We have a new liquid handwash. It's supposed to be scientifically formulated to minimise odours but doesn't quite get there. Now is not the time to mention the smells I'm…

The stuff inside the pump dispenser has an odd aroma – not fresh, not citrus-y or forest-y, not sensual or traditional, not exotically fruity, nor any combination of the preceding – just odd.

Around 40 years ago, before my family temporarily moved out during our home's refurbishment, my dad owned a lathe. It was fascinating and dangerous and, as a 0-10 year old, I wasn't allowed anywhere near it of course. Of course that didn't stop me from fiddling and, though I never turned a thing on it, it generated an obsession that…

Even without power, turning the chuck by hand, adjusting the gear train ratios to alter the shaft speeds and to sense the changed torque necessary to… heck even opening the main inspection panel was…

Its lubricating oil had a unique smell that fixed itself to my consciousness and remains with me to this day. Once it got on my fingers it was nigh-on impossible to shift that smell. I was extraordinarily careful to never get it on my sleeves – and of course failed.

Oh the irony of a thing supposed to shift smells evoking a memory of one so difficult to shift. Anyway, when we moved out, the lathe was sold.

This handwash alone hasn't just resurrected one memory, oh no. If I had a suitable metaphor to describe the oddness of what I'm feeling right now I'd use it. One after another, recollections are cascading towards me and, for the most part, they're good.

Just one thing stands out though – looking back it appears my dad really didn't understand my left-handedness.


No. I'm not participating in a public fundraiser. I'm not challenging anyone else to do it, nor am I demanding they forfeit large sums of money if they fail.

A lot of people won't bother to ask what the Ice Bucket Challenge is for, concentrating merely on the social dimension. A lot will do it and donate to their favourite charity. Most, I hope, will donate to the MND/ALS charity in their region – and have fun doing so.

There's no sugar-coating this, so here goes.

Me? I've painful memories of my dad's last days to battle with. It's enough. Ok, so I donated £25 this time round. No fanfare, no fuss, just went online and pressed buttons.

There's no escaping the simple fact that Motor Neurone Disease is a fatal disease. The odd exception stays around for longer than most but it's not much of a life.

Nearly twenty eight years after his death in hospital some memories remain undimmed. Not the kind that return on seeing a nearly-forgotten photo. Not those based solely on the photo with no memory of the actual event, no. Powerful stuff.

After the diagnosis my dad knew. And knowing, he gave up, or at least that's how I remember it. There's no shame in that, no recriminations from the people he left behind. None.

When your wife and son have to wipe, wash, dry and dress you, when eating becomes difficult, when breathing becomes a strain, the very very worst thing remains – the mind is…

My dad did crossword puzzles when other pastimes became impossible. He did them in his head. Let's face it, no longer being able to hold a pen can't be much fun. He'd struggle to make himself understood when we filled the words in but upon completing the grid together the sense of achievement, the triumph, the bright eyes – if only for a moment – gave me an inkling of how important this achievement was.

I also remember the good times – that's the important thing to remember here.

£25 seems a pitifully small sum of money to give, especially if the current massive outpouring of goodwill advances the understanding of MND/ALS and eases the suffering of those whose lives it destroys.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking you can have a bucket emptied over your head and then give your money to just any charity – the biggest do not need your money right now. Cancer affects much greater numbers. Fighting cancer is important. Everyone I know has someone in their lives who's survived, or succumbed to The Big C. Yet…

The effects of natural or man-made disasters are, nowadays, there for all to see – often within a scant few hours of the events happening. Such things are often forgotten a scant few hours or days later – there's no personal connection thus the average human simply can't grasp the impact.

More fleeting events such as, oh I don't know, the continuation of famine and poverty worldwide caused by the diversion of funds away from those who need them most, cause me to stop and think.

Just after the shock of 9/11 I donated money, like many, to the American Red Cross's appeal. My donation was misplaced. Blood donations had to be destroyed as the existing infrastructure was unable to cope. A vanishingly small percentage of the blood got through to 9/11 victims. Sure it swelled their coffers but…

I failed to donate after Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of e.g. New Orleans. If the richest country in the world cannot look after its own why should I, a man of moderate means living in the UK, even think of doing so?

There's nothing wrong with donating time or money. There's nothing wrong with feeling better that you've helped by giving money. I'm not going to get into 'Liking' or retweeting though – suffice it to say I know people who think pressing a button HELPS!

Right now it's great that MMD/ALS is, even tenuously, high in the public's consciousness. Don't be an arse and say they're 'stealing' from more established causes. Don't try to justify your charity's position by saying 'no-one OWNS #icebucketchallenge.' Some little person somewhere managed to do something innovative without the benefit of advertising departments and focus groups – and it worked. Just accept it.

There's nothing wrong with a spur-of-the-moment donation either. On this 9/11 (ok, 11 September 2014) a Manchester, UK dogs home was the victim of a nasty, cowardly arson attack which killed around 60 and caused a massive surge in donations. By lunchtime the day after £622,000 (a cool million US$) had been raised. It easily doubled in the few days following – something that no-one could have predicted.

"Think first, donate later." It's how I operate now. I happen to believe it's the responsible way to approach the thorny issue of wanting to do something good whilst staying within the confines of an ever-shrinking pot after all the bills have been paid.

This post originally aired 20 September 2014.

School report

I like 'The Internet.' I like it a lot. I interact with an at-glacial-pace-decreasing-number of the myriad of services available 'on' it as I understand more about what I need from it. It wasn't always thus but since Q1 1997 I've found it to be indispensable.

Google is my friend. I resisted the temptation to sell my soul to it for the longest time. And then I signed up to everything. I resisted the call of Facebook for years and, though I'm yet again deactivated there, when I fell I found it useful.

Twitter and (ADN) – different services, different uses. In the same way that I found Twitter to be at first exciting and for the moment and then restrictive because of the post character limit, I find ADN to be a place I can contemplate my timeline and relax into the higher character count. No-one would ever describe my posting style as abrupt, terse, or concise. Certainly not inflammatory.

Nearly everyone on ADN behaves like adults, even those not legally entitled to be called such by dint of their age. Nearly everyone has silly moments. Nearly everyone, even when arguing about deeply-held beliefs, is courteous and, I believe, most attempt to allow discourse instead or riding roughshod over what they believe to be opposing factions' opinions.

There are of course, an odd number who fail to hold to the high standards I set*, but I recognise that if an individual holds a particular viewpoint strongly-enough it's pointless to try and change it.

I even like it when things go wrong and apologies are made and attempts made to fill the cracks instead of papering over them.

I emphatically do NOT like being told to shut up and compared to a naughty schoolboy for engaging in a discussion about a subject that pains me. I'm an adult and can behave as I choose, when I choose, and where I choose.

In my entire adult life no-one apart from my wife has told me to shut up and escaped my undivided attention. In my 17 years online, no-one has ever told me to shut up – apart from a Russian youth on Twitter who misunderstood my attempts to help solve a problem because I misunderstood his poorly-phrased question. The stream of unnecessary invective thrown at me led me to the inescapable conclusion he'd recently discovered English sweary stuff and I was in the right place at the right time – for him.

One attempt at conciliation over, blocking was easy. These days though, well, I have less time to piss about around hopeless causes.

I care deeply about maintaining a positive and so-far-lifelong approach to fairness and tolerance, the same towards race and gender issues – and, trivially, not taking sides in Apple vs Android and other similar silly stuff – an approach that my parents instilled in me from an early age. Not beat into me with a big stick but showed to me with their love and kindness. I've been extraordinarily lucky that my life hasn't been blighted by nastiness, apart from the torment inflicted by one particularly difficult managing director. By the same token I've not yet achieved president-of-the-world status – but happiness means different things to different people.

It's not an exciting approach.

Anyone who knows me understands something of who I am, and may even understand most of what I mean here. Anyone who doesn't could take the time to learn.
But not everyone gives a damn. And, do you know, that's fine – the Internet is, after all, big enough for everyone. I have no objection to people saying what they like, when they like, where they like. Where views repeatedly and negatively impact others and the torment caused could be avoided by a moment's reflection, then there comes a point at which engagement should cease.

I have another philosophy. It's closely linked to something I wrote above. I complain. I complain about lots of things. I complain about the weather, the speed of the internet, poor web design, my iPhone 5's excellent battery life [edit may be required!], the traffic, the weather again, food, the abysmal choice of television despite the eleventy trillion available channels, Eastenders (UK), the decline of Dr Who post-Jon Pertwee and again after David Tennant, the crap £35 tablet we got as a first for our youngest daughter and which I recently inherited as we upgraded her to first class, envelopes that don't seal with my saliva, the new picture frames we must buy special hooks for, the speed at which my unattended cups of tea cool, motorists driving past past the speed limit with their phones clamped firmly to their ears prior to parking on the pavement on the yellow lines, the weather yet again, the price of bread, my stupidity in not retaining the entirety of my Asimov novel collection, hospital food and signage, the…

Ok, I complain.

You may have heard of the Psion Series 5, a brilliant but inherently unreliable portable pocket computer, way ahead of its time and genuinely useful. I'd owned it's precursors, the also unreliable but brilliant Series 3 and 3a. When the 5 arrived I saved and saved for and then and spent loads of money on it. The next logical step, I needed some home banking software to get my finances in order. I tried a few and eventually came across Nigel Bamber's Home Bank. It fitted me well, but not perfectly. I outlined the possible improvements to Nigel and, do you know, he agreed. He changed the program and I fell into his cunningly-laid trap (not true, I volunteered) and spent time designing icons for the bloody thing. I think my name may be in the credits somewhere if anyone still has a working example. Though not a complaint, I attempted to help, and found the process very satisfying.

It's pointless listing the number of times my subsequent and little ideas have subtly changed stuff, even usually for the better. I'm no improvement machine when all's said and done.

I also shout. I shout at the cats, I shout at the girls, at my wife, at aeroplanes, idiot boy racers with stereo systems more powerful than their car engines. If the moon annoys me one day…

Shouting is a waste of time, energy and opportunity. I never, ever, rubbish genuine attempts to improve. My daughters (4 & 7) often struggle against what they see as insurmountable odds. They share a silly dance, running around the room, hands waving high, shrieking "It's impossible!" It should be endearing but…

Spelling was a problem for the oldest. Maths still is. Obviously, we all start from zero knowledge and get better, all at our own pace and often despite the best efforts of professionals an an incompetent parent (e.g. me!) She's become a voracious, and I really do mean voracious, reader. Her stories are really good too. Short due to her age, her lack of concentration, but good. They show imagination possibly beyond her years. Her expression and grasp of words when reading out loud – it's a joy to me. To us.

We got her end-of-year school report today. She's not perfect but I was so, so proud reading it. 'A' grades for effort all the way down. Imagine me sat there with a big, silly, grin and tears rolling down my face. With her at 7 years old being exposed to an idiotically-extensive and advanced-compared-to-my-40-year-old-studies, you know what? I don't care about the occasional 'average' grade for attainment. She TRIES! Proud.

This unwarranted emotion may have something to do with my wife being in hospital. But looking across and, for today, having no-one to share this with right there and then…

Before bedtime this evening the same oldest daughter rushed out of the room and cried. She wouldn't tell me why. Stood there with tears pooling in her eyes, and then sobbed. So I applied the hot poker and forced it out of her. The non-trivial cause of the angst: a picture she'd been working on using a dark blue felt-tip pen had gone wrong.

A quick Google Image search and some well-chosen Leonardo Da Vinci sketches to the rescue, a chat about the evolution of a painting from outline (say pencil) sketch through shaded image to… I now have a sketchy portrait (pot belly, beard, moustache, reading glasses, interesting hair) waiting to be completed tomorrow and then coloured in.

(Unfortunately the spreadeagled man complete with anatomically-correct thingy appeared not far from the Mona Lisa whilst scrolling through Google Images, but nudity's not a big thing here. And thankfully the appendage doesn't yet appear on my portrait.)

I'm a rubbish parent though. Occasionally a complete, total, and intransigent arse. I can catalogue every flaw in my personality and the way each impacts both of my lovely daughters. Do I improve, can I improve with age?

Well, you can bet I try my very, very best to get it as close to right, as close to fair and as close to consistent as I can. So yes.

But, when all's said and done, an arse remains an arse. Me – I'm a good wiper.

*Reverse-self-deprecation gambit.


My eyesight is deteriorating as I age. In the early nineties (last century!) I was short-sighted and experienced headaches whilst driving. Now it's the long-sightedness of my advancing years.

We get regular eye tests at work but my urge to remedy the sight issue has fallen between the cycles. No problem, I bought my own – these. They have spring-loaded sides which, it has to be said, gave me some initial discomfort. Running boiling water over the sides and gently re-shaping to fit my unique head profile proved a permanent solution.

Now, I think they add an air of sophistication to my otherwise-morose appearance, and the design fits my needs very well. I can read comfortably and, if needs be, look up at my family or the telly without too much re-focus disorientation.

The best bit – their aspect ratio means I can look over the top of the frame without touching the glasses!

Look, I know I should have visited a qualified optometrist/optician but…

For the reasons outlined above, and for the freedom-from-magnifying-glasses this product brings me, I award Baz's seal of approval


Yesterday, before work, I voted. In the greatest of British traditions I was able to make small talk with one of the sitting councillors (not up for re-election) and wished his candidate every success in the polls. Not that I was voting for the party. That was the easy bit – the area demographic made the result a foregone conclusion.

The hardest bit was getting into the building – the Entrance arrow confusingly pointing to a glass panel next to the door. I asked, a few other people had already commented on it, but none had actually suggested that it be moved! See, politics and the processes around politics aren't always boring!

More small talk later, my attempts at ingratiating myself with everyone there complete, I left for work.

In the early hours of Friday morning the local result was announced. I care nothing for the national or European picture, for this year mine was a protest vote – see the day before yesterday's post for more on this.

The area's Conservative (incumbent party) candidate won handsomely. UKIP came second, Labour third, the Liberal Democrats a far-away fourth.

Oddly given the 2012 election result, a new low for the party, the Liberal Democrats actually managed to increase the number of votes cast. By 3! This despite their candidate's failure to electioneer, the total lack of leaflets distributed on his behalf and despite me giving my vote to someone else. People are, it seems, creatures of habit.

Why am I writing about this if it's not that important?



We've got the local councillor and the European Parliament elections here tomorrow. I'll be honest and say I'm thinking of voting UKIP. Taking their stated aims at face value and remembering all politicians lie is the key to my decision-making process. I'm all for saving the money currently used to prop up the economies of new entrants to Europe and helping Britain first.

Incidentally… No, not incidentally, call me a racist and we'll have an argument.

Mine this time will be a protest vote. It doesn't matter if you consider UKIP to be a bunch of racist, sexist, lying, self-serving scumbags, the alternatives here are just not palatable – and all parties have their rebels. A few elections ago, when seemingly every voter and their dog catapulted green issues into the spotlight, I was one of those idealistic box crossers. It seemed to make a difference then, so why not now?

Aside from that aberration I've been a lifelong Liberal/Liberal Democrat party voter, even member for a couple of years. Disillusion is now the order of the day, centred on their inability to organise any presence at all in this voting district despite my previous attempts at engagement – my time utterly wasted.

After this year's count and another failure, I WAS considering sending an email to the local LibDems party leader, to twist the 'I told you so' knife… but that just wouldn't be fair. Blogging and talking about it at my ADN account are.

After the debacle of the last Labour governments' repeated waste and stealthy destruction of our safe financial future; the Conservatives' unholy alliance with the LibDems and their accelerated destruction of our safe financial future, and the futility of voting Green this time around, what's left?

To be fair the 2 local Conservative councillors are nice guys, approachable, and they regularly turn out for local events. A part of our community. But voting for 'em? No.

Oh, and my perception of the Green Party is that they're trying to save the planet. An admirable thing to do even in the face of vested interest, but… We've already had 3 identical leaflets of theirs delivered. My emailed observations that they were wasting our precious resources but were at least doing better than the LibDems was returned to me as undeliverable.

So, back on track, to where this started, a UKIP protest vote?

What the hell am I protesting ABOUT – why this stream-of-consciousness claptrap?!

Something. Dunno.

Hand of shame

I have, like the vast majority of humans and humanoid creatures on this planet, a right hand. I'm naturally left-handed but the right is used frequently. Doors, steering wheel, scissors, shaking others' hands… though the list is not endless, 'versatile' is a fair description

My right hand has a special purpose, a now-open secret going back nearly 10 years…

My wife hasn't picked the phrase 'Hand of Shame' randomly, nor was it chosen by accident. Not really.

The first time was on holiday/vacation – a cruise down the River Nile. The second on our Honeymoon, at the Blue Waters Resort, Antigua. When our first daughter arrived we had a brief period of respite, which ended a couple of years after a very successful and mercifully-brief potty training period.

It's a small hand, almost unnaturally small for a man. It's matched very well indeed to its companion. It's called upon to go to places a man's hand ought not to fit – in short, it's likely more versatile than yours. Unless, that is, you can play the piano or do impressive prestidigitation. In which case mine's floundering in your right-man-hand's wake.

Now, do you recall I mentioned it's used for shaking hands? At this point you should engage your imagination…

A few minutes ago, with a tiny amount of assistance from the writer, and with no safety net, it unblocked our toilet.

I haz Laphroaig

This morning I badly needed a decongestant, so the timing of the gift could not have been more appropriate. Purists (and those who abhor the practise, however infrequent, of drinking alcohol before 10am) look away now…

I had it with hot water, maple syrup (the squeezy bottle of honey had solidified due to lack of recent usage,) sugar and a few drops of lemon juice (yup, Jif, from a bright yellow squeezy plastic bottle.)

And it was lovely. Please disregard the fact that I’m currently sat here with Earex drops in both ears to hopefully clear the temporary deafness, and both ears are plugged with toilet paper (there’s no cotton wool in the house.)

Laphroaig is a fantastic drink. It takes time. It’s best approached along a long and winding path. I confess I worked my way up through a lot of the blended Scotches, through the easy-on-the-palate single malts, and thought Talisker was the pinnacle of Scots’ liquid refreshment achievement, until I found Laphroaig. I’m not a drinker, it took a *serious* amount of time.

Incidentally, my previous Scottish pinnacle, ‘Irn Bru’ has now, though marginally, been beaten into third place.

The best summary I’ve heard of Laphroaig so far from a drinker of blended whiskies: “Ugh, it tastes like medicine!” *Medicine?* That works for me, and has in the past been an often-used excuse reason for getting the glass out. Forget Cask Strength and other marketing ploys designed to extract the unwary buyer’s money… The best Laphroaig by a long distance was the 15-year-old, now sadly not marketed.

I was introduced to it (thanks ‘Bob’ the builder) on a cruise down the Nile. Transported in so many ways to a more relaxed world (for society’s elite of course) and broad as the following statement is, I really cannot think of any combination of 2 things that, when combined, are more redolent of the luxury I imagine existed in the bygone age visitors to Egypt expect to encounter.

Computer book required

I don't read enough. I bought 3 novels a few months ago with the intention of making time. Of course it didn't work! To help speed things along I'm thinking of narrowing my focus somewhat – to something I'm certain can start this process off. At the dawn of the UK's home computer revolution I bought a book about computers.

A key phrase from it still resonates: something like "computers are fast rule following idiots", then the obligatory "garbage in equals garbage out." It seems that those words are both truer than ever and at the same time subject to disproval based on what we see every day. But that's a topic for another time…

I'd like to re-acquire a copy of the book.

A quick trawl through the histories of various computers and computer companies from that era indicates a publishing date after 1977, and before 1982. It's a fairly big window given the massive progress being made at that time, so how can I be sure?

Well, 1977 as I'm certain the Tandy TRS-80 was mentioned in the book, as was the Apple ][. 1982 because when my first computer (a 1K RAM Sinclair ZX81) arrived my focus narrowed from the previous theoretical 'what if' to the more practical 'eeek, what now?!'

I wonder, can you help me find it?

Some help:

  • It's heavily slanted towards the U.S., relating to both that country's computing history and its then-contemporary devices. That's not surprising.
  • It has a picture or a photo of a computer on the front.
  • The colour beige or orange features predominantly on the cover.
  • it's the same size as a thick novel.
  • Er… I know it's not much help!

So, how about it? Have you got what this quest needs?

Not a blogger

I'm not a blogger, not really. Why? I have a blog, I post stuff to it, I have extended periods of time without activity (in the blog and real life.) So, why do I consider myself not a blogger?

I arrived on the Internet in 1997 – at a time when the term 'Information Super Highway' was still in common use, and before it was referred to humorously (but accurately) as a series of tubes. I'd spent around the previous 15 years messing about with computers but electronically-isolated from the rest of the world. BBS' were for Californians and graduates of MIT, obviously. The UK, as far as I was concerned, was isolated and that was fine with me.

People for whom the Internet has always been a part of their life, and who may have been the merest of glints in their parent's eyes when I stepped out into the slow lane of Information Super Highway, may grasp what I'm trying to say but not actually relate to it. That's fine. Anyone of my generation or older (cringe) may share the same perspective. This one:

I don't write for an audience.

Though this statement is demonstrably not true given the fact that my new posts automatically notify a couple of social networks and I've an RSS feed, the only clarification I can give is this: I don't write for a big audience.