Friday, 30 November 2012

Fail better next time

I can't believe i haven't blogged since Tuesday and it's now Friday!

Anyway, here i am talking into the usual reassuring void.  The big issue today is that it's the deadline for publishing 'Here Be Dragons', so i've done so.  Here's the cover:

The reason for its rather anonymous appearance is my malicious compliance.  To be less snarky, the situation is that i undertook to publish it on 30th November, which is today.  Unfortunately, it wasn't ready.  Therefore, i've published it without giving access to anyone else.  The cover is blank because there is no cover design and there are also rather few illustrations - only fifty-nine in fact, so about one per a thousand words.  For a picture book, this is nowhere near enough.

So what happened?  Well, one problem was my notorious and extreme idleness, but there are other factors too. The most important of these is probably that i embarked on a project i lacked the skills to complete, namely illustration.  For most people, this wouldn't be a problem because they'd be able to communicate their needs clearly.  For me, however, with my terrible communication skills, this is not a viable way to proceed because i will be unable to communicate my needs clearly.  I suppose that means i need to work on that, but i thought i had.  Apparently not.

Another thing which was probably not appreciated was why i'm so strict about deadlines.  The deadline, which i also failed to communicate effectively, was today.  If i break a self-imposed deadline, it will be harder for me to take future deadlines seriously and there will be negative consequences, as i have been experiencing this year with my tax fine, incurred due to missing deadlines.  Someone observed that i seemed to make the project about the deadline rather than the project, and on reflection that's a very astute observation, because that's exactly what i've done.  I also think that's the right way round because whereas one individual bit of activity might be important, the whole approach is likely to be more so because it affects all sorts of other things throughout the rest of one's life.

The puzzling thing about this experience is the success of the side projects, something which i've noticed about myself before and which is endlessly frustrating.  The side projects in this case are the ebook and 'You Could've Thought Of That'.  The latter was an attempt at a dummy run for the main project, so i could learn from my successes and failures when i went for the real thing.  It proved to be fairly successful, though less than the other spin-off project, the ebook of short stories.  This exists in a vacuum - nobody who has read it knows me as far as i know, because i wanted it to succeed on its own merits, which it has.  This is a common phenomenon, which is repeated elsewhere in my life.  For some reason, focussing on a project seems to make it fail and apathy about it seems to help it succeed.  The Other Channel is a notorious example of this.  I think it's probably connected to my failure to get a girlfriend until i was twenty-one and my complete failure to find a job, even now (i'd actually love to be a shelf-stacker at Iceland or work down the sewers, and i'm completely serious about both of those), so it's really blocking me, whatever it is.  Possibly it's coming across as desperate and trying too hard.

Today's video has yet to be made public, so if someone were to watch it on here it would probably be a first.  Here it is:

This is a history of the world in a hundred doodles, actually slightly fewer.  One of the frames is out of place, incidentally - the one with the broadleaved tree and the dinosaur comes in too early.

The video i actually made today, which will be released tomorrow, is here:

This is just about what i said above.

So what to learn from this?  Well, i suppose one thing other people might realise from this is that i mean what i say, but then who doesn't?  What i have to learn from it is that it's difficult to work with other people due to my poor communication skills, and that my main successes are always in subsidiary projects, and what to do with that information i have no idea.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Daffodils and apple blossom

There are traditionally two groups of flowering plants - monocotyledons and dicotyledons. It has turned out that dicots are not a "real" group and are just every flowering plant which isn't a monocot, but the distinction is still useful.  The true dicots are, unsurprisingly, referred to as "eudicotyledons". This raises philosophical points about clades and taxonomy.

Monocots are never trees but include some tree-like plants, often ones native to the tropics such as palm trees, bamboo and banana trees. This is due to the position of the vessels in their stems, which makes it impossible for them to grow via secondary thickening. They have parallel, non-branching veins in their leaves, their flowers have three or six petals, they have fibrous roots and their seeds have single embryonic leaves and therefore form one part. Dicots can be trees, although not all trees are flowering plants, they have taproots, their flowers have four, five or ten petals (not always, e.g. the cabbage family) and their seeds generally have two halves. However, there are many exceptions to each of these. For instance, the dicot plantains have parallel venation (not to be confused with bananas), waterlilies have lobed cotyledons which may or may not be two fused cotyledons and there are also basal "paleoherbs", which are flowering plants which diverged before the distinction evolved.

One distinction i've not mentioned here is in the pollen, which has three furrows in dicots and one in monocots.

I feel weird about monocots because they sort of feel more alien than dicots. If someone asked me to name a typical flowering plant, i would probably name a dicot and the monocots all seem a bit samey to me. But that's just me.

Also, a whole load of weird stuff happened in plant classification in the past few decades which is very confusing.

Monday, 26 November 2012

...then they changed what "it" was.

I've just done a video on monocots:

and dicots:

and am in the process of uploading it.  The problem with this is that the division is now old hat and outmoded because there was a massive great revolution in the classification of plants resulting from genome sequencing a couple of decades back.

This is what happens when you get old:  they change reality without asking you.  They did it in nuclear physics as well when they did the whole supersymmetry thing, although that's on the way out now apparently.  Also, they renamed many of the satellites of Jupiter for no apparent reason, and so on.  There are trends in science, and if you live long enough you get to experience them.

Anyway, that's tomorrow's video.  Yesterday's is here, and is about hypergraphia:

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Grinding to a halt - or not

NaNoWriMo, in which i have not participate this year, is about to end.  I decided to bookend it with two videos.  The first is here:

The second will appear tomorrow morning, and that's what this entry's really about.

I was thinking about the nature of this blog this morning, after this entry on publicising blogs.  It has changed from a place to stick rants to a place to stick ranting videos.  As she points out, you can make a blog private, but as i also point out, i have pen and paper for that.  So why is this here?  I suppose that question is more about cause than reason.

The main reason this has been here in the past is that i wanted to give people the option not to see my rants.  In order to remove that annoyance, i've done what i sometimes do on Facebook - created a place where i can rant away to my heart's content safe in the knowledge that it will never be read.  The questions arise, however, of why this is public, and why this is not a piece of paper. if it isn't.  The answer is that, like my wife, i am afflicted with hyperlexia.

As i sit here doodling on this keyboard, Liz sits behind me at the table with a hand possessed by a demon, writing poetry and the like in a notebook, which is a considerably saner approach than mine.  My own approach is to sit here in a stupor with both hands incessantly clattering the plastic, and it's simply easier to do that on a blog than on paper because paper needs to be bought, we often run out of pens, i sometimes break pens - it's a time-honoured tradition that, actually, going back to the early '70s - and i have to get up and find a wad of paper and a working bic, or make some ink for the quill.  Hence this blog.

Now you could be forgiven for asking why i can't just not write.  Sadly this is unfeasible.  I write anyway, in one way or another.  The result of stopping this blog would be me posting walls of text on other bits of the web and wallpapers of text on this house.  It won't stop.

This is called hypergraphia.  It's a recognised condition.  I see it as something like having a sebaceous cyst or an abscess, incessantly producing a secretion or exudate which i proceed to smear over all available surfaces like some kind of dirty protest, except it's not a protest so much as a compulsion.  It's got to go somewhere.

So is it a problem?  Well, yes.  One of the issues is that just as i cannot evaluate anything else, i cannot evaluate what i write.  I err on the side of caution by assuming it's all rubbish.  I certainly hope it is.  If it isn't, it confers some kind of responsibility on me to filter out the crap, and i probably have more important things to do in my life.

One thing it isn't is an illness.  It's one of the several things which is a sign that i have abnormal temporal lobes, along with my paraphilia and religiousness.  However, abnormal is not the same as pathological, and it's tempting to seek identity and absolve oneself of responsibility through medicalisation.  Therefore i eschew this route - it lets me off the hook too easily.  What i am in fact doing here is wasting my time, and since all i would do if i switched activities would be to waste my time in a different way i don't feel bad about that.  Actually i do, but - well, i still feel the compulsion.

Back to NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo is, as i have said, an annual novel-writing activity which takes place in November each year where authors seek to write a book in a month.  Said book aims to have something like five or six myriad words - i can't recall the exact figure.  I did it last year or the year before, and obviously i found it easy.  Or rather, i found it fiendishly difficult, but for the opposite reasons than you might expect.  It is hugely difficult for me to write only 60 000 words in a month.  As a result, i proposed NaNoNOWriMo, which is the attempt to shorten one's output by 60 000 words.  More specifically, and i think this has morphed a bit from the original notion, you take something you've written and you make it sixty thousand words shorter.  This seems to be a much more laudable aim than lengthening it.  Douglas Adams was good at this, which is why he missed deadlines - he was polishing and honing his text, which usually made it shorter.  Also, i think it was Mark Twain who once apologised for the length of something he wrote because he hadn't had time to make it short.

As it happens, although i'm not taking part in NaNoWriMo, it is the case that i will self-publish a book on 30th November, namely 'Here Be Dragons'.  I'm not happy with it but the deadline is 30th November 2012, so i have to publish it then.  Apart from problems with the text, it hasn't got enough illustrations, which is a bit of a problem for a picture book.  Nonetheless, the deadline is when it is and unlike Douglas Adams i do not miss deadlines, so unfortunately that seems to be it.  I urge "you all", oh spambots, not to buy it.  There will be another one along in a minute which will be much better.

Oh, and here's today's video, which is a God one so probably best ignored too:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Following that

Here are two of today's three videos:

Christianity and Yoga


This one is left as an exercise to the viewer.  The other one is "Liz's Limericks" and is still uploading.  So we're in another video jam.

I am currently wondering how to follow the "Five Minute Monday" video.  Whereas i'm not particularly thinking there's a problem with what i've done since, it had an originality to its production which i'd like to continue.  I have various things in mind - well, one - and a whole load of probably much more boring ones about peanuts and leeks or whatever.  As usual, i'm not short of ideas but have little perception of how well-received they'd be.

Other stuff going on:  i finally wrote my response to the Welsh ELE consultation, which was a bit stroppy, and there is now only a week to go until 'Here Be Dragons' comes out.  Since i still haven't had any illustrations, i am frantically going through the thing inserting public domain ones.  It's not looking good.  However, it did occur to me to do a "first edition", followed by a proper one, so i'll probably do that.  I can't currently put it on either (where other things are going well incidentally, which is why), so i'm currently looking at cafepress.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Nerdy Nostalgia

Yeah i know, i probably mean "geek".

Anyway, back in the day, i had a ZX81, almost exactly thirty years ago in fact.  26th November 1982, which if i'm right was a Saturday, my father came back from town with a ZX81 and bought the 16K RAMpack a week later.  My chief memory of that day, oddly, is the new copy of OMNI which had some illustrations inspired by Dougal Dixon's ongoing future evolution project which would eventually become 'Man After Man' - this stuff, which is all copyright and therefore not directly shown:

So a ZX81 then.  A frustrating piece of equipment to be honest, mainly because it was so incredibly slow in almost everything it did, even to some extent in machine code.  What's not often appreciated by people nowadays, if they even know about the machine, is that it was not only slower than the ZX Spectrum, but also slower than its predecessor the ZX80, which also ran four times faster than the Spectrum and was therefore in BBC Micro territory in speed terms.  This ignores the fact that the ZX80 didn't use real numbers.  The reason the ZX81 was so slow is that it multitasked.  Three quarters of its time was normally spent generating the TV picture.

The ZX81 still reminds me a bit of an old-fashioned mainframe hooked up to a teletype, partly because, unusually for the day, it displayed dark characters on a light background and partly because it had an upper case only character set close to that of FORTRAN with the additional pixel and greyscale characters and pound sign:

Unlike a teletype, however, the ZX81 had full cursor control and text and graphics could be displayed anywhere on the screen.  I was initially very confused by the device because i couldn't work out why the characters seemed to display at a much higher resolution than the graphics, and also attempted to "overprint" them, which eventually became a method of faking higher resolution for me when i used machine code to flicker between two characters to make them look like one.

It was quite a test of ingenuity to persuade a ZX81 to do almost anything at all.  At the time, i experienced serious envy of my friends who had cooler computers, although it was at least better than the VIC-20 which was bafflingly awful.

There were also good games available, although at the time i saw games as a guilty pleasure and publicly looked down my nose at them.  One of these was 3-D MONSTER MAZE, which still has the capacity to scare 21st century children used to the likes of The Walking Dead.  Here's a screenshot of the player character after being eaten by the T. rex:

After a couple of years, i moved on to the Jupiter Ace, which as i say in the video is very much a minority computer and in fact Jupiter Cantab was so small it wasn't that much bigger than my own business, Mark's Herbalists, which is really saying something.  The Jupiter Ace was built by some of the people who designed the ZX Spectrum, and looks quite similar.  It even uses the same fonts.  However, unlike the Spectrum and almost uniquely for home micros of the day, it ran FORTH instead of BASIC.  This addressed an issue i used to have with home computers, that they ran a language i sort of felt was for kiddies and not a proper grown-up programming language, and since this appealed to me, just after Jupiter Cantab went bust i went out and bought one, followed fairly soon after by a RAMpack.  The Ace is remarkable in that it can be built from scratch today in exactly the same form as it was originally built, because they couldn't afford to have custom chips built for them.  This also means that my currently broken Ace can in theory be repaired.  Talk about reliability!  This computer is thirty years old now and with a couple of tweaks could be plugged into the right kind of TFT monitor today, book in single-figure seconds with a RAMpack and a fraction of a second without it, and function flawlessly, saving and loading with an MP3 player.  With a shell account and appropriate terminal software, i could even use it to access the web.

Both the ZX81 and the Ace could also be used on Facebook and Twitter with the help of a mobile 'phone alone.  The ZX81 can be used as a web server.  These computers are potentially going concerns and  as someone who veers rapidly off-task i find this horribly enticing.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

On Having No TV

We no longer have a telly in the legal sense, although in other ways we have two television sets, neither of whom could now be used to pick up television broadcasts as they are, er, broadcast.  To this end:

In order not to repeat the exact content of the above, i want to share my idea of how to overcome the iPlayer problem - watching BBC TV live in the UK on the internet is illegal without a licence and the iPlayer is blocked outside Britain (except presumably for bits of Ulster).  To me, it seems that the solution to this is to do pay-per-view - get people outside Britain to pay for access to the iPlayer and live streaming altogether and have people within Britain register a payment method which is deducted pro rata as they watch, then give them a discount on their next TV licence.  If it costs £145 a year, which i think is roughly right, charge them 2p an hour, which makes it slightly more expensive than the licence fee.  If they go over, which is a LOT of telly but maybe they have it on all the time for company or something, give them a discount on BBC merchandise as well.  That way, very few people end up watching TV illegally and the BBC gets an extra revenue source from outside the country.  Any thoughts?

Thanks Vanilla Rose for the idea, by the way.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Day In The Life

I wonder if i should start calling every entry here after a song title.

It's late and i'm tired, so i'll just describe the process of making and uploading my video, "My 5 Minute Monday", which is here:

The idea was to make a video lasting four minutes (which is where it all went wrong by the way, but more of that later) in ten second segments throughout the day at intervals of half an hour.  Unfortunately, it so happened that i became a bit coldy and overslept, so i didn't wake up until nearly 8 am.  I then proceeded to make short videos lasting about ten seconds each and progressively added them to a video which i edited and saved as i went along.  I soon encountered the problem of them going all milky - they started to look like they were filmed in fog.  Therefore, i realised i'd have to edit all of them in one go, and at that point i became relieved that i'd released the Charlie McDonnell video at that point.  In the end, i did them all this morning and uploaded it, which took quite a while.  I also found it very hard to think of tags, so it's just sort of there, and is probably the kind of video which is only popular on popular channels.

I now have the problem of thinking of another equally original video.  Since Wednesdays usually involve me going to Loughborough, it's difficult to think of anything much unless it involves actually being in that town in some way.  I suppose i could do a sort of guided tour, but the sad fact is i find the place really dull.  The Carillon's nice, i suppose, and i've thought about doing an interview with my mother.

Concerning short videos, my thoughts right now are to do something on being teetotal, something on rhetoric or something in slow motion.

In other news, i think one of you has found me elsewhere!

Monday, 19 November 2012

I-Thou again

I have finally released the video that scared me into the wild.  Here it is:

I don't think "parasitic" videos are a good idea, and not for the first time, i'm sort of leeching off Mr McDonnell's fame here.  However, on this occasion i was so inspired by something he said, which was that vlogging is a way two people can connect with each other on a very direct and intimate level.  This reminded me of the I-Thou relationship and Levinas's ethics of the face, so the above is a rather inept go at intimate vlogging.  Clearly it takes genius to do it as well as he does, which is weird because it sets him up on a pedestal because of not being set up on a pedestal, and that reminds me of Jesus.  Of course, as a Christian everyone should remind me of Jesus.

I've been rather uncertain and embarrassed about this video.  As you may have noticed, it's changed its name several times in the last few days.  It was initially called "Oi, Thou", then went through a phase of being called "On The Great Internet Content Creator Existential Crisis Of 2012", which is McDonnell's own title (yep, surname terms there - i would of course still call him "Sie" if i met him and talked to him in person in German, but it's weird because i also feel fatherly towards him - he rarely mentions his father for some reason, compared to his mother), and i've now finally decided to call it "Charlie McDonnell is Jesus", because in a sense, like everyone else, he is in fact Jesus, or rather, we should treat everyone as Jesus, which means relating to them in a face-to-face manner like he does.  I hope that wouldn't totally freak him out because he's an atheist, but then we don't actually know that Jesus was not in fact just an extremely tactful atheist, though of course I believe he wasn't - I believe he believed in himself!  Which is the point.

The ongoing conundrum of the Other Channel continues.  Here's yesterday's video from this channel:

Thus far, this has had eleven views and it's been online for a day and a half.  Meanwhile, back on the Other Channel, i posted another video, whereof a piece is hereby uploaded:

It's less than twenty hours old and has had seventy-two views.  WTF?

This will probably eventually lead to me doing animations, and on that subject, please take a look at and consider subscribing to Laurasdiversion's new channel.  I particularly like this video:

It's made me think that if i maybe stick to eight frames a second and use cels extensively, i could do something similar.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My Christian Hypocrisy

This video:
is about looking at the Sabbath as a weekly Buy Nothing Day.  It was made and uploaded on a Saturday, which for me is not the Sabbath, but this entry is being written on a Sunday, so i'm breaking the Sabbath myself now by writing and posting this.  But then, Christian hypocrisy is nothing new and is in fact a continuation of the Pharisaic hypocrisy against which Jesus spoke (even if he was a fictional character, incidentally).  So, does this mean Christianity is a failure?

Due to the fact that like other human beings i suffer from confirmation bias, i'm gonna say no.  The fact that i am sinning right now by writing and posting this article is a negative reflection on me and not on  Christ or the Holy Ghost, or any of those guys/that guy in fact.  At the same time, it is cause for concern.  Any value Christianity might have is entirely dependent on the extent to which Christians behave better than they used to before conversion, or perhaps better than how they would be acting now were they not Christian.

This is where it gets complicated.  Firstly, how someone would have behaved if they weren't Christian is a counterfactual conditional, and it's possible to project all sort of negative stuff onto that hypothetical scenario just to support your belief in your own position.  Secondly, when people referred to as Christians behave badly, three issues arise:  maybe they're only Christian in name, maybe they would've been even worse otherwise and maybe they're resisting God's will to change them.  The central problem here, however, is that i'm trying to apply the principle to others when i should be applying it to myself.  I am, even more than usual, in no position to judge here because right now, i have a huge plank in my eye and it would be nice to be able to point the finger at others' behaviour.

As a result, what i have to do now is turn it round onto myself.  I know i'm Christian and of course don't know who else is, so i'm aware that i'm not just Christian in name, so that leaves how i would've behaved were i not Christian, something to which my conscious mind probably has no access because of cognitive bias, and one more issue:  resisting God's will to change me.  This may imply belief in the existence of free will, which is philosophically interesting.

A couple of other things:  i have run out of milk and won't be buying any until tomorrow because of my Sabbatarianism, but as a result i will be consuming Liz's milk supply instead.  Also, whereas i won't be buying milk, i fully intend to buy ingredients to feed my son this evening.  Clearly i am obliged to him in this way, but i still could've anticipated that that would become necessary before the Sabbath actually started.  Then again, that would involve increasing my consumption on another day of the week.  Hmm.

On a different note, here's an interesting pair of graphs:

Apparently, interesting and small, and unfortunately also a JPEG, rather than something more sensible.  Just to fill you in on the details, both cover about the same period of time on YouTube, the lower one is the channel i promote here, the upper one is the Other Channel and the upper one's Y-axis has values in the thousands and the lower one only in the hundreds.  The sudden drop in views which took place just over halfway through is the first anniversary of that channel, several months after i'd abandoned it.  My task is to make the bottom graph like the top, and i've decided that that task is similar to trying to get a girlfriend - you have to stop trying and just be yourself.  I don't think i've ever been more myself so publicly as i was on the top channel.  Having said that, i don't plan to be myself in the same way on the bottom channel as i have on the top because it would frighten the horses.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

To hear oursels as ithers see us!

This is a video of two halves.  The first is here:

and the other is running in the background of the first, and is here:

I uploaded both because the second looks rubbish in the first.  Also, the hypnosis slideshows are more popular than i expected.

What i'd really like to do is a kind of green screen thing where i appeared drinking tea and eating a sandwich in front of the slideshow, but i've yet to find out how to do that.

There are now two lurking videos, one on the Sabbath, which will become public on the Sabbath, and the video about Mr McDonnell, which is making me nervous.

This is a short entry because the videos speak for themselves.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Not masculine but very male

I've not made "Oi Thou!" listed yet because i'm not particularly happy with the quality, which in a way is what it's about.  Anyway, here's today's:

This is another thing that really bothers me:  Why aren't more men involved in home ed?  When Liz and i planned our parenting, we decided to do it equally, and i can't believe it's just us, so i can only assume that it's to do with practical difficulties in managing to do it 50/50, because, for example, of the need to earn some money, or as a result of commitments which arose before having children.  However, to be honest i'm just puzzled by it and want to know why.

This also forms part of a pattern in my life where for some reason i often do the stereotypically girly thing without consciously choosing to, which is particularly weird because i see myself not as traditionally masculine but definitely as very male.  For instance, transsexualism is much more common in men, so my gender dysphoria fits in there, and i am rather too into high-tech gadgets.  However, on the other side of things, i did girls' A-levels (RE, Biology and English), became a herbalist (90% female) and have only rarely worked outside the home, have never had a full-time job and am very fixated on clothes, which again get perceived as feminine.

However, this shouldn't be about me, so i return to the original point:  where are all the fathers?  Why is it all women involved in home ed?  Is it a good or bad thing?  Why?  Should something be done about it and if so what?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Oi, Thou! and the Other Channel

I'm not particularly happy with this video, but i really want to keep up the pace.  It is of course currently tomorrow's, not today's, and it's difficult to get Martin Buber's and even more so Emmanuel Levinas's ideas across in this form.  Having said that, what's been said on YouTube recently, and in particular the fact that it's a dialogue, illustrates particularly effectively what an I-Thou relationship is.  In particular, i was thinking of this:

Levinas is quite difficult to follow and i sometimes wonder if he's worth the effort.  However, i think i agree with him about the ethics of the face - the presence of another demands duty to that other, and moreover, the nature of that is prior to ontology.  I should probably explain further, but not yet.

Today's video is about my rather annoying other channel and its irritating success:

This was made and uploaded last night and i released it into the wild this morning.  This is the one you're supposed to watch today!

So:  Several years ago, there was a Wikipedia article on a particular proclivity which i have.  My contribution to the article was mainly in the form of the risks and precautions which could be taken.  I reasoned that if someone Googled the appropriate words, the chances are that they would encounter the text of the article at the top of the results and would (a) feel less isolated, and (b) either be put off or learn how to do it safely.  To provide an analogy, it has sometimes been thought that i practice erotic asphyxiation.  It's not that, but if it were, there will be people who try it without keeping themselves as safe as possible and others who would be put off if they knew the likelihood of whatever the risks were.  That was why i contributed to the article.

After a bit of argy-bargy on the discussion page, the article got deleted because it was not believed to be about a factual practice and in particular, the absence of peer-reviewed articles on it was considered problematic.  This considerably reduced my faith in the credibility of Wikipedia incidentally, because it made me wonder what else had disappeared as a result of these criteria.  What it amounts to is that my paraphilia is a Fortean phenomenon, something i pursue in the ebook.

Since i wanted to continue to pursue the agenda of safety and letting people know they weren't alone, i started a second YouTube channel.  Unlike most channels on this subject, i openly showed my face and talked directly to camera, although i didn't reveal my name.  Due to the remarkable nature of the activities i perform on that channel and my rather blatant attitude towards them, the channel quickly got taken up and blogged about, posted to various websites and the whole thing snowballed.  However, i was only active on it for a few months.  I went off and ignored the channel for a bit, oblivious of what was going on.  I made no effort at all to publicise it, get subs or tie the videos into other people's - it just sat there unattended.

When i went back to it, it had had over 300 000 views and is now heading for half a million, and it has 118 subscribers.  I now make the occasional contribution to it, but they're not videos i make much of an effort to make and i don't pay much attention to them.  Nonetheless, looking at the analytics show that in particular over 2011 and up to 31st January this year, i was getting a relatively huge number of views.  Once it got over a year old, it tailed off a bit, which clearly has some significance but i can't tell what.  Presumably if i'd gone on making videos regularly on that channel, it would've climbed to over a million views by now.  However, it's not monetisable and it's served its purpose, although i am going to upload a few more in the next couple of weeks.

However, all this is very frustrating!  The channel i actually want to succeed, on which this blog is based, has a lot of work put into it but bumps along the bottom of popularity.  I am doing it for its own sake but i also believe in what i'm doing and want more people to benefit from it.

What i need to do is work out what it was about that channel which made it popular and transfer those qualities to this channel without replicating it.  It can't be on the same subject, but it can be as uniquely me, as attention-grabbing, as unusual and so forth, as the other.  There is also now a bit of a cross-over.

Another thing which makes me slightly uneasy about the channel is whether people i know actually know what it is and are just not mentioning it.  I have, as i've said, deliberately "left the door ajar" so that if people really want to find it, they can.  What i don't know is if they have, or even if my version of dropping hints actually hits home.

It'd be nice if there was a way of tying these two things together at the end here, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

On the scrounge

This is a bit blatant.  Also, the bit at the start won't make any sense unless you watch it on YouTube.  After the other day's giveaway directing people to FB, this is a shameless attempt to get more subscribers.  As i'll say in tomorrow's video, i'm endlessly mystified by the success of the other channel compared to this one.  I'm giving away samples of 'You Could've Thought Of That' and doing a sub 4 sub as well as asking people to share.  However, i don't want empty subscriptions but people who watch the videos and like them, and are prepared to criticise constructively.  Other people won't be interested in the giveaway anyway, so their only benefit would be to get a sub, which would be good for them and for me but not if it was ephemeral and both they and i were still lost in the crowd, just a crowd of subscribed YouTubers who are never watched.

Anyway, the free ebooks are:

About a tenth of 'You Could've Thought Of That' in ebook form, and:

similarly, a free sample of 'Here Be Dragons', which i'm beginning to suspect will never see the light of day due to its dearth of illustrations.  I'm not blaming anyone for this, but i do see it as a sign that one should try to pursue projects without help because of the difficulty of interacting with people.  I can say that here with confidence of not annoying anyone because i know hardly anyone reads this.

In that vein, tomorrow's video will be about the Other Channel.  Friday's will be on the I-Thou relationship and then this current phase of navel-gazing will finally be at an end.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Pseudocyesis aeterna

Pseudocyesis is phantom pregnancy.  It occurs in dogs a fair amount and also in humans.  In a way, this belongs somewhere else, but i'm sticking it here.

Today's video:

is not about what would presumably happen if a phantom pregnancy resulted in a phantom baby who then grew up and became a teenager, which is how far we've got with this situation.  So then, Sophie Ure Gray, born 13th November, 1999, whose Facebook page is here:

and who looks like these pictures:

is a happy, healthy child who of course does not attend school like the other two, but she is remarkable for a further feature not true of either of them:  she is uninstantiated - does not have a corresponding example in the physical world.  I have also suggested to my son that he is my favourite son because of my infinite number of imaginary sons, each of which is slightly less perfect than the one before, but all of which are less perfect than he is, because they too share Sophie's non-instantiation.

One serious point which arises from this set of circumstances is that, as i mentioned before, i already suspected i knew Daniel's name in about 1977, twenty years before his birth.  By this i mean that whereas one may be physicalist, dualist, idealist or have some other position about the mind-body problem, one thing that's clear is that a person's identity and role is not necessarily directly connected to their physical being or even their "unextended conscious" non-physical being, but is something else existing in an abstract realm.  This is something which causes me to reject realism rather strongly.

So:  tomorrow i do a subscriber drive and a giveaway.  My subscriber number is stubbornly nailed at just over three dozen and i need to push it up.  The other channel has almost ten dozen subscribers.  Something about the essence of the other channel's success needs to be distilled and transfused.  Tomorrow i will attempt to do something like that.

Monday, 12 November 2012

How to look a complete idiot on YouTube

Thumbnail speaks for itself, i think.  A disclaimer:  learning difficulties are not character flaws and i'm dubious about how useful the very concept of intelligence is, but i reserve the right to insult myself the way i see fit.

I'm not particularly focussed on the idea of credibility or getting respected.  I'm not sure why.  This happens to be the eight dozen and fourth video uploaded that's still on that channel, which is the key to its rather fluorescent tone.  In a way, it's a companion to this earlier video:

The change in quality is quite gratifying. However, it's a bit different as well.  Someone recently remarked that my fixation on the duodecimal system "makes you look like an idiot".  Perhaps, but it's an odd feature of my personality to focus on when i tend to dress like a Belisha Beacon:

Actually, more colourful than that.  Anyway, on the whole i think people may look at me a bit oddly if i'm having a conversation with them and start counting using separate fingerbones rather than ticking things off on my fingertips, but in the street, they're more likely to think i look an idiot because of the fact that i sometimes seem to be trying to burn holes in their retinas and treat gender differences in dress as irrelevant details.  There is a wide choice of other features of my personality which could be selected, such as my reluctance to use a capital letter for the nominative of "me", but no!  Apparently, it's just my adherence to the duodecimal system which makes me look like an idiot.  Personally i think this would be drowned out by the blizzard of weirdness and ridiculousness, but maybe not.  I mean, who am I to judge?

There are a few other things going on in this video apart from exhibitionism, lack of self-awareness or whatever this is.  One of them is the free sample of 'Here Be Dragons' as an ebook, and of course the discerning cognoscenti may notice a similarity between this and another video, but i doubt anyone other than me will ever see both.  Sorry for the cryptic comment.

So that's the traffic jam out of the way.  Tomorrow's offering, as announced at the end of this one, will concern Sophie Gray.  If you haven't met her yet, keep watching.


Back in 1987, there was a hurricane in the South East of England, which felled six of the seven famous oaks from which the town gets its name.  They were replaced soon after but unfortunately, shortly after that took place they were killed by some vandals.  Idiots, i hope i hear you cry.  Well, the time has come to reveal to the world, or rather the homoeopathic dilution of the planet's population reading this blog, that sadly i know who those people were.  I won't be drawn further except to say that they weren't anarchists but were both members of the Socialist Workers' Party, which says it all, i think.

Moving swiftly on, as this is water under the bridge now and i expect there's a statute of limitations on arboricide, i should mention a crime which was taken very seriously in days of yore:  ringbarking.  In case you don't know, this is where the trunk of a tree has the bark and underlying layer of vessels carrying sap and water removed all round, which kills the tree in the same way as ash dieback does - no more water or minerals get further than the ring and the tree dies of thirst.  The Liverpool Care Pathway for trees in other words.  This is something which i would assiduously avoid, and for that reason i eschew most bark- or cambium-based herbal remedies.  Luckily though, trees have more to offer than their roots, bark, cambium or timber.

So here's the video:

The trees mentioned are:

Betula alba - the silver birch.  Parts used:  Leaves.
Tilia cordata - linden tree.  Parts used:  Leaves and fruit.
Sambucus nigra - elder.  Parts used:  leaves, cambium, blossom, berries.  Mostly edible but some parts are poisonous.
Aesculus hippocastanum - horse chestnut.  Parts used:  leaves, nuts.  Poisonous.
Crataegus oxyacanthoides - common hawthorn.  Parts used:  leaves, berries.
Sorbus aucuparia - rowan.  Parts used:  berries, sap.

Incidentally, this video failed to post on Facebook, so far as i can tell, this morning, so i ended up having to post it anyway.  Another video should appear tomorrow morning, the hundredth as it happens, then it'll be Sophie Gray's birthday.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Approaching the eight dozen and fourth!

This morning's video expressed my quandary about Mahala Yousafzai and home ed:

It speaks for itself, so just watch it.  Incidentally, there's a mistake in this video because it contains the brand name "Bench", and although i am a HUGE fan of Bench, i know it's unwise to put free advertising in YouTube videos (and i also worry about sweatshops).  This entry is about something else.

Tomorrow will see two videos.  One of them is being uploaded now but scheduled to appear at 12:30 am tomorrow, and the other will be uploaded tomorrow evening.  This is to avoid a spammy traffic jam of vids.  Presumably some of the videos are less than twenty-four hours apart though (i mean intentionally), so putting two maybe twenty-one hours apart on the same date here in Europe will be OK.  Come to think of it, that probably means i've sometimes posted videos twice in a day from an Australasian perspective.  Oops.

So:  the problem with the next two is that if i stick to one video a day, the hundredth video will happen on Sophie Gray's thirteenth birthday, and since i want to do a video around the idea of a hundredth upload and also one about Sophie, they would turn out to be on the same day.  I can avoid this by uploading two videos to appear tomorrow.

One other thing:  i've done the free sample for 'Here Be Dragons' but think the mermaid hair bit may be missing.

It's Sunday, so i won't go on.  That's it for now (and the Sabbath is a subject for a future video).

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Superficiality and burnout

First of all, some sympathy for Charlie McDonnell:

I just love the way he exposes his vulnerability and honesty in this way and i really feel huge sympathy for him.  He must be under an enormous amount of pressure and it's impossible to imagine how things are if you're afraid of disappointing more than one and a half million people.  This really makes me feel he's just a normal bloke, and it reminds me of my MA.  Poor guy.  Even so, he's got the video absolutely right:  monochrome, black background, cuts between him being on the right and the left and even L-cuts.  He's worrying about nothing.

Anyway, i now think i was right about him having a quarter-life crisis.  Not that i'm smug about that, and also, it's really annoying when people try to cram your pain and suffering into some nice, neat theory, although i suppose it might help to have some kind of explanation, or just some recognition that other people have been through the same thing and come out the other side.  It's also like writer's block, which in a way i wish i suffered from because for all i know i just spout complete garbage, but very fluent complete garbage.  I think if anything i feel fatherly towards him, which is weird because i'm such an underachiever. It must also be really annoying and creepy to have total strangers like me holding forth about him, so i'll shut up now.

Right, so no video of my own today because i accidentally made two scheduled videos public yesterday along with Liz's poetry, which is here:

Mr McDonnell may be scared of us but i'm scared of poetry, so i'll leave it there.  I have faith it's good but - well, see the other post.

Superficiality is supposed to be the topic of this entry, so i'd better get on with it.  One of the things which postmodernism sought to subvert was the notion of depth, in the sense of "deep and meaningful".  Depth, so far as i can tell, has been seen as desirable all over the world, except maybe by the Piraha tribe in the Amazon whom i think are probably a hoax of some kind, perhaps self-perpetrated.  For instance, natural phenomena are often seen as needing an explanation, often articulated through myths, way back into the prehistoric past.  The idea that this is a mistake is fairly new, at least in academic circles.  It's also quite annoying and i'm not sure where it's supposed to go.  However, it relates to the issue of hypnosis as mentioned yesterday.  My concern that something frightening might happen as a result of relieving a mere symptom through hypnosis is based on a depth-oriented view of psychology.  A shallower understanding would include the notion that the only concern is, for example, a phobia or addiction which needs to be addressed, and once it's addressed that's that.

Jimmy Savile once said, while on 'In The Psychiatrist's Chair', that what you saw of him was what you got.  In fact, that has turned out not to be so and the statement probably revealed two things:  that he probably wanted certain activities to stay hidden, possibly even from himself, and that he may even have believed that himself.  Here's a clip of that programme:

So he clearly had something to hide, hence the idea that what we saw was what we got.  Returning to post-modernism, isn't it interesting that a philosophical movement popular from the 1980s which effectively killed philosophy should prize superficiality?  Maybe we all have something we'd rather not think about.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Look into my eyes...

Back in the day, i used to practice hypnosis as a hobby - this was in the late '70s and early '80s.  I had some success with it but later dropped it.  Somewhere there is a cassette lurking of some hypnosis sessions i made in 1980.  As it happens, i have certain issues with hypnosis, just as Liz has issues with my lucid dreaming.  Hypnotherapists have, however, assured me that the responsible use of hypnosis would take pains to avoid the problem i perceive with it.

Before i go on, here are the two latest videos which i have accidentally scheduled for the same day.  They're hypnosis and relaxation videos, one to go down, the other to come up:

Going down:

Coming up:

OK, so there are two issues:  the true nature of hypnosis and the risks of hypnosis.  Well, there's a third issue too - am i a rubbish hypnotist?  Ignoring that one though:

What i mean by the risks of hypnosis is this:  assuming it works, does it amount to a "surgical" removal of an undesirable habit?  Would that "habitectomy" then result in the expression of the issues which caused that habit to manifest in the first place elsewhere?  This is why i've steered clear of hypnosis for several decades.  Having said that, in 1993 i used a post-hypnotic suggestion to ensure that i'd never hit my children, and it has "worked", whatever that means, but seems to have resulted in me shouting at them more.  It would've been better if that hadn't happened, but it illustrates why hypnosis worries me:  you might solve one problem but create another, so for example someone might successfully give up smoking but develop the stomach ulcer the reduction in haemoglobin oxygenation would've caused anyway.  Therefore, it's only a cosmetic change - OK, so you're not a smoker, but you still get ill, so what's the point?  Clearly i've exaggerated here, but another example might be that someone might overeat to fill the gap left by tobacco.

As i said, i'm sure hypnotherapists approach hypnosis responsibly and what i'm suggesting here is like a non-herbalist criticising me for using toxic plants to treat illnesses which in their opinion will both fail to alleviate the condition and give people liver damage and cancer, but the fact is that i'm not a hypnotherapist.

Liz's rather similar objection to lucid dreaming is that the machinations of the subconscious mind are best left alone in order to let it do its own thing and that treating it as either a game or consciously directed therapy will lead to problems later.  It is in fact the case that frequent lucid dreaming is tiring and of course fatigue contributes to poor mental health  for reasons which seem obvious to someone who believes in depth psychology - REM and wakefulness need to be kept separate and blurring the boundary between two states of consciousness is bad news.  I'll come back to states of consciousness in a second.

Nonetheless i dream lucidly on a fairly regular basis and it tires me.  I suspect that lucid dreaming is significantly different from REM because of Daniel Dennett's claims about dreams not being experiences, but that's another story.

The other difficulty with hypnosis is more philosophical:  is it a state of consciousness at all or more like a theatrical performance and a role?  If one believes the latter, would that make it less effective?  There is a debate about this - the "state vs. non-state debate".  Whereas waking and REM sleep are identifiable states of nervous system activity, it isn't clear that hypnosis is such a state as well, and it may be that instead roles are adopted by both the hypnotist and the subject, somewhat like a game or a part in a play.  That in turn suggests dissociation, that is, a condition similar to that of so-called "multiple personalities" - some of us can develop a persona which is highly suggestible.  However, other studies suggest that the hypnotic induction of visual hallucinations involves measurable changes in neural activity in the visual cortex.

My general impression is that it tends to work if you think it will.  It's not clear if it won't work when you think it won't and in fact going in that direction may be unhelpful for therapeutic purposes.

There is a secondary issue about depth and superficiality which i haven't time to cover yet.

A few comments on the videos.  The first one has a doubled-up soundtrack introduced by accident because i wasn't aware that Sound Recorder also recorded anything else which was playing on the computer at the time, but i decided to leave it that way due to the possibility of subliminal influences.  The second one retains the grating, rough soundtrack of its Soundcloud equivalent because i decided that tended to irritate and therefore wake people up.  Also, there is both a kitten and a double rainbow in the going under clip, which is deliberate viewer bait - in fact there are two because the slideshow repeats except for the final image, so it's a double double rainbow.  However, i still think it's justified because although the tags say that, there really are such images in the slideshow.  The transitions are probably more abrupt than they should be.

Interestingly, the second video, which is intended to wake the listener up, has intentionally stimulating images and is much shorter, and i found that such images tended to be portrait rather than landscape in aspect ratio, emphasising the vertical.  Clearly that makes sense if the subject is diet coke and mentos or a rocket taking off, but it seemed to apply across the board.

Finally, these two videos are in the "Videos relating to the Other Channel" playlist because they are primarily part of a hypnosis project i'm doing over there with several other videos, but could be useful here too.  I'm also trying to entice people to watch this channel.  I expect views on these two videos to increase rather rapidly once this project is underway, although i could be wrong.  The idea is to thread viewers in and out of the two channels, although there is still some point in having "in" and "out" videos apart from that - it stops me from having to make very long videos and upload them with identical beginnings and endings, and means i can still stick the middle bits on the other channel and have them come up with distinctive thumbnails.  They also have re-watch value.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Ash dieback

A big issue here at the moment is ash dieback.

Apologies for the choppy sound in the middle, but i still wanted to post this.
How to recognise ash dieback:

More information here:

Advice on helping prevent spread:

There's also this:

What this video hasn't got in it, thank goodness, is any visual signs of ash dieback, because as far as i could tell, there wasn't any in the trees i noticed.  Presumably it's only a matter of time, sadly.

I don't actually use ash at all herbally, as i prefer to avoid using trees, particularly the bark, because it seems disrespectful and unsustainable.  However, it has been used in the past and i might consider eating the keys if i get the chance.

I'm a herbalist, not an ecologist, so i can't promise the information on ash dieback itself is accurate although the Forestry Commission are presumably better.  Asian Fraxinus excelsior trees are completely resistant to ash dieback, so it seems to have been there in the past.  In Denmark, about 10% of the trees were resistant and this may be the case here too.  Again, i'm not an ecologist, but i imagine this might give us some hope unless the trees get replaced by something else.

I also want to celebrate the ash tree.  I particularly like the Latin name Fraxinus excelsior, although i realise that the rather striking species name of our native ash - EXCELSIOR! - is just a Latin comparative.  Like the names of other trees in Latin, Fraxinus is feminine with a masculine form and declension, although this shifted, unsurprisingly, after the fall of the Roman Empire and in modern Romance languages the names of trees are often feminine.

Regarding the ecology of the tree itself, it has pinnate leaves which allow a lot of daylight through, so were it to be replaced by something like a sycamore, that would starve the ground underneath of light and reduce the number and diversity of herbs growing there, so it is still important to herbalists even though we rarely use it.  It's also very thirsty and dislikes shadow.  The former is quite important as it grows in floodplains (along with limestone rich higher ground), so i'm guessing it helps prevent flooding although i may be wrong.

Ash keys are edible, traditionally pickled, and appear to be spicy although i couldn't swear to that as i've never tried them.  Other parts of the tree are purgative, diaphoretic, bitter, diuretic and astringent, suggesting some use but there are probably much better herbal remedies to use than that.

One way in which it really does score with human use is through its timber, which it produces very efficiently for a hundred to a hundred and forty years.  This wood is particularly strong and springy, and is useful for furniture, wooden tools and panels in buildings.  It's particularly good for joists and spears.

I hope this video will become dated in the right way when it's revealed that the situation was exaggerated and a false alarm, but i fear it won't.

Just on the sound issue, if anyone can tell me how i can get that sorted i would be most grateful.

The signs of ash dieback include dead leaves (as opposed to yellowing autumn leaves or ash keys, which i was surprised to discover are often mistaken for dead leaves), stems changing colour to purple and brown towards the ends and distinctive diamond-shaped lesions on the trunk.  These are bare-looking patches which are narrower than they are tall and are quite wide.

Finally, this was filmed near Aylestone Meadows, an absolutely wonderful green wedge in the southwest of Leicester which the City Council keep trying to destroy for some reason.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Unhappy and wrong :-)

A blog entry without a new video this time, in order to avoid getting ahead of myself.  More than one video a day means spam to a lot of people and it's bad enough as it is.  Nonetheless, there will be a rather old vid on here in a bit.

Just to clear up something else, this is not about me being unhappy, as i'm not.  Whether i'm right or wrong is another issue.  Anyway, Slartibartfast once said "I'd far rather be happy than right, any day".  I find this statement interesting because of what it illustrates about human nature and behaviour, except that it's more likely to be the other way round.  A whole load of people, possibly the majority, would seem to prefer a sense of certainty to happiness.

I'm sure we all have mental health problems and have friends with them because that's the nature of mental health, or perhaps the nature of the medical paradigm as applied to the human mind.  Even so, we shouldn't trivialise the problems which arise when people are frankly mentally ill in such a way that they believe major vendettas are being conducted against them personally by the government (when others disagree about that) or they find their situations so hard to deal with that they throw themselves off bridges, to give two examples.

Mental health is a huge and controversial subject of course, and i am going to have to avoid saying as much as i might want to in order not to go on and on to an even greater extent than i usually do.  As a result, much of what i'm about to say is likely to look simplistic, and i apologise for that in advance.  One thing which does strike me as a unifying feature of most mental illness is the presence of an idea on which the person is unusually strongly focussed, without reference to its truth-value.  That is, it can be correct but is intrusive or one feels a compulsion to pay attention to it which others tend to see as excessive.  However, i don't want to talk about that now.

There are many examples of false beliefs and belief systems which restrict people's ability to be happy, and of course many true beliefs and belief systems which do the same.  When the set of beliefs is false, however, one sometimes has the impression that the person holding them is so attached to them that they would in fact prefer to continue believing them than become happy, even if they are intellectually pretty convinced they're wrong.  My interpretation of this is that people prefer the sense of conviction that they have that the world, or their world, is a particular way to a world or life which seems more positive but is based on shakier foundations - they tend to screen out the sense of inherent uncertainty with which we could all be living if we could escape from our own world views.  It also seems that they sometimes identify quite strongly with their beliefs, and also that they have proceeded down a long tunnel of beliefs which reinforce each other until they want to hang onto them just to feel they haven't wasted their time or spent a long time being wrong.  The beliefs become entrenched and their removal becomes quite threatening.

That's one aspect.  Another is that the nouns can be wrong but the verbs right, i.e. the literal truth of what someone believes can be false but there is a deeper and in a sense more meaningful level on which it's true.  The mistake, if it is one, is to mistake the metaphor for reality.  For instance, one might feel that one's partner is trying to take over the world and is secretly in control of all governments.  That's a belief which would be incorrect for most or all people (I would say "all" because of my view of the nature of power).  However, it may also express that person's impression that their partner is dominating them unduly, and that may in fact sometimes be so.  Therefore, on many occasions the question of whether something is literally true or not, by which i mean whether i agree with that perception or not, is completely beside the point and a complete blind alley.  That doesn't mean one should agree with the person - confirming such a belief would often mean, for instance, that they have received external corroboration for a very frightening possibility and that won't do them any good - but it would at the same time often be inappropriate only to engage with what they're saying in terms of a medical model because that amounts to a failure to listen or take that person seriously.

This is not even always about mental health.  Belief systems which are entirely false and unsupported by evidence in literal terms, which all of us probably have, can still be true in an important non-literal sense, and it's not always productive to get fixated on the idea of whether they're literally true.  That in itself would be an example of the kind of exactly the kind of excessive focus which characterises mental illness itself.

OK, so today's video is old.  It dates from the time before i attempted to keep this channel's videos short and sweet, it's on a cruddy camera (for video - it's a nice stills camera) and there are probably a load of other problems with it, but i humbly crave your attention.  Here it is: