My name in lights


Eeep!

Of all the reasons for which I thought I might one day see my name in the newspapers, I never would have imagined the one to make it would be designing knitwear for a Danish lady cop. And yet here it is : My jumpers in the Sunday Telegraph

Check out Emma Kennedy looking all serious in that white jumper. And Sofie Gråbøl being all badass in the red and white Strawberries and Crime. I MADE THOSE JUMPERS!!!!!

Swoon.

If anyone’s interested, I have started up a little website where I’ll be putting up my other knitted creation pattern: www.tiggstogs.com – They’ll be up soon, promise!

In the meantime you can get The Killing handbook from Amazon, Waterstones and UK bookstores. It contains my 3 jumper patterns, plenty of other Forbrydelsen-related craft stuff including the totally awesome Little Knitted Sarah Lund by Lauren O’Farrel and of course all the inside info on the series by the wonderful Emma Kennedy.

Buy it, or she will stare at you like this:

Such fun !


Psst! Want to hear about my latest adventure? Then come join me in my blanket fort, bring your torch and a bag of marshmallows and I’ll tell you all about it!

Ever noticed that being a grown-up isn’t quite as fun as being a ten year-old? Yeah, me too. And that is the main reason why I recently had the opportunity to have that much fun again, I jumped at it. A friend of ours kindly gave Husband and me one of those activity-thingy-voucher-boxes with a selection of “quirky” over-night stays to choose from. Glamping in a yurt or a teepee, B&B on an organic farm or in a castle, that sort of thing.

As we flicked through the glossy pages of the brochure, something caught our eye: a night in a nest. Up a tree. On an island. Off the coast of Brittany.

The nests of Parcabout

We took a closer look and we discovered the fabulous idea that is Parcabout (bout is French for a rope when used on a ship – a line, in English). It was founded by a group of ex-fishermen, who had to retire early due to health problems, and had to find something else to do with their skills. Remembering how their kids had loved bouncing on old fishing nets strung between a few trees, they decided to make a whole amusement park made of nets. Parcabout was born.

They have now exported the idea to several other parks around the world, and have added the unique “nests”, small round pods strung from the trees. The Parcabout on Groix island off the Atlantic coast of France, near Lorient, is where it all started, and that is where we chose to stay.

Port Tudy, Ile de Groix

The journey accross to Groix is like an adventure of its own. We parked our car at the ferry terminal in Lorient and crossed as foot passengers, something I haven’t done since I was about 10. Like a miniature version of the channel ferries, the “Lorient Express” as I decided to call it is a quick and efficient 45 min journey and costs about €30 per person for a return trip. It was considerably more to take the car and the park is about 15 mins walk from the port, so we decided to go pedestrian. You can also rent bikes, scooters or even cars when you land in Port Tudy. Also, be careful, you may just fall in love with the place.

After a lovely lunch at the Auberge du Pêcheur, we walked to the Park, eventually finding it at the end of a tiny pedestrian track (there is a car park the other side of it via a longer route). The lady who greeted us was warm and welcoming, she told us that we could choose our nest, and that they are all at different heights with different ways to access them. We wandered between the towering trees, looking up at the nests and discussing our choice, then settled on the lowest, simplest one, nearest the toilets and showers, because I’m a wuss with a tiny bladder.

Our nest, Tribord 1

Inside the pod is a round bed with cozy pillows and duvet, a storage net and nothing else. It’s like an egg-shaped tent up a tree. Mid October, we were pushing it a bit in terms of warmth and weather reliability, but to be fair, we had a lot of lovely sunshine and only a few short showers. The nests are only available from April to October.

So after discovering our accommodation and dropping our bags and coats, we went off to explore the park itself. We were all on our own, Sunday afternoons in October are not exactly high season! Soon we were scrambling, climbing, bouncing, falling over and laughing ourselves silly. I don’t think I’ve had that kind of completely uninhibited outdoor fun for quite a few years now. It was exhausting, exhilarating and utterly bloody brilliant.

  

The nets are all completely enclosed, so unlike treetop adventure parks, you don’t need to be harnessed and secured, you’re free to bounce, run, jump, fall, climb or Tarzan-swing your way this way and that with complete carefree abandon. All of this was only cut short by a short but intense shower of rain that had us running for the nearest cover, otherwise we could have gone on for hours. I swear it’s possibly the best workout I have ever done! It was both intensely fun and completely knackering. Somehow we still managed to drag ourselves back into the town centre and enjoy the most devastatingly delicious crepes ever (roasted apple and salt butter caramel, yum!).

Just what we needed for a good night’s sleep in a round tent hanging from a tree.

The next morning, we enjoyed a nice continental breakfast, then bid farewell to the park and walked back to the port the long way round, along the cliffs and beaches. And as we walked we fantasized about buying a house on the island and staying there forever, because it was just that lovely.

More science: the kitchen effect


the kitchen effect, how much your cat loves you

Dickishness detox


I was reading yet another thought-provoking article from Tiny Buddha the other day and one of the things the author mentioned was “getting rid of the bad people in your life”. That rang a bell. Then John Kovalic went and drew this Dork Tower strip and I knew I had to write something…

As the Tiny Buddha guest author mentions in her article, those “bad people” may not actually be bad as such, they’re just bad for you, at that moment in time.

Although until recently I hadn’t really put it into actual words, I have come across that kind of person oh so many times, and I’ve seen other people struggle with the exact same unpleasantness, sometimes for years.

Sometimes it’s clear almost immediately: I know that being around a particular person makes me feel bad – annoyed, sad, frustrated, murderous, angry, all sorts of negative emotions. In most cases, unless they were part of a work environment, keeping my distance from them was relatively straightforward. At the very least I recognised them as such and knew to keep as far away as I could.

And then there are the others. The ones who make it so incredibly difficult. Sometimes they have been friends or spouses of people I care about. Sometimes they are themselves friends – even close friends – of mine. People I have a deep affection for, with whom I have many happy memories, friends in common, and so-on. And yet they can be just as toxic, if not more so, than the people I just don’t like.

So how do you recognise a toxic friend? They’re not just someone you argue with, arguing can be perfectly healthy in a friendship. Being annoyed or angry with a friend can be perfectly normal. My own personal trigger alert is when they make me feel bad about myself, especially if it occurs on a regular basis. That’s my batsignal that something is wrong.

Taking a good hard look at your friendship with someone can be rough but in this case it’s necessary. You’re taking it away from the soft candlelight and into the harsh light of day, looking at it, wrinkles, warts and all.

What to do about it once you’ve done that self-diagnosis is even tougher. There’s no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes you can cut it off, go cold turkey. Sometimes you know you’re going to have to continue seeing that person on a regular basis. Either way you will want to go back, you’ll miss them, or at least the fantasy version of them made up from your good memories.

That’s when it’s important to remember those wrinkles and warts (the metaphorical ones on your friendship, not any real physical blemishes your friend may have, let’s not be petty…). Remember that trigger moment, remember how you felt because of them and the reasons why you’re doing this. Self preservation is tough and unpleasant but it’s good for you in the long run. You’re on a life-saving diet and they are your chocolate. You want them, but they’re not good for you and you know it.

Do I still love my “toxic friends”? Yes, undoubtedly. Do I still miss them, months or years later? Hell yeah. Do I feel better with the distance between us? Yes. Oh yes. A thousand times yes!

Good luck to you all and happy Severtember!

Don’t hate the haters


“Homophobia isn’t a phobia, you’re not scared, you’re an asshole.”

I’ve seen this quote all over the internets over the past few days, even shared by people like George Takei (oh MY!) and Morgan Freeman. It gets huge cheers from most people, and bigoted comments from a few. And I don’t agree with either reaction.

Although I understand the sentiment and appreciate the way that quote grabs your attention, I fail to see how making sweeping generalities and insulting people is supposed to combat people making sweeping generalities and insulting people. To be honest, it shocks me just as much as some of the homophobic crap I’ve seen in response to it. It’s homophobephobic.

If history teaches us anything (and we all know it doesn’t) its that hating the people who hate you isn’t going to solve anything.

The thing is, homophobes are scared. They’re scared on a different level, they feel threatened, uneasy, they don’t understand. They have a well-defined idea of what the world should be like, and people who challenge that idea shake their world and make it scary. If that part of their ideal world isn’t true, then what else could be contested? Could it be that there’s isn’t a big guy in a nightie sitting on a cloud with a basket of kittens watching to see if you masturbate? Could it be that people with different coloured skins also have souls? Could the earth be round? Could it be that we descend from apes? Different times, different questions, same fears.

Some people relish the idea that we don’t know things. I know I do. It means that there’s more to discover, and discovery is wonderful to me. But I understand that for others uncertainty is scary. Humanity has always had a mixture of these mindsets, those who wanted to stay in the cave and those who wanted to go outside and see the glowing spot where the lightning just struck. It’s how we progress. If everyone was a daring explorer we’d have never survived. If everyone stayed in the cave, we’d still be there. We need a balance of tradition and innovation for a healthy society. What we could do without is more hate. Hate is easy, understanding is hard.

As I see it, education is the only way out of this situation. Educate the new generations, open their minds, and as we grow, learn from them. We were all the new generation once, and we will all be the old folks one day. Society evolves fast. Some people alive today have lived in societies where homosexuality was illegal. In some countries it still is. When their parents were born, segregation was accepted as normal. I’m sure some of our current laws and traditions will seem antiquated and ridiculous when the kids born today are our age.

Don’t dismiss people’s experience when you disagree with what they say. Just because they’re wrong doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason for thinking it. Try to understand, try to educate, take a deep breath before you react. Then go all Ghandi on their asses.

Peace and love, peace and love.

I can do more science, me…


Seeing as you all (all 2 of you) loved the articles I wrote on the Edna scale and The Theory of Dunkability, I thought it was about time to follow that up with something even more astoundingly ground-breaking. In fact, not only that, but this discovery will probably have significant life-changing implications for entire populations worldwide.

I’m sure you are all aware of the correct way to eat a composite meal (any meal with several distinct components, for example meat and 2 veg, as opposed to something like risotto, or soup, which as everyone knows, isn’t a proper meal.): each forkfull must contain at least a little of each component – including sauce – or at least as many as will reasonably fit on the fork. That’s how everyone eats, right?*

Right.

But are you aware of the correct order in which these different elements should be speared with the aforementioned fork? Ah ha!

The basic rule, of course – the obvious one – is to fork them from squishiest to least squishy. I call this the Incremental Forkability Factor. However, although the relative squishiness of some foods is quite obvious, in other cases, it is quite a tricky thing to establish without many a fruitless prod, risking dangerous splatting of gravy or splitting of potatoes.  Therefore, I thought this might be a handy way of working out what to fork first. Feel free to print this out and take it with you when you eat out.

*Does not apply to anything not eaten with a fork, such as asian food, pizza (schematics of correct pizza cutting to follow) and so on.

Companies is peeples too


O2’s network went down in the UK yesterday, and immediately, Twitter, Facebook and the whole socialsphere* filled up with cutting comments about the situation. Because that’s what we do now.

Customer service has never been part of my job description as such, and yet somehow, I have ended up doing more than my fair share of it over the years. It’s times like this I really feel for the guys doing that job at O2, and any other company that dares to not be completely and utterly flawless all the time (I hear there are a couple out there).

As one of those “mobile phone users” you hear about these days, I understand how annoyed people can be, and if my network was down, I would be pretty annoyed too. Then again, having forked for one for a few years, I also understand that shit does sometimes happen (I hear this also happens outside the world of mobilephonism, to be confirmed). and when it does, the people who work for that company do not, as you might think, sit on their backsides and laugh at the poor stranded users. They work their butts off, doing the hours they need to do until the problem is fixed. I know, amazing, right?

For some reason, we all seem to think of companies as big faceless things, even the smallest startup is often considered to be a thing rather than a group of a few people. And that makes us behave like dicks. Because it’s OK to be a dick to a faceless thing on the interwebs.

The thing is, it’s not OK.

That faceless thing is made up of many things called people who have faces, and feelings, and who work hard every day (well, most of them do, most days) and when you scream at customer service down the phone or online, you’re screaming at a person. And the chances are, that person you’re insulting isn’t responsible for the problem you’re having. And they have also been screamed at and insulted by dozens of other customers who are also having the same problem.

Also, quite often, the people who get told that their product or service is “shit”, and that they should “get their act together” and “stop ruining the customer’s day” have no power to correct or improve the situation at all. I have worked for quite a few companies over the years, and every single one had its limitations, technical, political, financial or even just in terms of human resources available, that meant that I couldn’t get the job done as perfectly as it deserved to be. Those limitations made my work extra hard, frustrating and sometimes soul-crushing. But I did my best, every time, with what I had.

Of course, that never stopped customers telling me that my work was shit, and that a proper company wouldn’t dare present such crap to their customers, and that the site had obviously been made by incompetent monkeys. The solution is simple they say, even an idiot would see you “just” need to do this for it to work. And the fact that, not being an idiot, I also knew that “just this” was the solution but wasn’t possible due to those limitations made it just that bit more like a kick in the teeth.

So if you feel like screaming insults at a company, please take a moment to take a deep breath before you do, and think.

Think that maybe the person you’re addressing, even indirectly on a social network, has been working hard, putting up with a lot of other people insulting them, their company, and the collective work of all their colleagues. They are also probably frustrated and annoyed at a lot of other internal things, their boss, their lack os ability to fix stuff the way it should be fixed, etc.

Think that when something big happens, like this outage, there are guys up 50ft antennas in the middle of nowhere who would have liked to get home for tea and will be up all night. There are guys up to their arms in cables and electronics and computers spending hours upon end trying to solve this problem. They know that it’s really pissing you off right now, and that until they get it fixed you won’t be able to call for pizza or chat with your Auntie Mabel, they know it better than anyone.

I know it’s tempting, I have the same urges whenever something screws up. But unless I know that I’m actually talking to someone who is responsible for the problem, or at least someone who can fix it, I try to keep calm and carry on.

Unless the problem is one of those stupid keep calm and carry on posters, in which case I go MENTAL.

.

Edit: Looks like the guys at @O2 are handling it well. Kudos to them !

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/alex-hern/2012/07/when-life-gave-o2-network-failure-it-made-networkfailureade-twitter

.

*Not including MySpace.

Life and death of the Aerotrain


I discovered the existence of the Aerotrain on a road trip from North-East to South-West France. At some point in an unbelievably boring stretch of motorway, we drove past a strange raised track that was quite obviously cut to let the motorway through. After some research, I discovered that it was the test track of the ill-fated Aerotrain.

The test track

The Aerotrain was designed using the same fundamental principle as the hovercraft. As far as I can tell, they were invented independently around the same time, in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The veracity of the history of scientific discoveries is very much subject to who is writing it, it seems.

Anyhoo, while the British were looking at amphibious hovercraft, the French concentrated on the principle of a hover train that could travel at high speed along a raised, inverted-T-shape track.

Scale model of the Aerotrain
Scale model of the Aerotrain (front view)
Scale model of the Aerotrain (rear view)

The principle was approved, full size tests were designed and built, and speed tests were run. The lack of friction allowed the prototypes to reach speeds up to a record-breaking 430 km/h (267 mph), with the vertical bar of the track acting as a guide to prevent the train derailing. The train held its position on the rail with smaller lateral air cushions in most models although experimentations with gripping wheels were also made.

It was, to be fair, a bloody good idea. And it looks like amazing!

Full size prototype, #01 - public transport size
Full size prototype #02 - personal vehicle size - Thunderbirds are go!
The Tridim, a small passenger transport car designed to test maneuverability.
The Suburban 44 - a 44 seat passenger transporter and first fully electric Aerotrain.

The first tests were interesting enough for the French government to consider building several high speed hover train lines, and work began on a new series of full scale passenger train prototypes. The I80-250 was an 80-seat passenger transport train with an enclosed rear propellor

The Orleans I80-250 Aerotrain
The Orleans I80-250 Aerotrain
The rear propellor of the I80-250 - shiny!

The tests of all the high speed and full scale prototypes confirmed the original tests. The speed was incredibly good, and the ride was smooth. Above all that, the train was economic to run, with only very little energy required to move the train forward on its cushion of air. It was designed as the perfect middle ground between plane and train travel: simple, economic to run over medium and short distances, fast and comfortable.

The I80 HV (highspeed) Aerotrain on the track - the reactor on the top faces forwards for braking, the main propulsion is the wide vent at the back.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding for the research and the switch of governmental support from the innovative aerotrain to the seemingly less risky TGV project, the whole project was abandoned in 1974. There are many theories as to exactly why, ranging from political conspiracies to a simple lack of understanding and misconceptions about the technology. Whatever the reason or reasons, it truly is a shame that all this wonderful technology and many years of work went to waste.

The Tridim, abandoned
The Aerotrain #01 - abandoned
The aerotrain #02 - abandoned
The inside of the I80 passenger section (after the project was abandoned)
Saddest of all, the I80 was victim of arson and almost completely destroyed only a few days before it was due to be transported to a museum.
Fortunately, the Aerotrain #02 was saved and restored...
...and exhibited at several motor shows

All the Aerotrains look amazing in movement, and look at the adorable little Tridim moving around, it really is like something out of a Thunderbirds episode!

A 6 part documentary has been made by an association about the search for the last remaining aerotrain prototype:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykDWsm3oCz8

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqS7RmegIBU

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhIgfAsmJlU

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM6vDAaQwWI

Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_rWIfMKE-Q

Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI5lCCRJFsY

(Source)

WTF lyrics – Milow – You and me


I keep hearing this one on the radio, and although at first it was mainly irritating in the mushiness of its chorus and the number of times per hour it gets played on French radio, now I’ve actually listened to the lyrics, it’s horrendous.

Ok, I get the underlying sentiment, the original intention: he loves the girl and want it to be just him and her forever. I get that, I’ve been there. But when you overdo that kind of sentiment, it becomes crazy-stalkerish. And it doesn’t even stop there, it gets worse. In fact I’ll stop talking about it and let you read. Deep breath, here it comes:

I wish you smelled a little funny
Not just funny really bad
We could roam the streets forever
Just like cats but we’d never stray
I sometimes wish you were a mermaid
I could raise you in the tub at home
We could take a swim together
On weekly day trips to the bay

Oh you and me
It would be only you and me
Oh you and me
It would be only you and me

I wish you were a little bigger
Not just big but really fat
Doors you would no longer fit through
In my bed you would have to stay
I often wish that you had feathers
I’d keep you in a giant cage
All day long I’d sit and watch you
I’d sing for you and that would be okay

People say there are plenty of fish
In the sea, baby, all I do is wish

I wish you were a little slower
Not just slow but paralyzed
Then I could plug you into a socket
So you could never run away
I really wish that you were smaller
Not just small but really really short
So I could put you in my pocket
And carry you around all day

I rest my case.

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