Why So Many Women Choose “Bad Lads”


“Tenderness” ©2012 by Andy Vickers

Do you know how painful it is to see someone you love, as in feeling a connection, a harmony, kind of love, with an ex-husband who she decided to go back to, someone who is weasly, scruffy, wiry, just plain nasty looking?  Then someone else who showed signs of feeling the same way as you did for her, who always seemed to be about to get a little closer but then backed away again, who you then see with an arrogant, self-centred man.  When you spend your life trying to be a good person, well presented, passionate yet caring and loving, it’s agonising.  And depressing.

This is when you also tend to hear the five words that plunge an icy dagger through the hopeful heart of any decent, good, romantic man:  “can we just be friends?”

I’ve spent much time thinking about the reasons, I’ve read psychological journals and books on philosophy, I have questioned whether there was anything inadequate about myself, I’ve compared myself to others in the same, sinking, boat.  I now have an answer to the question someone asked me last year – “why do women always want the bad lad types?”

This may take a while so I’ll wait for you to go and make a cup of tea.  You’ll need it.

I’m writing this particular paragraph after stumbling home from the pub so you’ll have to bear with me.  What happened tonight was not the first time nor will it be the last (and no, it didn’t involve sex, unfortunately).   I went out with friends, in one pub I was flattered that a woman behind the bar being chatted up by three showy youths looked away from them and smiled at me at the moment I happened to glance round at her – leading to the three yoofs to look round, evidently thinking “who the fuck is she smiling at.”  Ha, age and experience boys, age and experience, and being tall, well dressed and handsome helps too…

But…  later, after a number of women had been looking at me across a number of pubs then being distinctly uninterested when I was close enough to talk to them, I saw someone who I’d seen many times before, someone who was older than me, someone who was very attractive; not showy, but beautiful, well dressed, tall, down to earth.  She kept looking at me but I couldn’t get to talk to her because of the people she was with.  I thought, I’ll be able to talk to her, I’m sure of it.  She was talking to a scruffy bloke with a shaved head and tattoos but he was married, she wasn’t so I took it to mean she wasn’t actually with him.  Then it all fell into place, her friend was married to the bloke and her boyfriend, who was exactly the same kind of bloke had just walked in.  I had to go and find a place away from everyone else because I actually had tears in my eyes.  If she was with someone like that, loudmouth, arrogant, scruffy, probably aggressive by the look of his body-language, then what hope was left?  None.  I choked back what was left of my drink and went and bought chips.  On the way out of the chippy a very vulnerable looking girl of about eighteen smiled at me and thanked me for being a gentleman for holding the door for her.  I was certain that she’d be going home to a pratt in a tracksuit too.

Now back to the bit I wrote while not inebriated and teary…

The Disclaimer

Firstly it’s not “always” but today a lot of women do reject men who are compatible with them; that they have the kind of harmony with that forms the basis of a strong relationship; the man could even be spectacularly good in bed but she won’t discover that because she’ll be with someone else…  who will be a disappointment.  There are also many women whose compatible type is the kind of man who is either macho and arrogant or “showy”, they tend to be loud and showy themselves.  Finally many of the psychological reasons can apply to men who seek out women who are bad for them too, this article’s lean towards the feminine is due to the original question.

As for the rest there are a number of main reasons and theories:

The Genes

Firstly there is the idea particularly proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer that people always choose a partner based on a subconscious process he called the “will to life” which priorities seeking qualities that would create ideal children to further the species and that this usually precludes the chance of happiness, it’s either being happy or producing normal, beautiful, healthy and intelligent offspring – and the offspring always wins, which is why all relationships where the people are happy together fail and all marriages are miserable.  The idea is that, for example shorter women would go for taller men, slightly boyish women will go for feminine men and so on.

This doesn’t take into account men who are what most women would, even subconsciously, consider to be ideal baby-making material; average height, well-built, strong, healthy, intelligent, a good temperament yet are consistently rejected.  It also doesn’t account for women who meet, have kids with and stay with men who are likely by these standards to produce less than perfect sprogs.

I’m not convinced that it’s that simple and that the psychology of relationships is far more complex.

The Friends

There are many people who feel a powerful desire for approval from their friends and even strangers above all else, they choose a partner based not on compatibility, on harmony but on whether that person is someone other people will be impressed by, or someone who will make them appear attractive and successful by virtue of the fact that they have attracted such a popular partner.  Often they’ll be out with friends and they’ll see a group of men who are very self-confident, assertive, loud, popular.  Women tend to be attracted to that showy type when in situations like this, if their friends also fancy the same men then it will make the man more attractive to her.  The same is true for why some go for self-centred, arrogant but well-off men.

The Media

Films, TV, magazines and even adverts show that the rugged, violent, bad types are exciting and sexy.  These men are always good to the women and only use their aggression towards them to very exciting, sexy, orgasmic effect, throwing them around and turning them into breathless quivering wrecks.  They’re never selfish and fall asleep after sex, they never just want to watch the football, never hurt them and the women inevitably turn them into romantic, lovable rogues – who will still beat someone to a pulp if necessary.  According to Hollywood it is also only the stubble-adorned, chisel-jawed, tattooed, rough men who are, to not put too fine a point on it, well endowed.  After all, other parts of the body are bigger and stronger in aggressive, self-assertive, toned men why not their penis?  This is also a fallacy, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Any man, even a gentlemanly, considerate man can be good in bed – some women say they’re even better because they give the woman what she wants rather than taking what he wants.  But the myth remains – Good=Passionless,  Bad=Breathlessly unbelievable sex.  This is probably what one woman on a TV dating show meant when she said “I want a proper man, a man who knows how to be a man.”  Huh?

So many TV shows today are basically the same – Twilight (which was once referred to as “one girl’s choice between bestiality and necrophilia”) and the new Beauty and The Beast for example; the misunderstood “bad” male who is so sexy and exciting, the female character falls for him because she can see the good inside and has rough exciting sex too.  Vampires, werewolves; the ultimate bad boys.  Many women see that and want to live out the closest thing they can have to the fantasy.  Vampires don’t exist but sullen, rough, tattooed, violent men do.  Do I need to mention Fifty Shades?

Much fiction involves the romanticising of violent men one book on Amazon includes a discription of the man being so attractive because “he’s scary and hot”.  Song lyrics include “He has a black heart” “Daddy I’ve fallen for a monster/somehow he’s scaring me to death/he’s big and he’s bad/I love him like mad/momma he’s the best I ever had” (Stushi, Black Heart), “I need a man who thinks it’s right when it’s so wrong…” Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory and many more.

Of course the internet has much to say on the subject including articles of how to get the attention of a bad boy and advice for lads on how to be badass.

At the subtler end of things many adverts show women being impressed or smiling and giggling when her bad-boy partner is bad to her in some way.  This gives the impression that it’s fun and impressive to be selfish or hurtful, that it’s a desirable behaviour for men to demonstrate and for women to want, and is very different from just pretending to do such things, for a laugh.

The other end of the spectrum is of course the Sex and The City fantasy of being swept away by the rich, charismatic usually much older man who will give her everything she’ll ever desire.  According to Hollywood (and the Twilight-related Fifty Shades of Gray (Ok, I mentioned it)) they’re also amazing in bed too, apparently money can do that.  TV shows like that also perpetuate the myth that good, kind gentlemanly men are only desirable if you want to settle down and have a family (because although they can get you pregnant they can’t do it in any, you know, exciting way.  And it’s the babies the friends will be impressed by anyway, not the husband who is little more than a sperm bank.)  The only exception to this being comedy films where a woman can fall for a socially awkward but kind man but that’s just comedy, right?

The Show

Much of the time women will be with the bad type because they tend to be expert manipulators.  In a bar or at work they will be all well presented, confident, charming, funny and popular, they tend to be the centre of attention and in bars particularly women, studies have shown, tend to only notice the men who are creating the biggest show.  These men will be the ones who just walk up to women and start flirting, because they expect all women to be attracted to them.

Once a woman is with such a man he can revert to being untidy, selfish, violent or whatever negative traits he has.  Some women would walk away, some will try to change him, make him better, some are too afraid of being single again that they’ll stay and use confirmation bias to convince herself and others that the negative traits aren’t that much of a problem, that the fact that he’s so popular and exciting make up for it.  In the supermarket this morning I saw such a type – he was with a very attractive, well dressed girlfriend at the checkout, he was wearing a bright green vest and designer sunglasses, showing off his muscles and leaning on the till, chatting up the young sales assistant while his girlfriend packed the groceries.  She will probably have rationalised this by thinking that she was lucky because he was leaving with her.

The Culture of Personality

One contributing factor to the bad-lad preference could be that, as explained in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain our current society has moved from a culture of character, where people were appreciated based on their unseen good deeds and good character to a culture of personality where the admirable traits are charisma and magnetism – traits that are common to extraverts and many of the bad-lad types do have that extravert nature, the ability to be the centre of attention, and as such they are seen as desirable.

The Past

There are those who have a predetermined idea of how things are going to work out, they live out a constant narrative, a negative fantasy of their own lives as a drama, they know how things end; they can’t have a decent partner, they always get let down.  This is the type who will say to me “I never meet any decent men” – this is why I’ve felt so inadequate for so long.  One of the reasons for this is that many people (men too) are terrified of getting what they really want and losing it, so therefore they choose a lesser option that would be less painful to walk away from.  Many expect to be let down and live out that narrative too – encouraged by songs such as the Taylor Swift one which contains the words “I can see it ending before it begins…” and the many other songs that come out on a weekly basis all following the same basic formula of being in love with but let down by a man who ends up being a shit.  You often see this in couples who argue constantly, the arguments confirm the belief and the drama and the achievement of the internal expectation actually generates a feeling of satisfaction or sometimes even (subconscious) pleasure in the mind.  The narrative is obvious when, for example, a woman says that all men will fail to complement how you look, or even myself slipping into thinking that all women only go for bad-lad types – I’m getting better, honestly, read the disclaimer earlier.

As explained in this article about what the author calls the wave the idea of someone good and decent, caring and available getting close to the vulnerable soul of someone who had been hurt previously causes a kind of unescapable panic that in turn makes the person (man or woman) to create a distraction, a ruse, to keep that person away like a bird protecting a nest.

This is the most complicated, psychologically, and the most baffling.  I knew a woman who firstly said that although we got on really well, could be good together, it would never work because I’d not had a family so could never understand that her son was the most important thing in the world to her.  I explained how I could understand that and it’d be fine.  She then changed her reasoning and said that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her, that she was too wild for me, when I told her that wasn’t the case she then just became, over the weeks, more distant and eventually stopped talking to me.  Later I’d seen her out with the stereotypical loud, showy type who I’m sure would be a good family man, and then a year later I met her and she said “I’ve done nothing wrong, I don’t know why you stopped texting me.”  It was the other way round but in her mind, her narrative, I’d let her down, as she always expected to happen, right from the start, in reality and as I hadn’t let her down, she’d made it happen, blocking out the fact that she’d not replied to me.

This basic pattern has repeated a couple of times – I’ve said I wanted to spend more time with someone, then later she’s said “this isn’t going to work and you don’t seem to want to see me anyway” despite frequent invitations for nights out, cosy nights in and so on.   Then there’s the one who keeps you, physically at arm’s length, so that to even try to have any kind of contact you’d virtually have to rugby-tackle her  – she then says “you don’t seem interested in being more than friends, you’re not… physical.”

This type often make excuses not to get involved with you – like “these things always go wrong, you always end up in a rut” – in this case you say you don’t want to end up in the rut, tied down to a mortgage and kids either and she then, once you’ve proved you want what she wants, she still walks away, leaving you confused.  Then within a few months you see her with exactly the sort of man she once complained about, and looking miserable, she turns out to be married and in the exact kind of unhappy rut she described.  Which is what she expected to happen.

This type will convince herself that the media images etc above are true and that life will be more exciting with a bad type when in reality she’ll often simply be masking a hidden fear that she doesn’t deserve a man who is both exciting and good.  And yes, again the issue of who’s better in bed rears its head.

Being Comfortable With Now – Self-Sabotage

As this article in Lifehacker points out it’s often just that even though people want happiness they don’t expect to get it, it isn’t what normally happens to them.  People are often less comfortable with things happening that aren’t what they expect and are more comfortable with not getting what they want so they resign themselves to that fate.  Getting what you want means change and risk so people will self-sabotage themselves in order to remain in their comfortable current state even if that means, counter-intuitively, being sad.

The Defiance

Another type tells people that they are a strong, independent person and will often go for a type of partner that will challenge that in order to prove it.  This type will repeatedly go for the same bad-for-them type in a self-destructive pattern, and never be aware of it, some people reading this will be thinking “that’s not me.”  These are the ones singing along to “I am what I am” or “young hearts run free” loudly in bars.

The Unavailable

When I go into a pub with a friend who happens to be a woman all of a sudden women who in the past haven’t looked at me start looking at me with the shy smiles – this is the attraction of the unavailable (a form of negative pattern, the same as believing that they can’t have what they want or that they’ll be let down – by having a relationship with someone who’s cheating on someone else.)

The Reassurance

There are the ones who just want reassurance that they’re still attractive even though they’re either in a relationship with a bad-lad or other inattentive type or will go back to such a relationship once she’s put a decent man through the wringer.  This type makes a decent man think that she’s interested then walks away with an excuse such as “this can’t work out because…” “I need to stay with my ex for the children’s sake”, or “I’m just not ready for another relationship right now.”

The Negativity

Lastly there’s a type who have a preconceived notion in their mind of what type of partner they can have, they choose based on what they consider to be their level.  They have an idea of what they deserve based on their opinion of themselves.  This is one of the reasons why where I live you see so many attractive, well dressed women with scruffy, dishevelled, tracksuit trouser wearing, lank-haired men who always seem to avoid holding hands and often walk along with their girlfriend in a kind of headlock rather than an affectionate embrace.  This type of man is also often the target of women who feel that the only way they can be loved is by taking a misunderstood man who needs looking after and making him better.  These kinds of vulnerable women are also preyed upon by self-centred men so the pattern continues.  Some women will actually do the opposite of this and go for a very dull and sensible type for the same reasons.

I have noticed this effect in myself.  As your self-esteem and self-image improve the kind of partner you find attractive changes.  You can notice this in TV shows, people in shows you once said “I don’t fancy her” suddenly seem attractive.  This works both ways and for both sexes, presumably the person you didn’t fancy last year was someone you thought was either above or below your level.  You have no choice, it’s the subconscious (negative) ego that’s making the judgement.

It’s not a new phenomenon though, through history there have been examples of hibristophilia – women mainly who go for really bad men, like hundreds of women who are engaged to American men on death row.  Two Australian sisters left so-called boring marriages for men in prison, one was attacked by her new husband as soon as he was released with a hammer, the other’s husband tried to bite her ear off and pull out her teeth with pliers.

Utterly Facebooked

Another part of both the peer pressure and past narrative issues is the effect that social media has had.  There is a perverse pleasure which is posting on Facebook or Twitter that “yet again I’ve been let down”.

It goes something like:
“Sharon X… is really happy right now ;)”
“Lucy B…  why, tell us”
“Sharon X… Just am ;)”
a week later…
“Sharon X…  had an amazing night last night.   ALL NIGHT!!! ;)”
“Lucy B…  OMG!”
“Sharon X…  won’t walk for a week!!!”
“Milly C… You’re so lucky! ❤ xxx”
“Sharon X…  posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic love song here]
“Sharon X…  is in a relationship.”
“Sharon X… thinks Gary is the most amazing man  xxx”
“Sharon X…  Gary’s taking me to [insert club/restaurant/European city here]
“Lucy B…  Oh, you’re so lucky Shaz.”
“Gary Y…  Sharon’s the best thing that’s happened to me, I swear to you all I’ll never do anything to hurt her.”
Time passes…
“Sharon X… posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic heartbreak song here]
“Milly C…  OMG Sharon, what’s happened.”
“Sharon X…  Gary was with Susan last night. :(”
“Lucy B… His Ex? What a shit. xx  {{hugs}}”
“Sharon X…  Doesn’t need men, they’re all just bastards.”
“Sharon X… posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic “independent woman” song here]
Time passes...
“Sharon X…  Just wants a man who isn’t full of shit.”
“Lucy B… No such thing :(”
“Sharon X…  I know, I never meet anyone decent.”  Except the dozens who she has, in real life, been “just friends” with.
Time passes...
“Sharon X…  is really happy right now ;)”
Rinse and repeat.

The bits that are important are the approval of her friends when she begins the relationship with her hunky boyfriend and to a much greater degree the sympathy when it all goes wrong – another example of the dreaded confirmation bias.  The collective, virtual, hugs and “oh, it’ll be alright” feel good, if it’s also the expected outcome then that completion of the narrative also gives the same buzz as completing any other planned task, or a crossword, such events cause our primitive brains to deliver a dopamine surge – ooh, happy!

Sometimes all that people do is, without saying anything else, change their relationship status to “it’s complicated” and possibly then back to “single” just to elicit some kind of response from friends.  I even found myself thinking of doing that recently but didn’t.  I originally titled this blog post “Longfellow was in a complicated relationship” instead.

Another thing that happens is women on Facebook posting “inspirational message” images saying things like “having someone who loves you as much as you love him is everything” and saying “one day, I hope” which gains replies of “he’ll turn up soon hun x” and so on.  Usually this is what they say they want but what they believe they’ll get is often the opposite.  Getting the sympathetic comments is the main objective and this display of the desire for this fantasy reinforces the reaction when the “wonderful new relationship” turns sour.

The Aftermath, The Damage

I used to react to being let down/rejected by being annoyed, saying “typical, they always want the bad ones” but I’ve realised that it wasn’t them I was annoyed at but myself, I was feeling “why can’t I be attractive like those bad types”.  Now I know differently and accept that it’s not me that has the problem.  Unfortunately it doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.

What they don’t know is what damage it causes; the emotional pain of becoming deeply attached to someone, to feel the harmony, the empathy, the deep care for someone, the desire for that person, the unconditional and as such true love for them only for them to walk away with the only reason being that she expects things to go wrong.  You become part of her narrative, one of the good ones she lost, or you become forgotten, one of the good ones she never meets, or you are rationalised into history because you weren’t right for her, you walked away, you’re the one she scared away or the one who wasn’t interested.

You find yourself in tears at the slightest reminder because you loved her and she hasn’t done anything to diminish that love, walking away hasn’t changed the essence of what you loved about her.

But it doesn’t matter, does it, it’s not part of the script.


Free Parking? Of Course, Don’t Even Ask…

English: Car Park £ 200 Presumably a decimal s...

English: Car Park £ 200 Presumably a decimal separator has gone amiss and the fee for using this car park beside the Coast Road is £ 2.00. At this time of the year plenty of free parking is available and the car park is closed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outside our shop we have a forecourt which is intended for the use of our vans, delivery lorries and of course our customers – for the ease of getting glass into their vehicles without too far to walk.  The road beyond that has parking restrictions enforced with a zero-tolerance approach, and beyond that road is the Royal Mail sorting office which has no customer parking of its own which all leads to people collecting parcels to use our forecourt.

I wouldn’t mind if they’d just ask but despite the big signs saying that it’s for customer parking only these people either assume it’s for customers of Royal Mail too or they just don’t care – I’d say it’s the latter.  Maybe one in fifty will actually ask if it’s ok to park there for five minutes and to be honest as long as they’ve not parked in the way I’ll let them.  The rest though just ignorantly, arrogantly abandon their cars on our land, often actually blocking the entrance completely.  I have even witnessed two visitors to the Royal Mail park side-by-side in the sorting office entrance driveway, blocking it completely so that the delivery vans couldn’t get in or out.

As for our own forecourt invaders, they do it even when some of us are outside at lunch time, often looking at us with an expression of “what?  I can do what I like” on their faces.  We’ve even faced torrents of abuse from people who have blocked the entrance or access to our side gate and been asked to move, politely.  “Oh, for f***’s sake, I’m only collecting a parcel, where the f*** am I supposed to park” they shout.  Anywhere but where you have, without asking permission, would be the appropriate reply but by that time they’ve driven off loudly.

They could park in the nearby supermarket car park, or in the bays down the road but no, they might have to spend two minutes walking and that’d be tragic.  Just today one old BMW driver took the biscuit – he parked up, again avoiding eye contact as if he hasn’t seen me he hasn’t had to ask permission.   He then went and picked up his parcel, returned to his car and then sat, as many do, opening the parcel and inspecting the contents.  What he did next though was unbelievable – he opened the bonnet (hood) of his car and proceeded to fit the items from his parcel into the engine bay of his car – so now we provide not just free parking but free garage space too.  Finally tonight we were parking up the vans and a driver pulled up in our car park right where we were about to put a pickup truck “where can you park?” was again the plea.  Ten minutes later she could have used our land as we’d have gone home but at that moment I directed her along the road.  Edit:  even better than those, a few days after publishing this a couple parked in our car park, didn’t ask permission, visited the post office, came back and dumped the parcel in the car and then walked off down the road and into the town centre, coming back over an hour later.  It’s getting worse.

It’s the same at home.  Our building has eleven allocated spaces for eleven apartments and most evenings and at weekends a number of the spaces will be occupied by cars belonging to people who own houses on the adjacent street.  They buy a house with no off-street parking, on a street with clearly signed parking restrictions and then think “oh, where can I park my car?  I know, in that free parking next door.”  The free parking that everybody in this building pays a premium on the rent for.  These same neighbours are also the ones who think that our building’s communal rubbish skips are available for the overflow from their bins and garden waste too, oh and as with the work car park we provide free workshop space too as one neighbour used our car park, in fact the very space where my Citroen now resides, to replace the cooling pipes of his mid-engined MG-F.  All without asking one person if it was ok to get coolant and other fluids all over our tarmac.

The sheer volume of people who exhibit this lack of basic manners, this sense of entitlement to park where they like is troubling.  I was brought up with the maxim that manners cost nothing, yet today it appears that people seem to think that being polite costs them their very soul.

Square Eyes


Netflix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hi, it’s been a while, how you doing?  While I’ve been away from the blog (it’s been so long I see that WordPress have been in and redecorated the Editor screen) I’ve been watching a lot of tv.

Now I remember when Channel 4 started and Channel Five naturally, then when Freeview digital tv began I wondered whether there would be anything worth watching on. Before digital I used to watch more dramas and things I don’;t watch now because there’s more choice and I can find something more to my taste, the last drama series I think I watched was series two of Lost before Channel 4, er, lost it.

Now thanks to BBC2, BBC4, Dave and Quest I have plenty to watch, unfortunately.  Just in the last six weeks there has been something I’ve wanted to watch on every night from seven to nine and the interesting thing is that they were all episodes of the same programmes every night.

This seems to be pandering to people’s cries of “I want more and I want it now”.  Once, when we had five channels, a tv show was on once a week, except the news and weather of course, there was too much of it for one show and we’d forget whether it was going to rain on Thursday.  Soon though soaps started being shown a couple of times a week, then Channel Five brought in striped programming where the same type of show was on at the same time every day.  Now though channels will show a whole series in one go, often a brand new show, an episode a day, seemingly to avoid forfeiting the viewers’ easily distracted attention – oh, won’t somebody please think of the advertising revenue!

Then there’s the extras – first Big Brother gained a post-show pseudo-analytical, comedic Little Brother, as if an hour of housemates wasn’t enough, the X-factor now takes up two evenings as does Strictly Come Dancing in a show of further ratings rivalry.  A cynic might say that all this also cheaply fills up all those fifty channels of digital bandwidth but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Much of this is related to the modern concept of Binge Watching brought about by online and satellite tv Box Sets – which are now even available for brand-new shows so rather than watching a series over half a year (as in the old days of The West Wing or Frasier for example) you can sit for a whole weekend watching episode after episode only stopping for food and toilet breaks, though with some services you can transfer the show to your tablet and keep watching in the loo too – another argument against buying second-hand tablets.  There is even advice for how to wean yourself off the box sets (spoiler alert:  it’s about watching episodes from half-way through, so avoiding the cliffhanger).

The thing is that satiating peoples’ impatience takes away the appreciation and anticipation of something you have to wait for.  If you’re watching the next episode of a drama straight away you’re missing the excitement of finding out what happens next steadily building.  That was what cliffhangers in tv dramas were invented for so next time you’re watching a drama on Netflix remember that the end credits are there for a reason.

Got to go , the repeat of Salvage Hunters is on.

Big Fish, Little Fish

Temporary Cycle Lane Shift Back To Controflow

Temporary Cycle Lane Shift Back To Controflow (Photo credit: samsaundersleeds)

Just a quick thought on various road users and annoyance.  Yesterday a lorry pulled out in front of me on a roundabout while I was in a small works van, by his gesticulating he clearly felt that I shouldn’t have been there.  Some car drivers get annoyed with cyclists because they think they’re getting in the way and shouldn’t be on the road and then this morning whilst on an early morning bike ride in the sunshine I was a bit miffed at having to slow down and wait for a guy (who had been running) wandering along a narrow cycle path with headphones on so he was completely unaware that I was wanting to get past and get home for a cool drink.

Seems we’re just all getting in each others’ way.  C’est la vie.

Edit:  On a serious note I’ve just seen this article which demonstrates the dangers and I’m amazed the cyclist walks away at the end of the video.

The World is a Playground… Unfortunately

Wing mirror VW Fox

I’d already had a bad day when I arrived home to see the driver’s side wing mirror hanging forlornly from the door of my car.  I’ve had it nearly ten years, I still enjoy driving it, it’s distinctive, it’s a lovely car if a tad rough (rusty) around the edges.  It’s mine and for someone to physically assault it like this enraged me.

It’s not the first time either, last time though the mirror was saved by its spring-loaded safety mechanism that absorbs the impact and lets you just clip it back.  This time though there was no clipping back and no spring because whoever had hit it this time had done so with enough force to snap the bracket that held the spring.  This time the mirror was dead.

I removed panels, removed the dangling mirror so that the vandals couldn’t have a further kick at it and potentially smash the window with it, unthreaded its control cables so I could fit the parts that attached to the door back, to weather seal the door if nothing else.  Legally I can’t drive it until it has another mirror.  Searches on-line initially showed replacements in the region of £150 (requiring a £300 outlay as they were a newer design) and I thought of again trampling round scrapyards for parts, not relishing that I again turned to Ebay and Amazon and found replacement units for about £30.

So I can fix her, sorry, it.  But I shouldn’t have to, why have I got to spend £30 to repair the results of someone (adult or youth) thinking it’s a good game, clever, fun, big or macho to smash the wing mirror of an old car.  Or kick a wall down, smash a window, pull over a lamp-post…

I can’t begin to imagine how impressed this person’s friends must have been at his (or her) skill at beating up a purple Rover 200.  The next Chuck Norris must live in Newark, clearly.

Crappy Writers

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want to sound all Holier Than Thou in this post, but I’m going to anyway.  I write this blog, by myself, for no money, I am a blogger.  There are many other commercial blogs out there that contain writers who like to say “we’re journalists” but “we’re bloggers” if someone questions their professional standards.

One thing that always provokes the latter is when someone questions the tone of a piece or the non-impartiality of the writer.

One thing that keeps cropping up that bugs me is the use of the word “crappy”, in fact the title of this piece is actually “‘Crappy’ Writers” –  you see, I’m not being personal.  At all.  Honestly.

You see it regularly when describing gear that the writer feels is not to their liking, or is a bit old, and seems to be said in a kind of nod to the knowing audience who would of course all be agreeing.  Recent examples include a preview of an un-released tablet from a company that wasn’t Apple being described as “another crappy tablet” even though the spec hadn’t been announced and nobody had seen it and a photo taken from one aircraft of another which was taken not with a high-end DSLR worth thousands but with a “crappy Canon ELPH”.  Was it an appallingly bad photo?  No, especially as it was taken from a moving aircraft and was a photo of two other moving aircraft.  As we all know “at the end of the day the best camera is the one you have with you.”  In reality at the end of the day the best camera is the one with a tripod, or a flash, the rest of the day anything will do.  Sorry.

The crappy word isn’t always said, I’ve seen articles about a new phone or chipset saying “but if you’re reading this website you won’t want it because it’s a budget phone” oh so being interested in tech is limited to the well-off now is it?

If there’s a justification, then say it’s not a brilliant piece of kit, review it properly but to say that someone’s camera is crappy just because it’s not this year’s wi-fi connected, app enabled wondersnapper is unfair.  As is describing something that’s aimed at the less well off as crappy just because it’s not got a Ultra HD Full-Eyeball Neural Screen.

Not everyone can afford (or be given) the latest, top of the range kit, so how about holding back the longer c-word for the genuinely crap.

99p is The New Free

Yes, it seems it’s ebook week on The Lunch.

Free books

Free books (Photo credit: randomduck)

On just about every high street in Britain there is some kind of mis-named Pound Shop, selling things for 99p, and it’s a well-known psychological effect that we think that 99p is vastly cheaper than a pound because it has less digits, even if our subconscious obsession with lower numbers in buying but higher in selling leads us to all have jam jars full of pennies.

The odd thing though is a shift in the area of “free” goods.  On Amazon and other ebook stores there are thousands of free ebooks, some are actual out-of-copyright classics, some are good books simply written for the enjoyment of it and given away, others are free just to be generous and helpful.  The problem is that we often assume that if something is always free then it must be of lower quality, whereas we will eagerly grab a book that’s normally £3.99 but is reduced for a day to £0.00.  This idea of low quality is reinforced by many writers and journalists who have said that only crap writers do it for free [Andy looks at own not-for-profit blog and sighs].

This is a problem for new authors who are publishing solely electronically – price it too high and buyers might not want to take a shot at an unknown, give it away and it’s likely that people will see the words “FREE = CRAP” with memories of bookstore remainder bins in the back of their minds.

There has emerged a middle ground, more and more books are being published at 99p, cheap enough to be a potential throwaway purchase but someone thinks it’s worth actually charging money for which gives you a bit of confidence that it’ll be worth it.  It also feels like you’re getting a bargain even if it’s not reduced.

Amongst the ebook chaff there is wheat and if this idea gets it noticed then it doesn’t matter whether crap gets sold at the same price – that’s what Amazon’s reviews sections are for.


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Electric Hands and Aluminium Kitchens


chisels (Photo credit: The Year of Mud)

I was watching a TV show which showed a restaurant and the customers kept talking about all this “home cooked” food, OK it was a family restaurant, owned by the same family for generations but I was sure that they just showed the food being cooked in a very shiny, very metallic, very up to hygiene standards industrial restaurant kitchen behind the counter.  Do they live upstairs?  I thought.  On other shows this pattern repeated, maybe it’s the decor that’s making people think “home cooked”, don’t they know it’s not the owner’s dining room.

Next up came the description of hand-made food items which again didn’t seem quite what I would call “hand”-made, although hands were involved in some ways, moving the ingredients, pushing the button, turning the handle.

“The meat is still prepared by hand” – the guy pushed a piece of meat into a machine.  No knife, no hammer.

“Hand-cut fries” – the guy pushed a potato into a device and pulled a handle.  Again, no knife.

It’s not just restaurants though, more and more (often expensive and exclusive) things are described as “hand-made” when they’re in fact made by a machine and assembled by hand.  A chair leg hand-turned on a lathe is still hand-made, the hand that guides the chisel, but a cabinet where all the joints are routed by a set machine rather than a hammer and chisel – is that still hand-made?

Eventually I’ve come to the conclusion that the term hand-made, along with home-cooked has come to mean the opposite of “made in a huge mass-production facility in China”.  TV shows have shown examples of some mass-production methods used by food producers, occasionally emphasising the less savoury looking aspects – the infamous “pink goo” – which doesn’t look appetising it’s true but restaurants don’t make food like factories, they mass produce just on a smaller scale, I’ve done a large spaghetti Bolognese at home but not enough for a table for ten at eight.

As well as that people know that fast-food or large chain restaurants have frozen food items shipped in nightly to be warmed up which are as such full of preservatives and evil whereas in a small restaurant the food is made properly, just like you’d have at home, hence home-made.  Even if the mass-produced stuff is 100% beef and the home-made one is just as bad for you if you scoff too many.

Maybe I’m being picky over semantics, again, but even home-made “home-made” food can come from a kit you buy at M&S these days.

In our world where just about everything is manufactured in a factory, see How It’s Made on TV, people are more often craving the hand made for its roughness, lack of uniformity – in things like cakes and chocolate bars, but if you phrase it differently “made by hand” or “hand finished by Barry” suddenly you can charge a fortune for it, whether it’s a watch or an Aston Martin engine.  The irony is that less than forty years ago Fiat ran a campaign for the new Strada expressing how amazing it was that it was Hand Built by Robots.

If you can market something as home-made or hand-made you can imply it’s more wholesome in some way, even if many of the ingredients still contain colourings and preservatives, when used deliberately this way it’s tapping into consumers’ resistance to “processed foods” which are full of salt, fat or MSG.  You can also sell to those following the current fashion of seeking out “authentic” experiences, like rustic furniture, timber sash windows, overpriced hearty bangers and mash or real ale at six pounds a pint – yes you read that right, a pub near here is offering an authentic real ale in a real pub experience for just six quid a go. Again they’re selling people the idea that the past was better, that retro is the way forward, so to speak.

I think I’ll stick to my real real pub across the town at half the price, followed by a decidedly not home-made battered sausage.


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Diggin’ The Scene…ry

English: Roadworks

English: Roadworks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the last four weeks the county council has been tearing up and relaying the pavements on the street which is home to the glassworks that keeps me busy during the day.  We’ve got used to the workers now, we’ve given them hot water for tea when their cabin generator wouldn’t work, they’ve patched some potholes on the edge of our car park to make up for the inconvenience of their work.

On Thursday last week they put the top layer of tarmac on a section of path and were rightfully miffed the next morning to see workers belonging to a utility company attacking their less than 20-hour old pavement with a circular saw.  And so it is now, a perfect stretch of path with a cut out bulge of dissimilar tarmac halfway along it like some kind of scab on the landscape.

It’s a long-standing joke in this country that as soon as a road is resurfaced a utility will come along and dig it up again but in my experience this is a record.

It’s also ridiculous in these days, just a few days earlier they wouldn’t even have had to dig up any tarmac.  Surely with that mysterious thing called the Internet some kind of magical central database of roadworks could be maintained so that the likes of Gas and Electricity companies can tweak their schedules to drop pipes and cables into already bare roads.  Going even further, as my dad suggested when I mentioned this to him, when major works are carried out – replacing main drains etc, why not include conduits for current and future services in the same hole?

The answer is probably because creating such resources would cost far more than necessary and be outdated by the time it arrives – designed to run on that latest Microsoft OS, Windows XP I think it is, that’s the future.  Erm, wait, what?


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Facebook Anxiety and Other Maladies


facebook (Photo credit: dkalo)

I haven’t been “on Facebook” for many months, apart from to wish Happy Birthday to people when reminded via emails.  I haven’t been on for a number of complex reasons I’m not going into now, though one is that over time the sheer volume of posts to catch up with grows to biblical levels and you fall into a “I’ll look at it tomorrow” mindset.   Not looking at it though has shown that I’m suffering from an anxiety about it, a Social Network Anxiety.

There are two forms of this anxiety as far as I can tell, firstly is the almost guilty feeling that because you haven’t religiously read people’s posts in months then they’ll think you’re ignoring them – you think you should go have a look, then you post something and you get silence – no comments, no likes, and it confirms your fear, despite being sure that your Facebook friends are reasonable people and wouldn’t take offence that you hadn’t been paying attention.

However it is true that many people do in fact think that because everyone they know on Facebook has the ability to see what they’ve said then everybody will have read it and those who didn’t respond in some way don’t care, especially if they’ve posted something particularly emotional.

This is the problem with distributed communication – if a direct email or text isn’t responded to, even if you give them a few days to pick it up, then you know that either they didn’t get it or something may be amiss but broadcast expressions may not automatically be seen by everyone you think it will be seen by.

The thing is that I’m not alone in taking a sabbatical from the New Big Blue (I remember IBM, as a child of the eighties), a survey by the Pew Research Centre has shown that over sixty percent of users have taken a long break from the site, most users saying that they don’t have time to dedicate to reading their news feed (as in my case) or basically just feeling that when they have they haven’t gained anything from the experience – that it was a waste of time.  How interesting or not your news feed is depends on how interesting your friends are of course, despite new features such as the Graph engine that is supposed to make searching for travel tips, recipes and other stuff posted by your friends easier to find.  The study also showed that young people were using the site less, possibly due to other ways of chattering such as Snapchat.

The same is true of most social networks – Instagram is famously regarded as a place for people to post pictures of their dinner or of themselves drunk yet also contains interesting pictures too; Twitter inevitably contains streams of verbal diarrhoea (if you’ll pardon the image) as well as pearls of 140-character wisdom and so on and people sometimes get overwhelmed by the volume of information, or have other things to occupy their time.

Eventually the ever evolving internet etiquette will include the fact that people won’t always be listening and as a Tweeter or Status Updater you have to live with that and not take a like-count of zero personally.

To finish this piece though there is the other social network anxiety: that if you’re not checking Facebook, Twitter et al every five minutes then you’ll miss something.  This can be caused by the first but is also a standalone anxiety for those who don’t care what people think but have to know what everybody else is doing.  Many of these people are those in the remaining percentage who haven’t dared to leave Mr Zuckerberg’s empire for more than five minutes.

These are the people who the marketers of smartwatches and personal heads-up displays have in their minds, the always connected, but that’s another story.

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