A search results poem.

People find my blogs using the weirdest search queries. Of course, I expect a strange mixture of results since I blog about science, reptiles, religion, alternative medicines, heroes of mine, and random shenanigans I get up to. Recently a friend was sharing the stranger queries that found her blog and I showed her mine. It was then suggested that the quantity and bizarre nature of the search queries would lend themselves well to an epic poem. In a wonderfully productive afternoon, I have constructed an epic poem written using only search queries that have been used to find my two main blogs. Every line is a separate and complete search query that has found either this blog or Reality Is My Religion. Enjoy.

A Chimpanzee’s Memory.
Composed by Peter Harrison. Written by the people who searched for his blogs.

I question my existence.
What is my scientific name?
Rhacodactylus ciliatus?
Do I have powers?
BOOM.
Fire came out of my fingers.
I went to London.

The British Museum has a stairway with a statue.
It was a strange museum.
Images of rare ocean fish.
Pictures of anacondas eating people.
Photos of extraterrestrials.
Photo shoots of people at the beach.
Recent pictures of the Obama girls.
Space scenery.
An interesting museum.

They had animals.
Really strange animals.
Dolphins sleeping.
Dolphins sleeping with one eye open.
Fucking knackered.

Other bizarre animals.
Brain slugs.
The coolest parasites.
Every single starter Pokemon.
Green Iguana.
Blue Iguana.
How many types of Iguana are there?

Really strange animals.
Animals and cunts,
from the Cayman Islands.

There was a section for,
The most recognised names in mankind’s history.
Richard Nixon.
Good fucking grief.
Atheists won’t believe I speak to ex-presidents.
Neil Armstrong dancing.
I love the way you move, the way you walk inside the room.

I have so many questions but not enough time.
How can I tell if a religious person is a reptile?
Why do our bodies become lighter after death?
How long can I hold a python upside down before it breaks?
Will homeopathy help my penis?
Is Sarah Jessica Parker attractive?
How do you make a cake in the form of a camera?
Peace for all mankind tattoo?
Rubik’s cube tattoo?
Rowan Atkinson tattoo?

Government arresting psychics over earthquake prediction.
Is it worth predicting earthquakes knowing it might not be right?

Richard Dawkins.
His religious experience confronting ovaries.
Icelandic people and,
Endless Iceland,
Caused Dawkins to shut down his forum.

Peter Harrison vs Richard Dawkins
Please don’t pray for me.
Is Richard Dawkins dead?
Smackdown.
Celebrate death.
Religion is funny.
Different forms of bullshit.

Lessons in life:
1. Everything is a miracle.
Example:
People with no genitalia.

2. Science has made god redundant.
Examples:
Lizard eyelashes.
Robot dinosaurs.

3. Tweet in Japanese.

4. Don’t pee in the ocean.

Things that make me angry:
A distinct lack of morale in the shed.
A pink Rubik’s cube.
Why do blonde girls like pink?
How to tell if a toy is for girls or boys:
I stuck it in my eye.
Never again if they don’t pay.

Things that make me sad:
A chimpanzee’s memory,
He died from laughter.
A friend’s war cartoon,
Something that makes me smile but it’s not real.

Things that make me happy:
I’m a cowboy riding a dinosaur.
Riding a fucking dinosaur.
At least I can say I’ve lived.

A Chimpanzee's Memoriespoemsearch queiriessearch results

Cycling Scotland end-to-end in 3 days

I’m posting this months in advance because it will help keep me motivated and it gives more time for donations.

To raise funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health, I’m going to be cycling unsupported (no car carrying my stuff) the length of mainland Scotland over 3 days. I’ll have to cycle further and faster than I’ve ever done before, and I’ll need to cycle thousands of miles in preparation. The journey is from John o’Groats to Kirkmaiden, chosen because it is the traditional journey often used in Scottish poems. Kirkmaiden is further south than Carlisle but still in Scotland (it’s actually quite near Northern Ireland). I’ve never cycled 160 miles on consecutive days so this will definitely be a challenge. This is a solo challenge, not part of an organised event.

1 in 4 people suffer with their mental health, and there’s still a stigma making life harder for them. The SAMH provides support but also educates to shatter the stigma. Not everyone can afford to make donations every time they see a JustGiving page. But donations can be very small, and anonymous. If all my Facebook and Twitter friends donated even £1 then we’d destroy my current target. It would also mean so much to me. Thank you!

Please take a look at my JustGiving page!

Winchester Skeptics (29/8/13)

Thanks to everyone who came along to the talk on the science of lucid dreaming. The audience was fantastic, especially during the engaging and fascinating Q&A session! And thanks to the organisers and the folks at the Winchester Discovery Centre. It’s possibly the best SitP venue in the UK.

Sweet dreams…

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5 tips for learning Japanese

I’ve been speaking with three different people recently about learning Japanese and figured it would be worth sharing some tips for those just starting out. It can be intimidating to learn a new language (it is for me!) but these hints will hopefully be helpful in your quest to learn an interesting, efficient, and fun language.

1. Learn hiragana and katakana first

Japanese uses different characters than our familiar alphabet. “Hello” in Japanese isn’t just “konnichiha”, it’s 「こんにちは」. Japanese actually uses three different writing systems (they aren’t really alphabets, but it would be like us having three alphabets). Hiragana characters are the first things you should learn. You can technically write all Japanese in hiragana and it would make sense. But as you learn the other writing systems, you can add them, as hiragana used entirely alone would seem a bit childish. Katakana is typically reserved for foreign words. Japanese people call pizza the same thing we do, but they would write it in katakana characters to show that it’s a foreign word. The last and arguably most difficult set of characters are the kanji, which are actually traditional Chinese characters. While hiragana and katakana characters represent phonetic sounds (if you read a word, you’ll know how to say it but maybe not what it means), the kanji characters have meanings and can be thought of as words. As you get better at Japanese, you can use all three writing systems in a single sentence. It sounds intimidating but it’s not if you approach it sensibly. As you learn the kanji for words like dog, shop, ocean etc, you can use them but the more grammatical words (and particles) will still be written in easy hiragana. It actually makes reading a lot easier!

This might sound boring to some people. I would agree that the real excitement I get for Japanese is in learning the grammar, learning things to say. I want to communicate. Memorising characters isn’t quite the same. There are two approaches you can choose from. The first, and the one I recommend, is that you learn hiragana (and katakana if possible). It’s a bit boring and it’s not overly useful at first. But when you start learning how to read and write Japanese, you can actually learn the words in Japanese. The alternative approach would be to start learning some grammar from websites where the Japanese words are written using our alphabet. Japanese people call this writing romaji. This is the most immediately satisfying at first, as you can quickly learn some phrases and start getting to grips with the grammar… but the fun is short-lived. Soon you will learn that you can’t progress further without actually learning Japanese characters and then your progress suddenly stops. It’s much better to get hiragana out of the way, then start learning from resources that actually use Japanese. There are only a few hiragana and katakana characters. There are thousands of kanji characters but you can learn them throughout your journey, picking them up from websites and textbooks as you go. Learn hiragana before anything else. It’s a slower start, and not as immediately interesting, but you will regret putting it off.

2. Write the characters, don’t just read them

When you’re learning these new characters, actually write them down. There’s something about learning the strokes that makes them easier to recall later. It will help your writing when you finally get round to it, but in the short-term it will also improve your memory for reading the characters. There are a few that are quite similar in appearance, and it’s only in writing the characters that you really get a feel for the differences.

3. Interact with Japanese speakers

There are so many ways to interact with Japanese speakers online. The problem is that you need to find people speaking at a level that you are ready for. Visiting the website for a popular Japanese newspaper is going to be difficult because it will use many kanji characters you probably haven’t come across before if you are still new to the language. Social websites like Twitter can be a lot more accessible, but obviously the difficultly is variable. It definitely doesn’t hurt to start following some friendly Japanese Twitter users and making new friends! The one website I would recommend over all others is Lang-8. Users can make posts in the language they are learning, and native speakers will correct them and provide advice. You can also read posts from people learning English (or your native language) and correct them. It’s a very useful website and I’ve found that the atmosphere is friendly and helpful.

4. Make good use of your smartphones/tablets etc

So many people have smartphones or tablets these days that it’s worth mentioning that most have access to brilliant apps for learning Japanese. There are many that list the hiragana and katakana characters and test you by asking you to draw them or identify the correct characters from a list. I’m choosing to add this as a tip because I think that practising in this way for a few minutes while on the bus or while waiting for a friend can really make a difference in learning the writing systems.

5. Speak out loud

When you learn new words or phrases, don’t just say them in your head, say them out loud if possible. This maybe isn’t ideal on a train, but at home you should be speaking at a volume you would use for normal conversation. This will increase your confidence and your pronunciation. Once you’ve learned some basic conversational Japanese, I’d also recommend speaking with natives or even with other people learning Japanese. Try buying things from a Japanese shop in town if there’s one. Perhaps Skype with any Japanese-speaking friends you make from places like Twitter or Lang-8. Some people sit with books but never really speak. I’ve seen people get so good at Japanese that they can easily read Japanese newspapers or write letters, but they mumble and make mistakes when speaking despite the fact that their knowledge is adequate for conversations. Speak out loud!

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Tour de Forth 2013

I’m cycling the Tour de Forth 2013 sportive to raise money for Mercy Corps. They don’t associate with a religion or spend any of the money on proselytizing. They support people in the toughest places in the world, who are affected by natural disasters, poverty, or conflict. What I like about them is that the support they offer helps in the long term, rather than just while the TV cameras are around. They also employ locals for the work.

Even a £1 donation helps a lot, so please consider donating a tiny amount. As an absolute minimum I’m aiming for £1 per mile. Even small donations help provide families with clean water, food, and clothes.

If you would like to give a donation, you can do so here: http://www.justgiving.com/Peter-vs-the-forth

The thoughts of a carbon-based biped from Scotland.

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