Vegan £5 notes and internet snooping laws: bait and switch and switch again.

vegan money £5 scandal meme petitionSo there is a petition going around the UK right now, where vegans and vegetarians are complaining that the new £5 have tallow in them. They want them to be withdrawn. Of course, destroying lots of notes containing unwanted animal slaughter byproducts at the cost to the UK of millions of pounds:

a) will ensure those animals really did die in vain

and

b) is utterly trivial.

If people don’t want their £5 notes, if they’re too much of a special snowflake to touch common people’s money, because they’ve got animal slaughter byproducts in them, they should stop driving cars or using LCD screens immediately, too. I wonder how many vegans would throw out their iPhone or MacBook on the basis that its LCD screen is probably also made from dead animals (source here)? They could, of course, just pass on any £5 notes to the poor people who are all suffering from disability cuts in this country, but that would be an act of genuine altruism that might actually benefit a living organism.

I have always been supportive of vegans and I have been vegan myself, and I have plenty of vegan recipes on this site, but there are limits, and really, this shit about the £5 note is the epitome of trivial bollox. Additionally, the black ink in all the other denominations means £10, £20 and £50 notes are also potentially not vegan.

I wonder what laws the British government are going to sneak past us while everyone’s distracted with this ridiculous news story? They’ve already gotten the new digital snooping bill past us under the guise of an anti-porn law (that’s the previous version but is mostly the same as the one that’s being passed, which is totally different to last year’s proposal that all the newspapers are quoting from; the newest version has mysteriously disappeared off the Internet since it was published last week, and it ran to 170 pages). They’ve totally rewritten that law since the big protests in 2015, and nobody is even protesting it any more, and it is a completely different law to the super-concerning investigatory powers bill which is being passed almost concurrently (which people are also protesting), in a double bait and switch effort (so the governments must REALLY want to spy on and control our Internets). So every educated and conscientious person who might have something to say to stop these surveillance and anti-free-speech laws are all being distracted with whether £5 notes have more tallow than the average candle. Great job, everyone!

All adverts below this line are nothing to do with me, I found out today that WordPress displays them and seems uncomfortable to be as honest as they might be in their “about these ads” page. I am ineligible to make money from WordPress adverts because I swear too much.

Wet N Wild Waterproof Eyeliner and Eye Pencil Review

In today’s post I’m going to be reviewing the Wet N Wild H2O proof liquid eyeliner and eye pencil! I got the eyeliner in brown/black and the pencil in bronze. Basically they’re meant to be the best waterproof make-up because they don’t move… ever. I put that to the test. I like my eyebrows to stay put all day and I’ve been looking for something a bit cheaper than the Bobbi Brown brow pencil for an everyday brow. Waterproof eyeliners have been around for longer so they have had more time to improve, so it made sense that a waterproof eyeliner was exactly what I needed for my brows!

Wet n wild h20 h2o proof eyeliner

This is what my brows looked like after I’d used the eyeliner; I think they looked a bit too dark for my normal preferences but this liquid eyeliner is unbeatable in terms of color payoff or ease of shaping (literally, this was so easy to use I didn’t make a single mistake with it)! Also it stayed put all day… and the next day. Even micellar water doesn’t get this off. That may or may not be a good thing for other people but I think that’s brilliant for my brows!

Wet n wild h20 h2o proof eyeliner

Now let’s look at the pencil:

Wet N Wild H2O Proof Blending Eye Pencil in Espresso.
Wet N Wild H2O Proof Blending Eye Pencil in Bronze.

I got it out the packaging and swatched it on my hand; it’s less brown than the brown/black shade of the liquid eyeliner:

Wet N Wild H2O Proof Blending Eye Pencil in Espresso.

I put it on my brows and hoped it would produce a more natural result than the eyeliner. I think it was a bit obvious in places but overall I think it was less dark so I guess it depends whether you think very dark brows are your thing or not. If so, the brown/black will be a better option:

Wet N Wild H2O Proof Blending Eye Pencil in Espresso.

I checked in again 8 hours later, after going out in the rain and coming back home, and my brows had faded a little, particularly at my nose, where I can’t get one brow to grow in at all, but where there are brow hairs, it’s stayed very well!

Wet N Wild H2O Proof Blending Eye Pencil in Bronze.

Conclision: The liquid eyeliner is definitely better at staying put, that stuff stays on my face for up to 2 days (even using Micellar water) which is what I want for my brows. If I could get the Bronze shade in the liquid eyeliner (it doesn’t ship here), I would be completely happy with it but it’s a little dark, so for day-to-day wear the pencil is good enough, but it’s not as budge/smudge proof as the Wet N Wild H20-proof liquid eyeliner. You can get the pencil here and the liquid eyeliner here on Amazon.com.

All aboard the medi-go-round*!

Okay, bipolar peeps; hit me up. How bad/good is olanzapine (Zyprexa)? I could finally afford to see my psych again and she is moving me onto olanzapine because the quetiapine (Seroquel)’s side effects are outweighing the benefits and she thinks it will be more stabilizing longer-term. She’s also recommending sertraline (Zoloft) for that anxiety/depression I haven’t been able to shake since August. Has anyone tried these either separately or together? What were they like? I’m mostly worried about the sedating effect which she says should be improved compared to the quetiapine (oh my God I could stand to be less sedated atm).

I’m not sure I’m in love with the idea of taking a combination of things, but at this point I’ll take whatever works!

*medi-go-round coined by Morgueticia.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

This week’s photo isn’t magical in and of itself, but the editing that I did to it feels like some sort of voodoo magic that produces amazing pictures. It’s for the WPC found here

I edited this picture with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) a free program that’s just like photoshop. I know a lot of people probably already know how to do stuff like this, but this is the first time I’ve done anything so complicated and I feel really excited by the result! What do you think? Old hat or still a fun technique?

black white red monochrome color isolation GIMP photos picture example rose
It’s not a “true” color isolation, as there’s yellow in with the red, but I really like this effect.

Review: Why you need to see The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime

I was left stunned after former Top Gear presenters, Clarkson Hammond and May’s new car show came out today. The first episode of their new show, called ‘The Grand Tour’ (I saw what you did with the title, Jeremy Clarkson), made its debut on Amazon Prime today. We took out a free trial of Prime (get yours here) to see how good it was.

Here’s the (spoiler free) as-it-happened review and commentary of my unfiltered but occasionally sarcastic thoughts on how this first episode of The Grand Tour went (and because I don’t work for a nameless TV show, I even mention the words ‘top’ and ‘gear’):

  • Couldn’t get Amazon Prime to work. Switched to Netflix and watched Luke Cage instead. Luke Cage is phenomenal. I think more people should be talking about Luke Cage, which I’m going to do in a future article once I’ve watched the whole season.
  • [An hour later] After dinner, my Dearest got Amazon Prime to work and put on The Grand Tour.
  • [Some minutes later] Intro was pretty low-key. Thought it could have done with some hot air balloons and kangaroos.
  • [Some minutes later] Not one iota of copyright infringement and still got more Top Gear than Top Gear.
  • [Some minutes later] Capitalizing on the online-only platform big time. Nice that they don’t have the same constraints that some other car show had on a TV network.
  • [Some minutes later] The lighting is fabulous.
  • [Some minutes later] The cars are at incredibly reasonable price-points. I don’t think you can get a higher-spec McLaren for that sort of money.
  • [Some minutes later] “This is a missionary position car…”
  • [Some minutes later] Captain Slow is driving a fast car.
  • [Some minutes later] …That was the weirdest drag race ever.
  • [Some minutes later] Loving the sheep by the racetrack. Good incentive not to veer off-course.
  • [Some minutes later] NotTheStig drove the car around a racetrack.
  • [Some minutes later] Maybe it wasn’t wise for three British blokes in a room full of Americans to say what they just said.
  • [Some minutes later] The star is not in a reasonably priced vehicle. This is highly irregular and further goes to show that this show is definitely not Top Gear.
  • [Maybe 30 seconds later] I think someone just died.
  • [Another minute at most] They seem to be having a spot of bother with their segment…
  • [Not long after] Oh good commentary on 2016! Nicely done.
  • [Some minutes later] The landscape shots…. oh wow they are to die for. The camerapeople have amazing camera skills. Visually everything about this show is stunning.
  • [Some minutes later] OhmyGod they just compared shoes…
  • [Some minutes later] Different NotTheStig drove cars. That was interesting.
  • [Some minutes later] “That was a sensible bet,” said nobody ever.
  • [After end credits] …That was bloody brilliant. Well worth spending the time on when I should have been writing two essays.
  • The time in question… Episode 1 was over an hour long. I believe it was 1 hour 11 minutes in total. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Final comments: I really liked The Grand Tour. I think this will be my new favourite car show. I particularly liked the presenters, the cars, the settings, the lighting, the humour, the international focus, the races and all the stunning visuals and incidental music. It’s better than any car show I have previously watched, and I have watched a lot of car shows because as you know, I am passionate about cars (I even owned one once or twice!!!!!).

What did you think? Have you seen The Grand Tour yet? Are you going to? I am so excited to see more of this show, I can’t wait!

This was Blackadder Village.
My first car, a Corsa, from my article about the village of Blackadder. Because this article needs a picture that I can use without copyright/trademark infringement, and I don’t own a McLaren so we’re going for pseudo-irony because it’s more fun than trying too hard with a pic of one of my better cars. Technical details: I took this with a disposable camera, fixed focus 35mm, celluloid film.

To PhD, or not to PhD? That is the question.

Dear The Internet,

My birthday was a lovely day, but I had to still work over some of it, as well as the day before/after, so my actual birthday time didn’t last as long as I wanted it to. I am now officially a grown-up. Mostly.

Wow so it turns out I’m doing pretty good on my essay marks. Like… if I’d had these sort of grades on undergrad, I never would have worried about whether I was smart enough to do an MSc. The difference bipolar meds have made to my ability to achieve and learn things has been profound. I think the fact that my PTSD has receded a lot (compared to even last year) has made a big difference, too. There was a 21 gun salute going on for over 10 minutes beside the department, timed right in the middle of my Evolution class today, and I did not dive under a table. I wanted to… but I didn’t. I definitely got stressed and stopped concentrating, but I didn’t even need to stick my fingers in my ears or show any outward signs of how I felt. And that’s fucking progress.

I mean, I can’t not be happy with the grades I got today… I can’t actually get a higher grade at this point, so going for essay feedback was a strange experience, especially since the university is a lot more diverse now and 90% of the faculty aren’t former Oxbridge dons any more (the dons have mostly retired). So from not having gotten a poor mark, and not having the same type of staff, today (essay marks/feedback day) didn’t go as expected. I didn’t spend all afternoon sitting in various offices around the department being questioned as to why I bothered coming to university if I was going to hand in such complete shit. It was refreshing, but it also wrong-footed me, because I’m so used to getting everything wrong. Since when did the university get so touchy feely?

The thing is, the only thing that’s changed in the 7 years between undergrad and now is everything. Okay, that was a terrible hyperbole and also possibly a bit inaccurate, but y’all know how much I hate deleting sentences once I started them. I’m not sure I can quantify the changes. The university is more relaxed, that’s for sure, and there’s more friendly staff instead of grumpy ones. But their standards are inescapably higher than when I last attended. I don’t think they would let someone on to their undergraduate degree with my high school grades any more. There’s just too much competition for places (and only 1 in 30 got a place the year I applied), so it’s a bit surreal being on a course with people with 1st class degrees and high 2:1s, knowing I’m probably the very least qualified person out of the 140 master’s students in the department. And I’m still getting A-plus grades. Sorry, I’m not trying to gloat, but I know some of you were rooting for me to do this MSc and I wanted to, but I wasn’t so sure it was a great idea (and others of you were convinced it was only going to end in smoking ruins where the university used to be). So I thought it was worth an update.

I am pretty sure the reason I’m a better academic writer these days is down to having worked as a teacher, followed by my recent experiences in academic publishing. I read a lot of articles and I get to fix them and make sure they’re at their best when they get published. That makes a person better at spotting mistakes in their own work. I can’t deny that writing my romance novels definitely improved my overall quality of written work, as well. It’s easier to improve when someone points out specifically what you need to do to fix something, than when someone just yells at you for doing it wrong again, or ignores you.

So anyway, I went to a lecture this morning where one of the department’s more research-focused members of staff explained the procedure for applying for a PhD. And now I’m considering it. Is that such a bad thing? Yay women in science and all that jazz… Except… well… we were planning to move to Canada (or maybe New Zealand) next September, and if I’m doing a PhD for the next few years, that’s going to cause problems. Unless I do one in Canada. But their funding is idiosyncratic – some of the deadlines were in August which is probably fine if you’re on a two-year master’s degree but we cram them into one year over here. Anyway, trying to do my branch of obscure science in Canada makes finding a PhD all a bit more difficult because my subject is defined as something totally different in North America, and I don’t think the stuff I’m currently doing really exists over there, because whatever you think I do, it’s probably not what I do (except one of you. One reader knows what my research interests are, because we hang out sometimes IRL). Case in point: for my master’s thesis, I’m studying a supercomputer.

So the decision over whether to stay and get a PhD or emigrate and get a happier life is currently proving difficult. Britain is really shit right now for those of us with a foreign name, and I don’t see it maturing like a good bottle of wine any time soon, but if I want to do a funded PhD I would need to stay put a while longer. So I’m probably not going to get a PhD, which is a shame because there’s a past version of me who is yelling at me from the entire 90’s, because she’s very disappointed that I didn’t choose education/career over love. Actually, I’m pretty happy with my career and prospects at the moment, so she can shut the Hell up. My publishing placement’s going great and my writing’s mostly where I want it to be; I just wish I had more time for it but that was always the trade-off this year. I guess the PhD would have been utterly gratuitous. My husband’s probably right; I’d get bored in 6 months, and then I’d get distracted by writing again.

Turning 30

At 8pm this evening, I will turn 30. People are already wishing me a Happy Birthday, of course, but for now, I’m letting it wait until the evening before I have to acknowledge the whole thing. Some of my readers are quite a bit over 30, and I know that my thoughts on this probably don’t reflect yours, but it’s ok for us to have differing points of view on stuff without feeling invalidated by one another’s opinions, and so this is my opinion on my own 30th birthday (and why I feel this way).

I’ve been dreading this day since I turned 28, when I realized I’d wasted most of my twenties trying to get a stable income (and stable health), both hangovers from my really shit parents not doing their jobs properly (that’s not the subjective viewpoint it looks like), and suddenly I was filled with the urge to do everything left on my 30 list (the things I wanted to do before I turned 30). I didn’t have the time or money due to the aforementioned problems. Given that last year was a bit of a write off, and I basically have spent at least 5 years this decade just trying to get an education in something I could get a job in, I decided to give myself an extension, to get things done by 31.

But why is it bothering me so much that I’m turning 30? Age is just a number right? My now-husband was over 30 when we first met, and it never bothered me in the slightest.

But part of me knows that it’s different for women. It’s different for me.
I come from a place where most people got pregnant between the ages of 16 and 18, most people my age who I went to school with now have teenage children. And it’s only in the last few months that I’ve worked out what I want to do with my life (I want a job in publishing and I want to continue writing books, too) and finally had the free agency to make that happen.

Beyond that, and maybe it’s my PTSD talking, but I sorta thought I’d be dead by now. I’ve done a lot of pretty stupid stuff in the past decade (and the one before that). I don’t honestly know why I’m still here.

I’ve tried to kill myself on at least two occasions. I’ve walked away from bad situations, taking pretty much nothing with me, more than once. I’ve been electrocuted across the heart at work. I mis-landed a jump on ice skates and landed on the top of my head at high speed. I tried to stand up through a rock and hit my head so bad that, a year later, my pupils are still different sizes. I’ve driven my car through someone else’s because they parked me in. I have eaten a lot of things I shouldn’t, and been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning twice. I fell off a cliff far enough that I was certain I was going to die, and I survived because I landed in a tree. I’ve started fights with people twice my size over things most people take lying down. I skinnydipped in water with heavy metal toxicity (which I had no idea about until afterwards). I once kayaked 2 miles out to sea, to an island, with the tide going out, no lifejacket/buoyancy aid and I can barely swim one length of the pool. I have driven my car so fast that I completely burned its brakes out once on an emergency stop, and I only came to a halt half an inch from the back of an obstruction on the motorway. I nearly drowned as a small child when the priest that was supposed to be watching me went chasing after boys in swimwear and I went straight for the deep end. I climbed a snow covered Munroe (a high Scottish mountain) in January with no equipment or map. When I was sent back to school to finish my A-levels, I used to make a challenge out of running the level crossing — when the warning lights came on to signal that a train was coming, I would start running and see how far I could get before the barriers came down. If the first barrier wasn’t down, I would always keep going. Twice I had to vault over the second barrier to avoid being hit by a train.

None of that was even the stupidest stuff I’ve done (some of which I won’t ever post on here), just some of the most deadly (there’s other stuff, but again, not gonna post it because it’s really bad), but it’s illustrative of why I’m slightly surprised and a little disappointed that I’m 30 and I’m still here. In the words of Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian, “You’re upright, you’re breathing; you’re fine.” That was what I lived my life by, and why I didn’t acknowledge or seek help for mental health problems until last year when everything really went to shit.

Before I got my bipolar meds, I was not only a chronic doer of really stupid shit, but I reveled in it. Facing death made me feel more alive, in a way nothing else ever will, and part of me (the part that is heavily medicated and occasionally slurs half-coherent demands for bottles of neat vodka) enjoyed doing all that stupid shit. My psychotherapist says repressing it just makes it come out worse and repeat itself more, so I just accept it. I’ve said it before, but bipolar almost always only makes me do things I wanted to do in the first place.

My parents were both chronic doers of stupid things too, and they both died when I was 27, within 5 months of one another; both were in their early fifties. As a result of their deaths, I simply cannot believe in religion (but I respect other people’s right to). I tried, but I just can’t believe it. I believe that when we die we stop existing. This life is everything. If I have the same lifespan as my parents, I’m already more than half-way through it, and what have I done with my life?

I’m not afraid of death. Sudden death is how I’d prefer to go, not a lingering, clinging one, with plenty of time for the full horror of the situation to sink in. Death doesn’t scare me. I’m afraid of getting old. Enduring. Having to keep living, day after day, fading away and getting more and more decrepit and old until one day, with a whisper or a sigh, I finally breathe my last; old and lonely.

Turning 30 was always going to be hard for me because it’s a sign that I haven’t lived hard enough, and don’t have as much time left as I’d like.

But looking into the mirror, I was pleased to see that I’m not looking so bad. All the cigarettes, alcohol, bad food, sleepless nights, 90 hour work weeks, abusive shit that happened to me, psych meds, prescription opiates, nights of homelessness and sleeping rough on newspaper have not actually had the effect on my body that you’d expect them to. Or maybe all the fresh fruit, vegetables, smoothies, long walks, longer cycle rides, orgasms and moisturizer has offset the bad stuff I did to myself.

It’s not that I worry about not looking my age, as much as I see not looking prematurely old as a sign of being healthy. I remember when my mum turned 30, and I’m looking a Hell of a lot better than she did at this age, so if outward appearances are anything to go by, maybe I’ll take after my Aunts and make it to 60 someday.

And maybe it’s time for me to turn 30. On Thursday, I asked at the security booth if something could be done at the university, and the man just assumed I was an undergraduate student. I was fairly irritated by this, since that was his basis for not doing the thing I asked him to do. But when I was parking my bike, after cycling home in the dark, I realized that I probably should have taken it as a compliment.
I still didn’t.

I fight against my worse nature, but I’m very stubborn when I make my mind up about something. Some people call that ‘driven’ or ‘single-minded’ but it’s basically stubbornness when you get down to it.

I used to name the years, to sum up how I felt about them. I haven’t done that for a while, but 2015 and 2016 have been such a shitstorm that I feel it’s worth bringing that back. Generally I name them after things that mean something to me, not things that sum up the year for everyone (that would be rudely ethnocentric of me). So 2015 is the Year of the Dead, 2016 is the Year of The Glib Toads (who have talked their way into popular votes and other similar atrocities this year. I would always rather be outspoken than mealy mouthed) and 2017 will be the Year of the Calm After the Storm. We can always re-name it if things stay bad.

So I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the Year of the Calm After The Storm. Maybe it won’t be that bad, after the last two years.

Now for the song no-one EVER links me on my birthday (swear warning):