Archive for April, 2016

Year of the Hare

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 | Books

The Year of the Hare is a 1975 novel by Arto Paasilinna. It was originally written in his native language of Finnish, and has since been translated into many other languages, including the English I read it in.

It tells the story of a journalist who is bored with his life. He runs off into the wilderness with a tame hare he becomes friends with. He travels around Finland meeting people and picking up odd jobs.

Given it has been a best-seller in both Finland and France, and won several awards, I was expecting more. Perhaps it is the fault of the translation, but the language is uninspiring. I could not help myself wondering what Steinbeck could have done with such a tale. I probably missed the point though.

The plot is silly, and it is supposed to be. It is both a description of what it means to be a Finnish man, and a farce. Being British, some of this is lost on me. Looking back though, it does accurately and humorously sum up many of the elements of Finnish culture.

year-of-the-hare

All Bar One social

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 | Humanism

all-bar-one-social

We have recently increased the number of socials we run at West Yorkshire Humanists. Turn out has been reasonably good: nine people at both our Cuthbert Brodrick social and at our All Bar One social. All Bar One is a nice enough venue. We were able to cash in on their two courses for £10 offer, and they have a good range of alcohol-free cocktails.

2016 tax return

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

After David Cameron’s official response to his father’s questionable tax avoidance practices, I decided take a tip from him, and the internet meme that followed the statement, when submitting my tax return this year.

tax-return

Unfortunately, HMRC would not accept it.

Dear Reverend Worfolk,

I am writing to you to confirm that we have not accepted your Tax Return (SA100) form, which seems to have been submitted as a joke. We can only accept a fully completed form. The deadline for paper submissions for the 2015/2016 tax year is 31 October 2016.

Yours faithfully,

I wrote back to explain there was no point me filling one in, as I wouldn’t be paying any tax.

Dear HMRC,

The thing is, I wasn’t actually planning on paying any income tax. I spend the money I earn on lots of cool stuff, which I pay VAT on. Therefore, like Starbucks, my “total tax contribution” is very high, even though I won’t actually be paying any income tax.

Yours faithfully,

Again however, they were not happy.

Dear Reverend Worfolk,

As you will no doubt be aware, you are required under the law of England and Wales to submit a tax return and pay any tax due. I now consider this case closed.

So I thought I best settle up.

Dear HMRC,

Okay, I’ll pay. I notice you recently cut sweetheart deals with Apple and Google. Given that they are massive multi-national corporations, and I am just an honest Joe (except I’m called Chris), I assume you will give me a much better deal. £10 and call it even?

Yours faithfully,

I have yet to receive a reply.

Technically correct

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 | Video

I miss Futurama.

Ultrsound

Monday, April 18th, 2016 | Photos

ultrsound

Nothing fills you with confidence look a good “ultrsound”.

Summer on the Horizon published

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 | Books, News

I am pleased to announce that my first novel, Summer on the Horzon, is now available for buy.

I will be honest with you, it is not the finest literary work ever produced. It was written for NaNoWriMo and while the first half has been proof read by someone other than me, the second half has not. There are no mistakes in it though. It is set 400 years in the future. Anything that appears to be a spelling or grammar mistake, it actually just the evolution of the English language.

Here is the description:

Four hundred years in the future, humanity is struggling with the impact of climate change. The population has been forced to retreat into enclosed cities. As one newspaper aptly puts it, ‘humanity is domed’.

I have had the proofs sitting around since January. Then began the long process of editing. It is a lot easier to do when you have a physical copy you can scribble in.

The book is available from the following locations:

summer-on-the-horizon

Chorus pedal

Saturday, April 16th, 2016 | Music

chorus-pedal

I was given some vouchers for Christmas and earlier this month I finally got round to spending them. My latest edition is a chorus pedal. I was originally looking at the Arion analogue chorus. However at around £200, I wasn’t that in love with it, so I gave the Boss Super Chorus and Boss Chorus Ensemble a go.

It was a tough choice between the two. In the end, I settled on the CE-5 because it seemed to have a slightly warmer sound than the CH-1. It could have between the way I had it set up, or it could have been pure placebo, but even after extensive fiddling with the knobs I got a better sound out of the Ensemble.

I am hoping that it will be useful in creating even more atmosphere for the band. It produces a similar effect to the delay. I already have a Carbon Caby on my board, so it doesn’t add a huge range of extra options. However, in time I think I will learn how to get a nice subtle effect out of it that bulks up our sound. Or, if not, at least my Smiths covers will sound better.

pedal-board

I also played around with a wah, which is the other pedal originally included in my pedal board master plan. It was fun, but I am not going to worry about that for now: the board is also getting pretty crowded!

Newlay Locks

Friday, April 15th, 2016 | Sport

newlay-locks

Continuing from my post about running last week, I made it even further up the cancel this time. I actually ran a 2km shorter distance. However, without half of the canal being closed by police causing me a large detour, I was able to go further.

I got as far as Newlay Locks, which is a set of locks by Bramley Fall Park.

What your genitals say about you

Thursday, April 14th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

Last week, this picture appeared in my Facebook feed:

astrology-genitals-tweet

For making a political point, it’s quite clever. However, in this case it is rather unhelpful. That is because astrology genuinely is a load of nonsense. And your child’s genitals genuinely do predict their toy preferences.

The debate regarding nature and nurture has been going on for a long time. Like so many things though, it is not a black and white solution, but probably somewhere in between. We are all products of our DNA, and our environment.

In the case of children’s toys, it’s obvious to anyone at a quick glance that boys tend to play with trucks and girls tend to play with dolls. The question has always been why. Is it that boys and girls have predetermined generic interests, or is it a result of social conditioning?

It is almost certainly the former, at least in part. As the New Scientist reports, a study on monkeys showed that male monkeys prefered trucks and female monkeys prefered dolls. It’s difficult to to argue that monkey society conditions their young to have a preference one way or the other.

That is not to say that sex is the only factor, or that social conditioning does not play a part. Some boys like to play with dolls and some girls like to play with trucks. It is merely that the statistical average, when looking at a large enough group, with tend to fall onto one side or the other. Your child’s genitals do in fact predict what toys they most likely have a preference for: it just isn’t 100% accurate.

This is where the importance of understanding equality really comes in. I think we can draw a parallel with car insurance. I wrote about this in 2011. It is unfair to charge male drivers more than female drivers. This has traditionally been the case because male drivers are more likely to have serious accidents. However, the EU banned it later that year (what has the EU ever done for us?!?). The reason why this is unfair is because although statistically over a large group, male drivers are more likely to have a serious accident, does not mean that one specific male driver is not a very safe driver. The specific driver getting insurance may be a very safe driver, so it would be unfair to tarnish him with the same brush.

This is also true of children’s toys. Just because boys tend to prefer trucks and girls tend to prefer dolls, does not mean you should force that toy on them: let them choose for themselves. They may choose a different toy to what society might expect them to. However, if your child does in fact choose the toy society expects them to, don’t worry that you have been a victim of social conditioning: they are statistically likely to pick that toy regardless.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 | Books

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a book by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. I read the forth edition.

It is packed full of information. Hundreds of pages arranged into several columns per page. Chapters take you through each month of the pregnancy, as well as things like diet and exercise, and what to do in special situations such as twins, complications and even loss.

It covers labour, delivery and the first six weeks after giving birth as well, though with increasing references to “you can read more about this in our next book” style advertising.

The chapter on diet is just intimidating. You get the usual list of foods to avoid. It also suggests a pregnancy diet to ensure mum is getting everything she needs, and the list is long: 3 servings of protein, 4 servings of calcium, 3 servings of vitamin C, 3-4 servings of salad, 1-2 servings of fruit, 6 servings of whole grains, 1 serving of iron-rich food, 4 servings of fat, 8 glasses of water and a vitamin pill.

All of that while monitoring your salt intake and avoiding all the food on the banned list. I spend quite a bit of time planning our diet and I have no idea of much of that we are hitting. This was a guilt trip I did not need.

It is targeted almost exclusively at mums. There are occasional references to the other partner, but these are few and far between. There is a chapter for expectant dads, but it contains almost no useful information. It felt like a short Q&A that gives obvious and patronising suggestions: have you considered helping out around the house? Why yes, yes I have, because it isn’t the 50’s anymore.

It is also tediously American. If this the “bestselling pregnancy manual” as the cover claims, you would think they could put out a UK edition. Everything from the language used, to the medical information and drugs referenced, is a bit off for the UK. You would think given how similar our cultures are they you would not get such a wide gap. However, it often felt like it when reading.

I did appreciate it’s tip to skip the chapter on complicated pregnancies. As the book says, I can read that if we run into a complication.

There is loads of information in this book. From that perspective, I am glad I have read it. However, my guess is that there is probably another book out there that gives you the information in a much better way.

what-to-expect