Being topical, accidentally or otherwise

19 Nov

One of the worries when you are writing for magazines is that your article will already be outdated by the time it’s published. It takes longer than you might think to put an edition of a magazine together, and articles are usually commissioned weeks or even months in advance. When I wrote my latest article for Christianity magazine about the effects of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns on vulnerable children throughout the world, we were in lockdown. By the time it was published, we were in that beautiful period of semi-normality between the first and second waves of the virus.

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Sci-fi and fantasising

27 Oct

Over a month has flashed by since I last blogged, even though time also appears to be practically standing still. It’s just one of the weird things about 2020. “Time distort 4”, as Blake might say.

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The book WASN’T better

16 Sep

A controversial topic this time, so please keep your comments civil! I’m going to be taking you through a short list of books that I have read* which I think were not as good as the film adaptation.

(Warning: there are some spoilers in the Princess Bride section.)

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Let me ask you a question

14 Aug

One of the many things I do to scrape a living together is survey design (because for all the jokes about becoming like J K Rowling, writing is not a lucrative profession). For a very reasonable fee, I either build people a survey from scratch, or tell them what’s wrong with their own one. And often there is plenty wrong.

Just as my work as a proofreader means I can never simply read text without picking out all the errors, so my work as a survey designer means I can never take an online survey without going “that’s ambiguous”, “you should allow more than one option here” or “this matrix is far too big”, and so on.

These things are not just annoying for the people taking the survey; if you ask the wrong questions, or provide the wrong answer choices, you end up with unreliable data, or your respondents give up halfway through, both of which rather defeat the point of sending out the survey in the first place.

But rather than try to explain what I mean in this post, I’m going to invite you to take a survey I have specially designed to be as useless and annoying as possible. SurveyMonkey rates it as ‘great’, by the way (see the picture below), which just shows why you need to apply human intelligence to these things.

What a wonderful survey I have designed, according to SurveyMonkey!

I won’t be held responsible for any damage to your phone that occurs from throwing it across the room in frustration.

I only have a free SurveyMonkey account (because the paid ones are so ludicrously expensive) which means that only the first 100 people to click the button will be able to take the survey. If the maximum has already been reached, drop me a note in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.

And if you are now in awe of my survey design skills, you can hire me on PeoplePerHour. Or just consider this your free tutorial in how not to design a survey.

Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum dyslexic

5 Aug

And if you didn’t get the film reference in the title, shame on you.

A few weeks back I was interviewed by Darius Namdaran, director of the BulletMap Academy, for his Dyslexia Explored podcast. He got in touch because he had come across one of my posts on this website about the joys of dyslexia (yes, there are some).

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Blake’s 17°

11 Jul

A lot has happened since I started making my temperature blanket back in January. We’ve had a couple of wee cold snaps, a couple of mini-heatwaves, and the small matter of a global pandemic and consequent lockdown.

An update on my blanket. It’s getting too big to photograph easily!

I’ve also, finally, finished watching all four series of Blake’s 7. Progress slowed with lockdown because everyone was in the house all the time, and I’m the only one who enjoys Blake’s 7, or sci-fi in general. However, with the easing of restrictions, I found a bit more time and finished the fourth series – although I did have to work up the emotional energy to watch Orbit and then Blake, the ante-penultimate (an underused word) and final episodes respectively. Having seen them before, I know they pack a bit of a punch.

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Somewhere behind the rainbow

7 Jul

My latest piece in Premier’s Christianity magazine is about the effects on children of coronavirus and associated lockdowns around the world. If you think things are a bit pants here, what happens when you add in war, famine, pestilence and other assorted horsemen of the apocalypse? (And isn’t 2020 the most apocalyptic year you’ve ever experienced?? It certainly is for me.)

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A paean to Peppa Pig

2 Jul

This post is about one of my many niche interests, specifically that gentle satire on the English middle class: Peppa Pig. You might think that this is just a children’s cartoon about a family of pigs but you would be wrong. It is laugh-out-loud funny in its dissection of human foibles and frailty through the medium of stylized animal drawings.

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There was a young woman from Glasgow…

15 Jun

Very quick post to say that I have a limerick about lockdown published in On the Premises, a fiction e-zine I subscribe to. And they paid actual money, which is always helpful in these straitened times. If you want to read it, and the other winning entries, click below. If not, move on with your life.

Reducing your misery footprint

9 Jun

It seems quite appropriate that, just after the statue of a man who profited from the slave trade is pulled down, my article on modern-day slavery comes out. I started writing it way before the incident that kicked off the recent protests, of course, and even before lockdown (although it’s been edited to reflect the new situation) but the problem has not gone away.

There are more slaves now than there have ever been.

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