Tag Archives: science

The Death Tag

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Happy Hallowe’en, dear reader!  Have you got enough Haribo in for the trick or treaters?

Flying in the face of my Catholic upbringing (just for a change), it turns out that I quite like Hallowe’en.  It was inevitable, if I’m honest: the combination of dressing up, sweets and silliness is a drama graduate’s DREAM.  I also quite like introspection and morbid scheming, so I have decided to use today’s post as an opportunity to do “the death tag”, which my dear friend Ash alerted me to (and covered in this vlog).

1) How do you want to die?
I suppose most people want to die in their sleep, surrounded by loved ones, when they’re old and ready for death etc.  I would like that, but if I’m completely honest I would prefer a more dramatic departure, like the end of Thelma and Louise or Moulin Rouge.  (It’s the drama graduate thing again.)  What I would like more than anything is to die in a really stupid and/or amusing way, so that my demise would make a good story.  E.g. I want my last words to be “Oh look, a tiger.  Here, kitty kitty!”

2) What will happen to your WordPress?
It will serve as a reference point for my friends when they argue about what I would have said/wanted in a certain situation.  For example: “Vicki would NEVER wear pink shoes.”  “Uh, I refer you to blog #347, where she states in paragraph 12 that she would absolutely love some cerise flip flops.  BOOM.”  (FYI I would absolutely love a pair of cerise flip flops, so that solves that one.)

3) Who will you leave your money to?
If I may answer your question with a question: what the hell is ‘money’?!

Seriously though, if this question is about what you want to happen to your most valuable assets, then the items in question will be my books.   Their combined value is probably hovering somewhere near the 37p mark, but they are my favourite possessions.  They will go to my lovely friend Louise, who is the only person I’ve ever met who is as obsessive about books as I am.  If Louise pre-deceases me (horrendous thought), then I give my brother permission to turn my books into a fort.

4) What will happen to your body?
This Friends clip sums up EXACTLY how I feel about this question.

5) What do you want your funeral to be like?
A day at the seaside.  Probably Brighton.  Rounders on the beach and arcade games on the pier will be compulsory.

6) What will you miss the most that will exist after your death?
Well, I hate to be pernickety, but being dead will sort of preclude me from missing anything at all, won’t it?  But ok, I get the point of the question.  I think that teleporting will probably be a thing one day (my ignorance of the science behind it notwithstanding), and I would hate to miss out on that.  Can you imagine?  “Tuscany’s supposed to be lovely at this time of year.”  “Oh, really?  Shall we go?”  “Why not?  Let me just grab my sunglasses.”  ZAP.  Fantastic.

7) How will you want to be remembered?
This is the big one, isn’t it?  How we are remembered seems much more important than where, when or how gently we go into that good night, I suppose because it’s the factor that we can most easily affect while we’re alive.
I want what we all want: to be thought of with love by people who knew us and respect by people who didn’t.  I want my loved ones to grieve but eventually move on, and I want an obituary that makes me sound like a saint.  I also (slightly less realistically) want the world to say that my death heralds a great loss for the theatrical world.  I want my tombstone to say something heartfelt and meaningful, like a quotation from The IT Crowd.
Most of all I want people to tell anecdotes about the dumbass things I did while I was alive, because Lord knows there are plenty of those.  I want my friends to say things like “oh God, do you remember when Vicki locked herself in the porch?” and laugh about it.  I might not leave much money or fame behind, but I can at least leave a mildly ludicrous legacy.

Have a suitably spooky Friday!

Judgement Call

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Good morning and happy Saturday to you!  D’you know, I only discovered yesterday that this is another bank holiday weekend.  Thank goodness those poor, tired bankers are having a well-earned rest from the arduous task of stealing our money.

As you can see, I’ve just made a mass-judgement about bankers based on the global financial crisis, and although that’s not exactly a controversial opinion, I’m sure that there are nice, compassionate people among the financiers of Canary Wharf.  (Don’t look at me like that.  It could happen.)

What makes you judge someone?  Do you assume that someone is trendy (and therefore a bad person) because they’re sporting a beard and skinny jeans?  Do you dub someone a saint in your mind because you witness them buying a Big Issue?  Do you lose respect for a friend when you discover that they enjoy the musical stylings of Justin Bieber?

I do, and if you’re honest I think you do, too.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a preachy post about how we need to be less judgemental (although I think we should probably give it a go, shouldn’t we?  Yeah, alright.  I will if you will).  Instead, I would like to identify a few things that we absolutely should judge people based on:

1) How they talk about their elders
Even if someone doesn’t have the best relationship in the world with their biological parents, everyone has parental figures in their lives from whom they have learned a great deal.  The way that someone talks about their mum, older sibling, grandparent, favourite teacher etc. tells you a lot about what made them who they are, and how big a part of their personality is informed by a sense of respect.

2) Sense of humour
Don’t be misled here: I don’t mean that you should judge people based on which sitcoms they like, or whether they’re fans of the Cornetto Trilogy.  By “sense of humour” I mean how they respond to day-to-day life: do they laugh when they fall over in public, or throw a hissy fit?  Do they snigger at others’ misfortune, or are they sympathetic?  A person’s sense of humour demonstrates very clearly what their priorities are and how much perspective they have.

3) Social standing
Again, don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not suggesting that we split the world into Breakfast Club characters.  What I mean is, you can tell a lot about someone by how their friends behave around them.  For example, my brother is the dad figure in his friendship group at uni.  This amuses me because I know him well enough (obviously) to know that how his friends see him accurately reflects his personality.

4) How (much) they feel about stuff
Obviously we can’t have an opinion about everything, but you can make fairly accurate assumptions about someone based on how much they care about their interests, ambitions and morals.  It doesn’t really matter what the interests are (within the limits of morality and the law, of course) as long as the person cares about them.  Apathy is the enemy of romance, art, the progress of science and half-decent conversation.

5) How they feel about you
For your own sake, you should definitely make judgements based on how someone treats you, and how they feel about you.  Someone who loves you (and acts like it) is clearly an excellent human being, and someone who does not is not worth your time.  Also, who wouldn’t love you?  You’re adorable!

Have a lovely, relaxing Saturday.  Maybe go for a long walk.

Planet Party

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Good morning, lovely reader!  I hope you’ve had a delicious breakfast this morning.  You did eat breakfast, didn’t you?  You have to make time for it, you know.  It’s the most important meal of the day.

Aggressively maternal advice out of the way, today’s blog is a very unscientific argument against a tragic scientific event: the declassification of Pluto as a planet in our solar system.  A few days ago my brother posted a link to this article on his Facebook page, not realising that it had been published on April Fools’ Day.  Even though we’re both in our twenties and are not particularly stupid (most of the time), it took our parents to point out to us that it was probably a hoax.  We were outraged, heartbroken and other completely disproportionate emotions.  Pluto should be a planet again!  Why?  I’m so glad you asked.  Here are my completely unscientific arguments for the reinstatement of Pluto as a planet:

  • Dear scientists, on behalf of my generation: STOP MESSING WITH OUR MNEMONICS.  Don’t make us waste weeks, months and years of our lives learning acronyms for stuff if you’re then going to change the whole damn thing as soon as we’re grown ups.  Everyone learned  “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (or something similar) to remember the NINE planets of the solar system.  It’s a deeply ingrained, wholly immovable bit of learning that you now want us to disregard after years of committing the phrase to memory.  What’s next?  Will we discover next week that Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain has to be changed because it turns out that orange is a figment of our imagination?
  • Apparently the main argument for declassifying Pluto was based on its size in relation to the other planets.  REALLY?  In this day and age we are hyper-paranoid about causing offense to anyone by even referencing their weight, height, race, colour, creed, sexuality or taste in music, but we can be sizeist about celestial bodies?  That’s ridiculous.
  • Also, the planets are all a bit weird in their own way.  If the solar system were a party, it would be insane: Mars would be the angry drunk, Venus would have dressed inappropriately for the time of year, Jupiter would be the guy who broke the chair he sat on, Mercury would be off his face on something, Saturn would be kitted out in a load of bling, Uranus would be the wallflower, Neptune would be the latecomer who brings more booze and Earth would be the overcompensating host.  Don’t tell me there’s no room for the short guy who’s buzzing about chatting to everyone.

There you have it: a completely ludicrous argument for something that does not affect our day-to-day lives very much, but that I feel pretty strongly about nonetheless.  I think it’s mainly because of the party analogy; the idea of excluding somebody from a shindig for any reason at all just seems wrong.

Have a brilliant Tuesday.  If you skipped breakfast, make sure you have lots of protein in your lunch.

A Life Without Bacon

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Hello reader!  How are you this morning?  Good weekend?

One day last week two friends and I were pootling towards central London on a Piccadilly line train, asking each other ridiculous questions and generally amusing ourselves.  One of these friends is a vegetarian who has decided that she will never eat meat again.  My other friend and I were impressed but perplexed: who can promise themselves that they’ll never eat bacon ever again?  Even if you could manage a few months or years, surely you’d crack eventually?  And if the bacon doesn’t get you, surely the burgers will.  No?  What about steak?  Pulled pork?  Chicken nuggets?? Apparently not.  Not to be put off by something as trivial as our friend’s important life decision, we started baiting her a bit:

“Would you rather eat meat or poo yourself in public?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have to sleep with your gay best friend?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have us follow you around asking these questions for the rest of our lives?”

I’m very proud to say that our silliness did not deter our veggie friend one bit: she will never eat meat again.  She was a bit taken aback by our fascination (partly, I think, because she has no idea what she’s missing – roast dinners, for crying out loud!) but mainly because in her head this topic has never even been up for debate.  She has never doubted her decision for a second, and no matter what we threatened her with – career failure, being single forever, bad hair – she was unmoveable.

I have an enormous amount of respect for her, and for her certainty about something that must inform quite a big part of her lifestyle.  I think that we all have things that we are fairly sure about without being absolute.  For example, I don’t think that I will ever watch a Keira Knightley film ever again, BUT if someone casts Christian Bale in a movie with that talentless ironing board of a human being, I will have to do some serious thinking.  I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.  Ooh, coffee…

We all have opinions that we’re pretty sure of, and beliefs that we don’t think we could compromise on.  To a certain extent it’s more difficult in our generation to have any absolutes in our mindsets, because the internet, the news and the people who monitor equal opportunities can all throw us a curve ball at a moment’s notice.  New information, new opinions and new possibilities emerge all the time, and it can be a struggle to hold on to your beliefs in the wake of them.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to cling to an opinion that’s been proven wrong by science or what have you, just that if you’re a Christian (for example) and the Richard Dawkins brigade are throwing copies of his books at your house, it’s hard to keep resolution without becoming discouraged.

Well, let’s not be discouraged.  Let’s have some faith in ourselves and our beliefs.  Your instincts, thoughts and feelings are all valuable and worth hearing, and you mustn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  I might be incredibly sad for my vegetarian friend that the joy of a cooked breakfast is forever unavailable to her, but I am very proud of her conviction.

Have the best Monday that anyone has ever had in the history of Mondays.

It’s Only Monday

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Good morning and welcome to the new week!

Lots of people hate Mondays, including Garfield, the Bangles and the Boomtown Rats.  I personally quite like them, for the same reason that I love early mornings: the potential.  The beginning of something is always full of possibilities to explore and opportunities not yet taken.  Inevitably, Mondays (and early mornings) are also riddled with moments of clumsiness, missed trains and coffee spillages, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the good stuff yet to come that’s worth thinking about.  Who knows what this week might hold?

This time of year is a bit of an odd one, because British people’s moods are almost solely dictated by the weather: some people are a bit blue because it’s so chilly and there’s a lot of damage to be fixed after the floods, whereas others are tilting their faces towards the lukewarm sunshine and thinking dreamily of summer.  It is technically British Summer Time now…but we have to show some self-control.  Put down the deck chairs; we’ve got a few months and several degrees to go.

Apparently, people have always tended to be feeling a bit extreme around this date.  Whether these were all on Mondays or just end-of-March madness we’ll never know, but let’s look at some examples:

1603: After about a year of watching her closest mates drop dead one by one, Queen Elizabeth I succumbs to peer pressure and follows suit.  After forty-four and a half years on the throne she must be knackered, poor thing.

1832: Mormon Joseph Smith is beaten, tarred and feathered in Ohio.  I know I should be appalled by that, but actually it just made me giggle.  It’s the idea of a religious fanatic running around covered in feathers; how on earth could anyone take that zealous lunatic seriously after that?

1837: Canada gives black people the right to vote.  This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the fact that America took another thirty-three years and a civil war to come to the same decision.  Good for you, Canada.

1882: German scientist Robert Koch announces the discovery of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  The disease has been considered hereditary until this point, but Koch’s work discovers the truth (and wins him a Nobel prize in 1905, and undoubtedly saves a heck of a lot of lives).

1906: A census of the British Empire reveals that Britain rules a fifth of the world.  Slightly awkward to look back at now, but is beautifully summarised by this Eddie Izzard clip.

1972: Northern Ireland’s Parliament is suspended after the prime minister resigns.  Britain’s direct rule over Northern Ireland is introduced.  This is just getting embarrassing.

1973: This one isn’t an example of March madness by any means, but on this day The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons is born.  He is looking very well for someone who hit the big four-one today, I must say.

I hope you enjoyed your miniature history lesson.  May your Monday turn out to contain all sorts of amazing things, such as the legendary all-chocolate Kit Kat.

Anti-Bucket List

Hello lovely readers. Hope you’re all enjoying your Thursday so far.

As those of you who’ve read yesterday’s entry will know, fear has been on my mind recently.  Today I’ve been thinking more specifically about fear as an obstruction: what (if anything) are you too afraid to do?  What are the things that you could be persuaded to do under the right circumstances, and the things that you will never ever do, really, stop asking, seriously, it’s not going to happen?

There are all sorts of reasons not to do something; fear is just one example.  There are things that we know we’ll never do because the right time has passed, or because it won’t ever come.  Money, geography, domestic commitments, embarrassment, sheer disdain and laziness are a few other examples of reasons not to do something.  With those in mind, here are my Top 5 Things I Will Never Do:

1) Go skydiving

I’m a wuss, I know.  The silly thing is that I’m sure once I was falling from the sky (aaaaaaaah) the experience would be incredible, but it’s the build up to the jump that I know I wouldn’t be able to handle.  The same thing applies to bungee-jumping, white water rafting, etc.  A friend of mine went to a university where they had a skydiving society (yes, really.  It makes the winter sports society from my university look like a chess club), and he absolutely loved going skydiving on a regular basis.  I have very clear memories of standing open-mouthed and horrified, phone glued to my ear as he gleefully described his most recent jump.  He also spent a lot of time explaining in great detail how safe the whole thing was, but I remain to this day mildly terrified that he did it and utterly convinced that I never will.

2) Learn how to boil an egg

This isn’t a fear issue; this is basic incompetence on my part.  There will be friends and family members of mine reading this one thinking, “But I’m SURE I’ve taught Vicki how to boil an egg at LEAST once!” You are all absolutely correct.  I have been patiently and kindly taught by all of you how to boil an egg.  Thank you for your efforts; you have all failed.  I have a bizarre mental block about boiling eggs.  I can make Sunday roasts for a dozen people, or whip up luxury chocolate puddings at a moment’s notice; I can make a birthday cake with my eyes closed and my cheesy leek bake is second to none, but for some strange reason, the mystical art of egg-boiling eludes me.  It’s a good thing I prefer omelettes.

3) Compete in the Olympics

This one will not come as a surprise to anyone, but unless “Speed Coffee Consumption” or “Most Accurate Gavin and Stacey Quotation” becomes a recognised sport, I will never be involved in this most glorious competitive tradition.  Ah well.

4) Understand physics

OH MY GOD IT’S SO BORING AND I DON’T CARE.  I have a mild interest in the more complex workings of chemistry, biology, astronomy and other branches of science, but physics to me is just the most monotonous aspects of existence made difficult to understand. Boring AND difficult?  Ain’t nobody, as a wise woman once said, got time for that.

5) Play drinking games

At the grand old age of nearly 25, I am definitely too old to play Spin the Bottle, Ring of Fire or Never Ever Have I Ever.  (Let’s not even think about this neknomination nonsense; it’s not worth commenting on.)  During my first year at university, my house mates and I unanimously decided to ban sambuca from our house after a particularly gruelling session of Gas Chambers; if you don’t know what that game is, I’m not telling you.  It’s a hangover in a glass, and the world just doesn’t need it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a pint and a natter.  On several occasions I have been known to enjoy several pints and an increasingly nonsensical natter; but drinking games are the playing field of younger, brighter-eyed and less inhibited people than I.  That ship has, thank heavens, definitely sailed.

In a way, it’s encouraging to think that of the five things I am most adamant about never doing, only one of them is down to fear.  True, ignorance and stubbornness are among the other reasons, but still.  It feels good to look at my anti-bucket list and see that I’m more stupid than I am afraid.  I think.