Migraine has been something I’ve lived with for a long time. Though at university I didn’t realise that migraines were happening to me, and I just felt periodically like a panicking waste of space, now I recognise the pattern that they bring to the way I live.

There is a day of listlessness – and a loose, unfocused anxiety, now more and more often accompanied by nausea. This day is usually followed by an early night, and a deep sleep which is then interrupted in the early hours by a deep scraping grinding pain in the bones over my left eye. This pain drifts down my face and a tight weight sits on my chest.

The choice is then whether to take a triptans or not. If I take it at the right time the migraine can be caught, stopped at source. Too late, and the pain intensifies, becomes a narrow, sucking, draining hole into which the contents of my head are slowly drawn.

All the next day I will forget nouns, especially people’s names, and time seems to lose its connection to the world. Minutes might take hours or an hour can pass in a second, without any sense of sleep to explain its speed. It will be spent sitting on a codeine bubble, in which the silent-painful noise of the migraine buzzes, trapped. I drag myself to work on the bus, if I’m teaching, or sit and try to mark or read if I’m able to work from home. Now, sitting in the evening, a dull self-loathing born of a wasted couple of days slowly drips down the back of my throat.

Ought – is, normative and descriptive terms

My philosophical knowledge is inadequate to the task that I have set it – understanding my job as an educator. For instance, I’m currently reading Why ‘what works’ won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research by Gert Biesta (2007), and I need to understand the philosophical building blocks that he uses.

Biesta refers to something called ‘unwarranted leap’ from “is” to “ought”, which according to this video, has its genesis in Hume’s writing.  I’m amazed and somehow delighted about the way that things often come back to or emanate from Hume.  I feel that I really like Hume as a person – possibly because I first ran into him by reading Roy Porter’s ‘Flesh in the Age of Reason’, as he is one of my favourite historians. Porter makes Hume’s ideas and his character so ‘human’, so real that I can’t help liking him.

Anyway, a good introduction is this one from the BBC:

but a google search also led me to this:

(nb geeky teacher aside I found this video absolutely fascinating, not only because it uses Southpark to teach philosophy – which must be a great example of teaching only using the best that has been thought or said!!.  It is also fascinating  because of the utterly engaged and active learning that this lecturer is arousing in his students by delivering a lecture.)

It’s emotion that takes us from is to ought – a feeling that is aroused inside us by something that we describe so that we make of it a moral rule.  However, such feelings are not universal – how we respond to the is will be different from the way others respond.   As the questions in the video above make clear, this in turn can give rise to concerns of relativism.  If ‘ought’ is only ever driven by an individual emotional reaction to ‘is’ then there can be no universal ‘ought’.

Where does this leave us?  Are all rules entirely arbitrary? Do we live in a soup of competing moral universes?


I am awake. My chest is a quick running clock, an empty rattling train carriage. It’s 2.45 in the morning, and I’ve been awake for some time. The blue-white street lamp through the window shines mistily through the window. Everything but my chest is stopped, blue-white frozen, asleep waiting for Larkin’s rise of barking phones and barking dogs.

I have slipped out of time and can only thresh in my bed waiting for it to notice and take me back up. A headache pins me to my pillow, but my legs and feet want to move. If they could divorce my head and the rest of my body they would slide away, slither under doorframes and swim outside in the blue-white moonlight. 

Standard Deviation

I love the potential oxymoron in this phrase.  I imagine two gossips talking about another’s peccadillo, and being interrupted by a third declaring ‘oh, that’s rather a dull, standard, deviation’.

Statistically it’s a concept which it is easy to explain, but I find hard to understand.  It’s a formula which attempts to describe how spread out the data is in a set of data, in other words, on average how distant is each data point from the average of the whole data set.

Or, in other words it attempts to answer the question “how spread out is the data?”

In the video above I can follow this fairly well until he does the difference between x and ‘x bar’.  What he’s referring to here is a calculation which gives you the difference between each data point and the mean of the whole data point.  You square these, I think, so that you end up with a positive number.  This seems to be the case because the final step is to find the square root, so you’re sort of taking the square out again (sort of).

What does the number tell you? I think that it tells you very little on its own –  the SD means little unless you know the mean of the data set, beyond the general rule that the closer the number is to zero the narrower the spread of results.  If the mean is 50 and the SD is 10 this would suggest a wider spread than if the mean is 100 and the SD is 10.



IMG_9457At the dentist a couple of weeks ago, whilst he tugged and levered a stoutly resisting molar, I wondered what they see when looking inside a mouth.  My dentist was sweating slightly, because pulling on the tooth had taken half an hour, and got us nowhere.  He suggested we cut it into quarters and do one bit at a time.

He got some sort of dental hacksaw, and go to work, muttering in grey, too near for focus, about the ‘strange morphology’ of my tooth.

To take my mind away, I wondered whether he considered the historical record that mouths present – my mouth in particular.  Was the decay a tell tale sign of the sweets and pepsi phase I went through in the late eighties?  Are there any traces left of Ed, university champion roll-up smoker and drinker of gallons of tea (being no good at drinking alcohol)?

I wondered if the few white fillings purchased in flush times before children, now coffee stained, are testimonials of my fall in the world, or whether it was just age, time passing, creeping entropy that he saw described in my ivories.

Forest Pasta

I made this yesterday. It’s probably obvious, but I record it here in case I forget what I put in and when I made it. it serves 4-6 normal people and 3-4 Podesta people.

Bacon / Lardons (not that many actually)
Onions (one or two) diced or sliced depending on how you like it.
Pellegrino Marsala
Whole box of mushrooms, sliced
Knob of butter
Dried Basil
Dried Oregano
Dried Thyme
Goats cheese ‘log’
Pasta – as much as you need to feed them all.

Put the bacon in a heavy frying pan and cook it till it gives off its fat. Then put in the onion, and cook it till it starts to brown a bit.

Start to cook the Pasta now.

Use the marsala to deglaze the pan and then add the mushrooms and a bit of butter. Add the herbs then cook the lot till the mushrooms are well done.

Put in about a third of the cheese in with the mushrooms and bacon and then put the cooked pasta in this pan. Mix it all up.

Serve up and use the rest of the cheese to crumble over the top of each portion.

Public Transport

”Anybody can use Public Transport, Sweetie!”

21550506194_cd6e60172d_qI’ve a new job, which is a blissful 3.7 miles away. This means that when the mood takes me I can cycle. If it’s raining or if I’m feeling lazy then I can get the bus. After years of driving to workplaces I’m back on public transport and rediscovering the opportunities for reading, observation and contemplation that bus travel brings. If the bus is late I get a few more pages of my book read. On the bus I can look at the scenery (it helps if you live in north Leeds where there are some great views), or observe the extremely varied fellow-passengers. I like the noise of engine and the ding of the bell, and the way that kids LOVE travelling on buses.

In just two short months I’ve seen loads of things that restore my faith in humanity.  People say ‘after you’, or they get up from the priority seats when it looks like someone else needs them more.  An elderly lady looked after another who was a bit confused and kept saying ‘I’m gonna be sick’.  She spoke softly, and let her know which stop she should be getting off at.   That same lady, who’s a regular, has a walking frame, and I’ve seen a couple of people help her on and off the bus with it.

I only have to get in my car when I’m working in Bradford, and I think I might investigate the train and shanks’ pony for this, given how much more relaxing it is when someone else is doing the driving.

the harried autodidact

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