Category Archives: Life

Lend your Internet connection to your neighbours

Do you have unmetered Internet access?

Do you have a nearby neighbour with either metered or no Internet access?

Give them your wireless password for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. (You can change it later, to lock them out when the crisis has subsided.)

At this time, access to the Internet is literally a lifesaver. Not only that: with video calls the only human interaction some people have, lots of data is a lifesave. A connection limited to some number of Gbits per month is not going to cut it.

Making sushi for my son’s birthday

My eldest son, Daniel, just turned 22. Sushi is his favourite food, but of course we couldn’t take him to a restaurant during the Coronavirus crisis — and even in peacetime, the nearest good sushi restaurant to us is 67 miles away in Solihull. So I prepared his birthday meal.

Here, I am making the last of the nigiri — mostly salmon, some tuna. In the middle of the plate is a roll of my own invention, inspired by Peking duck pancakes in Chinese restaurants. It’s shredded chicken, sliced spring onions, hoi sin sauce and avocado. It was a big hit.

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Keep Calm but Don’t Carry On

I’m fond of the old WWII slogan Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s not just that it captures something appealingly British (yes, there are still appealing aspects to the stereotypically British character), it’s that in most circumstances it’s such excellent advice.

Keep calm, but don't carry on

These are not most circumstances.

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Updating the “About” page

When I started this blog over nine years ago, back in February 2010, I made an about page that said I was 41 years old and had been happily married to Fiona for 17 years. I said I was father to three boys: Daniel (12 years old), Matthew (10) and Jonno (7). And I included this photo of my with them, crouching in front of a whale jaw in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History:

Me with (left to right) Jonno, Daniel and Matthew, in front of a baleen-whale skull at the Oxford University Natural History Museum

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Head in the Clouds

Our family was away from 24th-31st July, cruising in a boat on the Norfolk Broads. In fact, we were in this specific boat, “Glistening Light”:

During that week, my middle son Matthew had a burst of creative energy, and wrote and recorded an EP of five instrumental tracks (six if you count the very short track “(edited)”), which he titled Head in the Clouds. It’s very sunny, optimistic and quirky.

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Taking down trees in our garden

We’re fortunate to have a lot of green space out the back of our house — it came about because we moved out of London to rural Gloucestershire, and the prices of property vary wildly between the two places. There’s about an acre all told — some of it garden, some of it largely unused field.

When we moved in, there were basically no trees on the land at all (see above, taken from the top floor of the house in November 2005, a few months after we arrived.)

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A treble clef in the wisteria

Late last year, I spotted a treble clef, growing naturally, in the wisteria on the front of our house:

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In one month, I’ve lost 6.4 kg (14.1 lb, 1 stone)

On the 13th of last month, having just got back from a fattening week in the USA, I weighed myself after my morning shower, and registered 105.4 kg. Today is the 13th, exactly one month on, and I weighed in at 99.0 kg. That’s a loss of 6.4 kb, which is almost exactly 14 pounds or, as the England have it, one stone.

Here’s how it was done:

(That’s just a single spicy crab roll in the photo, by the way: I cut it into twelve narrow slices instead of the traditional eight thicker slices.)

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Clematis growing on wooden pallets

A few years ago, I leaned a couple of wooden pallets up against the side of our woodshed, and forgot all about them. In the mean time, some clematis has self-seeded and started climbing up them. Now I don’t want to move them.

See also: Death and life in the woodshed.

Don’t neglect the thing that’s most important to you

My friend and occasional co-author Matt Wedel is finding it hard to make time to write paleontology papers, in among all the administrative responsibilities that have accumulated as he’s become more senior at his university. He observed: “I need to recultivate the ability to Just Say No when it’s time to do paleo.”

This is an example of an important and pervasive problem: whatever is most important to us becomes — for that very reason — a kind of background-radiation thing that we do whenever we’re not doing something more urgent. But what that often means in practice that everything else is more urgent, and we paradoxically neglect the thing that is most important.

I am convinced this is a big part of why marriages fail.