October 19, 2007

I spotted this news story the other day, claiming that obesity is not the fault of the individual, rather the government must, to some extent, catch the blame.

“Blame” is too harsh a word. Perhaps the government is at fault for not helping enough. We’ve all heard enough about what food is bad for you. But where’s the justification? You tell me something’s bad, I want to know why, what it does to me, if eating less of it helps, if there’s a good alternative, or how I could cut it out of my diet altogether, or if it’s a sneaky little indulgence that I could get away with now and then but not on a daily/weekly basis.

In many cases, obesity probably is the individual’s fault, but only in so far as greed and sloth are irresistible and almost unavoidable in the 21st century.

Junk food is cheap. I can walk down to Iceland just now and pick up a dozen frozen burgers probably for less than £2, a block of cheese for another £2, and a dozen rolls for less than the same again. It’s too easy and too cheap to eat junk all the time.

So what’s a good fix?

How’s about: use our council tax money to subsidise local gym memberships? Maybe a little already goes that way, but £30 or more per month for membership is more money than some people can part with. Especially if they’re to trial a healthier (more expensive?) diet at the same time.

How’s about: more simple advice, distributed over a couple of years. It wouldn’t cost much to distribute a nice little leaflet to all doors, one per month, via the Royal Mail (they have a cheap system for that, you see, it’s called “door-to-door”, and they’ll quite happily deliver your mail to all doors in an area). Just a simple tip on each leaflet: “Try cutting out X from your diet, it does ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ to your body. ‘A’ is a good alternative, doesn’t cause ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, and costs just the same!” One of those per month would let people try something new each month, possibly shifting people slowly but surely toward healthier eating rather than the hammer-based approach we have just now: “You should eat healthier. You should be healthier. You should eat healthier. You should be healthier.” Bang. Bang. Bang, but the nail’s not going in.

How’s about: improved public transport links. For God’s sake, it’s the 21st century. Fast, efficient trains. Fast, efficient buses, with useful info at bus stands and clarity on pricing schemes. Link up to underground systems and tram networks. Run public transport late into the evening. Do all of these things so that people are less likely to sit on their arse in their car and walk less than 10 minutes on their way to/from work. Build a proper cycle network across the UK that traverses city centres.

None of this is rocket science. At the risk of sounding like many tired cliches, the government should be helping people help themselves. Let’s stop blaming everybody else for all our problems.

Here’s my own personal regime:

  • Walk a couple of miles per day. Doesn’t take long: 30-40 minutes.
  • Cut out the fizzy drinks. Drink water instead: it’s cheap, and more refreshing.
  • Eat less in the evening. I sit in the office all day. I eat lunch, but no breakfast. I’m not really hungry before 7pm; I can get away with a bowl of soup to last me through the rest of the day. Plus, soup is healthy. Especially if I make it myself.
  • Keep other muscles ticking away. I do a bunch of upper body exercises to give me some semblance of toning.

Again, none of this is difficult. In fact, the only time consuming part is possibly the walking, but even that’s not onerous. The more walking, less food, home-made soup, and not drinking fizzy drinks even saves a bit of cash.

Simple changes are easy. They don’t offer miracle weight loss, but nothing reasonable does.



October 15, 2007

One minute, I’m in a room filled with students, and I’m teaching. I’m fielding difficult problem after difficult problem.

Next minute, I’m in a meeting room controlling today’s seminar.

Next I’m back in my office, trying to get on with my own work.

Later, I’m back at home relaxing with a beer and a beautiful woman. The beautiful woman is just a friend.

It’s interesting to weigh up the different interactions we each have with other people every day. Sometimes we’re in a position of power. Sometimes we’re absolutely not in a position of power. Sometimes we’re in total control of our time. Sometimes we’re unwinding with a close friend, one of those few with whom you feel equal.

And we shift between these modes of interaction subconsciously, without really paying attention to them.


October 9, 2007

I’ve never been one for casual sex. I’ve never had a “fuck buddy” (friend with benefits) as such.

And yet, some time ago, when I split up with my last long-term girlfriend, I naturally missed the sex. I missed the excitement. I missed that tingly feeling you get in certain places. I missed the astounding experience of vaginal penetration, feeling myself slide slowly into place. I haven’t experienced that in some time. I didn’t miss the relationship; that had been dead in the water for quite some time, for reasons I shan’t divulge.

For a while, I was a member of an “adult” dating site. Not for the dating part, just the adult part. Of course, these sites are predominantly male, so the following rule seems to be as true as it is in other arenas of life: Woman wants no-strings-attached sex? She can have it. Man wants no-strings-attached sex? He has to be very, very lucky. Or at least know the right people.

I don’t know those people. I can’t ever treat a “friend” as somebody I use for sex. And I dislike the grittiness, ugliness, messiness, and awkwardness of one-night stands.

So I met a girl on said dating site. When we communicated via text message. The night we arranged to meet up, I could not get rid of my hard-on. I was sitting on the train so totally erect that I realised my preferred wallet placement in my jeans is actually quite a good disguise. (Left-front pocket, in case you’re wondering. I tend to hang a little to the left, so when I take a hard-on it naturally grows down that trouser leg.)

But when we got to her flat, it was gone. The thoughts of sex were gone. Despite a suitably impressive set of breasts and reasonable looks otherwise, I couldn’t do it.

It seems I have bother with the idea of fucking a relative stranger. I have bother with the idea of fucking a friend. That really only leaves fucking a lover. Or copious volumes of consumed alcohol for a good set of beer goggles and the loss of inhibition.

I’m perfectly comfortable with my body image. I’m perfectly comfortable with the size of my penis, and my ability in bed. I suppose I just don’t fuck around.


October 9, 2007

I’m going to start posting again intermittently, I think.

Watch this space.

So long.

August 1, 2007

This blog’s dying a death. Various life changes have left me with little inclination or time to write. Indeed, given that this is my “secret” blog, I can go considerable lengths of time without thinking about it.

It’s within this context that I feel comfortable shutting down ontheoutsidelookingin.

So long. And thanks for all the fish.


July 24, 2007

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

The Hills are bare now,
And Autumn leaves
lie thick and still,
O’er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Those days are past now,
And in the past
they must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

(Ok, so Scotland doesn’t have a national anthem, in the same way that England doesn’t have a national anthem. But I love the song. The fact it’s, what, only 40 years old? Bothers me not.)


July 9, 2007

So the tories want a higher taxation on alcohol. Great! The reasoning, of course, is that if alcohol costs more, then they’ll have solved Britain’s alcohol dependency. Hmm, gee, I don’t think so.

Who is the taxation supposed to hit? If it’s supposed to hit the binge drinkers (allow me to label people so crassly into “binge drinker” and “non-binge drinker” for one moment), then it’s a lost cause. People enjoy drink. If you really fancy getting wasted on a Wednesday morning/afternoon/evening, then you’ll do it — the cost is not what matters, the alcohol is. With alcohol still available, albeit at higher cost, people will still drink to excess. All that might happen is that purchasing patterns may be affected.

They argue that the price hike shouldn’t really affect “normal” people, or so they said on the news, as if to suggest that we can all feel happy and proud of ourselves that we aren’t binge drinkers. It’s always black and white like that when politicians try to push something through which doesn’t affect them so greatly.

In my varied experience, the price of alcohol, albeit not in real terms, has risen by about 50 – 100% in the last 6 or 7 years. I’d hazard that this equates to a rise in real terms also. What has this done to curb binge drinking?

Well, I’d argue none. If the news reports that are to be believed, we’re all lucky to have any livers left.

No, taxation is not the answer to alcohol dependency. Taxation is the response of a politician looking to make an impact within the timespan he has in office or looking for his/her 5 minute spot on TV.

The “cure” to a national alcohol dependency, should one be required, is much deeper rooted, and requires a generation or two to fix. No knee-jerk reaction can solve it. What it requires is:

  • A sensible education on various drugs and substances introduced in primary school. Warts and all. Don’t scare kids into not trying, but do make them aware early on of the long-term effects of alcohol, nicotine, etc, and the short term effects of over-indulgence. Education prior to experience allows for the development of personal context, a greater understanding of why we feel good under the influence of these drugs, and what the cost of that good feeling actually is. Avoiding the subject is like suggesting that avoiding sex education will make teenagers less horny.
  • Investment in sports clubs, arts clubs, libraries, arts centres, and organised events. Availability of evening classes. Not only that, drop mail around all doors listing the various facilities, groups and classes available to residents. Whenever something like this is opened up, it’s always for kids — why should anybody over the age of 20 be excluded? The old mantra really does ring true, that if you give people an opportunity to better themselves in a non-condescending way, then they’ll jump in, no matter their age. With gusto, provided they don’t feel discriminated in any way. We consume alcohol to excess because it’s the only context in common British society where we’re allowed to express ourselves.
  • A reversal of this childish attitude that personally inflicted illness from legal substances wastes NHS resources. High-consumption alcohol and cigarette users have already paid their way in advance. Taxation is already high, let’s not make it any higher. Be understanding that, until relatively recently, people were taught that smoking was good for us.
  • An expectation that the reversal of generations of high alcohol consumption cannot be achieved within a few years.
  • No legislation on taxation, or on the restriction of licensed operating hours. I’m uncertain whether we need to impede alcohol advertising further, since alcohol adverts are already not allowed to emphasise alcohol in any way. Don’t artificially stop pubs from opening — let the market control itself. If there are too many pubs opening, then your local council isn’t doing enough to counteract that. Artificial restriction is not a good thing. It’s totalitarian.

The UK could overcome its alcohol dependency if it so desired. Unfortunately, the politicians don’t seem to be serious when it comes to combating the problem. Perhaps the local councils should lead the way on this one.


July 4, 2007

Ok. So who’s the girl, I hear you ask. Well, I can’t tell you that. I shouldn’t tell you all that much, actually, just in case. I know the internet’s a big place, but I should really keep specifics out of this.

So what’s so special about her?

She’s astoundingly intelligent. She’s more intelligent than I, which is the most crazy turn on I could possibly have imagined.

She’s independent. There’s no feeling that she’s waiting to fall into Mr. Right’s arms directly before rushing off to the chapel to get married, thereafter producing or rearing children. I’m so far from being an emotional crutch with her that to go out with her is a compliment.

She’s older than me. While not a requirement in itself, with age comes maturity and I am perhaps mature beyond my years. Either that or I appreciate maturity in others.

She’s physically beautiful. She has the most amazing eyes which I could — and do have your sick bag on standby — … I could just stare into those eyes forever. The little way the corner of her mouth curls up at one end when she’s thought of something clever. The gut laugh when we make the same joke. The colour of her hair, the way she walks, the fucking shoes she wears. I want to spend every single waking moment of my life with this woman.


Only problem? We live particularly far apart. I’m willing to test the water on that one though.


July 3, 2007

You know a country has a, shall we say, irreverent sense of humour when a potentially deadly terrorist attack on that country results in a joke email, and a general feeling of “Fuck ye!”

I copy here for your benefit.

If this had happened in a US airport, compared to Glasgow: Eyewitness accounts

USA: “Oh my God! There was a man on fire, he was running about. I just ran for my life. I thought i was gonna die, he got so close to me.”

Glasgow: “Cunt wis running aboot on fire, so a ran up n gave him a good boot, then decked him”

USA: “I just wanna get home, away from here. I just wanna get home, I thought I was gonna die.”

Glasgow: “Here, Tam, ahm no leaving here till ahm oan a fuckin’ plane!”

USA: “There was pandemonium, people were running in all directions, we didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was gonna die.”

Glasgow: “Fuck this fir a kerry oan. ‘moan we’ll get a pint in.”

USA: “We thought he was gonna blow us all up. He had a gas canister, and was trying to get into his trunk, I thought we were gonna die, I just ran for my life.”

Glasgow: “Ah swaggered by the motor that wis on fire, and the dafty couldnae even open his boot, he wis in fire annaw so a ran up n gave him a good boot to the baws.”

USA: “There was this huge explosion, it sounded like war, I thought I was gonna die.”

Glasgow: “There wis a bang, yi know when yi throw BO basher intae a fire it wis like that!”

USA: “I’m too traumatized even to speak, I thought I was gonna die.”

Glasgow: “here mate, gies 2 minutes till a phone ma auld dear, if am gonna be oan the telly a want her tae tape it.”

Finally, two quotes from an eye-witness, one John Smeaton. These are real. John surpassed himself on the national news channels. The interviewer asked “What message do you have for the bombers?” He replied “this is Glasgow, we’ll just set about you.”

John took part in an interview on CNN and they asked how he restrained the guy and he said “me and other folk were just tryin to get the boot in and some other guy banjoed him!”

For the record, I enjoyed John Smeaton’s interviews, and thought it was excellent to get somebody on (inter)national TV who didn’t talk bollocks. He spoke the plain and simple truth. Find out more about John here.

In case anybody misinterprets, this is not a dig at the US, the email could equally have chosen many other nations in the western world. This is an example of the Glaswegian spirit of self-deprecation, masked within a smugly proud feeling that only here would people have behaved as they did. Lesson learned. Don’t mess with a Scotsman.


July 1, 2007

Ok. I have a couple more weeks of stuff, then I think I should be back for good. If I can’t maintain this blog properly, then I might do the reasonable thing and put it quietly to bed. I’ll say so if that’s my choice.

It’s been interesting times of late. I have quite a bit to mull over with regards to the love life before I post any of it.

Ever found the person you think you want to marry? Ever come to that conclusion within 24 hours of meeting them?

Spins the fucking mind around, does it not?