Quote Me Happy

January 3rd Daily Post:

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

There are a few quotes which I find I never tire of, and there are a few reasons.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was an incredibly inspiring man. He’s one of a few people who have shown beyond all others that depression only makes the going tough, and not completely impossible. He guided the country through one of the toughest periods of the 20th century while fighting an internal struggle on an equal scale.

He also coined my favourite metaphor for depression, and the name for this blog – “The Big Black Dog”. It’s powerful and evocative, especially if you get the chance to read I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone.

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor” – English Proverb

This is something I’ve quoted once before on this blog. It was in an image, as these things often are. Despite my considerable Google-Fu I’ve not been able to find an original source for the saying, beyond the ambiguous “English Proverb”.

The thing I really like about it is the reminder that whatever has happened to me in the past, today, now, this is where I am. It’s something I really need to bear in mind sometimes, or I’d easily get stuck, bogged down by heavy yesterdays.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe – Carl Sagan

I use this quote all over the internet, as a tagline, or a summary, or whatever else may call for a short but important statement. It says a different thing to different people at different times. There’s a great interpretation of the Carl Sagan quote at that link but to me it means something simpler; don’t walk before you can run. Build your tower from the ground up.

There are a lot of other quotes which I find inspiring and interesting – what are your favourites? Let me know, you might give me one I’ve never heard before.


Pools of Blue

Waves, the sea, the water Waves

Sea, every time. I live less than five miles from the coast now, but it’s the furthest away I’ve ever been. For nine years or thereabouts I lived so close to the shore I could sometimes fall asleep to the sound of the water, if it was particularly rough or choppy, or an especially quiet night.

I’ll never stop being calmed by the sea spray and the smell of salt water. The air itself is different around the sea, and I relish it.

The sky might be the most beautiful, but in my heart of hearts I’m sat on the end of the old Ferryside pier, just listening.

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Father Valentine

Firstly, a quick explanation as to my lack of new updates recently – I simply haven’t been able to coagulate my thoughts into postable material. There have been things I’ve wanted to write about but they’ve stuck around for a very short period of time, much less than it takes me to mull something over and decide on what angle to pursue in my writing. I think part of the problem might be my thinking a blog post needs to be a long, in-depth affair, whereas it’s really fine for me to write only a few paragraphs on something. Am going to try harder in the coming weeks to remedy this.

A friend of mine, luvlymish, introduced me to a very interesting tradition a couple of years ago, which she heard about from a different friend of hers. Originating in Norfolk, the annual tradition of Father Valentine is a rather quaint idea that can really spread a lot of happiness and smiles around the place. Also known as the tradition of Jack Valentine, a lucky person would be called upon and St. Valentine’s day by a mysterious visitor, the enigmatic Father, or Jack, Valentine. A knock on the door would signal the arrival of a gift for someone in the house (children and unattached people were just as likely to receive gifts as lovers). Father Valentine himself would be long gone by the time the door was answered but the tradition was to yell “Thank you, Father Valentine!” into the wind in case he was actually just hiding in the wind.

Being a truly sentimental romantic at heart, this idea appeals to me immensely. The opportunity to give and potentially receive anonymous gifts is one that I can’t pass up. The gifts can be anything, from a chocolate bar to jewelry and more. A pair of sunglasses rests amongst my ornaments, Father Valentine’s gift from last year.

In some ways, it’s a shame I feel like I need this kind of sanctioning in order to give tokens of my love and appreciation to my friends. However, I’ve found that random gifts aren’t always a good idea. The last random thing I gave a friend got accidentally left in Manchester without even so much as a thank you. I don’t like sounding whiny and petulant but that stung. So, something a little bit more organised this time.

I am tempted to bake goodies for my valentines, but our kitchen is small and often quite messy (my housemate’s insistence that the recycling goes HERE obviously didn’t apply to him, if the empty pizza boxes are anything to go by). Also I’m not sure how I’d deliver vast quantities of yummy cakes and the like – I’d need to scour the land for small boxes. Aside from that I have scant few ideas, but there’s plenty of time. Mostly, I think, I need to write a list of people. I’m lucky – I have many people in my life whom I love dearly and want to lend a smile to. But that needs lots of ideas, so off I go to come up with some.

I am a fool, also a cat.

On the 10th, I made a post ranting about November game releases. One of the games I talked about at length was Diablo 3. However, despite fact-checking pretty much everything else, I was so certain in my knowledge about the release date of the game that I didn’t look it up.

It turns out that this was a massive mistake and Diablo 3 isn’t actually going to be released until summer 2012, and will be in beta until then. Where I got the idea that it was going to come out yesterday, I haven’t got a clue, but I was wrong.

I’m sorry if the previous post caused any confusion, disappointment, or anything else. My boyfriend was certainly quite miffed, what with being a huge fan of the Diablo series.

As for Skyrim first impressions – oh gosh yes. Less of what was a bit hand-holdy and ‘let’s just put some fantasy tropes in a pretty land’ about Oblivion, more of the atmosphere and tension from Morrowind.

How many games must a man walk down?

Or something like that, anyway. If you have any sort of interest in video gaming or like to keep up with new releases in the industry, you’ll know that this week and the coming week are long anticipated for a lot of people.

For a start, we had Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released on the 9th. Midnight launches and record-breaking sales suggest that November has had its biggest release already. However, Activision will certainly be facing some still competition tomorrow when the release of two games with huge and dedicated fan bases could challenge its new king of the gaming charts.

Diablo 3 Image

Eleven years ago, we saw the release of Diablo 2 for the PC. This game was one of the biggest names in the early 2000’s and continues to be popular with fans today. However, online multiplayer of Diablo 2 could see a decline soon as Blizzard releases Diablo 3, taking advantage of the 11/11/11 to release a game 11 years after its prequel. Some fans are upset at the online-only game play that Blizzard seems to favour (their other major title being MMO giant World of Warcraft). For some reason, Blizzard are surprised that not everyone’s happy with this.

However, even more startling about Diablo 3 is the ban Blizzard have placed on modding. For many people, myself included, part of the PC gaming experience is focused around mods. It’s quite possible that I would be a console gamer if not for The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I played everything in that game to death and when I was about to shelve it away as ‘done’, I discovered the modding community, and a true PC gamer was born. Mods more than tripled the play time available to me in Morrowind.

When you look a little deeper, though, you start to work out why modding is prohibited. Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, have implemented an Auction House in the game, from which players will be able to buy items for their characters. Normal enough right? Nope, Blizzard have decided that they are going to be the pot and call the kettle black by making stuff for sale for real life money. In the past, Blizzard have spent huge amounts of resources trying to stop people on World of Warcraft exchanging real money (and other things) for in-game money, but it’s something they are implementing themselves in Diablo 3! Maybe they found out how lucrative the market was and decided they wanted their finger in that pie, too.

November the 18th sees the official release of Minecraft, though whether an official release date for a game which has already sold more than four million copies is necessary, I’m not sure. Minecraft started off at a very low price and was £7.99 when I bought my own copy, while it was still in its alpha stages. As time has gone on, the price of Minecraft has increased – now it’s £13.95, and it will be around twenty pounds on full release. So if you’re going to get it, do so now to avoid the price hike.

For me though, November has something else. As if those three huge-name titles weren’t already enough, November the 11th sees the release of a game that I have been anticipating for a very long time.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Go on, guess the game.

My whole computer gaming career was cemented in place as I said previously, by The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I would spend hours shut in my bedroom, using the computer that my grandparents bought me for schoolwork, exploring the vast expanse of the island of Vvardenfall, wearing the faces of many different people, from noble knights to cunning thieves to maniacal magic-users and back again. Morrowind satisfied me for three years, until Bethesda released the PC-testing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

As soon as I caught a whif of the system requirements, I knew that my tired HP machine just wouldn’t cut it. I made my own machine, designed to play Oblivion on it’s most hardcore graphics settings. I finished the machine after Oblivion had been out for about two weeks, The wait was agonising but worth it. At that point, it was more worth it than anything I’d ever experienced before, and that included sex.

Now, it’s five years later. My baby, the looming black and silver machine whirring away in the corner of my bedroom has served me well, a true testament to the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’. However, five years of heavy use will tire out even the best computer, and with the latest installment of a series that has defined my life since I was a teenager on the horizon, I knew what needed to be done. One of the last jobs of the Oblivion Machine was to order its own replacement. Now it’s cold and silent and sad, as I cavort with the younger, sexier model, the Skyrim Machine, delivered to me a couple of weeks ago.

I am restless with excitement. The fact that many people have been able to already pre-download Skyrim on Steam has served only to agitate me further. As much of a Steam fan as I am (I really do believe that it’s the ‘future of gaming’), I have pre-ordered my copy of Skyrim from Game for one simple reason. The versions of TES III & IV I got (the GotY edition and the Limited Edition) both came with posters showing the world map, as did the Shivering Isles expansion to Oblivion. There are two ways to get the Skyrim version of the poster map – getting the Limited Edition, which is sadly way out of my budget, being £129, or pre-ordering the game from either Game or Gamestation stores. So, in exchange for a small delay (I will have to wait until Game opens, and then walk home and install the game before I can play it instead of playing as soon as I wake up) I will get to continue my much-loved map collection. It’s not Elder Scrolls without a map blu-tacced to the wall.

He's watching you.

This wallpaper release had me all a-quiver earlier this year.

However, I’m not fifteen anymore. I’ve lived and loved since then and played a lot more video games too. My tastes have developed and changed and I’ve discovered that actually, maybe video games aren’t better than sex, after all.

The build up to Skyrim might have given me the same thrills and excitement as I experienced when Oblivion’s release date was creeping nearer, but will that first ‘New Game’ give me the same absolute astonishment? All PC games these days can acheive a level of graphic detail and scope that Oblivion had, so maybe Skyrim’s graphics won’t make me want to pinch myself, but will the rest of the game blow my socks off in the same way? Watch this space.

Sadly though, Skyrim has already become a part of the PC vs Consoles war. Bethesda has been lifted to power by fans of the Elder Scrolls series, and carried along by the PC modding community. However, there has already been the announcement that the first two pieces of extra content for Skyrim will be exclusive to the X-box for a month before us PC gamers or PS3 owners get our versions. the deal with Microsoft had better have been worth annoying such a huge portion of your customers, Bethesda! This is twice as infuriating when you learn that they have promised the DLC packs will be infrequent and substantial – there will be big parts of the internet that I will have to stay away from in order to avoid spoilers for the DLC for 30 days each time, if they are going to be big story-additions and extra content instead of things like the infamous horse armour add-on for Oblivion.

You might never find out just how much I enjoy Skyrim, though – I’ve already given Chris a warning that he shouldn’t expect me to be particularly sociable while I’m playing it. The chances of me finding the time to write about it are slim to none. I should have known I’d never manage NaNoWriMo.


I know, no posts recently. To extend the slow cooker metaphor, ideas, like casserole, will go bad if you leave them too long, and I haven’t been able to produce posts on the things I mentioned.

On another note, I am planning on participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. It’s basically a huge writing excercise where you write 50,000 words in a month. Quality is not the relevent bit here – the important stuff is to help develop a habit of writing every single day, whether you feel like it or not. I don’t have an idea yet – I’m going to go plot-bunny-hunting today. I must suppress the urge to write a 50k fan fiction story.

Autumn joy

Orange Leaves

Crunchy leaves,

bare naked trees,

pumpkin pie,

cloudy sky,

cheeks rosy red,

cuddling in bed,

firework displays,

the shortness of days,

I love it all,

the season of Fall.

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Remember that I’m judging you

From a young age, one of the core values that society attempts to drum into our subconscious minds is the idea of acceptance and not judging people. This non-judgemental quality, coupled with acceptance and open mindedness is supposed to lead to a more tolerant and culturally diverse society.

We’ve all heard the term ‘political correctness gone mad’. The idea of the exaggerated health and safety official running around renaming blackboards as chalkboards and banning Christmas trees to avoid offending some minority or another is probably something we’ve all had a good laugh about over time.

I think, however, that people seem to missing a trick here. Humans, as it’s well-known and documented, evolved from certain species of apes and we’ve taken over the planet. The reason for our continued success as a species isn’t the same reasons lions continue to thrive (nothing can kill them) but it’s more because we’re so damn good at killing other stuff.

There are several reasons why we’re such good death dealers. Mainly, it’s the inventiveness we display as a species – we’ve got the fire. However, one of the other tools at our disposal is our ability to make snap judgements about situations that are a threat to us. If something’s flying through the air towards your nose, you duck. (I, on the other hand, dear reader, merely cower and wait for impact; I would not have been successful as a hunter-gatherer)

That reaction to danger, that instinct to duck out of the way at whatever might be attacking your face is one of the strongest assets we have as a species. They don’t say ‘human in the headlights’ for an expression of fear, because the human has already reacted and thrown themselves out of the path of oncoming danger.

I would like you to pause for a second, reader, and attempt to apply that concept of ‘flight or fight’ instinct to everyday life. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Done? Good. You probably couldn’t think of many situations where this applies. Entirely fair. The human mind and body are two immensely complicated things (it’s been said that if we could understand the human brain, it would have to become so simple that we’d lose the desire and ability to understand it anyway). Due to the vast swathes of intelligence allowed to us, our societies, cultures and lifestyles have evolved faster than poor Mother Nature can keep up with, and we haven’t evolved very much in response to this growth. As such, we still live and operate with the same flight or fight, snap judgement, instinct driven responses as our ancestors. Handy for protecting oneself from predators, not so much for explaining to your boss why you’re reading a blog on work’s time, extra adrenaline, increased breathing and tunnel vision being just a few of the physical responses of the human body to acute stress.

However, as life continues to be fairly slow-paced for the average human, and as these hyperarousal responses become less and less relevent (and in fact, harmful – you’ve heard of so many illnesses caused by stress – meet the real culprit), Mother Nature will eventually catch up and things will change.

Coming back round to my first point, about non-judgementalism, humans are doing what they can to help Mother Nature along in this process. No more flight or fight response, no more snap decisions. Humans will take as much time as Ents to make any choices and far fewer mistakes will be made.

Let me spin you a tale. You’re in an office, when a fire alarm goes off. You know that one of your co-workers is in a wheelchair. You take so long considering whether or not to help them out of the building that you both burn to death. Or, you are so non-judgemental that you didn’t realise that they were disabled, so you flee from the building and they burn to death.  Right now your flight response would give you the adrenaline and the oxygen and the other resources that your body needs to get out of there, and your previous judgement that your co-worker is disabled and therefore can’t get down the stairs in an emergency leads you to help them in getting out of there too. Imagine a world so devoid of judgement, where everyone is so worried about being politically correct, that they don’t help the guy in the wheel chair for fear of offending him with your assessment of his capabilities.

Judgement isn’t the bad guy – judgement is how human beings assess the situation and know how best to react. Acceptance is the more important aspect of life these days. Use your observations to judge the situation, the people, whatever else needs judging. That’s fine. What you then need to do is assess what you’ve judged to be acceptable. You’ve judged that the cashier in the store is asian, but you’ve then assessed that as an acceptable fact.

Everyone judges – it’s human nature. We just need to encourage people to accept the results of their judgements.

Remember, the phrase is ‘deer in the headlights’ and not ‘human in the headlights’ for a good reason.

The Alternate Vote

In Defence Of AV

(This was written and prepared by a good friend of mine, Blue_Swirl. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to politics, since unlike me, he actually has views and opinions!)

This is just a quick post to address what I perceive to be the one of the main arguments of the No To AV campaigns. To use their own ham-fisted analogy, the runner who finishes in second gets the medal.

What I thought I’d do, then, would be to demonstrate what would happen under First Past the Post and Alternative Vote in two situations. In the first, one party has more than 50% of the vote, and in the second, no party has 50%.

Scenario 1: One Party has more than 50%

Here you can see an election for which Party A, B, C and D is standing. Let’s see what would happen under each voting system.

First Past the Post

Party A has more than 50% of the vote. Party A wins.

Alternative Vote

Party A has more than 50% of the vote. Party A wins.

Scenario 2: No Party has more than 50%

Here’s the same election, but with different results. What happens under each system?

First Past the Post

No party has a clear win. Now, the parties enter into talks behind closed doors, making deals, making promises to each other, changing their election pledges, trying to form a coalition to get that 50% that they need. The people have no say in this. It’s up to the parties alone. Will Party A join with B? Or C? Even D would give them enough votes to take power. What will Party B say to get power? Will they change the promises they made to us? Again, the people have no say.

Look at the situation we’re in now. As far as I know, the Conservatives got approximately one third of the vote. They formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. For whatever reason, the LibDems have broken many of their election promises. What have we ended up with? A government for which only one in three voted for, a party that’s destroyed their reputation, and a lot of angry people. What ever your political leanings, you have to agree, this isn’t a great place for us to be in. It’s not really democratic, is it?

Alternative Vote

Under AV, in this situation, we would look at the second choice of people who voted for Party D. Assuming they all didn’t put Party A, we might end up with something like this


Still no clear winner. Lets look at the second choice of people who voted Party C. If that second choice turns out to be Party D, who’ve been removed from the running, we look at their third choice, and so on. We might end up with something like this:


Party B has just won, even though after the first round of counting they were in second. But it’s more likely that we’d get something like this:


This is how we’ve ended up with the No To AV campaign’s idea that the person in second would “win the race”. Sliding gently past the broken analogy, let’s look at what really happened.

There was no clear winner, as no party had 50%. (I.e. no one had won the race, it wasn’t over yet!) So we looked at the second and third choices of the voters, we looked at what the people wanted. No deals behind closed doors, no coalitions decided by the parties, no government formed by a party that got 33% of the vote.

In short, when we get a situation like we did after the last general election, we the people decide how to break the dead lock. Us. Not them. Remember, we elect them. We are their bosses, not the other way around. Under AV we would have got one clear winner, not a coalition.

To use the race analogy so favoured by the No To AV campaign, under First Past the Post, it’s perfectly reasonable to give the gold medal to the guy that ran half way around the track and fell over wheezing, just because he ran further than the other guys.

Don’t fall prey to the scaremongering. Vote Yes to AV.

Please distribute this as far as you can – tweet it, email it, post links in your blog! Download a .pdf here. Print it out and leave it in your place of work! Feel free to edit and redistribute! Attribution would be nice, but not required.

Blogs I Read

Anyone who reads my blog is likely to have noticed the sidebar, with various things. There’s a button for you to sign up to a mailing list (for those of you too lazy to check the blog, you can get each post emailed to you as I write and upload them), a feed of my (inane) twitter posts and also a list of links to various blogs I think people should read. One of my friends who blogs asked recently for a bit of publicity, so I thought I’d point it out to any of you who like to read blogs.

They are mostly where people I know in real life blog, but there are a few internet friends on there, and the blogs of  a few people who have made a name for themselves on the internet, such as Jen McCreight – atheist nerdy girl and Markuss Persson – the guy who invented Minecraft.

So, this is me encouraging you to check out other blogs. For somewhere to start with, go here, where Robin has made his profile look like a Wikipedia article with the aid of some very clever coding, and hilarious witicisms (including the longest drug list I’ve seen)