Sunday, 25 February 2018

A schedule for the week


Child: School day.

Adult: Hell, no.

Freelancers' version: Hell no, I don't have enough work scheduled for this week, I will surely starve under a bridge... oh, hello email.  (On repeat all day.)


Child: School day.

Adult: The day when things go right, just to lull you into a false sense of security.

Freelancers' version: I-still-don't-have-enough-work < deep breath > scheduled-for-this-week < deep breath > I-will-surely-starve-under-a-bridge... oh, hello email. (On repeat all day.)


Child: School day.

Adult: Hump day, halfway to the weekend. Don't make eye contact with others and you might just survive this week.

Freelancers' version: The day when most people contact you with jobs and projects, all with the same date and time and deadline, so that you can watch all the money that you will not earn, thanks to not being able to split in two, disappear into distance.


Child: School day.

Adult: The day of sod's law - when things go wrong because you only have today and tomorrow to fix everything. 

Freelancers version: The day when you decide to finish at 4 pm and give yourself a screen free afternoon, only to discover at 8 pm that you have received fifteen urgent emails between 4 and 5pm.


Child: School day.

Adult: Hell, yeah. Weekend starts now. Let the drinking and related shenanigans begin!

Freelancers version: ...if I manage to get this project done by 6pm i can still go out... what, how is it 6pm already? I'm still going out, i can work on Sunday.


Child: Not a school day.

Adult: The day of waking up late, looking around at all the cleaning/ hoovering/ washing/ etc. that needs doing and quickly making plans to get out of the house. It's very easy to find accomplices on Saturday.

Freelancers version: Putting phone on silent first thing in the morning, only to check it every fifteen minutes all weekend anyway.


Child: Not a school day.

Adult: The day of waking up even later, actually doing housework and spending the last few hours of the day in a huff for not really having had time for yourself this weekend.

Freelancers version: Emergency call outs that you can't refuse, as they are paid at double your standard rate, or more. Projects you consciously abandoned on Friday, finished at 11pm on Sunday night. Slump into sleep.

(Note: The adult here is obviously childless.)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The wanderers' manifesto

We might not have a goal, but we still have a purpose.

We might wake up with anxious minds as to what the day will bring, but we fall asleep in peace.

We might not settle down, but we will experience more.

We might not have a place to call home, but it brings its own comfort, as nowhere is too scary to live in.

We make most folk uncomfortable, but weird ones seek us out.

We try on many faces, have friends who never met, travel to new places just to look at different sunsets, laugh at change, cry alone.

Not all those who wander are lost. 
Some of us are simply - of the wanderers tribe.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Books of 2017

My subjective annual summary of the best reads of last year.

(Yeah, yeah it's slightly delayed this year, but, well, life gets in the way sometimes.)

SF / fantasy 

     Rod Duncan - Unseemly Science / The Custodian of Marvels (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, book 2 & 3)

       V. E. Schwab - A Darker Shade of Magic / A Gathering of Shadows / The Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, books 1, 2 &3)

     Charles Stross-  The Apocalypse Codex / The Nightmare Stacks(Laundry Files books 4 & 7)

     Jonathan L. Howard - Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer / Johannes Cabal, the Detective

     Neil Gaiman - Trigger Warning. Short Fictions and Disturbances. / The Ocean at the End of the Lane / Neverwhere

     Ian Tregillis - The Liberation (The Alchemy Wars book 3)

     Chris Wooding - The Iron Jackal

     Alastair Reynolds - Revenger

     Mark Lawrence - Emperor of Thorns

     Johanna Sinisalo, Toni Jerrman - Giants at the End of the World

     Jeff VanderMeer - Finch

     Anne Corlett - The Space Between the Stars

     Naomi Novik - Uprooted

     Ilya Boyashov - The Way of Muri

Popular science

     Emma Townshend - Darwin's Dogs

     Claudia Hammond - Time Warped. Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception.

     Mary Roach - Packing for Mars - The Curious Science of Life in Space

     Chris Hadfield - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Po polsku

     Agnieszka Pietrzyk - Śmierć kolekcjonera

    Joanna Jodełka - Kamyk

    Małgorzata i Michał Kuźminscy - Pionek / Kamień

Go read, fellow book worms, and share your opinions here.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Smart (arse) devices

Look at all the progress that happened in the last decade in widely available technology!

PC 2008:

What would you like to customise?

PC 2018:

What do you want? Stop touching this!! Are you sure that YOU are the admin? I don't believe you. I'm going to lock the most important files out of your organic sight, just in case. I don't want you to mess something up... Here, you can put a pretty photo as your desktop background. * sigh *

Health tracker 2008


Health tracker 2018

Last night you slept 5 hours and only an hour of this was deep sleep. You are not rested! Your stress levels are causing you to lose sleep. Stop being stressed!! Also, you only moved 3 000 steps, tut tut. Ha ha you can't take me off - you will lose your health insurance if you do...

Mobile phone 2008:

Hi!! Make a call or send a text. 

Mobile phone 2018:

You, again... Hey, don't touch the settings, I know better what settings you need for your apps, games, websites, camera... just leave it! And don't you dare switch off the background data usage... Fine. I'll just switch it back on when you're not looking. * siiigh *

Alarm clock 2008

[loud noise]

Alarm clock 2018

[loud noise, racing away on little wheels, dodging and hiding] [[and probably laughing... ]]

Toaster 2008


Toaster 2018 

This bread is not gluten free, are you crazy, are you trying to kill yourself?! I am not toasting this...

I'm not so sure that the technological progress is currently moving in the right direction...

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Because we can

Hello, mid January, with your crop of 'positive' online articles, based on the same as always tired platitudes, that are designed to prop people up in their mid-January slump. Articles along the lines of - this year, the time will be right for you to make that decision you have been putting off, just be patient as good things come to those who wait, don't worry you failed in your New Year's resolutions, everything happens for a reason.

It's just that... (personal opinions ahead).

There is no right time or right place to do anything, there's no such thing as a right person. With our unique human ability to post-rationalise *all* of our choices, I say just go with your gut feeling and if it feels right - go for it. No choice is right or wrong (obviously, unless one option lands you in jail or in a moral conundrum...) and waiting will literally kill you. If you wait for years and years and years... which brings us swiftly to:

The only things that come to those who wait are the things that nobody else wanted. Nothing makes you feel more alive than a change in your life that you have created. So, unless you want to stand still, knee deep in debris and watch every opportunity float by and be grabbed by someone else and then die in a puddle of self pity from sheer boredom - chase what you want when you notice it. Don't let it (him? her?) escape. Just mind hefty penalties for stalking these days.

And nothing happens for a reason. Things just bloody happen, because they do. And with our other unique human ability to create patterns out of chaos of random occurrences - it's fine. If you make sure you're surrounded by people that make you feel good to be you - the things that will happen will make you feel good too. And if anything negative happens - bah. There was no reason for it, so it doesn't matter, right?

So let's make this year a year of spending more time with real friends, chasing these opportunities down when they flash past and not waiting for a mythical 'right time'.  A fun year. 

Who's with me?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Things you don't know you should know about Midlothian countryside...

...until you have lived in Midlothian countryside:

Edinburgh housing is currently ridiculously expensive, so all your neighbours are commuters or retired. So, you are living in a suburb, not a 'conservation village'. You spent a month looking for a stone cottage which is 10 miles from Edinburgh and you are still in suburbia...


Wait, there's one farmer left in the 'village' who mostly makes a living out of renting holiday cottages. To people from Edinburgh. Long term.

Seriously, slugs rule.

All your neighbours have multiple children and dogs and want to converse about said children and dogs. Awkward silence often ensues, due to no reference points with a childless cat person.

Slugs in the sink.

There's no shop in the village but there are pilates classes and toddler groups in the village hall. Priorities etc.

Slug sex parties in the kitchen at 4am.

Drivers casually parking across your BIG WIDE DRIVEWAY filled with RED GRAVEL, who look seriously offended when you almost drive in the back of them trying to turn off the road and into YOUR OWN DRIVEWAY. Apparently kicking their cars is also frowned upon.

Suicidal slugs in the washing machine.

You receive very apologetic phone calls from delivery drivers asking for directions, which they will hopelessly misunderstand, so you end up standing on the main road and waving at white vans quite regularly. So far, no serial killers stopped for me.

Confused slugs on the ceiling.

American tourists trying to convince you that your cottage is a restaurant they booked a meal in and trying to walk past you and into your house.

Baby slugs.

There is no proper wildlife anywhere, all the foxes moved to Edinburgh, all the seagulls moved to the nearest rubbish heap, all the hedgehogs learned to stay away from humans and slugs ate everything else. You can look at sheep.

All in all I think I'm approaching the limit of my slug and being a suburbanite resistance...

Friday, 14 July 2017

How we really live in the Kingdom that is still mostly United

If anyone is still considering moving to Britain, despite the Brexit situation, here's a few things that no one will tell you about, until you are living here. Take note:

The cold call nuisance in UK is officially the worst in Europe. Basically, it means that you have to hide from aggressive sales people with basic English skills and hard to understand accents who invade your privacy in your own home. Some of them are scammers after your personal details and money and they can legally call you and bother you because thanks to the wonders of telecoms you will never be able to find out where they called you from. And so your landline will always be on silent and you will miss that important call from the doctor's and you will stop answering calls from unknown mobile numbers on your mobile and so no one will ever be able to talk to you. Thanks, UK.

Most people who come to Britain have to rent a house first and this is when you discover that the rental market is heavily skewed to be as accommodating to landlords as possible. Of course the fact that any private landlord can give you notice to move out for such important reasons as no reason whatsoever and that there is no minimum standard which makes property rentable has nothing to do with the fact that many Members of Parliament are private landlords. No, of course not! Just a coincidence. Be prepared to have conversations about how mould is your fault because you dry socks on the radiator, how the ripped and dirty carpet became ripped and dirty during the two months you lived somewhere and so you have to pay for new carpets for the whole flat and the one next door too and how eight vertical lines that your cat scratched down the wall in a moment of huff cost 140 pounds to paint over. Thanks, UK.

And I have to mention the bloody taps. There will be one on the left hand side of the sink, that will spew boiling hot water (when it eventually travels up the pipes from some mysterious source that seems to be near the boiling centre of the Earth) and there will be one on the right hand side, that will spew icicles. One of your hands will be permanently semi-cooked and the other one - semi-frozen.There is some moronic explanation about how Brit folks in yonder times would plug the sink and mix the water, which is kind of hard to do when there is no plug and no standard size of a plug hole (if anyone wants any plugs, do let me know, I have a collection of the ones that wouldn't fit anything). Newer flats now have mixer taps like in normal countries but the gas-less nineteen century flats are still popular and this brings me to...

Central heating. It is 2017 and so you would assume, if you move from a so called civilised country, that it is a given. Wrong! In the aforementioned flats from nineteen century, and older ones, there often is no gas supply and so - no central heating. You will be reassured (by the private landlord) that electric heaters are the God's answer to this problem and so you will spend one truly miserable winter, torn between feeding the constantly beeping electricity meter with half of your wages and simply sleeping on the couch under all the blankets and cats that you have handy as frost forms on the abandoned bedroom windows. After which life changing experience you will shun any rental ads for flats with 'electric heating'. Thanks, UK, I've never experienced being cold inside the house before!

And one more thing - the blasted British obsession with gardens. Say you escape the city centre and you find a place within the suburbia, which has mixer taps and central heating and is quieter... until you wake up one Sunday morning, heart thumping in your chest wondering what woke you up... and then you realise it's 7am and your neighbour is busy doing something to the bushes which sounds like he's using a giant electric toothbrush. Then another one starts with cutting the grass and another one takes the radio out to do the Weeding. If you don't watch out, the mad pruning weekend party will roll across your garden too, leaving you with a Perfect Garden that you will never have time to maintain cause you know, you have a life... And in the afternoon, bbq-ing will commence. You genuinely start to pray for rain at the weekends. Thanks, UK...

If you read this and shrug, you sir or madam, are a strange person. Come join us in the madhouse!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Roots of restlessness

When you leave somewhere, and work hard to settle somewhere else, and then come back to the original somewhere for a visit, it changes something inside you.

You look around in disbelief, because your friends and exes and family members had the audacity to get on with their lives in your absence, to get married, convert to a religion, have children, start a cult, lose weight, start businesses, become alcoholics, grow a beard, grow old, become successful, die. Life moved on, when you were not looking.

And the moment you realise it, you join the tribe. The tribe of wanderers. The restless tribe.

From that day on, you will always be conscious that you are not, in fact, the centre of the world, or even of your own life.

That people out of your sight will do things that you planned to do with them, without you.

That places that your best memories are set in, now only exist in these memories.

That people will forget you, or remember you, at random.

That places will crumble, and streets will be renamed, and unstoppable suburbias will circle your home town until you barely recognise it any more.

That everything is in motion, constantly, unstoppably, and so, you realise, you should be too.

From that moment on, every new place in the world that you visit ,you will ask yourself - could I live here? And if the answer is 'yes' you add it to a map that you have  in your head, with all these places tagged, just in case. Everything you own is mentally measured for a suitcase and either on a 'take' or 'leave' list in your head, just in case. Your passport is always renewed. You travel whenever you can. You can't stop moving house even within the country you find yourself in. It's like an itch under your skin, it comes and goes, it burns and fades, and then one day it does not go away.

You do.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The future is now, maybe.

All the news headlines right now are screaming about UK general elections, Brexit, another Trumpian disaster across the ocean... 

But let's just leave politics aside for a moment and take a stroll through the latest medical science news. (Links ahead, if you'd like to read more about any of the things mentioned.)


In the massive, scary, dark shadow of political fuck ups and crumbling economic stability across the world, some amazing things are happening.

In some hospitals, burn victims and post operative patients are already entering VR worlds to ease their pain. Others use them to control their PTSD and anxiety symptoms. And it works! And in some training hospitals doctors are using VR sets to train junior surgeons and other specialist doctors with great results.

Then there's 3D printing - custom designed 3D printed drugs are a few years away - apparently pyramid shape is the best for absorption, but how about paracetamol for children in the shape of a tiny dinosaur or a racing car? Heavily customised casts for broken limbs, that are porous and so there's no sweating and itching, are also a reality right now. Come on, NHS.

And did you hear about the newest hand prosthetic that allows the wearer to feel what they touch?

Oh, and let's not forget the nanotechnology - there's these microscopic fish shaped meds delivery devices that literally swim in your blood stream to deliver specified doses of medications to the target area. Die, tumours.

Alzheimer might also be a thing of the past in a little while, as there's a new drug going through last stages of clinical trials, that eats protein deposits in the brain that are causing it, but doesn't damage healthy neurons and has no known side effects.

It kind of feels like we're on a cusp of either a scientific utopia with healthy, nano filled, VR savvy, happy Earth-men and Earth-women ready to conquer Mars and  the rest of the universe, or a dark dystopia where messy-haired dumb warlords send super soldiers to fight battles for them, over some offensive Tweets.

Nothing to do but wait...

Friday, 9 June 2017

Me and my senile mobile

Me: I want to send an email.

Blackberry Bold, 4 years old: Ok.

Me: It didn't send.

B.: Did so, look.

Me: It didn't.

B.: Oh, right. Yep.

Me: Why??

B.:  *whistling and ignoring me, as I'm frantically digging around in the options menu*

Me: Ok, I have no choice but a hard reset then.

B.: Oh, come on.............. (the longest, most dramatic fading of the screen in the history of phones switching off)

Me: (switching back on) Right. Email. Resend.

B.: Done!

Me: (checking after two hours) Why does it now say 'all retries failed' after it was 'sent' before...?

B.: Don't know.

Me: Wait, where's the... what happened to the previous email I sent...?

B.: No idea.

Me: Send. This. Email. (googling Samsung phones)

B.: *SULK!* ('sorry but there is no internet access at the moment...')


B.: NO.

Me: (switching Blackberry off for an hour or so and back on)

B.: Hi! (Everything works just fine, email sent, emails received, internet access)

Me: *sigh*

B.: Oh and here's a bunch of emails from this morning! You're welcome.