Category: Personal

Stuff happening in my life

Lily was our dog. She moved in at nine years old in March 2010 and died 12 February 2016. She had separation anxiety, which meant she was at our feet twenty-four hours a day (literally – she slept on the end of our bed). Luckily, it wasn’t too difficult for us to accommodate her – every single one of her 2,169 nights she slept in a bed with one or both of us. In any given week, she probably spent a maximum of 2 hours without us (though usually with a cat or two). She made us smile and laugh every single one of those days and I’m going to miss her dearly.

Louisa wrote something about her too, over on her blog.

Google Poetics: once in darkness

Google Poetics is a project to record the beautiful poetry that Google’s autocomplete feature sometimes writes.

Inspired by this recent example, I recorded a song the lyrics of which are entirely Google autocomplete suggestions.

Don’t tell your audience you’re ill-prepared

I sometimes hear conference speakers admit they only finished their slides minutes before their talk started. Or I see them the day before admitting that they still have to write the whole thing.

Whether you’re presenting at a huge national conference or a smaller local group, this is simply disrespectful to the people who take the time to be your audience.

The only reasonable explanation I have for why people do this is that they’re trying to manage expectations. Concerned it won’t go well they make as if it was a last minute job, even if it wasn’t. If it does turn out to be a disaster then, well, they didn’t try hard. If it’s a success, even better! They just threw a great talk together without any effort.

But when a speaker admits this kind of thing, all I hear is that they don’t care enough about my time to prepare and for some inexplicable reason, they’re terribly proud of themselves for it. Bragging about it almost.

Not all talks require major preparation but even the shortest and most basic require proper consideration.

Not everyone has time to prepare in-depth talks but if you know that’ll be a problem for you, perhaps you shouldn’t agree to speak in the first place.

If you do find yourself ill-prepared though, might I suggest that you don’t let your audience in on it.

Don’t be proud about wasting their time.

That just makes it worse.

Condenser microphones don’t like humidity

I bought a Behringer B5 condenser microphone a couple of years ago to record my acoustic guitar. Add in a second  dynamic mic I already owned and a little two channel USB preamp with phantom power and it sounded really nice.

Then after a few months the condenser mic started picking up some interference.  It was a weird kind of rumble but with a kind of radio tuning sound, and the odd pop and click.

I tried changing channels, switched power supplies and cables but nothing helped.

Finally I came across a forum post describing a similar problem with the cause being humidity. Apparently condenser mics don’t do well in humid conditions and my office is a little damp. I’d left my mic out of its case a couple of times in these conditions and it got damp. The silica gel packet that came in the case should have been a clue.

Anyway, I popped my mic in my electric oven set at 30C, left it for 30mins and now it’s as good as new! Phew.

Animal Abolitionism and Rationality

I was listening to a Philosophy Bites interview with Gary Francione about animal abolitionism. Animal abolitionists argue that animal welfare reform is nonsense and animals should not be regarded as things to be owned and used. He’s very compelling and his apparently clear reasoning is quite convincing.

During the podcast Francione explained the philosophy of Peter Singer, considered the founder of the animal rights movement. Singer essentially argues animals don’t understand death therefore they don’t suffer knowing it’s coming so killing them is not causing suffering.

Francione doesn’t agree and counters by arguing that the animal would obviously prefer to live rather than be killed.

At a first look, this seems to be clear reasoning but in actual fact it’s a bit of a switcheroo. Singer says it is ok to kill animals because they cannot reason about their own death. Francione says that if they could reason about their own death, they’d prefer to live, so killing them is morally wrong. But Singer’s argument would not apply to an animal that could reason about its own death!

By instilling the animal with the power of reason, Francione transforms it into an animal that Singer would not support the killing of anyway. Singer’s argument only applies to animals that cannot reason in that way!

So we should eat meat?

It’s important for me to make clear that I think Francione’s argument for veganism is probably stronger than Singer’s argument for eating meat (or at least stronger than my own understanding of Singer’s argument at this stage). Beyond the theory,  it’s not really possible to avoid unnecessary suffering to an animal during the meat production process. And any suffering at all is arguably unnecessary, since most people do not need to eat meat to survive. It’s not quite this simple, but I think Francione is broadly right.

I still eat meat though. I’m generally quite careful about the source of my meat, and often eat vegetarian wherever I can’t be sure of the source but I’m still not really convinced I should be eating meat.

Yet I still do eat meat. It’s easy to say humans are rational beings and how that separates us from other animals, but how many of us actually live rationally? Clearly I don’t!

Open source pasta sauce

Pasta sauce

This is my pork and beef mince pasta sauce recipe, heavily inspired by my Grandma’s recipe. I cook it in a casserole dish with a lid in the oven for about 4 hours. This is not quick food, but it’s well worth the wait and this recipe makes about 6-7 big portions, suitable for freezing.


  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g beef mince
  • a little olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 140g cans tomato purée
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Couple of fists full of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Chop the onions and fry them in the olive oil for 5 mins (don’t brown them)
  2. Finely chop and add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes
  3. Add the pork and beef mince, fry on a high heat until it’s no longer pink
  4. Tear up the basil into little bits and add to pot
  5. Add everything else, mix well and bring to boil
  6. Put lid on pot, put in pre-heated oven at 150 degrees Celsius
  7. Cook for 4 hours, stirring once an hour or so

It’s interesting to taste the sauce as it cooks – it really does get better and better the longer you cook it. I used to cook it on a regular stove top but it required almost constant stirring to avoid burning so now I cook it in the casserole dish. Maybe your stove can go lower than mine. A friend tried it with a slow cooker (after frying everything on the stove) and said it works just fine but I’ve yet to give that a go myself. My Grandma used to just sit and stir it all day.

If you like it wetter, add some passata. You can probably leave out the brown sugar – I’ve not really been able to tell a difference with or without it myself.

Serve with some pasta, with plenty of Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the recipe from 1kg pork mince to 50/50 pork/beef mince after some feedback from friends, and some experimentation of my own. It’s a lot tastier like this and it turns out, this is actually what my grandma used to do!

UPDATE: I’ve changed the recipe, switching out the “mixed dry Italian herbs” for actual real fresh basil leaves. My mum told me that’s what my Grandma used and it really makes a major difference to the flavour.

Lily suddenly not sure if toilet roll is toy

Lily eating toilet roll

Domes on Mars – Pathfinder Mission

The recent NASA “Curiosity” mission that just landed reminded me of something I did the last time a robot was exploring up there.

It was July 1997, and I was 18 years old and relatively new to the Internet (having been knocking around it for only a couple of years at that point, by my recollection). I was a keen computer artist, using Lightwave 3D at the time.

So when the Mars Pathfinder robot landed and made big news, it was only natural that I rendered some domes onto the first photos they published and put them on the Internet, claiming them to be “The images NASA doesn’t want you to see”.

Much to my surprise, the counter on the free webspace I had with my Demon Internet dial-up account quickly starting increasing. Many hundreds of thousands of hits, which was a lot in those days (as it took 20 minutes just to connect to the Internet and the only way to find things was with gopher and downloading a photo was something you left running overnight and it all cost so much money, unless you used stolen “Red Hot Ant” free dialup numbers which everyone did all the time).

Anyway, long story short, it attracted lots of attention. I was interviewed live on some American crackpot Art Bell radio show (Atlanta’s WGST Planet Radio). I told them I found the images in the bins round the back of NASA). It was in magazines (well, one). And I became rich and famous and banned from ever visiting Mars.

Anyway, the Internet Archive has a copy of the text and I managed to find this one image some daft consipiracy website had kept a copy of. And here it is in all it’s glory.

And there began my long career of being a dick on the Internet.

UPDATE: The Way Back When machine is able to show my original site now and it has all my silly explanation of the origin of the photos (plus this bonus photo shows a figure stood in the distance)

UPDATE: I found an old backup of the images, plus some wireframes of the rendering I did to make the domes

UPDATE: I found an old issue of “Connect” magazine a friend gave me at the time, back when magazines still existed. Connect was basically just a list of links to funny stuff on the Internet this week and they reviewed the site in their Conspiracies section.

Killing and butchering a chicken

At the weekend I killed a chicken, and Louisa and I plucked it and then Louisa butchered it. It was one of a few chicks that turned out to be male, so his fate was to be killed and eaten by us.

This was the second chicken I’ve killed myself (for food or otherwise) – the first one took a bit of mental preparation but this one was a bit easier.

He has a pretty good free range life, was killed quickly and we’ll waste very little of him (we’ve already had a soup made from cooking his carcass in the slowcooker).

Louisa has written up the experience in more detail on her blog.

Here are some photos – you might consider them a little grisly.


Inside Google Plus

Steven Levy interviewed Google’s Bradley Horowitz about Google+:

Wired: Some users are chafing at Google’s insistence that they provide real names. Explain the policy against pseudonyms.

Horowitz: Google believes in three modes of usage—anonymous, pseudonymous, and identified, and we have a spectrum of products that use all three. For anonymity, you can go into incognito mode in Chrome and the information associated with using the browser is not retained. Gmail and Blogger are pseudonymous—you can go be But with products like Google Checkout, you’re doing a financial transaction and you have to use your real name.For now, Google+ falls into that last category. There are great debates going on about this—I saw one comment yesterday that claimed that pseudonyms protect the experience of women in the system. I felt compelled to respond, because I’ve gotten feedback from women who say that the accountability of real names makes them feel much more comfortable in Google+.

Notice that Horowitz did not answer the question, and what he did say was just ridiculous nonsense. Steven Levy at Wired didn’t seem to notice, or care.

Horowitz tries to make us think that we need our real name when making a financial transaction.  Thousands of years of currency proves that is not the case.

Horowitz then goes on to blurrily equate making a financial transaction with sharing videos of cats on Google+.

And then the cherry on the top: Google+ protects women.

This was the closest there was to a serious question in the whole interview and Horowitz just laughed out of his arse at it.


Breaking my blog embargo

I often find myself in the situation where I’ve not blogged for a long time which makes it difficult to write a new one, as if the long delay means the next blog has to be weighty and impressive.

I’ve realised this is an illusion. Nobody is sitting in wait for my next blog entry. Nobody else has noticed I’ve not blogged in ages. Only I know I’ve not blogged in ages. And I certainly shouldn’t care about what I think.

So I’m breaking my accidental self-imposed blog embargo with this mundane entry which says nothing of import.

If you were hoping for something of more consequence then I make no apology, though your hopes disprove my above realisation, which is irksome to say the least.

Chat Roulette: Eye Vagina

Chat Roulette is a web site that hooks you up to a random person. It streams their webcam video and audio to you, and your’s to them.  When you’re done, you click next and get another random person. That’s the whole thing.  It’s fun, for a short period of time.

Anyway, whilst holding my webcam to different parts of my body (if you ever use my webcam, wash your hands) I discovered that my eye, on its side, with the right lighting, and right shadows, and bad focus, through a webcam… looks kinda, possibly, a bit like girl bits.

It’s probably fair to say that, for a large proportion of the random strangers on Chat Roulette, the “Next” button is usually clicked in the hope of seeing a girl flashing some part of her body.

Combine these two seemingly unconnected facts together, and you get some of the reactions you see in my Eye Vagina video!  The music is “My Vagina” by NOFX. I edited out roughly 300 people jerking off.  The vid has had more than half a million hits on you tube. I’m expecting my share of their fat advertising profits any day now.

I recorded it using recordmydesktop and edited it using Pitivi (which actually had some very annoying audo sync problems I had to jump through hoops to avoid, which was a shame).