Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Meaning moral insanity.

I'm trying to get back into writing on this thing because I'd like to be able to have something to show for my free time. As ever, I'm writing this late at night, so it's unlikely to make an awful lot of sense, but I'll just go with the flow of my train of thought.

So, firstly, I'm thinking of helping a charity by the name of Time To Change next summer. Time To Change are a charity involved in ending mental discrimination. That is to say, they are working to remove all and any stigmas attached to mental disorders such as depression. I will be joining this charity on a roadshow of the UK, talking to young adults (and indeed anyone that wishes to) about depression, combating it, and how it is nothing to be ashamed of at all. Depression affects one in every ten adults, and more than half of those who have an episode of depression in their life will have a recurrence in later life. So, it is massively important that this stigma of shame associated with depression is removed. Sufferers need to feel like they can talk to people about their disorder without being judged. Depression can be caused by a number of factors, both environmental and genetic, so those who suffer from depression are not "weak", nor are they "crazy". Working with someone who suffers from depression to help them in any way possible is the best course of action. Talking to them, spending time with them will make a world of change to them.
I'm not, by any means, saying that you are responsible for anyone else's happiness. Far from it, in fact. Those who suffer from depression have to really want to get better, and have to be prepared to work at it for a long time. But it's not hard work. In some cases, anti-depressants can be prescribed with minimal, if any, side effects. Little lifestyle changes, such as going for a walk (increases vitamin D levels and serotonin) or consuming a healthier diet can make huge changes to your mood.
But I am trying to help remove this stigma of depression being a shameful thing. Depression can hit anyone of any age and any gender. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression.
Billy Joel (singer of Uptown Girl) suffered from depression; as did Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, and Winston Churchill.

The first hurdle to jump when fighting depression is to make those with it feel socially accepted.

"Art saved me; it got me through my depression and self-loathing, back to a place of innocence."

Friday, 26 August 2011


German, meaning a face that is crying out for a punch.

I was very amused when I found that word. Well, I would be if I currently had the emotional capacity for humour. You see, I am currently taking fluoxetine to treat my depression (moderately severe manic depression, to be precise. Yippee.). The "street name" for fluoxetine is Prozac. The doctor has prescribed me - of all people, me - Prozac. When I first started the course of medication, I suffered quite badly from minor side-effects such as nausea and confusion, gradually progressing onto worse ones such as aggression, agitation, insomnia and vivid dreams. While I still suffer a slightly reduced form of the bad side-effects, the nausea and confusion have subsided. The Prozac has left me with the emotional depth and capacity of a shot glass (a really small one that maybe small insects or single-celled oragnisms may use). That is, I am somewhat emotionless at the moment. It is strange, but it's pleasant not suffering as much stress and pain as usual.

However, it is somewhat worrying being on 40 milligrams of Prozac a day for the next year and a half (at the very minimum). It is also unnerving having the recent events of my life used by a therapist to explain why I am, and I quote verbatim; "self-obsessed and narcissistic to the point of psychotic delusion.". Beautiful.

Still, I'm on cognitive behavioural therapy, Prozac and sleeping pills, so with that beautiful cocktail of mind-altering medication, it has to do something good. One might hope. I've been on Prozac for the best part of nearly three months. But I feel like I've turned a bit of a corner. Not massively, but I'm celebrating the small victories because it's rare that I get a big win. Of course, there are some things that my therapist has said that I need to do that are physically out of my control, because they rely on someone else. But generally, I think the illness is manageable in the long-term. It's just a case of maintaining the constant mindset over the course of a long time.

I mean, it's unpleasant seeing life going so smoothly and easily for some people who really deserve some sort of backlash from karma. But I guess it'll come soon enough. That's another thing that's getting me right now; I know how much destruction I could cause with a few things that I know, but it's more a case of proving to myself that I can actually be a good person and not need to hurt people to make myself feel better (which is, incidentally, a symptom of narcissism).

Still, I guess it all just remains to be seen and whatnot. I know I've got enough close friends that aren't going to be bailing on me any time soon. Small victory #2.

"Depression is when you have lots of love, but no-one's taking."

Thursday, 28 April 2011


I'M BACK, Y'ALL. Probably with a considerably larger curse / swear-word count, but back nonetheless. And it's unlikely that I'll be posting regularly for a while, but hey, at least I've got something going. Today's word means happy.

Ok, so I took a brief hiatus due to being stressed. However, the reason for me being focused enough to write this blog is, ironically, stress.

Allow me to explain. My childhood was quite a stressful and traumatic one; my parents divorced, I've been surrounded by alcoholism, abuse, arguments, depression and other unhappy situations. Not little ones, but pretty big ones. But it leaves me with somewhat of a defence mechanism. If something trivially insignificant doesn't go my way, I freak the fuck out. If my vacuum cleaner isn't sucking the dust up powerfully enough, I'll feel a rage start building inside. If I break a glass, it'll push me to the verge of tears of frustration. But when I'm overwhelmed with stressful situations that actually matter, I seem to dissociate my body from my emotions and just focus on things, and deal with things slowly and in a logical matter. It's brilliant.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still nowhere near sorting everything out, but there's such a lot going on, it's keeping me focused. Which is a good thing so near to exams.

I've also recently taken up frisbee. I'm not the most sporty person in the world (if anything, I'm probably the least sporty), so any kind of physical activity that I enjoy is a good thing. I want to take up Ultimate (or Ultimate Frisbee as it is more popularly known, but since Frisbee is a trademarked name, they don't like it being called that because it genericises it and puts the trademark at risk). It's similar to netball but played with a frisbee, and it's much faster-paced. Not sure what I'm writing at the moment - kinda multitasking (or failing) but I'll see where this goes.

Another project that I've decided to take up is to create a set of music synchronised lights. This entails several LEDs connected to a 3.5mm headphone audio output, using capacitors, resistors and transistors to control the frequency range that each LED responds to. This will end up with a set of lights flashing to the music, similar to those found in discos and at live music gigs. I've already got a generic circuit schematic, now all I need to do is work in some values for the ranges I want, the resistors, et cetera and then I can make it.

I've run out of things to write about, so I'll leave it here.

"There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want"

Friday, 25 March 2011

Quacksalver / Obelise / Blague

Maybe I'm pushing myself a little far to try and write three blog posts in one, but since I've missed so many, I need to catch up on the ones I've missed before I can get back into the rhythm of updating. So in the usual fashion, just three times over, today's first word means someone who pretends to have a knowledge of medicine. The second word, obelise, means to condemn as corrupt or spurious. I have, of course, saved the best till last. It might be noted that I am writing a blague blog, since it means pretentious nonsense. Wow, there's quite a bit of bold in there. Wicked.

Ok, let's get started on these posts (I've already lost focus around five times. It's awful.). I believe that in my last half-post, I mentioned about social networks being considered as a sort-of super-organism because all of the nodes (human beings in the case of a social network) are so closely related. They are so closely related in two manners. The stronger and more well-known phenomenon of the two is known as the Six Degrees of Separation. This is the theory that any one person in the world is related or has some connection to any other person in the world by a maximum of six degrees - that is, any other person in the world is only as far away as a friend's friend's friend's friend's friend's friend. Of course, friendships aren't the only type of connection between human beings. It can be as complicated as your spouse's brother's friend's aunt's coworker's son, but you get the idea.

Some of you must be thinking "How can this be possible?", so imagine this. If you know around 250 people (including Facebook friends, family, coworkers, et cetera), and each of those people know 250 people, and each of those people know 250 people, at only the third degree of separation we have almost 16 million people. At the sixth degree we have reached over forty times the Earth's population. This can be used to show that every node in the network is, in some way, connected with any other node.

The second and lesser-known phenomenon is known as the Three Degrees of Influence. This has less of a reasoning behind it, but is more of an observed phenomenon. It is shown, by monitoring a social network, that when a person, for example, gives up smoking, it creates a ripple effect throughout the social network with the behaviour extending to only three degrees of separation, after which the effect seems to have a negligible effect, rather like a ripple in a pond losing energy. The first and second degrees feel the most effect, with rises in the chance of giving up of around 50% and 30% respectively, and the third degree feeling only a meagre ~5%.

The actual effect on the social network is not just a standard outwards ripple effect, similar to a pebble being thrown into a pond. It is similar to a handful of pebbles being thrown into a pond. Why? Well, it is not only one person that may give up smoking at any one time. Many people may give up, each causing their own ripples. And these ripples may intersect, causing an effect of both of the ripples combined. For example, consider person X at two degrees from person A, who has given up smoking, and three degrees from person B, who also gave up smoking at the same time. Person X would experience a rise in the chance of giving up smoking of ~35%. Well, I thought that was pretty interesting.

My second and third posts are somewhat combined here.

Last night, I went to see a comedy gig in Camden (more specifically, Mornington Crescent, Dom). It was a thoroughly enjoyable gig (for those interested in watching the two shows that I saw, watch Stand-Up For The Week on 4OD for Saturday 19th March and Saturday 26th March, though the latter was considerably better. Mike Wilmot is a comic genius) at Camden's KOKO Club.

Koko's is an old, traditional-styled theatre that has been converted into a club / function venue. A beautiful venue, it has televisions and bars on every floor, while overlooking the main floor and stage, on which they frequently have acts and bands playing. Since the gig was free, they had unfortunately jacked the bar prices sky-high to make up for it, but on a normal night, the prices would have been more than respectable. It really gives a feel of the hidden side of London, with the classic theatre look and old theatre ticket booths still in operation. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone, be it for a club night or to watch a show. The venue was fantastic, and even on the uppermost balcony you have a fantastic view of the stage.

On the journey, however, we went for a little exploration of Mornington Crescent station. Upon taking a flight of stairs down into the station, we discovered a corridor with several doors, all locked. This then began a train of thought (excuse the pun) that took me back a few years.

Back in the Summer of 2009, I met up with a handful of Muse fans from the online forum to do a spot of filming for an actual video (alas, the footage mysteriously disappeared, but we had a great day nonetheless). The task was to film ourselves singing in well-known and iconic parts of London, and being the utter genius that I am, decided that I'd take on the task of checking out filming in a Tube station. It appears that station staff get quite on edge when they see a group of ten people filming themselves singing in a station. And apparently, it's illegal to film in them or something. Still, we weren't going to be able to film without around six months notice and a whole lot of money. Neither of which we really had.

So I began looking into old, unused stations, and came across another one of London's hidden gems. Near Charing Cross and Strand, is an old abandoned station by the name of Aldwych. This isn't a station for which construction started and then ceased halfway through. It is a fully functional station that is just closed due to lack of use.

Aldwych Tube Station is a branches off of the Picadilly line (The 1933 Tube map shows this well - Picadilly line is in blue and the Aldwych branch is just after the Picadilly line crosses over the then-named Central London Railway), a branch solely created to serve that one and only station. The old branch-off can still be seen on a good day on an eastbound train on the Picadilly line, shortly after leaving Holborn station. It used to run only at peak times to save on financial losses, due to the low volume of passengers using it, before being cut down to just a single running line in 1917. It was then finally closed tothe public completely in 1994, when it was resulting in a net loss of around £150,000 per annum. There are still occasional tours of the stations, and for a fee of approximately £1,500 one can get into the station for filming and photography purposes for a day.

I cannot stress how incredible Aldwych Station is. Maybe it's the feeling of seeing an abandoned and disused Tube station, but it is also one of the scariest things I've experienced. For copyright reasons, I cannot publish any photos on here, but go here to see an almost complete tour of the station. I actually cannot look through these pictures right now, because it's late at night and they just creep me out so much.

 "You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Final note - I know I mentioned a few posts back about how London gets tiresome and that I prefer places like Cambridge. While this is for the most part true, there is no other place in England that has the beauty and intricacy of London. You can always find something new in London, another hidden secret from deep within its fantastic history. I know it sounds like a cheesy advert for the place, but I love places that keep battlescars from their history, be it an old ruin, or a network of tunnels buried deep beneath the city centre that no one uses anymore.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Topophilia / Fissiparous

The first of today's words means great love or affection for a particular place. And, since I'm doubling up due to a second burst of inspiration, the second word means a tendency to break into many parts.

I've been very very unwell this week (well, moreso than usual), and so it's been difficult to get this done, so I'm trying to double up while I'm able to.

In my last post, I spoke of using a piece of software to run my guitar through a series of emulated effect pedals. To cut a long story short, Guitar Rig doesn't work with analogue signals. I was running my guitars through the line in port on my laptop, which merely amplifies the signal recieved and keeps it as an analogue signal. However, when buying Guitar Rig, (something that I'd foolishly overlooked) an actual physical rig is provided. That is, somewhere to plug a guitar into that connects to a computer via USB. This rig converts the analogue signal recieved into a digital (to be pedantic, a signal that is converted to digital from analogue is known as a digitised signal) signal that is suitable for being manipulated by the Guitar Rig software.

A digital signal is essentially a binary digit. It has one of two states; on or off. The main advantage that digital music production has is its resistance to minor wave degradation. Analogue waves are far more sensitive to the degradation than digital waves, since an analogue wave is not of a discrete value like digital,  it is more continuous, and so interference is not quantised and is merely amplified with the rest of the wave. However, where wave degradation is more pronounced, analogue systems produce a more recognisable sound, whereas the digital system will fail completely, trying to quantise the wave, and reading the degradation as part of the wave. I'm really hoping that this makes sense, because I'm exhausted and ill, and I can't really analyse my own writing very well right now.

Anyway, back on topic, I ended up having to give up on Guitar Rig and download a more analogue-friendly piece of software -- Amplitube. Now, this piece of software worked fine, but I've still got to get used to the controls and find the right effects that I need to produce an accurate replica of Map Of The Problematique. There's just one minor problem in that there's a little delay between the input and output, which is quite offputting when attempting to play in time.

I am, however, able to just use my built-in sound-card to amplify my guitars via the line in port, and send them out of the headphone socket. And from there, they are pumped quite forcefully out of sixteen speakers, including one very powerful subwoofer (Subwoofers are designed to deal specifically with lower-frequency sounds, producing a rich, deep bass). This is fantastic when I'm playing my electric guitars acoustically, since there are no effects run over the initial sound, and it doesn't suffer any distortion like it would do on a standard practice amp. However, when I plug my bass into it, a more beautiful phenomena occurs. The sound that fills the room is enough to knock the socks off of even the most seasoned rock Gods. At a medium volume, and with relatively gentle picking, the bass is enough to make the windows rattle. Literally speaking, with no exaggeration whatsoever, my windows rattle. I love it.

However, I've spoken about this for two (well, one and a half) blog posts now, and I have another topic to discuss here, so I am moving on.

Social networks. Facebook being the most prominent online one, with the now-defunct Bebo and MySpace fading quickly into the virtual ether. But first, let's dig a little deeper.

Before the Internet, what was a social network? In many terms, the same as it is today. It's just easier to monitor and analyse today with the Internet and social networking sites. But a social network is merely as it says. The way in which people interact. But they are so complex, so intricate even, that they must play a much wider purpose than just being the way in which we interact with our friends.

For example, take a dyad (a social network of two) of a married couple. They have been married many many years. It is observed that when one falls ill, the risk of the other becoming ill rises. Should the wife die, the risk of the husband dying increases. And so on. But surely this does not only apply to couples. Correct. It applies to every social network. To study how networks form and function, it is necessary to understand how they are formed. One cannot make friends with just anyone. We are governed by socioeconomic status, distance, even our own genes and DNA. Networks have been studied for years; for example neurologists studying networks of neurons. But the difference this time is that the nodes or vertices in the network are sentient, thinking, breathing, living human beings.

Already it is shown to be more than just a network. It can be considered as an organism itself. It grows, evolves, has its very own unique structure, function and purpose. Which shines a completely different light on the study. By interpreting a social network as an organism itself, we can assume that each node is strongly affected by any other nodes that are directly, or indeed indirectly associated. Don't believe me? If your mother was deeply upset, would you not too feel somewhat upset? Conversely, if your best friend has the biggest grin on their face, would it not make you too feel happy, or maybe even smile yourself? Imagine each of those scenarios and put yourself emotionally in them.

This interconnectedness that means that we lose some control over our own decisions. But this is not a bad thing. It is through this interconnectedness that we can overcome our own inhibitions and limitations, transcend ourselves even. As a powerful force, we can as a society do things that no one individual can do. Just as a brain can do things that no one neuron can do, a social network can achieve what a single person cannot. For many years, illnesses, human psychology and evolution have been analysed on an individual basis. But surely, as has been so far illustrated, human interaction has a much greater effect on all of these than just individual issues.

And with that, I finish. I'm feeling so horribly ill right now, so I might get some sleep.

"To know who we are, we must understand how we are connected."

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Meaning robbery by gang or by mob. Though, it appears that the elderly dislike this and are willing to fight them off with their handbags.

Now, I'm going to attempt to make up for the shocking lack of posts this week. Firstly, I do profusely apologise for not posting, but once again it has been a horrific week. Truly horrible. One that I hope to never relive, but know that this coming week will be yet worse. Still, to find the positives from this, it will be better after this week is over, and things are bearable at this particular moment in time.

In a bid to take my mind off of the absolute chaos of my week, I put down my electric guitar, and picked up my Dad's bass guitar (pun unintended (for those who don't know, picking is a method of playing a bass guitar (and any guitar for that matter (I think this may be the largest number of nested parentheses I've done in a blog this far (maybe))))). However, all tangents and whatnot aside, I am leading somewhere with this story. I picked up my Dad's bass and began playing. It's around the same average difficulty as playing a guitar, but some things are easier and some are trickier. For example, a bass guitar has only four strings, but is longer than a normal guitar to account for the higher weight (thickness) of the strings. Also, some basslines require a consistent, fast rhythm, often in 16th-notes, meaning that when finger-picking (it's exactly what it says on the can, picking with your fingers), my fingers get tired very quickly and I begin to lose time. Nonetheless, I managed to get going fairly quickly, especially seeing as it's strung right-handed, as are most guitars by default. I am a rarity, one-of-a-kind, unique, if you will. I am a left-handed guitarist.

Which means that instead of fingering with my left hand and strumming / picking with my right, I do the opposite. I finger with my right and play with my left. But since I'm holding the guitar in the opposite direction, the strings are reversed, so to get the right order, I often have to buy new strings, restring the guitar and trim the strings to fit. It's no trouble, but bass strings are more expensive than normal guitar strings. Still, this is only backstory to my actual article (which, funnily, might actually be shorter than the backstory).

Since I can play a guitar, bass, synthesiser and sing to a fairly decent standard, I have decided to cover a song that is a particular favourite of mine. Map Of The Problematique, by Muse. A song that references a book called Limits To Growth, which outlines a "global problematique" - a set of likely challenges that the world might face in the near future. It is also a musically unusual song since, while it revolves around a consistent four-chord structure, not once does it ever use the dominant chord in the riff.

This song utilises a pumping bassline, accented by a very pounding drum-beat, and quite spidery riffs on an electric guitar. And then come the eerily haunting wails of "Fear, and panic in the air . . .", referencing the two moons of Mars (Phobos and Deimos, the Greek Gods of Fear and Panic, respectively). To cover this song, I do not intend on playing all instruments simultaneously (I'm good, but I'm just not that good, I'm afraid), but I will be utilising a method called layering and sequencing. I will be recording individual instruments and effects individually (the layering part) and then splicing, pasting and metaphorically gluing all of the pieces together so that they work together and are in time with each other (the sequencing part).

To begin with, I will be starting with the primary electric guitar that plays throughout. It is an electronic fuzz that pumps throughout. I need a piece of software called Guitar Rig to pull this effect off though, because the effect requires the use of several pitch shifters, an overdriver, and a Fuzz Factory footswitch. It is cheaper and easier to perform these effects through a computer, and you get more control over the effect. Secondly, I will be recording the guitar on which a little twiddly bits are performed. This just requires individual effects to be switched on and off at different parts throughout the song (Guitar Rig can also be used to automate this). Thirdly, I will be recording the synth parts that accent all of the other instruments, before recording the trickiest layer of the song.

I'm not a drummer. The most I can extend to is the irritating drumming on the desk with pens. I know the theory behind playing drums and I have rhythm, but I can't multitask playing the kick drum with one foot, the hi-hats with another, and then using my arms and hands (with drumsticks, of course) to play the remaining drums laid out before me. But I will be giving it my best shot. I can only try and persevere, and hope that it sounds ok in the end. If all else fails, I can always record each drum individually (note to self: find more microphones to record the drums) and splice them together.

At this point, I will be left with a fully-fledged, beautiful (hopefully) instrumental of a beautiful song. And then comes the fun part (not that the rest won't have been fun). I get to add vocals. I do love to sing and it's not even a secret. It's a fantastic stress-relief and I thoroughly enjoy singing. I don't even need to add any effects, so I can just plug the microphone in and sing till my heart's content. Or until the song is finished.

I still need to get the software (note that I'm not actually saying that I'm going to buy the software) and I need to find a boom mic for the kick drum and several others for different drums to get the best quality, but I am seriously set on this idea. Anyway, that's one of the many (well, two) posts that I've missed this week covered. I leave you with the reason that Matthew Bellamy gave for trying Magic Mushrooms:

" . . . to experience something that's not always on offer. I'm not afraid of seeing something horrible. It's a way of connecting with yourself in a way that you can't normally do."

Monday, 7 March 2011


Meaning bilaterally identical.

I do apologise for missing one of last week's posts. It was a somewhat difficult week, and I was just exhausted by the time it came to blog and so I just shifted Wednesday's post to Friday and forgot to double up. I am, however, very pleased with how well-received the last post was, regarding religion. Though, I think today's might be so pushed against the boundaries that it may be a little too controversial to really blog about. But since when have I adhered to the safe side of things. It is massively unlikely that anyone will agree with me on this topic, but I thoroughly welcome your views.

Drugs. I'm neither pro-drugs or anti-drugs, I just think that I have quite a unique standpoint. Tobacco is a legal drug in England and pretty much worldwide. Tobacco cigarettes contain nicotine (the substance that makes cigarettes so addictive), along with tar (which clogs up your lungs), carbon monoxide (a toxic substance) among several other particularly harmful substances. Many people report a feeling of relaxation when they smoke a cigarette or any other tobacco product (pipes, cigars, etc.), but in actual fact, upon smoking a cigarette, the body mimcs the effect of a stressful situation. Blood pressure and pulse rate is increased, internal temperature rises, it even goes as far as to begin producing adrenaline. I won't go into the ins and outs of the way this works because I'm not a physiologist and I know that there is someone out there who will call me out on every tiny mistake that I make in that respect.

Comparing this to, for example, the effect of marijuana raises quite an interesting point. While it also raises pulse rate, it decreases blood pressure. It does, of course, also impair the ability to remember and the way in which we perceive things, but I'm getting onto that. Physiologically, cannabis is better for you than a similar tobacco-containing compound of the same mass.

The psychological effects of cannabis are the reason that it is becoming illegal across the world, but as far as I know, there is no reason that cannabis cannot be used for a valid and effective psychoanalysis of a patient. I do, of course, mean within reason. I have no wish to walk into the children's wing of a hospital and be knocked back by the smell of second-hand cannabis. I wholeheartedly believe that hallucinogens are a method through which a connection can be established with past and suppressed emotions and memories. For example, give a patient a dose of cannabis just strong enough to induce hallucinations, and place them in a secure, padded, but absolutely undecorated room under 24-hour watch. Without sufficient external stimulation, the hallucinations observed will undoubtedly have been a representation of an internal trauma or extreme of emotion, or merely a memory replaying itself.

A psychiatrist or psychoanalyst could then use these results to analyse the patient. A large number of physical problems are, in fact, psychological issues that have manifested themselves as some sort of physical malady. Of course, cannabis for recreational use might still have to be restricted, but for medicinal purposes, it could be a particular benefit. Maybe I'm talking out of my backside here, but these are only ideas. Musings, if you will. I know it's crazy. Anyways, I'm still exhausted. Things aren't getting easier right now and I'm still just trying to power through a brick wall of pure difficulty. So, I leave you with this:

"I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've worked for me."