Muffin Talk TWTW # 61

Greetings from my writing desk, where this paperweight joined the other “stuff” that makes it a comfy place to work, even if it does tend towards the cluttered at times. It’s been a busy week – when is it not – I feel like I write that most weeks. I’ve been out of my office most days for one thing or another or had unexpectedly long phone calls take up more time than I’d allowed for them, but overall it’s been a good week. This coming week I expect I’ll be playing catch up a little bit, but I have less commitments out of the office, so that should work in my favour.

Nothing new on the work front this week, just pushing various projects for different clients forwards, and answering emails etc.

I’ve meant to mention that Last Exit To Nowhere still have a sale on. In my opinion their t-shirts and other clothing is pretty good. I’ve had a number of their t-shirts for getting on for 15 years and they’re still going. I bought some stuff from them earlier this month and it’s the same quality as it’s always been. You’ll need the code JAN2020 at checkout.

[I’ve not been asked or paid for this endorsement, I just like their stuff and you might too. Sale ends at the end of the month (I think).]

I’ve been reading Strange Practice  by Vivian Shaw, which is actually one of Ann’s books, and not something I would normally read, but it was okay and I’ll probably read the next two books that she has in the series. At the moment my tbr pile is getting very out of control and I really must enforce the “not buying any new books” rule that I’d planned to have this year, at least until the piles start to reduce some.

Not sure which of those will be up next.

I gave a garden talk this week to Hayling Island Horticultural Society, and baked courgette and red Leicester muffins for the audience for post talk discussions. I think the talk went down well as I had some nice compliments afterwards, and I know the muffins did because there were only crumbs left afterwards!

I also had a go at baking pumpkin muffins, but they didn’t go so well. Needed to be sweeter and have more spice in them, so better luck next time.

That’s about all for this week, I hope wherever you are you’re having a good one!

Neither Here Or There TWTW # 30

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, as by the time it goes live tomorrow morning I’ll be somewhere between here and Somerset on my way to a meeting with a client. A potential new client (although I do already know someone there, which is why I’m going). I have my fingers crossed that this might be some new work, but it means that if I don’t write this today, it might not get written at all tomorrow or anywhen else in the next week.

It’s been a fairly quiet week, which I’ve mostly spent working on some presentations for talks that I’m giving at the beginning of October. On Monday there were two to prepare and then I had an email arrive and by the middle of the week there were three. They don’t pay very much (I’ve been told by some that I’m not charging enough), but I enjoy doing them and I’ve had quite a bit of fun researching material for them. They’re not finished yet but as I say their still six weeks away (please don’t remind me I said that when I write that I’m flapping about not getting them done and am working late into the night to finish them)!

I’ve been reading Spillover” by David Quammen this week. It’s been on my Kindle for an absolute age, and although I appear to have read the first few pages before I’ve really been getting stuck in this week. It’s all about the transmission of diseases (mostly viruses) from animals to humans and what happens next. Think Ebola etc. I’m about halfway through and enjoying it, considering the topic is one that’s pretty gloomy, it’s very well written, and if you’re interested in science writing I’d certainly recommend it.

A Single Male Cats Reign of Terror

Giant Three Foot Cannibal Parrot Discovered

Stare At Seagulls To Stop Them Pinching Your Chips


Every Breath You Take – A User’s Guide to the Atmosphere by Mark Broomfield- Book Review

“Every Breath You Take – A Users Guide to the Atmosphere” by Mark Broomfield.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you haven’t heard about air quality over the last few months you’ve probably been
off-grid somewhere and your local air quality is probably quite good. However if you want to know more about the quality of what you’re breathing, what influences it and how poor air quality globally is responsible for over 7 million deaths a year, then this is the book for you.

It’s packed full of scientific information, and despite the slightly intimidating blurbs on the cover is easily readable. Mark Bloomfield writes well, his style and structure work well and he takes the reader on a journey by telling the story of air quality and more, from the atmosphere (and a little bit of interstellar travel) to the global, national, local and personal level. He looks at how this affects not only human health but areas such as nature conservation, acid rain, media coverage, environmental campaigns and issues at a local development level.

Whether you have a scientific background or not the book earns it’s “Popular Science” classification and by the time you’ve finished it you’ll have a much better understanding of what the issues, causes and potential solutions are. Bloomfield doesn’t shy away from giving his personal views but they are those based on knowledge from a career of experience in this field, and does so in a way that you can make your own conclusions from the evidence he presents.

Recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this topic, or has a general science interest.

Every Breath You Take – A User’s Guide to the Atmosphere” by Mark Broomfield is published on 11th July 2019 by Duckworth Books.

About the Author: Mark Broomfield studied natural sciences at Cambridge University and has a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from York. He has specialised in air qualty since 1992, which also means dealing with health, odour and nature conservation. He has carried out research for the European Commission and the UK Government.

In 2017, he took a sabbatical to complete a 100 mile trek in the Himalaya, and write his first book – “Every Breath You Take“. He is married with three sons, and lives in Shrewsbury.


Site News & Downgrade Plans

It’s getting close to the time of year when I have to pay the subscription fees for this site. Due to the changes that WordPress have made in the last year this is now significantly more expensive than it was a year ago, and for me I’m not sure that this represents good value for money anymore. The cost would be well over £100, which is spare cash that I simply don’t have at the moment, so I have reluctantly decided to cancel my subscription.

Cancelling my current subscription is the only way that I can downgrade my plan, and because the domain fee is now paid separately (another WordPress change), it hopefully means that I can downgrade to something cheaper or take my stall someplace else.

It also gives me an opportunity to look at other things. As you probably know I normally post once a week, and there are other ways to do this e.g. a newsletter, which could be done more cost effectively. Ultimately I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I had to cancel my plan before it auto-renewed in order to avoid having the pay the excessive fee.

I’ve tried a number of different options to passively monetise content here (adverts, affiliate links and others) in order to offset the costs of subscription charges and to be honest none of them provide anywhere near the income that would be needed to cover the cost (or even payout as the threshold is so high). Add to this I hate the sight of the adverts, they’re ugly and I have no control over what is advertised, and I’ll be glad when they’re gone.

This is my problem to fix, but I need to cut my cloth according to my means and have the control over “my” site.

Spring Loaded (TWTW #4)

It’s been a busy week for me, with family appointments and a few work related things. I had to take Wilson to the vets for a follow-up after last weeks sample collection as the results were inconclusive. It looks like that will rumble on for a bit.

Hagfish slime is super-slimy.

I received a new fountain pen, a TWSBI Go, which has a rather unique spring-loaded filling mechanism. I’m liking it so far.

I published a review for this book.

Broken Chain

So yesterday I didn’t post, thus ending the unbroken run of posts started back before Christmas. I realise at about 2 am this morning that I’d missed yesterdays post, but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve struggled a couple of times to have something meaningful to write about, but have managed to find something anyway. Yesterday was one of those days, but I’d simply decided that if by the end of the day nothing came along then neither would a post. Nothing did.

Going forward I think I’ll be taking the same approach. I’ll still be posting but not necessarily everyday anymore. There will still be a Quick Links each Monday, but other days will perhaps be a little bit less predictable.

Broken Promises, Broken Country

[Today’s post is a bit of a political rant – please feel free to skip it if that sort of thing doesn’t interest you].

In 2015 the Tory Party manifesto contained a promise not to raise income tax, national insurance contributions or value added tax (VAT). At the time I can remember saying to my then colleagues that it was a stupid promise, (effectively blocking the three main ways a government can raise money at significant levels) and that I doubted that they would be able to keep that promise.

On Wednesday they broke that manifesto promise and raised NI contributions for the self employed. [Full Disclosure: I am self employed and therefore this will effect me directly]. Now there has been significant claim and counterclaim that they haven’t broken a manifesto pledge because it wasn’t what the legislation said; but I’m sorry – liar, liar, pants on fire. A manifesto pledge is made before an election, the legislation is enacted afterwards (assuming that you get in government). So actually the promise was broken when the legislation was laid and not last Wednesday then, wasn’t it, the manifesto pledge did not distinguish between employees and the self-employed, whatever your subsequent claim it is you manifesto pledge that you have broken.

As the proposal further unravelled we’ve now seen the Prime Minister back pedal and say that this won’t be legislated on until the autumn and not now (probably because there are sufficient Tory backbenchers who would vote against it, and the government would loose the vote), presumably in a hope that it will be forgotten about by then, and it can be sneaked through.

Regardless of all of this, I actually think that NI should be raised – across the board. We have a Tory government and once again we see that Education, Public Services, especially adult social care, and the NHS are completely f***ed (remember when we were last in this situation? Well it was a Tory government then too).

Austerity (or budget cuts) have been the mantra of the Tories since 2010 – the first five years they had their Lib Dem glove puppets to hide behind (bad news send out a junior Lib Dem minister), who got their reward in 2015, and lost nearly all their parliamentary seats. Coupled with buying off (one-off grants to) local authorities not to raise Council Tax (until now when the horse has finally bolted and now a 5% rise means a lot less than a year on year rise of 1% over the past five years would have) and in some cases buying off local authorities in order to prevent them embarrassing the government (Surrey County Council), this Country’s finances and public services are firmly in the toilet.

So actually put 1% on NI across the board or if you want to “even things up” 1% on employees and 2% on the self-employed, I really don’t care about your manifesto pledge (you’ve always been a bunch of liars, so you don’t change your spots overnight anyway), which was a stupid promise in the first place – just try being honest. You’re in government and need to sort out the mess that you’ve created. Austerity (cuts) do not work, and they never have, so now that the chickens are coming home to roost, how about having an honest conversation with the country and asking them what they actually want, and not what you think is important and while you’re at it what about some of those other stupid promises? Do we need HS2 (to save 20 to 30 minutes travel time) or could we spend that money better some place else? Do we need two (or three) new nuclear power stations, when there are better renewable alternatives, and spend the difference some place else.

FFS – have an honest conversation with the Country and stop pretending that we don’t have an opinion or a view, and only what you think counts.