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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words


The Boy Done Good

6 min read

This is a story about achievement...


If I manage to slip the bonds of the United Kingdom tomorrow, I will have done extremely well. I know for certain that I do not have COVID-19, of any variety, because I am tested every week by the University of Oxford/ONS study, and I never leave the house except to go mountain biking on my own. Additionally, I literally just received the results of a very rapid but very accurate new test, which is about as good as anybody can ever get at saying "I haven't got COVID".

I mean, it's very simple: I just don't have it.

I don't socialise. I don't leave the house. My cat doesn't leave the house. I don't have children (which is the main thing) and I haven't travelled for 16 consecutive months, so it is impossible for me to have caught it.

The people who have caught it and who have been spreading it, are the people with children; the people who've been going to pubs and other social gatherings, the people who've been circulating amongst their friends and family... basically, carrying on like normal. Of course, then there are the people, for whom direct social contact is unavoidable. There are so many jobs which can't be done from the safe comfy confines of a home office, and those jobs are essential to almost all our lives.

However, in most cases the virus is being transmitted entirely unnecessarily: just close the schools; close the non-essential businesses... and by non-essential, I mean NOBODY'S GOING TO FUCKING STARVE IF YOUR GYM HAS TO CLOSE.

I am, however, a hypocrite. Although I have spent all year as a recluse - a hermit - and I wasn't one of the heaving masses who flocked to the shops when they re-opened, or rushed to the beach, or threw house parties. I wasn't one of the crowd. I wasn't one of the herd. Despite my laudable behaviour, regarding lockdowns and suchlike, I eventually needed a holiday. I am attempting to have a holiday.

I must admit that I was very sneaky. As soon as populist governments started talking about giving people a "normal" Christmas I knew that expectations would be set unrealistically, and it would be politically impossible to do a U-turn, having built up the nation's hopes of enjoying a very brief period of yuletide festivities: basically, to snatch away the nation's excuse to get drunk, spend loads of money, and eat loads of festive food, seemed unconscionable, once the expectation had been set.

It's a logical impossibility to say "we're following the science" and also talk about a "Christmas ceasefire"... let alone make a series of moronic date-based predictions, which were ostensibly not based on any science: nobody possesses a crystal ball. When politicians spoke of beating the virus by Easter, July 4th, the start of the new academic year... are they really so stupid? No. This is modern populist politics, where ideas are tested on focus groups and policies are driven by vote-winning data. Yes, politicians are following the science: the data science of how to push people's buttons, which is usually the preserve of the advertising industry.

So, I booked a holiday, with the dates intentionally matching the "Christmas ceasefire" with the virus, as promised by our Prime Minister. I thought, foolishly, that any U-turn would be such a huge disappointment, and spread such anger with the government's bungling of the pandemic, that they wouldn't dare to break their promises.

Instead, what we have ended up with, is a system so bureaucratically complex as to be unenforceable, and indeed a momentum in the country, which inevitably builds in the lead-up to Christmas, that martial law, curfews, road blockades, sabotaged bridges and other such activity, would not stop the average British family from proceeding with their Christmas plans, which were so meticulously made.

If German and English soldiers weren't prepared to kill each other, during the famous WWII ceasefire, and even played a game of football in no-man's-land, what policeman or solider is going to break up a typical family of otherwise-law-abiding and obedient servants of the crown, for the crime of getting their family together for an event so deeply enshrined in our culture? Even the most officious of policeman and soldier, is also indoctrinated by their cultural upbringing, and so they empathise and sympathise with the plight of those who have been asked to follow insanely complicated rules, at the last minute... so much so that the politicians and their 'power' are shown to be utterly worthless, in the face of two things: 1) a virus, which does not know about any culturally significant events in the calendar of particular civilisations; and 2) a population, which already knows and accepts that many of its elderly will not survive the winter; death is inevitable.

I'm the worst kind of hypocrite, because I know that I am prone to thinking that there's "one rule for me, and one for everyone else". Like the very most despicable people on earth, I know what's good for you. I do not, of course, practice what I preach. Perhaps, for example, I will be the individual who is unknowingly carrying a mutant variant of COVID-19, which will ultimately return humanity to the stone age. Because of my selfish individualism, all the "end of lockdown" partying and other acts of myopic idiocy will pale into insignificance.

The next time I write to you, I will have either successfully pulled off an egregiously antisocial act, which might seem small and inconsequential if considered in isolation, but, we must look at the bigger picture: perhaps I am the patient zero, and the ultimate hypocrite.

In fact, I cannot be the ultimate hypocrite, because I have always recognised the importance of certain festivals and other events in the calendar of different cultures, and I actually agreed that attempting to have a somewhat normal Christmas was the right thing to do. The unforgivable error, in my opinion, was the cynical attempt to do a U-turn, and hide behind an unfathomable rulebook, in the hope that the blame could be deflected onto the individuals, instead of the politicians who made promises they couldn't keep. I, personally, would have held a press release and just said: "you're going to kill granny and granddad, but you're allowed to make that choice if you want: you're not stupid; you can be led by the science too... it's not that hard".

Anyway, spare a thought for your poor author: laying on a comfortable bed in a 5-star hotel, penning this essay, tragically unable to utilise the swimming pool or eat in the award-winning restaurant. Spare a thought for the stress your author has endured, not knowing with certainty whether or not he will be able to board a flight to paradise tomorrow, or not. Your hand-wringing over a paltry 1.7 million deaths pales into insignificance, when compared with my own very real first-world problems.




Better Living Through Chemistry

8 min read

This is a story about decisive weapons....

Stop and go pills

Would I rather have the pilot of my plane, the driver of my bus, taxi or train, as a completely drug-free 'clean' individual, or would I rather that they had taken 5mg of dextroamphetamine before our journey? The answer is the latter, obviously, because they will be more alert, have improved ability to concentrate and faster reaction times.

US fighter jet pilots routinely use 'go' pills before a mission, which confer the abilities above, as well as allowing them to fly longer missions with less risk of dangerous sleepiness. Many road accidents are caused by people falling asleep at the wheel. Coffee will only give you a tiny fraction of the benefits of a 'go' pill.

Do you find that after a really important day at work, where you had to be at the top of your game, and you were firing on all cylinders; perhaps you had a bunch of coffee to keep you sharp.... do you find that you're still buzzing when you get home, and you have trouble switching off and going to sleep?

Coffee - especially the super-strong stuff we seem to drink in London and New York - can contain up to 300 to 400mg of caffeine, in for example a Pret-a-Manger strong cappuccino.

The problem with caffeine is that it's a bit of a crude stimulant with lots of extrapyramidal side effects. That is to say, as you increase the dose of caffeine, most people can't tolerate the way it makes them feel. Interestingly, intravenously, amphetamine addicts can't tell the difference between amphetamine and caffeine. Also, most intravenous amphetamine users believe they are being chased by 'them' - the police, men in black, shadow people, ninjas, whatever - but these side effects are just part of the fun.

So, the beauty of the 'go' pill is that it seems that I get all those desirable effects, with no side effects. You would be completely unable to tell that I was under the influence of 5mg of dextroamphetamine. Recreational use of amphetamines is normally quite obvious to spot: talking too fast, sweating, dilated pupils, restlessness, jerky unnatural movement. No side effects? Well, not quite.

US fighter jet pilots use 'no-go' pills at the end of a mission. Having been kept awake and alert for hours, it's now time to go to sleep or at least chill the fuck out. Sleep can be difficult without a 'no-go' pill.

My personal 'no-go' cocktail allegedly contains Xanax (alprazolam) and zopiclone, which have hypnotic, sedative, muscle relaxant and anxiolytic properties. To be honest, you could probably get to sleep naturally if you took your 'go' pill as soon as you got up, but it's pretty exhausting spending a full day in a highly alert state.

Isn't it madness, me taking all these pills? Shouldn't I just go 'clean'? Isn't it best that I'm completely drug-free?

Do you remember when you quit smoking? You chewed a lot of gum, ate a lot more, drank more tea and coffee. Do you remember when the kids were little and life was really stressful? You drank a lot more gin. Do you remember when there was that project with a really tight deadline and you were working really hard; drinking lots of coffee? You were drinking lots of wine in the evenings to relax. Basically, humans will compensate to make sure things remain balanced. If you hurt your foot, you might find your back is aching, because you've shifted your body weight to one side, to put less pressure on your injury.

My injury's a brain injury and the best thing you can do for the brain is to allow it to find its own equilibrium. However, life must go on. My brain's telling me to go to sleep in a dark room for a month or two, but I need to attend hospital appointments, do the administration for my company, line up my next IT contract, find a new flatmate, move money around and make sure the cash keeps flowing and doesn't run out.

A bit of dextroamphetamine is an effective antidepressant and helps fight any supercrack cravings. It's like methadone for a supercrack addict.

I'm on a mission to get back to coffee and wine as my 'go' and 'no-go' substances. I actually worked really hard to break my caffeine addiction, and now I only drink caffeinated drinks on extremely rare occasions. I'm certainly not habituated into having my morning coffee or cups of tea throughout the day, like the majority of adults are. This is how addiction works: you don't cure the addiction, you just replace it with something else. There was a time when I loved playing with toy cars. I had hundreds of them, and I played with them all the time. Then, I got a computer, and I loved playing computer games... and the process of swapping one addiction for another continued. I'll be just fine and dandy with some tasty food, wine to wash it down with, TV and film to distract me and a girl to put my arm around and take to bed for some rumpy-pumpy later on. That ought to just about tick all my boxes.

In the last two weeks, I broke my addiction to two opiates - tramadol & codeine - and I've obviously been off the supercrack for the best part of a week now. That's fairly impressive. Please forgive me for having the occasional G&T, glass of wine and my little 'go' and 'no-go' pills, just to keep the pedals turning.

I've got a torn muscle and ligament, damaged nerve and fractured ulna (bone in my arm) but I spend most of the day with no pain relief at all. It's only at night that for some reason all these injuries start feeling super painful and I might take a couple of co-codamol.

Interestingly, amongst the opiates, heroin was named because it was thought it would have military applications, making soldiers more heroic. Heroin addicts certainly do seem to be prepared to do almost anything to get their fix and not get junk sick. I guess the idea was perhaps to addict the soldiers, and then deny them their heroin until they had done their mission. I can't really imagine it'd be a great idea to have a platoon of men who are pretty much just dribbling and half-asleep. The Nazis had the better idea, giving their soldiers crystal meth. The nickname "marching powder" for cocaine is literally what it sounds like: cocaine was given to soldiers so that they could go on longer marches. You might think of the pharmaceutical industry as concerned only with the treatment of disease, but they have profited handsomely from military concoctions.

Adding fluoride to the water supply has made a major impact on the rates of tooth decay. Drug evangelists have touted LSD and MDMA as other candidate chemicals to be added to our drinking water. The idea being that criminal and aggressive behaviour might be replaced with love and empathy, or the 'sheeple' might have their consciousness expanded. For clarity: I do not endorse such ideas.

"Go to the doctor" is now a synonym for "go get some pills". People are extremely disappointed if they don't come away from a doctor's appointment with a prescription for some lotion or potion. The reflexive response of people if you ever say you are in pain, is to offer you aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen or preparations containing codeine (e.g. co-codamol and Solpadeine). People have looked at me in shock and horror, when I tell them that I don't take any medication for the incurable mutative virus: the common cold. What part of incurable didn't you understand?

Many people with mental health issues are asked "did you take your pills today?" or told "maybe you should up your dose" by people with no medical training or expertise, who they simply encounter in their day to day life, such as family members, friends and work colleagues.

We should be mindful that psychopharmacology is only 60 or 70 years old at most, as a fairly advanced field with the accompanying branch of medicine: psychiatry. Before psychiatry, chemists could offer preparations containing opium, cocaine, cannabis; all of which treat symptoms, not underlying issues. We will look back 50 or 100 years from now, and laugh at how primitive our medicine was... especially when it comes to addiction, mental health and the psychoactive compounds.

One final thought: if the majority of us are taking medication for depression, stress and anxiety, are we sick or are we actually victims of a sick society?




The Doors of Self-Perception

14 min read

This is a story about being objective...


If you want to compare two measurements you have to use the same yardstick. If you are comparing two subjective things then how can you possibly draw any concrete conclusions?

At times, I have kept a mood diary. I rate my mood from 1 for worst to 10 for best. Who's to say that if I rate myself as "1" during prolonged depression that's comparable to "1" on a bad day when otherwise I've been feeling mostly normal?

During a lengthy period of depression, where nothing seems to hold any pleasure or enjoyment: subjectively, life is terrible. I also have periods when I'm generally in a much better mood, but something really shitty will happen. The shitty thing might feel like the end of the world at the time, but I'm not going to kill myself over it: I'll quickly get over it and move on with my life... so can it really be a "1" even if it feels like it at the time?

If your mood slowly improves or declines, over the course of several weeks or months, can you spot the trend? If you're suffering a lengthy depression, does your yardstick change? You might have a day where you just feel normal, but now you rate that 10, because it's the best you've felt in as long as you can remember.

Do you even remember how you used to feel, before you got depressed?

This might be why I have a tendency to invite hypomania, because at least it's clearly some kind of polar opposite from depression, even if I don't exactly feel "happy".

Defining "happy" has started to get really hard.

Going in search of happiness has been a disappointing experience. Anhedonia means the loss of pleasure and enjoyment of things that you used to get a kick out of. Finding that you no longer love the things you've always loved to do, is terrifying, because it's further confirmation of the way that you feel: "everything is shit".

I ended up completely rebasing my whole idea about what made a happy day:

  • "Got to work only an hour late"
  • "Didn't quit my job"
  • "Only drank one bottle of wine instead of two"
  • "Survived another week without being sacked"
  • "Got out of bed at the weekend before it went dark"
  • "Went to the shops"

I know that I must be unwell, because I used to have happy days that were more like this:

  • "Cooked a healthy dinner"
  • "Went for a walk or a bike ride"
  • "Took some cool photographs"
  • "Went to an event"
  • "Made a new friend"
  • "Did some work I'm proud of"

Now, I could do those things, but I don't feel like it. Often when I try to force myself to do things, I get very stressed about it and I find it really exhausting. When I get home I feel wiped out and that I shouldn't have bothered. I find myself out taking a walk and nothing takes my interest enough to photograph it. That's weird. I used to live behind the lens.

So, I started to bring in more objective measurements: movement data, alcohol consumption, number of social engagements, number of words written.

When I analyse the data, I think the most reliable predictors of my subjective feelings of depression, are movement and alcohol. Looking at last year, I was averaging 12,000 steps a day, and although I had alcohol binges, my average consumption was reasonably low. This year, I'm averaging 7,000 steps a day and drinking excessively nearly every day.

Now, you might think "walk more, drink less" would be the solution, but this assumes a causal relationship. Perhaps I was more in the mood to walk more and drink less, last year. Perhaps the relationship is the other way around and my poor lifestyle 'choices' are actually due to depression.

We often tell people to eat healthier and exercise more, to improve their mood, but perhaps it's the people who have a happier mood who are the ones more likely to eat right and be active. In actual fact, healthy eating and being more energetic could be a good predictor of happier people.

The cause-effect relationship is not always clear. Psychologists had published a paper that appeared to show that smiling made you feel happier. However, when the experiments were repeated, the results could not be reproduced. If you can't reproduce the results of your experiment, it's not good science.

A friend made the following amusing observation:

"People who are dying of dehydration can't just mime drinking water to quench their thirst"

I think this hits the nail on the head perfectly. While depressed people can eat healthier and go to the gym, they're just going through the motions. They're not getting the benefits that their happy counterparts are getting, and in fact it could be pure torture for them.

There's an experiment where a pigeon is fed at a computer-controlled random interval. What the researchers found was that whatever the pigeons were doing the first time they got fed, they then decided they needed to do again, in order to get fed. Let's say the pigeon was cocking its head to the side when the food was released, the pigeon will then start repeatedly cocking its head, and believe that it is causing the food to be released, when in fact it's completely random. Essentially, the pigeons had become superstitious.

It seems relatively random - unpredictable - when a depression is going to lift. Let's say you were trying acupuncture or homeopathy at the time when your mood started to improve: you might assume a causal relationship between the alternative treatment and the lifting of your depression.

Even a double-blind placebo trial is not exactly fair. Psychiatric medications do make you feel noticeably different. I would be able to tell whether I was taking an inert placebo pill, or something psychoactive. I would know whether I was in the control group or not. Placebos don't work if you know you're taking a placebo, so this could explain some of the mood improvements seen with antidepressants. The antidepressant might look effective, when compared with the control group, but it's the placebo effect.

Antidepressant clinical trials generally only take place over 6 to 12 weeks. Many common antidepressants take 6 weeks before their effects can even be felt. There is no focus on long-term outcomes in these trials, only that the medication should perform better than placebo.

Many trials of longer duration have shown that being unmedicated might be more effective in the long-term, than taking antidepressants. Pharmaceutical companies are not concerned with long-term outcomes. In order for a medication to be sold to the public, it merely has to be safe and proven to be marginally better than placebo.

You would have thought that taking antidepressants would be a lot better than not taking them, right? In actual fact, there might only be a 15% chance of you feeling better, but there's a 15% chance of unpleasant side effects. The very process of going to your doctor, being listened to by somebody nonjudgemental, and then feeling something even if it's not actually better, might convince you that you're improving, when actually your depression could be lifting quite naturally anyway.

Culturally, we have developed a strong superstitious belief in the power of medicine. We believe there's a pill for every ill. We believe that a man in a white coat can wave a magic wand and we'll be cured of any ailment; discomfort.

You only have to go into any pharmacy during the winter, to see signs that say "we have no medication to treat your common cold". The fact that doctors and pharmacists have to tell people not to waste their time with an incurable virus that has unpleasant but non-life-threatening symptoms, shows how strongly we believe in the power of medical science to save us from even a runny nose.

There is a clear difference between "feeling a bit sad" and depression. Depression is life-threatening. Depression has a massive impact on people's quality of life. However, we are often medicalising a non-medical problem.

If somebody who's feeling down visits their doctor and receives some medication that's basically a placebo that makes them feel a bit different - drugged - then their pseudo-depression will lift, because it was going to anyway. The non-judgemental medical consultation will also have marginally assisted.

However, those who have prolonged severe depression - to the point of suicidal thoughts - may find that their quality of life is actually reduced by medication, because it gives no real mood improvement, but it does have unpleasant side effects. The longer-term studies seem to back this up.

Through extensive research, I found a number of medications that are very rarely prescribed, but have been used for treatment-resistent depression. These medications are dopaminergic not serotonergic.

There are a whole raft of medications used to treat Parkinson's disease, that have been shown to exhibit antidepressant effects and can successfully treat patients who had previously been treatment-resistent.

In the most severe cases of depression, deep-brain stimulation has been employed with remarkable efficacy. Deep-brain stimulation had previously only been used on patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, to stop their tremors.

The idea of having electrodes implanted into my brain does not sound immensely appealing. Rats who have had electrodes implanted in their lateral hypothalamus will starve themselves to death, in order to press a lever thousands of times an hour, to stimulate their brains. Do humans who have had the same procedure, just stay at home hitting the button as often as they can? We have wandered into the territory of the neurological basis for addiction.

This is how I arrived at my decision to use a medication that helps people to quit smoking.

My very first addiction was to nicotine. I had no choice in the matter. My parents forced me to breathe their second-hand smoke. Because I was a tiny child, the concentration of nicotine in my bloodstream would have been very high. Second-hand smoke was responsible for inflicting an addiction onto me in my infancy.

In the UK, nightclubs, bars and pubs used to be filled with smoke, until July 2007. My addiction was therefore maintained through passive smoking. The timing of the ban seems to correspond with my first episodes of depression.

The stop-smoking drug called Zyban is actually France's most popular antidepressant. The French have found that Bupropion - the active ingredient in Zyban - is also effective for treating alcoholism. The link between addiction and depression seems clear.

I have a theory that my brain is in mourning. I was subjected to second-hand smoke throughout my childhood, and I spent a lot of time in smoky clubs and pubs. Nicotine withdrawal was something I was used to experiencing again and again, but what I'd never been through was a prolonged period of withdrawal, because I would regularly get a hit of second-hand smoke. It wasn't until the age of 27 that I was finally able to escape nicotine, because of the smoking ban, even though I have never smoked in my life. You would expect that such a prolonged addiction would produce a profound psychological effect, when my brain realised it was never getting any nicotine ever again.

I then experienced a later period of addiction. Although there were periods of abstinence, these never exceeded 3 or 4 months, and the total amount of time that I struggled with addiction is close to 5 years. The addiction was extreme. The drugs I was using have a much more profound effect than cigarettes. Still today, after 6 months of total abstinence, I get shaky sweaty hands and feel sick with anticipation at even the merest thought that I might be able to obtain some drugs.

Although Bupropion is a poor substitute for the addiction I once had, it does at least slightly soothe the aching sense of loss... the mourning.

Thinking about this more now, it seems obvious that I should mourn the loss of the love of my life. My addiction was so obsessive, overwhelming, all-consuming. How on earth can you let something like that go, with just a 28-day detox, or a 13-week rehab, if it's been a huge part of your life for years?

It should be noted that my mental health problems, which predated my addiction, compound the problems. To give an official name to my ailment: it's called dual-diagnosis. That is to say, Bipolar II & substance abuse. Yes, substance abuse is a kind of mental illness. Take a look at the kind of self-harm that addicts are inflicting and tell me that's normal behaviour. That is why substance abuse is classified as a disease.

Bipolar II is a motherfucker, because it comprises both clinical depression and hypomania, which are both destructive. Therefore, I'm actually suffering with triple-diagnosis and trying to fix 3 illnesses... although the hypomania is something that most people with Bipolar II wouldn't give up, and substance abuse is hard to stop because of addiction.

I haven't had a hypomanic episode in almost a year, and I've been abstinent from drugs of abuse for 6 months, therefore the final nut to crack is this damn depression, which might turn out to simply be the fact that - subconsciously - I'm depressed that I can't take drugs anymore. It feels like the love of my life has died, hence why I'm describing it as mourning.

How long it will last, I have no idea, and I've lost patience... hence resorting to a mild form of substitute prescribing. I successfully beat addiction once before using Bupropion. I beat it using progressively weaker drugs, until I was weaned from my addiction.

You wouldn't ask a smoker to quit without nicotine patches. Why would you expect somebody with an addiction to harder drugs could quit with willpower alone? The only slightly unusual thing is that the stop-smoking drug seems to be just as effective for addictions to things other than nicotine.

Perhaps we will one day treat all addictions as compassionately as we treat nicotine addictions. Certainly, there doesn't seem to be a lot of appliance of science, when it comes to treating addiction to anything other than smoking.

Subjectively, cold-turkey & willpower is a fucking awful approach to beating addiction. We have the scientific data to show that smokers are 4 times as likely to successfully quit, with nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation medications like Zyban.

Of course, a relapse would be disastrous, but haven't I already relapsed back into depression?

I've been on medication for 5 days now, and Bupropion should start to be effective within a week, so perhaps I will feel an improvement in my mood any day now. Certainly, my suicidal thoughts seem to have stopped, but that could be psychosomatic and also because my horrible contract ended.

You see what I mean about how hard it is to control the variables? Human lives are messy and complex. It takes vast quantities of data to be gathered over many years, not a 6 to 12 week trial with 30 people.

Also, there's an argument to say that your subjective yardstick is altered by your experiences. Your perfect 10 can become unattainable, except through the use of powerful narcotics. Does that also mean that the best you can ever hope to feel is mildly depressed, now that the bar has been set so high? My only hope is that my brain "resets" itself over time. The brain can downregulate parts that are overactive, in order to maintain equilibrium, so it can also upregulate... eventually. The big concern is neurotoxicity: have I irreversibly "burnt out" the reward centres of my brain?

6 months isn't long though. I'm going to see what happens if I can make it to a year. Presumably, there might be marginal improvements that have happened already, but are too subtle for me to perceive. The data actually bodes well: instead of spiking back up into hypomania, things have plateaued during the last couple of months.

This unethical self-experimentation doesn't yield any results worth publishing but it does give clues as to what could be worth researching. A sample size of one is not statistically significant, but it's important to me, because my life depends on it.




Is It Art?

4 min read

This is a story about having to go back to work...

An Art

In my desperation to physically express my anguish, I smeared my own blood all over a canvas, from a deep gash in my wrist. The critics were not impressed.

Now I don't do much of anything. I'm just kind of hoping the world will go away. It'd be nice if some sort of Y2K virus wiped out all the computer systems, and everybody was unchained from their keyboards, wandered outside into the daylight, rubbing their strained eyes and blinking at the brightness of the sky, and started to talk to each other about more than office chit-chat.

I remember on 9/11 we all kinda remembered that it's OK to talk to strangers. That when shit is going down, you'd better make the best job you can of things with those around you. I remember that the most emotionally affected people were those who were furthest away from their kids. Why do we have to commute miles away from our kids, and be 'busy' for 40+ hours a week?

'Busy' eh? Well, if you can directly point at the impact you have on somebody's life, maybe you are busy. When I was an electrician, I could flick a switch at the end of a job, and they would have lights, electric showers, ovens, hobs, extractor fans, under-floor heating, sockets that they could plug electrical appliances into, storage heaters, immersion heaters, electric towel rails, dishwashers, somewhere to plug the washing machine and the fridge into, power to the garage, power to the shed, power to the hot tub, power to the swimming pool, lights in the garden, lights to illuminate the driveway. Yeah, I was busy.

Probably about the 'busiest' I've ever felt as a programmer was when 500,000 people downloaded one of my games. It only took me a day to develop though, and it didn't really do much, so I don't feel very proud. I wrote some utility to help field engineers set up the software on a load of busses. That was a bit better, and every time I see that model of bus ticket machine, I know that my software probably configured it... but it still feels a long way from 'useful'.

There's a real disjoint between programmers and users, especially as we're now trying to build companies with millions, if not billions of users (Facebook has 1.16bn monthly users). Personally, I was happier when I was teaching pensioners how to use Microsoft Word, back when I was a teenager.


It's my own fault to some extent. I draw out the workflow of a company, and wherever I see a stick man (a person) I devise some way to get rid of them, to automate their job. Human workflow computer systems are a pain in the arse. You need pretty user interfaces, and you have to train people how to use the systems. As a software engineer, you want data in, data out.

I've even taken to modelling customers in the most brutal state-transition diagram imaginable.

Market Until Death

What that diagram basically says is "keep marketing our products to a person until they're dead".

Most software engineers don't build in the 'dead' end-state of their customer, and their software handles dead customers very inelegantly. My designs have baked death in from the very first whiteboard sketches.

I went to work for a company that was almost entirely run by stick men. They were very busy.

Stick Man Hell

I wasn't too enamoured with the task of wrestling control away from the busy people who were, to all intents and purposes, making a reasonable job of running a UK company with stores in every major town. The problem was that they wanted to expand into Europe. The stick man system didn't scale.

So, I'm confused. I like directly helping people with their software woes. I even like building large complicated high volume data processing systems. I just don't like making software so the stick men can keep 'busy' doing their stick man tasks. Building a user interface so that a human can mis-type a figure, or press a button in error... that's like hell to me.

I used to draw Heath Robinson type contraptions as a kid. I might do one today or tomorrow. It's got to be a damn sight better use of brain power than the garbage-in-garbage-out systems that companies like paying me to design and build.





Advent Calendar (Day Fourteen)

16 min read

This is a story about libido...

Cum Road

You're probably not aware of the role that your sex drive plays in your thoughts and actions, but it's the most fundamental force in your human behaviour. It's programmed into your DNA to procreate. It's essential for the survival of the species.

Ask yourself the philosophical question why are we here? What is your answer? If it's something about watching TV or getting fat and dying or going to work, then you're clearly not a very elevated thinker. If it's something to do with children, then you're at least able to identify that you're basically just an animal under your fancy clothes.

Personally, I want to figure out as much as possible about how the Universe works. I want to answer questions about the fundamental nature of reality. I want to know the answers to unanswerable questions. But how do we know they're unanswerable unless we search for answers?

Theologians from all religions were content to come up with some hand-wavy claptrap theory that wasn't backed by any experimental evidence. They attempted to come up with convenient ideas that dumb people could grasp, and could be neatly packaged into sermons and soundbites, so that the ideas would spread like a horrible virus of stupidity.

People like to spread ideas, just like they enjoy spreading their genetic material. Being influential, being a thought leader... it brings you more power & status, and therefore the better potential mates. If you are a powerful thought leader, you get to have a pretty girlfriend or a hunky boyfriend. It comes down to sex, again.

Every time you get a new Twitter follower, or a retweet, or a like on Facebook, or a post shared, or a friend request, or a comment that engages with something you shared or liked or posted yourself... you get a dopamine hit. Your brain rewards you for spreading seeds.

Blue Balls

Internet memes and email chain letters. These kinds of things are just somebody wanting to test the reach of themself as a cult personality. You see loads and loads and loads of pictures of teachers being shared, holding a piece of cardboard that says "Let's see if I can get this shared in Australia. Do it for your kids!" or some other lame patheticness.

If you don't have kids of your own, you feel acutely aware that you're dying, and you're not going to leave any mark on the world. Yup, you'll be gone and forgotten, because you have no genetic heirs who might carry on your name and your teachings. Parents are very influential in their kids lives, beyond the genetic material they give to them. They shape their values and their fundamental ideas.

Because I don't like my parents, I reject their ideas and values. Instead of history, I studied geography. Instead of religion, I study science. Instead of the piano, I learn the guitar. Instead of being a Conservative, I'm a socialist. Instead of being a selfish c**t, I'm a humanist. You get the general idea.

So it looks like I'm very down on parents, but really I'm not. I see lots and lots of great parents out there who give their kids a brilliant life. I see lots and lots of parents out there who love their kids and make them feel loved and cherished and cared for and happy. I see lots of my friends with smiling happy looking children, and I know that because my friends are caring and nice, they are caring and nice parents too.

It looks like I'm being down on teachers, but I'm really not. I had some amazing teachers who I can still remember the names of, and loads of really important things that they taught me. I had teachers who really went the extra mile, and taught me the things that are really important in my life and allowed me to distance myself from my parents and escape a horrible life.

I'm a big believer in planned parenthood. If you're not going to go the distance with kids, don't get involved in their lives. Kids need consistency, reliability, inspiration, praise, love & care. The world has plenty of things that are going to kill kids and injure them and knock their confidence and destroy their self-esteem. It's not a parent's job to add to a child's woes.

In the UK we have a nanny state. However, that doesn't mean that you're a rich Victorian who has employed a nanny to rear your children. What it is supposed to mean is that there's a safety net there if you f**k up. You're not supposed to f**k up. Having a safety net there does not mean you can just take drugs and not work, and spawn as many children as you want.

It sounds like I'm having a go at a tranche of society, but I'm not. I'm aware that there are a huge number of young people who just smoke dope and play computer games. It looks to the untrained eye like they're lazy and idle, but the fact is that they have no prospects, no opportunities.

Those kids who sit around smoking dope and playing computer games have been failed by parents who decided to have children without thinking about their future. The time to plan for a child's future is before they're born. You line up your ducks and then you shoot them down. You don't just risk it and hope for the best, unless you want to go back to living in caves and bashing each other over the head with clubs.

Pregnancy Test

Earlier this year, I was sent this photo from a girl I knew. I looked at the date stamp of the image. The photo was taken in 2006. I put the image into Google Reverse Image Search and found that she had taken the image from another woman's blog. That's rather strange behaviour.

The strangest part was that she claimed to be pregnant by me, even though I hadn't ejaculated in her vagina. The thing about being pregnant is, that it usually involves ejaculation into a vagina. Some sperm have to be ejected near enough to the cervix for those little tadpoles to swim to an egg and fertilise it. I'm not sure if I have super sperm, but I'm pretty sure they can't travel through time, get another woman pregnant and then transport the foetus forward in time and implant it in a different womb. Maybe I'm just a bit too heavily reliant on this science stuff though?

Yeah, I put my faith in technology and science, rather than religion, and it turns out that I was right. You do have to ejaculate in somebody's vagina for them to become pregnant. It turns out she wasn't pregnant. What a bizarre turn of events. Who would have thought that I could have planned to not get somebody pregnant like that?

Not Pregnant

There have been other times when there's been a risk but there's this thing called the morning after pill, which is an exceedingly unpleasant thing to have to take. I'd never recommend or suggest a woman should take it. I imagine that you wouldn't take it unless you want to be really careful that you don't have a baby after a moment of drunken madness.

Babies are for life, not just an inconvenient mistake.

Yes, if you decide to keep your baby, you should really prepare yourself to go the distance. You might have to look after that kid for up to 18 years. That's a long time. They're also not cute like a kitten or a puppy. They scream and shit and vomit everywhere. Your fanny will get ripped to pieces and all your nice things will get covered in snot.

Babies also grow into little children who need trainers and a tracksuit or whatever sub-culturally appropriate clothes they need to wear in order to not be beaten to shit for non-conformity. They can be your special little angel, who is unique and is going to be a brain surgeon. Yes they can be your fantasy, but only in your f**king dreams. At least let them not be bullied their entire f**king childhood if you send them to school rather than locking them in a basement.

Snuggled Up

I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but I wasn't very well. I had been sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. I bumped into this friend when I was looking for a warm bed for the night and she was very keen that she get this photo of us together. I was very keen to get some sleep. Sleeping rough is hard.

So why on earth would a woman want to get pregnant by a homeless guy anyway? It seems ridiculous. Probably the very least likely person to be able to provide a happy stable home for a growing infant. Well, my theory is that women's caring instincts are activated by seeing a proverbial bird with a broken wing.

It does work to a certain extent. If you can't find Mr Perfect, you can find somebody who's heartbroken and in trouble and help to fix them up. You can fix a man and make him happy and healthy. I don't recommend or condone faking a pregnancy though. You shouldn't take things that far.

Because my parents lied about supporting me, I had to turn to friends and girlfriends. My parents told me they would help me get through my difficult divorce, until my house was finally sold and I was back on my own two feet again in London. They are liars. There was no support. They just lied. They liked saying the words "we'll support you, we'll help" but they had no intention of helping anybody. They are liars and c**ts.

Luckily, there is a peer-to-peer support network. Friends and girlfriends helped me out when my parents lies were exposed as nothing but hot air.

My parents are always looking for an excuse not to help. They are masters of the reason why they aren't going to do what they committed to doing, or just lying. They will say something and then deny they ever said it, if it's more convenient to just lie. They figured out that it's easier to just tell the world you're a good parent, to lie about being a good parent, than to actually do the hard work of being a good parent.

Being a good parent is hard work. Alternatively, you can just concentrate on lying, then you don't have to do the hard work. If you just concentrate on sitting around taking drugs and lying and training your kid to hide your guilt, then you have a lot more time & money for drugs and alcohol.

The problem is, that you are dumping your child onto the state. The child doesn't expect it, because your child trusts you and believes your lies. The state doesn't expect rich middle class parents to dump their kids on the state either, which means that those kids end up stuck in a precarious position.

The state can't really afford to support any broken homes. I don't feel entitled to state support, but I do feel aggrieved when people who supposedly care about me break their promises. Especially when those promises are repeatedly and insistently made. If you make some throwaway remark about "just let us know if there's anything we can do to help" then I understand that you just like the way those words sound. You just like the warm fuzzy feeling you're giving yourself by making some empty offer you have no intention on making good on.

My parents work very hard to demonise me. To ruin my good standing with people. To blacken my name. Family life is much easier if you've picked a black sheep to be the one you blame for your own shortcomings.

Unhappy Family

My Dad had previously used his own brother as the black sheep. He liked to spread negative gossip about his own brother, and generally ostracise and antagonise him. When his brother sufficiently distanced himself from my unpleasant father, he moved on to me. I'm now the guy who he likes to bitch and whine about, while with his other face pretending like he's a supportive Dad.

The fact of the matter is that he perpetuates a co-dependent abusive relationship with my Mum. He's horribly abusive to her. They managed to numb themselves to the destructive nature of their horrible relationship, by taking loads of drugs and getting drunk all the time, but they're horrible spiteful people when they're together. They hardly have any friends because they're so horrible to be around.

So, I've decided to break the cycle. Because I have a brain. Because I have self-awareness and I can self-direct my actions, I have decided that I'm not going to pass the buck. I'm not going to pass on the blame. I'm going to shove it right back to where it belongs. My Dad needs to stop abusing his girlfriend (my Mum) and stop being such a critic and a liar and a spreader of malicious crap. He needs to support my Mum and her kids or f**k off and die.

Obviously, it would be pretty hard on me to force his hand on this matter, so it's probably best if I just distance myself from him. However, I do worry that he will make my Mum's life even more hellish, or find another victim for his abuse. I feel responsible for stopping him from spreading any more human misery.

One way I have decided to stop the spread of his influence, is by considering my own potential fatherhood very carefully. It's very important to me that I'm absolutely nothing like that complete c**t. It's very important to me that if I do decide to have kids, that they have a really happy childhood and they're well supported when they need support.

Just having sex and then lying about taking responsibility is not acceptable. Abandoning your kids onto the state is not acceptable, especially when you have promised to help and misled your kids into believing they can count on you.

I've always planned around the idea that my parents are a complete waste of space and I'll need to make my own way in life, which is why I paid for the deposit and mortgage on my house and fully furnished it and spent loads of money on it, all without a single penny of parental support.

However, when I was going through a horrible divorce, moving from Bournemouth back to London, trying to find work, working on a new startup idea, reconnecting with friends and my business network... my parents were interested in earning money from me, while I waited for the equity in my home to be released. It was easier than going to a commercial lender. The problem is, that my parents are liars.

I could have arranged a bridging loan, but my Mum, on multiple occasions, reassured me that I didn't need to go through all the hassle of arranging a bridging loan. Given the fact that I had a huge pile of equity in my home, and we were only talking about a very small amount of money, and a potentially very healthy rate of interest for them, it seemed to be a win:win situation.

The problem is that my Dad's a c**t. He talked my own Mum out of helping her son and left me high & dry. What an utter c**t. They waited until the last minute and then pulled the rug out from under my feet. What total c**ts.

Don't make promises you have no intention of keeping.

I wonder if it's some Munchausen by Proxy thing. I wonder if my parents like keeping me sick and desperate. They are certainly a couple of irrelevant shrivelled up junkie alcoholic c**ts who should be kept away from the world. They certainly have nothing of value to offer, except to die and finally allow my sister and me to stop being beaten down by their harsh criticism, laziness and unrealistic expectations.

Anyway, I'm exhausted by it all. If they think they have won, and they get to label me for life and die smug, buried with their hoarded wealth but hated by their kids, because they totally failed as parents, then f**k them. I will shame them as much as I possibly can. I've done enough to prove my value. I've done enough to prove my work ethic, my ingenuity, my resourcefulness, my kindness, my caring. I've done enough.

I'm done, I'm through, I'm fed up, I'm p**sed off and I'm at the limit. I'm at the bitter end. I can't take it anymore.

I've been strung along. I've been lied to and had enough promises broken. I've had enough of the smug cunts telling everybody they're doing everything they can when really they're just undermining me and leading me on.

Yes, I've been led on. I was sold a lie. I was told that parents should be respected. I was led to believe that parents care. Throughout my childhood all I saw was that they cared more about having enough drugs and booze and cigarettes. They cared more about sitting around with their few friends or arguing with each other. That's where the time went. That's where the energy went. That's where the money went.

Sex is a dangerous thing if you're having it unprotected and you're not prepared to take the morning after pill or get an abortion for a child who you have no intention of loving and caring for. If you're not going to love your kids, kill them in the womb.

I'm going to abort myself, age 36. It's the abortion my mum should have had.

Cum Coffee

You like coffee for the same reason why you like sex and you like drugs... dopamine is released in your brain. You're just chasing a high, and you might be doing it so recklessly that you're making unhappy little children (October 2013)