isn’t it?

To Do List

And confusing. And impractical.

The long and the short is that I don’t have a consistent system. As I’ve said, I tend to carry my to do list around in my head which is a Bad Thing. The diagram above shows an attempt to get the list out of my head and prioritised in some way.

At work where these things matter, I either plonk my way through my email inbox, red flagging things that need dealing with and confirming them as complete when I’ve done them, or else I make a list in my notebook and tick them off when I’ve done them. I’ve taken recently to doing beautiful diagrams in Visio of things that need doing and the order they need doing in, and they look rather like demented seaweed. Oddly, I have a reputation at work for planning and preparation, but that is because I can be heard snarling things like “failing to plan is planning to fail” and “being without a list makes you listless” and “poor preparation makes for p***-poor performance” at myself, and occasionally at others.

Every five years or so I make a Life Plan. I write the things I want to have or do more of in coloured pen on a sheet of flip-chart paper. They tend to be fairly generic things like “laugh” and “do gardening”. I also work through the exercises in “What Color is Your Parachute” which help me think about what I want in my life and what I want out of it. It can take me years to gather my thoughts for the really big changes like buying a house or making a career change or choosing a degree course, but once I’ve gathered them I end up putting my criteria into a checklist of 4 – 8 things. I am then ruthlessly uncompromising about the criteria on the list, but very patient.

Ultimately though, I find that lists of things to do are usually so oppressive and depressing, and full of so much obligation and so little that’s actually worth doing for its own sake, that I tend not to bother. Which is why only half of the things on the picture above have actually been dealt with a year later.