Posted by & filed under Life Experiences.

I find myself in the unusual position of having to decide what to do with my days. Well, it is unusual compared to the last year or so. Boredom is like age in that you are only ever as bored as you feel. It’s taken a bit of time for me to realise that I quite like the mundane rituals of running the show on my own, and that it’s better to get on with things in order to take pride in ones accomplishments as soon as possible – even if it is just getting the dishes done.

Writing is harder though. All these small rituals and such leave little room for thinking up big ideas. I find myself with little time to ponder big questions and it seems funny just how much I thought about big ideas while looking for work and while largely out of control of my life earlier this year. I guess control over one’s destiny is never really acknowledged when we have it, and is ardently missed when it is gone.

As such my mantra these days is that advantage is temporary. No matter who you are, your high ground and comfort will eventually be traded away. You may not even recognise your current position of safety until it is gone. There is no malice involved, it’s just the passing of time and/or the second law of thermodynamics. Nothing bad lasts forever – the hold of troubled times has its own entropy too. However, the flip side to that is that you have to cherish the good times while they are here.

You have a wealth of talent and treasure available to you. We all do. It also magnifies when shared with others, something that I wish I’d learned sooner. I could go into all the reasons why I lost sight of that, but it’s better to just say it loud and proud now and try not to forget it. At the moment my slow rhythms and small victories are my own, but I hope to start sharing them soon. Perhaps I will write more and share that way, perhaps I might meet someone and share my life: I certainly have the room.

Talking of which, I will sleep star-shaped in bed tonight. I have to do so while I can. After all, advantage is temporary.

Posted by & filed under Website.

I recently started a new job and moved in to a new flat. This means I’m too busy to write any long blog posts at the moment. Also I’m still not quite at home there, so I tend to spend my evenings tidying up or setting up new things. It’s a shame because I have plenty of things to write about (even without observations on moving, starting a new job, etc) but I guess the writing will happen eventually.

What’s funny is that October and November are usually purple patches for my writing. My archives tend to look a little thin in Decembers due to the demands of the season, and some years I publish short stories during advent and then delete them after Twelfth Night. I’m not sure I have enough material for an advent calendar this year but if I get enough time to think about it, I will certainly try to come up with something. Otherwise, I can fill out the blog with all the posts that built up while I didn’t write.

Life is an adventure at the moment. It has been for over a year. I got myself away from a toxic job and from people who were doing me no good. I’ve reconnected with my family, made new friends, and now have a new career path to explore. Starting again has its frustrations for sure, but for the moment I can say for certain that I am happy. It is a good feeling.

Hero image for Building Brains post

Posted by & filed under Books, Ideas, Programming, Science.

On Not Reading "The Pale King"

"The Pale King" is the third and final novel by American author David Foster Wallace. He was working on it when he committed suicide in 2008. It was compiled from incomplete notes and released posthumously in 2011. It deals with several characters around an IRS tax office in Peoria, Illinois1.

Cover of The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

I haven't read all of "The Pale King", just the first few pages. I think it might be too much for me to take on at the moment. This post though is not one about me not reading a book. I was struck by how well written it was, there's an amazing section near the start2 relating the thoughts of a character as he sits on a plane and stares at the ground below. The focus of these thoughts is split between revision for a tax certification exam and the memory of something going very wrong in a previous (tax-related) job.

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Posted by & filed under Wales.

Here are some photos from a recent weekend in Wales with my great friend Mim, who I met on the South America tour. The great weather meant we got out to see some beautiful places and had a wonderful time (even if we did manage an appalling joint-ninth place in the pub quiz).

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Posted by & filed under Album Digest.

Album Digest September 2014 contains four amazing albums, including the long-awaited return from the Aphex Twin, and an album from Cymbals Eat Guitars released about a week after I wondered what had happened to them. Spooky. Rounding out the selection this month are a cool punky-disco album by The Juan Maclean and a truly remarkable offering by Vessel.

  1. Aphex Twin SYRO
  2. Cymbals Eat Guitars Lose
  3. The Juan Maclean In A Dream
  4. Vessel Punish, Honey

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Hero image for post about how to generate random numbers in R

Posted by & filed under Mathematics, Programming.

This post deals with how to generate random numbers in R. It is good to know how to generate random numbers with a particular language or software package for at least one of the following three reasons:

  1. You want to test something that depends on a particular distribution.
  2. You’re running a stochastic process of some kind (Branching process, random walk etc) and you need random numbers for deciding whether an event occurs.
  3. You forgot to pick your lottery numbers this week.

Let’s step through doing each of these with R. Over time I will write this post out again for C++, Java, Python, and Ruby. This post is just a memory aid that I can use later on and is not meant as anything more rigorous than that. As such it is a living document, I will mutate this post in place as and when I need to. Memory aids are useful for when you haven’t used a particular programming language or software package for a while. Who knows, it might save me a couple of searches with DuckDuckGo.

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Posted by & filed under Quotes.

You will not fail if you stay the course and hold true. Don’t cede your values for temporary comfort or notional control. Don’t panic. Eventually great books are written, great cities are built, and difficult times are overcome.

History is filled with examples of people who pushed the order button too soon… but few instances where people stuck with their principles for too long.

Seth Godin

Read this quote in its original context: Seth’s Blog: Law and Order.

Posted by & filed under Website.

This site now uses the excellent WP-Bootstrap theme. The theme delivers the Bootstrap look via the Bones theme/framework. It’s responsive and scales well from mobile to desktop. This means that the site has a consistent and unfussy look no matter what device you’re using. It’s meant to be modified with child themes but I like the default look. I decided to change two things: the way the featured image of each post is cropped to 780 by 300, and the way that a custom gallery shortcode breaks the tiled galleries you get from JetPack.

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Hero image for post with embed of rain on my tent in ecuador

Posted by & filed under Ecuador, South America.

When we camped in Baños, the nights were very rainy and so I recorded the sound of it falling on my tent. For some reason this clip has been downloaded over a hundred times on Soundcloud, so I thought I’d share it here.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]

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Hero image for review of All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Posted by & filed under Books.

Cover of All The Birds, Singing by Evie WyldI recently finished reading All The Birds, Singing, the second novel by Evie Wyld. It’s about a woman called Jake who lives alone on a farm with a dog called Dog on an island somewhere off the coast of Britain. She has sheep to look after but something keeps coming in the middle of the night to kill them.

Meanwhile, as the narrative on the island moves forward in the present, a second narrative peels off backwards to explain her past. This takes place in Australia. Jake is still working with sheep but there is a confrontation with a fellow farmhand who threatens to expose a secret from her past. As this second strand unfurls, we begin to see why Jake is jumpy and convinced that the deaths of her sheep represent ill-portent. However, because this second story rolls backwards in jumps, we have to wait until the end for the terrible events that set her on this path.

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