What If? By Randall Munroe – A Book Review

Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions.

What If? is a book I had seen around and wanted for quite a long time, the times I’d seen it I was usually on a self-imposed book buying ban for one reason or another. Eventually I gave in and bought and I’m so glad I did. It comes from the creator of XKCD, a humorous science focused comic (there are some sketches below). It markets itself as answering absurd hypothetical question in a serious scientific way and it really does, the science seems sound and the questions are, as promised, ridiculous. But the best thing about this book is its sense of humour. It’s so easy for a science based book to be dry, particularly when it’s full of theory, but not this one. The captions, notes, measurements, images all raise a smile one way or another.

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If you’re not a scientist and are worried it will be over your head, I think you’ll cope. It’s written in a very accessible manner, explained in a way that anyone with a sense of logic, or passing familiarity with school level science will understand where the solutions are coming from. It’s not filled with numbers and formulas, but more with concepts, ideas and expansion of everyday occurrences, usually the explanations link to experiences the average reader will likely be familiar with. That being said, there were still occasional moments where I would read a sentence and need to read several times before any of the words made sense; ‘If a bullet with the density of a neutron star were fired from a handgun (ignoring the how) at the Earth’s surface, would the Earth be destroyed?’

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So what sort of questions are covered by What If? I won’t tell you everything that’s in the book, I’d hate to take away the element of surprise, but I’ll tell you a few of the questions answered:

·  How many humans would a rampaging T-Rex need to eat each day? The sort of question we all want to know the answer to

·  How much force power can Yoda output? Quantifying Sci-Fi for the sci-fi fans out there.

·  If you call a random phone number and say “God Bless you,” what are the chances that the person who answered just sneezed? I love statistics and the maths of randomness so this really appealed to me, and frankly the idea just made me laugh.

·   When (if ever) did the sun finally set on the British Empire? I definitely learnt something here, as a Brit myself this was highly interesting.

Some of the questions do have relevance, though you may struggle to believe me looking at the list above. Some relate to Facebook, data transfer, and computing capacity of humans verses computers. Over all it’s a fascinating collection of questions with equally intriguing answers. Such a wide range of ideas are covered that I frequently learnt new things, some may even come in useful one day, who knows.

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The arrangement of the book in to well defined questions and answers means you can just read the one’s that interest you – though frankly even the ones you wouldn’t naturally be interested in are still fascinating. It also means it’s easy to pick up and put down, it’s not really a binge read type book, I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it all straight, you can’t help but stop and ponder some of the ideas, you’d probably miss out if you didn’t take your time. I read it across a few weeks simultaneously with a fictional book and it worked well or me.

I mentioned the humour in the book, I don’t know why I was surprised by this as I have come across the XKCD comics before and so really should have expected a similar lightness to ‘What If?’ A piece of advice when reading this book, read the notes, read the captions, read every single word on every page as there is likely to be a nugget hiding, even the disclaimer at the start made me smile. Not all of the jokes are hidden, sometimes it’s open silliness. At one point Randall shows his working and final answer using distance measurements in units of giraffes just because he can. The cartoons throughout are also worth taking a proper look at, they have the classic XKCD style to them.

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Throughout the book, on most pages, are little numbered superscripts that direct you to a note at the bottom of the page, as any good scientific document would; If you read these you may find a relevant more heavily scientific piece of information, or instead some nonsense or ramblings from the author. For example on one page the text is as follows: ‘Nobody has ever lost all of the DNA,2’ If you check the note at the bottom of the page you would find the extremely useful information as follows: ‘2 I don’t have a citation for this, but I feel we would have heard about it.’

In between the questions answered are occasional pages of ‘Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox.’ All the questions answered had been submitted by the public, but amongst the ones chosen to be answered were many that were not chosen to be answered, looking at these little collections you can probably see why. Again it helps to keep the book light and manageable.

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So in Summary this book is great, I thoroughly recommend it. It is the most enjoyable science based non-fiction book I have ever read. If you like Randall Munroe, XKCD, science in any way, or just a touch of daftness then I reckon you’d like this book too.

If you want to check out some science based comics from XKCD, the website is http://xkcd.com/

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – A Book Review

My intention of reading and reviewing a book a week has fallen by the wayside. I am still reading though in a less forced manner and am consequently enjoying it more. I have just finished reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood which was first published in 2003. This is the first in her MaddAddam series, a post apocalyptic series set after humanity has screwed up the world through using science to play God. Atwood herself describes the book as speculative fiction and adventure romance rather than sci-fi as all the science described already exists to a certain degree.

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I had heard of Margaret Atwood before, and always in a positive manner. I firmly believed she was a good writer even though I had never read any of her work, such is the effect of reviews. Having now read Oryx and Crake, I still believe this to be true, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I was completely satisfied by the novel.

The novel focuses on Jimmy, a.k.a. Snowman. You follow his life as he struggles to exist in this new destroyed world and learn of the cause of the current state through his musings on his past. Even the earliest point of Jimmy’s memory is set in our future, science has developed to the stage of creating new creatures, growing organs, and generally playing God. The elite are those that are scientifically intelligent, all other skills are no longer valued. Those who are of use in the fast evolving world of microbiology and genetic engineering live in little cocoons of apparent safety and normality called Compounds and Modules (I imagine it a bit like the Truman Show), while the unwashed masses live outside the walls, in the Pleeblands, where disease and crime run free.I would explain the plot but there isn’t really one as such, or if there is it’s a bit like Columbo, where your shown the ending at the start and then spend the rest of your time trying to figure out how you got there.

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I am still convince Margaret Atwood is a brilliant writer, however her book was not what I expected; true to my usual rule, I refused to find out anything about the book before reading and reviewing which leaves me quite vulnerable to this particular fate. The author throws you straight in to the middle of everything with little to know information, in much the same way you can learn a language through immersion I think Atwood tries to get you to understand her world through immersion also. Words and names like OrganInc and Pigoons, Wolvogs and Rakunks are thrown at you with no explanation, echoes of spoken words come from the past without a known speaker and rules without obvious reasons are stated; gradually as memories are shared and the story evolves most ideas come into focus and a clearer picture forms. Over all I think I quite liked the approach, it was hard at first but the more you read the more it makes sense. I imagine it is a book that will have even more to it reading a second time.

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Another unexpected side to this book was the language and some of the topics. I don’t know whether to call it coarse, crude, base or gritty, but it certainly isn’t family friendly. It rarely if ever seems to be thrown in pointlessly but over all it had a much coarser feel to it than I had imagined. Sex, porn, snuff, human trafficking and others are mentioned, not in a sexy, explicit sort of way, but in a ‘this is how far humanity has sunk’ kind of way. It’s all written in quite a blunt manner, never glorifying or reveling in any of it, simply as part of the narrative.

The main characters themselves are all very flawed and damaged, when you have gone through and apocalypse that is understandable, but even the early times, when they are children there are may characteristics and manners that are hard to find acceptable. Again I think that maybe Atwood commenting on the state of man at that point. Going back to Atwood’s description of the novel as ‘speculative fiction and adventure romance’, ‘speculative fiction’ is a good name for it. It is quite clearly a vivid picture of how Atwood can see the world getting lost in humanities self importance. ‘Adventure romance’ however I struggle to see. If there is any relationship that could be considered romantic then it is a deeply unhealthy one. The word adventure also seems miss-applied, adventure has such a positive spin to it, there is little if anything positive about the lives revealed in Oryx and Crake.

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So overall I would say that Oryx and Crake is well written. It is gripping, it is clever, it is well researched and developed. The world is fully created, the history well incorporated into the novel and the language is descriptive and emotive. As negatives I must say there seems very little plot, and the ending wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, however there are two other books so it may be redeemed yet. The fact that I fully intend to read the other two books may be all you need to know about this one. I will also hunt out the TV series that is being developed when that is available as well.

TV Tendencies

Like many people, I enjoy a bit of TV from time to time. I enjoy it most when I am fully into a series, when I know the characters and can watch from episode to episode as they develop as well as the episodes particular plot. The three main TV genres I enjoy are Brit-coms, crime dramas and comedy panel shows. I watch bits and pieces of other shows but these are my core group. Once I am hooked on a series I will watch it religiously. I record episodes if I can’t watch live and feel a bit lost when a season is over. If I’ve particularly enjoyed a series I will endeavor to own it either as a download or DVD. It’s quite similar to my enjoyment of books. I do re-read books, but only those that have created a world or characters I really love.  If it was just the unpredictability of the plot that kept me then it probably won’t be enjoyed as much a second time.

I’ll start with Brit-coms (British sitcoms); they are different to American sit-coms, the humour is different though the lay-out can be similar. The differences are why American versions are sometimes made, such as The Office. Some of my favourites are listed below.

Dinnerladies – starring, written and co-produced by Victoria Wood during 1998-2000 this is possibly my favourite series ever. Following the lives of the canteen staff at a factory it stars a ton of Brtitish talent: Victoria Wood as Brenda Furlong,  Andrew Dunn as Tony Martin, Thelma Barlow as Dolly Bellfield, Anne Reid as Jean, Maxine Peake as Twinkle, Shobna Gulati as Anita , Duncan Preston as Stan Meadowcroft, Celia Imrie as Philippa Moorcroft and Julie Walters as Petula Gordino. It only ran for 2 series with 16 episodes about half an hour long. The writing is so clever and quick that even though I’ve seen all the episodes numerous times they still make me physically laugh (even when watching on my own) and I still discover new references I’d not noticed before.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Dinnerladies clip 1, Dinnerladies clip 2, Dinnerladies clip 3

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The Good Life – Another best of British comedy actors, the core cast of 4 are Richard Briers as Tom Good, Felicity Kendal as Barbara Good, Penelope Keith as Margo Leadbetter and Paul Eddington as Jeremy “Jerry” Leadbetter. In this series we follow Tom and Barbara who decide to go self-sufficient in the middle of Subiton, much to their neighbours chagrin. Originally airing in 1975-1978 with a live episode viewed by the Queen herself, this is my close runner up for favourite TV show ever. The two marriages are so vastly different and yet perfectly matched. In some ways a very gentle show but still wonderfully funny and feel good. It aired in America under the title of Good Neighbors.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – The Good Life clip 1, The Good Life clip 2, The Good Life clip 3

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The best modern equivalent I’ve found for these is Miranda. Starring and written by Miranda Hart, with Sarah Hadland, Tom Ellis, Patricia Hodge, Sally Phillips, James Holmes making up the rest of the main cast. It follows the life of Miranda as she tries to do life as an adult, running a joke shop and being socially awkward with a mother desperate to marry her off. Slightly more slapstick than the others it still has that self-contained small cast British humour to it.  It ran from 2009 until 2015 with a couple of bonus specials. I’m quite sad it’s over but also glad they didn’t run it into the ground.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Miranda clip 1, Miranda clip 2, Miranda clip 3.

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Other series I’ve enjoyed in this vain are:

To the Manor Born (starring Penelope Keith & Peter Bowles)

Exectutive Stress (starring Penelope Keith and Geoffrey Palmer/Peter Bowles)

The Darling Buds of May (Pam Ferris, David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones)

In the realm of crime dramas there is so much choice both British and American, though as you may expect they have a different feel to them.

My current obsession is Sue Thomas F.B.Eye. I am working through it episode by episode, one a day as they are showing them on the Alibi channel in the UK at the moment. This is one of the slowest, most gently, family friendly crime dramas in the world, ever. To some it may seem inordinately dull but I am at the stage of knowing the characters and really enjoy visiting their very American world. It ran from 2002 to 2005 with 56 episodes. The series is loosely based on the real life experience of Sue Thomas, a deaf woman whose ability to read lips landed her a job with an elite surveillance team at the FBI. Starring Deanne Bray as Sue Thomas, Yannick Bisson as Jack Hudson (in a less wooden role than Murdoch Mysteries), Rick Peters as Bobby, Enuka Okuma as Lucy, Marc Gomes as Dimitrius, Ted Atherton as Myles Leland III, Tara Samuel as Tara and of course Levi the hearing dog. If you can get over the tweeness it’s great.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Sue Thomas clip 1, Sue Thomas clip 2

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One of my all-time favourites is Jonathan Creek (played by Alan Davis), particularly the early series that co-starred Caroline Quentin as Maddy. Jonathan Creek is a creative consultant to a stage magician who gets roped in to solving unexplainable supposedly supernatural mysteries, inevitably his creative logic find a rational explanation for everything. It has the feel of a modern, more humorous Sherlock Holmes.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips Jonathan Creek clip 1, Jonathan Creek clip 2

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In the realm of light crime crime dramas I would also include my love of:

Death in Paradise (starring Ben miller/Kris Marshall)

Midsomer Murders (Starring John nettles for the most part)

Rosmary and Thyme (starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris)

55 Degrees North (starring Dervla Kirwan and Don Gilet)

Lie to Me (starring Tim Roth, Kelli Williams) – I was gutted this had so few series.

Miss Marple (based on Agatha Christie)

Poirot (based on Agatha Christie)

Bones (starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel)

Castle (starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic)

NCIS (starring Mark Harmon)

… I could go on forever.

For something a little grittier you have

Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) a modern take on Sherlock Holmes.

CSI (I’m particularly partial to the original series)

Criminal minds – one of the more sinister series but gripping

For comedy panel shows, you’re spoilt for choice in the UK, but my favourites are Would I Lie To You and QI. Would I lie to you works as a game where each team tries to guess whether the other is telling and outlandish lie or an outlandish truth about themselves. The two team captains really make this show great, David Mitchell and Lee Mac are very different and very funny and play off each other really well.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – WILTY clip 1, WILTY clip 2, WILTY clip 3

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QI is a general knowledge quiz that focuses on common misconceptions and misunderstandings. The panel always features comical guests and I never see and episode without both laughing a learning something. Stephen Fry presents and Alan Davis is a constant fixture, again the interplay between the two is always amusing.

If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – QI clip 1, QI clip 2, QI clip 3

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Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you know any series along these lines that I’ve not mentioned add them in  the comments.

Daily Doodle – 10 Day Update (End of February 2016)

I’m more organised this week and therefore have managed to get my pictures online a bit quicker. I’m proud of this bunch, there’s some intricate work, some good colours and mostly some well finished pieces. My particular focus lately (if you can see any focus at all) is expressions; I’ve noticed I’m not very good at giving characters any personality so I’ve been trying to improve. I think mostly I’ve succeeded; perhaps further exaggeration would help.

A Rant on Space Exploration

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link http://drawingsforjade.com/tag/stars/ – I really love this picture.

To become an astronaut seems to be the dream of many young children, I was never one of them. I don’t think it is a bad goal to have, if nothing else it encourage focus at school, specifically in the sciences which being a Geophysicist myself I am naturally biased towards. My issue is that I see actual space exploration as rather pointless, certainly the rockets side of things. I realise there will be many people who totally disagree and think the future is out there and we would be fools to not invest in that research now before it is too late. I think not, I think we have massively got our priorities wrong.

I’ve been pondering why we spend so much on space, what it is we are looking for, why it is important and I’ve come up with a few good reasons. The main reason that I feel is remotely valid is scientific discovery. Who knows what may be out there waiting for us. A new element or at least isotope. A new organism; life outside our planet, maybe even intelligent life. These would be truly useful discoveries. Other discoveries such as evidence of how the universe formed, or the history of a nearby planet I think are less practically useful as it is unlikely they could influence any future advancements but still would satisfy our human need to understand.

Against these I have the age old argument that there is still much we don’t know about our own planet. The Marianas Trench is the deepest place on our earth and there is still much we don’t know about the creatures that live down there. Our own magnetic field has never been fully understood, comparable to a bar magnet on the surface but with many more lobes when considered at depth. Our best technology and interpretations are rife with uncertainties and non-uniqueness problems. The idea that we will better understand the universe when in space verses when on our own planet is not one I find convincing. Copernicus, Kepler and many others since determined a huge amount about space simply by observing from earth, and I really don’t think anything discovered in space can rival their developments. Even the recent discovery of gravitational waves (predicted by Einstein) was discovered from earth.

Another idea that is often mentioned with space exploration is the idea that mankind will one day move from our own planet, into space or to another planet. Many people search space for planets in the ‘goldilocks zone’ (not to hot, not to cold) a planet able to sustain human life. A planet that can be terraformed into our own preferred environment. Finding a place for us to migrate to when our own planet cannot sustain us any longer. With increasing population and diminishing resources I can see why the idea of a nice new planet would appeal.

This is one of the most ridiculous arguments there is as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, when exactly are we expecting to need this, thousands or millions of years in the future, we’ve never bothered thinking that far ahead in terms of saving our own planet or resources. Look at the mess we’re making with energy, determined to invest money in extracting every last drop of non-renewable fuel we can with enhanced recovery, fracing and drilling trickier plays rather than putting more money into developing alternatives. Secondly the distances in space are so vast that reaching them would be highly unlikely, and the planet even still existing is questionable in the time it took for the planets signal to reach us who knows what could have happened to it. Kepler-186f is the closet best candidate for us and that is 490 light years away. Just in case you aren’t aware, that’s 490 times the distance light can travel in a year. It is a very long way and we can’t travel as fast as light. Pretty sure Newton had a theory about that. As a rough indication, the fastest any man has ever travelled is just under 7 miles per second and light travels at just over 186,282 miles per second. At our fastest speed it would take over 13 million years to reach! Call me closed minded, unimaginative or defeatist, but science is never going to overcome that obstacle.

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One of the great advantages of all the money that goes into space exploration is that often there are scientific advancements that can be trickled into other sectors. Of course if the focus had been on simply creating these advancements in the first place it likely would have been more efficient.

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In a nutshell that is my issue with space exploration. It’s nonsensical. I realise in the grand scheme of things the space exploration budget is not completely disproportionate and yet the time, effort and money to send even one person to space verses the reward, is something that boggles my mind. The only real reason I can see for this illogical endeavour is that we are an intrinsically competitive and curious species. We want to be the first, we want to be the best; we want to understand, to have seen, to have conquered. The race for the moon is a classic example, each was desperate to be first but when it was finally reached, there wasn’t really much there. Space is boring, the clue is in the name; it’s pretty much empty. Massive dark empty stretches of nothingness. I just don’t understand the fascination.

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Synaesthesia, Or The Crossing of Senses.

Most people would likely agree that we have 5 key senses. We see with our eyes, we hear with our ears, we smell with our nose, taste with our tongue and feel through touch. It seems straight forward enough, however for some of us, that’s not exactly what we experience. There is a neurological phenomenon called synaesthesia in which there is some confusion between senses. For example some people taste sounds, or see pain.

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Some of the better known types of synaesthesia are as follows:

Grapheme-colour synaesthesia – where individual letters, numbers or words induce the experience of a colour.

Chromesthesia – where sounds induce the experience of a colour

Spatial sequence synaesthesia – where numbers and sequences exist in space

Auditory-tactile synaesthesia – sounds induce a sensation associated with touch

Ordinal linguistic personification – sequences, such as numbers, week-day names, and alphabetical letters exist as personalities

Mirror-touch synesthesia – where observation of another person experiencing touch induces the same sensation in themselves

Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia – where sounds induce the sensation of taste

Spatio-temporal synaesthesia – where time is experienced as a spatial construct like a map of the year.

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There are other forms not mentioned, and in fact very little is known about most. Grapheme-colour synaesthesia is considered the most common, where as those forms related to taste and touch are considered rarer. What differentiates synaesthesia from mere association is the consistency and lack of thought that goes into it. You can ask someone years later what colour the letter H is and it will likely be exactly the same to them. It can’t be learnt, taught, or got rid of, it is simply the way some people brains are wired.

General consensus on synaesthesia is that it is not a handicap, and can in fact be very helpful specifically in memory related tasks. People with spatial sequence synaesthesia generally have great chronological memory. Grapheme-colour synaesthesia, or ordinal linguistic personification provide you with an extra idea you can latch on to remember things by. However in extreme cases people can struggle with sensory overload.

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There are some online tests you can do for some of the more common forms of synaesthesia but for greater reliability they need to be taken multiple times years apart. The one I have completed a few times is for grapheme-colour synaesthesia at synesthete.org. It gives you a full colour range to select the colour you experience for different letters and numbers, testing for consistency and speed; my results are below.

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I myself experience two main types of synaesthesia. One is grapheme-colour synaesthesia, generally considered the most common, and the other is ordinal linguistic personification which is less known about. I had no idea that this wasn’t how everybody experienced life until I was in my late teens. My mum and I could hold conversations about what colour certain letters or numbers were (it seems she has a mild form of synaesthesia also), or when naming cars or any object really rationalising the name by saying it was a red name or a blue name. My red and chrome MG BGT was called Archie for obvious reasons to my mind. It was only when I happened to catch a documentary about the phenomenon that I realised that it wasn’t the standard view of the world.

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When I say I experience things visually I mean for example that the number 4 is a pillar box red, I don’t associate it with red, I don’t mentally link it with red, it just is red, there is no thought that goes into it; it just is. Similarly other letters, numbers and words they have a different visual existence for me than their basic form.

The ordinal linguistic personification I experience most strongly with numbers. The number 6 is awful, like a black hole, controlling and evil, tainting and overpowering everything around it. The number 9 in contrast is like a slightly gloomy, geeky, teenage boy; tall and lanky with spots. The number 7 is my favourite, he’s like a loveable rogue, a con artist but only going after bad guys. They also have colours and this on the whole I find useful. In fact I memorised my bank card pin by colour and have a sense of whether a number is right or wrong by the colour I experience and whether it matches what I remember.

The only problems this has ever caused me is when certain object aren’t really the colour the I experience when thinking about them, or when letters and numbers are all together like post codes or number plates. For example the Olivine is a white word, however the mineral is green. The word Quartz is a black word however the mineral is white. When you’re studying geophysics and have to take exams on mineral properties this can get very confusing. I also get the number 4 and the letter A confused as they are exactly the same shade of red.

There is a novel I intend to read called A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass that follows the life of a 13 year old girl with synaesthesia. I believe it’s quite well known in America but harder to get hold of here in the UK.

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Jigsaw Puzzles

I have a cold, I have had it for a few days now, consequently I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself and hibernating to a degree. During my cosy house week I have completed a few jigsaw puzzles, one was a family present off some friends, another an old one out of the cupboard that I’d not attempted before. I’m never really interested in completing a puzzle I have done before for some reason.

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I often forget how much I enjoy jigsaw puzzles; creating order out of chaos is very soothing. I go through phases where there is always one on the go, then maybe a year or so in which I forget they exist. My sister and I started the family jigsaw together, this has the potential to be less soothing as our approaches can be quite different depending on the puzzle, fortunately we both appreciate a clear space, no random pieces abandoned in the middle of the puzzle and so we got along merrily.

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In my experience there are two main jigsaw solving approaches; depending on the type of puzzle one or the other is more effective. Both naturally start with completing the edges, anyone who doesn’t think this is worthwhile is a bit daft to my way of thinking. Continue reading

Yes Man by Danny Wallace – A Book Review

One Little Word Can Change Your Life!

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I enjoyed last week’s book Back Story by David Mitchell (review here) so much that I wanted to stay in a similar genre for my evening walks. I chose Yes Man by Danny Wallace, I’d had the audiobook for a while but hadn’t listened to it, then the other day I came across the book in a charity shop and had to buy it. Danny Wallace is a comedian/presenter/author that sometimes crops up on TV; less well known than David Mitchell, but still I was aware of him. And now I could switch back and forth between reading and listening as convenience dictated. What happened in practice was I started the book, was enjoying it so I switched to the audiobook for my walks and enjoyed it even more. It wasn’t until I began to write this review I realised the audiobook was an abridged version and that I’d missed all sorts in the actual book. I will have to read the whole thing another time. So this is in essence a review of the audiobook abridged version of Yes Man (audible link here).

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The book is an elaboration of his diary over the better part of a year as he undertakes the role of Yes Man. After a chance encounter on a bus when someone inadvertently tells him to say yes more, Danny Wallace embarks on an adventure to not only say yes more, but to say yes to everything. This is hugely entertaining, the strange encounters, odd experiences and unexpected successes are both ridiculous and believable.

This book has something for everyone, there’s a challenge, a nemesis, UFO groups, Maitreya, money, a love story and an unexpected nursing degree to name a few highlights. Continue reading

The Humble (or not so humble) Round Robin – A How To.

It’s that time of year. Taking stock of last year, planning the upcoming year. What were your highlights and what do you want to change next year? Where did you go and who did you see? In the age of social media where we are constantly updating the world on our lives I think the round robin tradition is starting to disappear and I’m not sure I like it.

If you don’t know what a round robin is, it is essentially a family newsletter that summarises the year of each member of the household, often each member contributes their own comments and there are usually a lot of pictures. It tends to be about 2 sides of A4 paper, at least that’s my experience. I have seen video versions, but essentially it’s a year summary. This newsletter is then sent to all the family and friends you think may be interested, or in some cases all the family and friends and enemies and acquaintances you think it will impress. Continue reading

Almost Anyone Can Do Almost Anything If They Really Want To.

You can do it.

Almost anyone can do almost anything if they really want to.

I have held this fundamental belief for as long as I can remember. I genuinely feel that physics aside, if you put in the time and effort you can learn, achieve, or do anything at all. I’ve added in the clause about physics, because obviously at no point, no matter how much time effort you put in, are you ever going to fly like superman. Other than that, the trick is putting the effort in, where a lot of us fall down is in not doing so. In my mind I see it as a see saw. On one end you have the desire for the result, on the other the aversion to the work required; whichever one is greater will determine whether you succeed or fail.

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Sometimes you hear someone described as gifted, or a natural in a certain area. Someone is born to run, or they’re a gifted violinist, however I think that detracts massively from the work they put in. Maybe they have a head start, they are physically or mentally better adapted to a particular task but that is not the end. Continue reading