Showing posts from January, 2014

Be careful what you say

I always try to be careful what I say.  I don't always succeed, and from time to time I do say things I wish I hadn't, but generally I try to think of how what I say - and how I say it - may affect someone else. I was thinking the other day of my time back at Symbian, many years ago.  Back in the day, I moved down to London for work, and was just settling into a new job, a new flat and the idea that I now lived in London rather than just visited.  I was young, excited and eager.  All of those things have worn off with the years, but back then I was keen.  Back at Symbian we used Lotus Notes for email.  Yes, really.  It had this peculiar habit that whenever you set an Out Of Office message, it would retrospectively send a message to all the people who had emailed you during the day.  I'd never used it before working at Symbian, so I wasn't to know this.  A few months into working there, I had a week off and so set an Out Of Office, as did everyone else.  Unbeknownst to

Laying my insecurities burr

I have an accent.  We all do.  Even those without a “regional” accent in England, for instance, have a way of pronouncing words which is different to other people’s way of pronouncing the same words.    I’ve recently decided to pick up French lessons again after a few years away from it. French is the only language other than my native English which I can use to any degree beyond “stringing a few nouns together”.  I am very self-conscious speaking French, though.  In French lessons over the years, I’ve spent quite a long time working on pronunciation.  French vowels are – in the main – very different to English vowels and the key to making what you’re saying “sound French” is largely about getting the vowels to sound French. But doing so exposes the accent I have in English.  I have a Liverpudlian accent when speaking English.  It’s really mellowed over the years, but it’s still there and one of the places where it comes across most strongly is in the vowel sounds.  When I’m s

It wasn't a ghost...

... in fact it wasn't really anything at all. A few days ago, I w rote about hearing a voice in the middle of the night .  I had a few ideas at the time what I may actually be hearing, but it was only a couple of nights ago when I had the chance to try out my theory and see whether it was what I suspected.  And it was. I actually found it quite an interesting puzzle.  It's a bit like watching a magic trick and trying to work out how it's done.  The first thing you have to do is draw the line on the things you're not going to consider as answers.  So when trying to work out how a trick is done, this is the point at which you'd say "the magician did not really make the rabbit appear from nowhere".  You have to disconnect what you actual saw from what you think you saw.  And so I had to stop thinking about what I think I heard, and think about what it was that I actually heard. I've written in the past about  pareidolia.  It's the thing which c

Ghostly voices in the night

So this is an absolutely true story.   The other night, I woke up at 3.14am - the mathematician in me wouldn't forget that time.  Everything was quiet and dark, but I could hear a male voice.  It sounded like a distant radio.  Only one word every now and then was actually discernible, but it was a male voice talking slowly and deliberately as though talking on radio.  It was a calm voice. I lay in bed trying to make out the words, but couldn't make it out. It was - annoyingly - just too quiet to be made into sentences and understand what it was saying, but it definitely sounded like a male voice.  Almost insistent like a DJ on talk show making a point.  Rising and falling, and the odd word being discernible amongst the mumble. After listening to it for a few minutes, I decided to investigate.  My first thought was that my bedside radio had turned into on (or I had knocked it and turned it on) with the volume very low.  But no. It was turned off.  As was the radio the othe

Overly helpful - but totally useless

I quite often pop into Holland and Barrett in Chiswick.  It's a shop I love and loathe in equal measure.  They very often have great offers which make ingredients such as cashews, almonds and other bits really cheap - but equally they do stock a lot of new-age pseudo-medical homeopathic-herbal bollocks too. The staff are very friendly.  So friendly, that it makes it hard to dislike the sheer amount of time they take just to put something in a bag.  They ask for your reward card and then try to push an over-priced and (probably, although I've never read it) content free magazine on your for a couple of quid.  I know they probably have a little sticky label inside the till drawer telling them how many they must shift per week per person, but it still grates.   The worst thing of all is the way the passive aggressive way they have been told (obviously, as they all do the same in every branch) to ask for your reward card by saying "do you have your reward card with you?&qu

I don't like 2014 so far

2014 seems to be quite a wet year.  It's not stopped raining and it's quite windy too. I don't like 2014.  It's too wet. Of course, that's nonsense.  But it's not a million miles away from the response you get if you ask for advice on holiday destinations. "How was ?" "It was terrible, the people are all very rude the whole time!" "How many times have you been?" "Oh, just the once" And it turns out that someone was just slightly brusque with them in a supermarket on the second day and suddenly the whole population of is decried as rude. We're currently in the process of trying to find somewhere to go for a few days to get a bit of warmth in the winter this year.  It seems that whatever destination you mention, someone has something bad to say and it's generally based on a sample size so small as to be meaningless. Of course, people are made to be good at deducing things from tiny simple sets.  Ev