i don’t dans to tekno anymore

While my phone with the carefully curated podcast subscriptions is off getting fixed, I’ve been listening to music instead. It’s been a bit odd – I’ve genuinely listened to more music in the last five days than in the past five years, mostly new to me. Would you like some brief, subjective music reviews from someone who doesn’t like or understand music? How about some wanky pontificating about what music should have to suit me? Or even more wanky pontificating about how artists should represent their communities? You’re in so much luck!

Oh, be warned, there’s basically no techno anywhere here – it’s just a song reference.

So, out of a general interest in cultural developments, the great podcast Hip Hop Saved My Life and occasionally being allowed to hang around with some of the cooler kids, I tried a few grime albums – Stormzy, Skepta, Wiley, some spotify playlist – basically a random selection of albums from artists I’d heard of plus bits. Also The Last Skeptik, but I’ll come back to that.

I was not particularly impressed by Stormzy at first, but then the first track I heard was:

Blinded By Your Grace from Gang Signs and Prayers? I shoulda expected it really but I’m offput by intrusive religiousity generally. I gave the rest of the album a go and while I could tell the man had skills, they just didn’t do it for me. But then, I realised that there are songs I absolutely love that have religious notes – these particular examples being just a little different in style, but you get the point.

I mean, Regina is clearly really problematic from my (tedious?) rationalist stance – it’s clearly straw man after non-sequitur after begged question, but it’s just beautiful.

Anyway, I circled back round to Dreamers Disease which I like a lot more – it feels a bit more raw, not as heavily produced, and much less violent in content but still super aggressive in tone. There even seemed to be a track about how OK he was with his girlfriend dancing and getting attention, recognising that he doesn’t control or own her, so a little bit of a positive message in there.

I know that’s not a fair representation of his work at all, but after a couple of albums they’re the ones that stuck out to me. Maybe this is more representative…

Skepta seemed a bit more interesting, based on Konnichiwa – bigger, heavier beats and harder, more rapid rhymes. There’s still the same obvious posturing, but and he seems a bit confused the poor dear:
Are you casting sideye at people with whom you have a presumably well known slice of beef?

Or saying it’s all just words mate, don’t take the aggression too seriously?

I understand Wiley is often likened to Marlon Brando, although I can’t really see it myself – the enunciation is much crisper and clearer on Godfather than The Godfather. Wiley is a bit higher paced and higher energy – I’m typing faster than before because I’ve just put on

I can see the appeal of all of these guys – there’s a real honesty and emotion to it, that most music arising from disenfranchised youth cultures has. It’s punky in attitude and speaks in a voice that’s just not there in mainstream culture, apart from the occasional TV mugging.

But I’m still a bit disappointed. There’s more opportunity there than I think has been taken. I just haven’t yet heard them really say anything – when you have an audience and a group that you can speak for, there’s not just a chance but perhaps even an obligation to say something really meaningful. Without wanting to be too stereotypically white while listening to…er… ‘urban’ music, I’ll reference Eminem who has done that a bit, with mixed success

Wait, I also remember a black rapper, and he described the experience of his time and place a bit more clearly too, and it felt to me like it meant a bit more

Hell, even Cypress Hill had a political message, albeit that was limited to ‘hush man, we don’t need police noise, I’m getting hiiiiiiigh’

I’m not that big a fan of either the glorification of violence or rampant misogyny though, so there’s definitely a few bits I’m not going to go back to. As a side note, the unpleasant aggressive sexual stuff is why I stopped listening to Hed(PE) years ago, despite enjoying the rest of their work

The Good

The Bad

And that’s not to say we can’t have music that appreciates, for example, the female form and consensually doing things to it. I just think it should be appropriately respectful of the agent inhabiting that female form and cognisant of the complex political and social environment we live in

I do still get into music, but it’s got to make me dance, think, or feel. But here’s the thing – of the grime of I’ve heard, it mostly just doesn’t move my feet, head, or heart. Some of the big pounding tracks get me bouncing a bit, and in a club I’d be well into it. But it’s mostly a vocal led medium, so the lyrics have got a load of work to do. While the spits and rhymes are technically tight, it mostly seems to want to tell me that the respective rapper is incredible and rich and gets all the [derogatory term for women]. There are some exceptions I’ve noticed, and I *know* how little I’m making this judgement on. I mean, I’m basically just

So what was I actually looking for? Well, first up I love music that gets me dancing. Now some tracks have high energy and get me to bounce. Of course, to get full value out of it, it needs to be loud and I need plenty of space – I can be quite expansive – but failing that getting into a high tempo rhythm is great for motivation for physical activity and household activities. Stuff that does this, I can basically forget about the lyrics or content. But then, why bother with grime if what you want is a beat lead rhythm.

Sorry, household activities in a critique of popular music cultures? WAT WAT I told you in the first song now I’ll tell you in another!

Last thing before I move away from the general rap genre – I’m not really doing US hip hop here, but if I were to give you a quick recap it would basically be

Onward in my search for grime artists I found The Last Skeptik and the track Drum Roll Please

This is musically more interesting than pretty much anything I’d noticed from the others, relying on a short snare lick that doesn’t sound like it’ll work on it’s own but making it work. A brave move, but one that works, until the lyrics turn nasty late in the magicians verse. Then listening through a few more tracks I realised this guy isn’t grime at all, he just made a track with some rappers. He really plays around with the music, and most of it is great. A video or two doesn’t really describe the experience of listening to an album, but here are two random tracks that don’t do him justice independently:

(Editor’s note: I have accidentally hit play on a window I now can’t find to close, so the accordion is just going round and round and I might explode)

And you know who he put me in mind of? Why, OF COURSE! Pretty much the only other electronic music recording artists I know of!

He’s heavier and less playful than The Avalanches, but similar in approach of finding lots of sources and making them really fit, and the experience being a longer vibe based thing than a banger and some filler. I listened to their looong awaited second album, and it was great. Except, I’d heard their first one, so it all felt a little like an undercooked cover. I mean, you just can’t beat

Similarly, Sonny Jim (who I’ll admit to only really knowing one track of, so this might not represent their style at all well):

On the heavier end, there’s some crossover with Pendulum, who I saw at SugarHouse years ago, and they annoyingly only played one section of

Skrillex too, thanks to a recommendation for something with a big heavy sound, is now also on rotation

So, look, I’ve moved into things that make me daaance triggered by The Last Skeptic. But actually, the majority of my real life dancing hasn’t been to big bass and rhythm led dance music, it’s been to big bass and rhythm led rock and metal. Please join me on the high energy segway we’re going to ride from ^ to [insert down arrow].

Great, right? See how I Transplanted us away from the gangster stuff with Diamonds and Guns? It’s like a pun that’s so badly set up it needs explaining. Anyway, we’re now somewhere near punk, and actually I’m not that massive a fan. I mean, I was big into Greenday

So here I have to quickly detour through  a few things in quick succession that need mentioning and vaguely fit here, as things that I find I can dance to but I don’t have a right lot more to say about:

Now, we were talking about The Transplants, and from their members (supergroup donchaknow?) we can see some of the main players in hardcore punk and you know what comes after hardcore? Post-hardcore

Man, that’s a riff – WHY ARE THEY SINGING ABOUT THE MIR SPACE STATION!? Don’t know, don’t really care. That sort of thinking may lead to ask Where Are All the Science Songs. Turns out, not on YouTube.

So, this actually goes to a distinction I do see a bit between the rock genre and the hiphop one. The tone is often similar in terms of aggression and anger, but it does seem that rock spends more time talking about stuff other than self aggrindesement, straight misogyny and unnecessarily violent imagery a lot more than the grime and rap equivalents I’ve seen. I mean, look, Slipknot, Machine Head and Sepultura are clearly angry, but they are saying something about it…

Wait and Bleed – a description of the heightened experience of absolute rage

The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears – the hard grind of something or other

Ratamahatta – something non-specific about whatever. I dunno foreign.

And it feels to me like there’s something more to this than I have heard from grime – not just are the beats and riffs heavier and more danceable, but they’re saying a bit more.

Frustratingly,  while we’re here I fear I need to face up to Pantera. Most brands of metal are associated with some of the traditionally poorer white groups, and as we can see from the frightening state of US and UK politics, underrepresented white groups express anger and frustration in unpleasant ways.

So, apparently one of my favourite bands are racists. At least that’s the worst of it. But, apparently incorrectly, I had understood Pantera to be singing about general empowerment. I mean it says ‘Every creed and every kind’ right in there…

(Oh shit, no that’s the worst of it. Goddam I miss Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja, but I don’t like thinking about this and it’s not really relevant to music anyhow.)

OK, so politics then, but clearly not Pantera. Now, we’re moving into tunes that are meant to make you think a bit more than dance. Taking a massive swerve, I might draw on something a bit more like Grace Petrie? This shows that you can talk explicitly about politics successfully, and with righteous anger.

Slightly less overt, but more relevant to my point about the content of grime, there have always been very political tunes that speak to the impact of injustice and defiance against it in a way that I wish more of the grime I have come across did.

If you aren’t going to go on the line with political messages or calls to action, there’s also a chance to genuinely describe life, and that in itself is important.

Now, maybe I’m asking too much in terms of overt political or social comment, but I do think there is an opportunity to give a generation and culture that need a voice and a language they can use externally, but I just haven’t seen that. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, especially given how outspoken Stormzy in particular was ahead of the last election, supporting Corbyn. But it feels like, if he’s the height of urban culture lyricality and political investment, whatever his message is should be going through his music rather than the comments pages of The Guardian. Shit, even the third most popular folk duo in New Zealand can do it.

So if we’ve learned any lessons, they may be:

  • Guided by someone who knows nothing and cares little about music, we have all wasted our time
  • I am too old to get modern music
  • I am too white to get modern music
  • I am too middle class to get modern music
  • I am too northern to get modern music
  • I am too wanky to get modern music
  • I am too content in life to get modern music – this one was a genuine revelation, but in listening back to stuff, I realised I just don’t have the same intensity of negative emotions as I did when I was a teenager, and that’s a really good thing
  • I want art in general to live up to some incredibly difficult to achieve bar of entertaining, informing and being meaningful
  • Pretty much every single one of my musical references come from at least ten years ago
  • Even I can’t crowbar in random science songs to this post

Love and Loss in a World of Chance

Trigger warning – lost pregnancies

Occasionally I’m prompted to actually sit and write something down – today that’s in part because of a friends’ Facebook discussion on destiny. Today I want to talk about Probability! And Love! And Destiny! And Miscarriages! And how understanding chance can help with grief!

You often hear soft versions of fate or destiny used in everyday discussion. When I have not got a job I interviewed for it’s been suggested that there is something else I’m meant to move on to instead, as if the fact of me not getting the job is part of some greater plan whereby I learn a lesson and a better opportunity presents itself to the new improved me. This is always meant kindly, but seems strangely naive and resigned.

We have incredibly complex relationships with the world, with so much of what we do and who we are entirely contingent on very specific details of our circumstances. For example, I started working at the NHS years ago because of a coincidence of timing meant there was a really interesting opportunity. You could say it was made for me.

But it wasn’t.

It was the result of the NHS investing in leadership and management development programmes, along with the fact the Chief Exec had been watching The Apprentice. It seems massively narcissistic, even delusional, to suppose that the universe intentionally conspired to make Tony Blair invest in public services and Sir Alan Sugar start a TV show instead of recruiting normally to benefit me. It just so happened to come at the right time, and if it weren’t for that I could equally easily have been an astronaut or a rock star or a middle manager in a different organisation.

Where I am now, and where we all are now, relies so heavily on the chaos of interactions that it seems incredibly improbable that events picked out this specific path, and I think that leads us to the conclusion of fate. But the improbability of any given path doesn’t mean there won’t be a path. If you roll a 100 sided die, the chance of getting any particular number is 1%, but the odds of getting any number at all is nearly 100% – less if you have a small child liable to grab the die and stuff it up their nose. Improbable things happen all the time, because there are so many chances for things to happen.

Basically, have you seen Sliding Doors or The Butterfly Effect or Back to The Future? That.

So given that so much of life is based on contingent facts – being in the right place at the right time – what does that mean for how I think we should consider life?

First up, love.

Sorry to be a massive buzzkill, but there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about falling in love, and no reason to believe it can happen only once or with only one person. We are biological animals with tribal and mating instincts, and crave relationships of all kinds, often in romantic pairings. Falling for someone appears to based primarily on proximity. And I can’t believe that if you don’t happen to meet and fall for that one person, you will never fall for another.

My wife and I used some of the lyrics from this in our wedding literature:

Some will see this as a cold and heartless interpretation, but I don’t think that’s true at all. Understanding some of the variables that lead you to fall in love and that some of these are contingent doesn’t mean the feelings of love are any less important or impactful to you – we’re at the mercy of our emotions, and love is a famously powerful one. I don’t see that the fact an experience is objectively pretty common detracts from the awesome subjective experience of it.

I mentioned miscarriage at the top as something that thinking probabilistically has helped me with, and it plays out basically the same as the love discussion.

Having a miscarriage is awful. My wife has had two, each in different circumstances.

The first burning question is ‘WHY? Why did this have to happen to us? What did we do to deserve this?’. And ultimately, the answer is normally ‘chance, chance, nothing and I’m so sorry’.

That we go from two cells carrying half a genome to beings that contain a universe in the meat-jelly in our head is just incredible. I can think of nothing more amazing. It is such a complex and delicate process, with so many more ways to go wrong than go right that it’s not surprising it can go wrong. In fact, in confirmed pregnancies it goes wrong one in six times, and that doesn’t include a really significant number that don’t get confirmed. Highly engineered factories pressing the same plastic widget out millions of times a day have a failure rate, so it’s not surprising biological, evolved humans do.

What I can’t imagine is believing that the world was set up such that this was meant to be, or was part of a bigger story, as if that level of suffering could ever be good for you or deserved. Or worse, that there was some intent behind it. A cold and uncaring universe makes absolute sense, but one with fate or design seems not only implausible, but horrendously cruel.

I personally find this sort of approach also helped with grieving the lost life that could have been. People imagine themselves in certain scenarios, and plan out a life for themselves and their unborn child. But as discussed, things can turn out completely differently for no particular reason, or at least no reason with any meaning. that means there’s a huge risk in emotionally investing in any particular future as opposed to doing things that increase your likelihood of future happiness. I wanted kids, but knew that I couldn’t predict what life was going to be like afterward, so losing a pregnancy didn’t feel like it closed that particular pathway through my life that I had chosen.

Now, knowing that ‘shit happens and today it happened to you’ probably doesn’t do much emotional legwork for most people. But I think that understanding the role chance plays in every aspect of our lives and answering that first question, helps move you on to the important part of working out how you can deal with it.

Responding to #metoo

Over the past week or more I have watched with a great depression but no great surprise as many of my friends have been posting abut their experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

I have been unsure how to best engage with this – I am an ally, I recognise that there is a real problem here, and want to treat the discussion seriously. I also don’t want any contribution to make it look like I am making it about people like me – straight white men have plenty of opportunity to have conversations without needing to jump in on the conversations of other groups. I’m also not a knight in shining armour able to ride to the rescue, and I don’t want a cookie for being super-woke.

But I realised when I saw a friend asking why men weren’t engaging that we have to say something, even if just to offer another voice to the support for women and other vulnerable minorities. Silent support is not the most noticeable. I don’t have anything groundbreaking to say, but a message of support and a hopefully clear and patient explanation of why there is a problem and why people like me might not notice it, from someone like me, might be a Good Thing.

So, to all the people who I have seen posting their experiences, I want to say thanks for sharing and helping shed light on the situation, well done for being in a position where you can share, and I’m sorry that you have had the experiences you have. I understand that many of these stories have been difficult and painful to share, and I have disappointed by some of the reaction I have seen.

To all the people that have a story that they *haven’t* shared, that is fine too. People shouldn’t feel pressured to join in, but hopefully seeing the outpouring has been helpful, whether in finding mutual support or realising that you are not to blame.

From my position, I think I can most usefully talk to men to help them understand that there is an issue, and a couple of thoughts about what we should be doing about it. I see a number of my female friends not being listened to or taken seriously, and I don’t think we should accept that.


Good Men – this is a real problem. I understand that you are probably like me, and never really been exposed to harassment, but *look around you* and *listen to people*. It is clearly happening to at least the majority of our female friends, family and partners. I understand that using anecdotes can be problematic in terms of demonstrating robust evidence, but trying to say there is no problem based on this reasoning is self-protecting nonsense. I think some of the problem in accepting this is to do with our not being able or inclined to see it.

I’m sure you don’t see much that you would consider dangerous, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you likely *wouldn’t* if you are not involved. Most instances aren’t like Harvey Weinstein, with a network of people enabling predation, and a lot of the worst instances happen in private. There is also a strong observation bias called the Bystander Effect, where as outside observers we tend to assume situations are fine, if to the people involved they aren’t – we are likely missing things that are happening right in front of us. I think back to nights out with groups of women, the constant invasion of their physical space and the way men just hover around them.

There is an issue of perspective. I am a middle-class white man, about 6 feet, and physically capable. I’ve not often had to ‘fight or flight’, but I am pretty happy that there is a relatively minor proportion of people I couldn’t at least escape from. Most women have a different experience – the groups overlap for sure, but men are in general bigger, stronger and more physically aggressive than women, and as an overall group have a distinct tendency to rape them. So in terms of feeling endangered and reacting based on that, the equivalent for me would not be receiving unwanted advances from a medium build woman. It would be more like getting attention from a muscular 6’6″ suspected violent criminal. Sure – they may be happy with a clear rejection, but I would certainly feel very threatened in case they didn’t. What they think of as harassment might be very different from me.

We say anecdotes about cancer cures are not that reliable – this is in part because ‘having cancer’ is an objective outcome not accessible subjectively, with a really good evidence base built on RCTs, and the cancer cures proposed have low or no prior plausibility. ‘Being harassed’ is a subjective experience, with a really good evidence base built on collected and consistent accounts from victims, with a really high prior plausibility based on any understanding of how humans tend to behave to each other.

The fact that all we can base our judgement on is a huge number if anecdotes doesn’t mean that the evidence base is easily dismissed. And actually, in spite of the popular skeptics phrase, the plural of anecdote is data – you just have to evaluate the extent to which you think that data provides compelling evidence. For example, the Australian Human Rights Commission recently published a report on sexual harassment and assault in Universities.

The takeaway elements of those reports were that 51% of students were sexually harassed in 2016, and 7% were sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016. Women were more than twice as likely to be harassed, and more than three times as likely to be assaulted. that’s in one year. I understand student days may be the highest risk, but extrapolating that result out to a lifetime risk suggests we’re looking at a figure approaching 100%. Frustratingly, but understandably,  I’m no expert, but that seems a) in keeping with the reports of friends b) a large enough effect size that quibbles about methodology will make it go away, and c) absolutely horrifying.

You are likely not a serial harasser, and don’t see much of it, and don’t believe your male friends are capable of it. But even if we say the problem is limited to a small number of active people, it doesn’t take many men harassing people before pretty much everyone will have had been on the receiving end.


Good Men – we are part of the problem, but we can be part of the solution. I am a good man – I am in a monogamous marriage where I see my partner as an equal, and support her in whatever she wants to do. I am trying to raise a good son, aware of gender politics and the structural inequalities in society. I am in a position of relative privilege, and should use that where I can to support others with less privilege. My feminism has tended to express itself in treating women with the appropriate respect, supporting those close to me, and tutting along at social inequality. This is a great start, but we all need to do a bit more.

I have been thinking a bit recently about whether I always have been such as good man. I am pretty confident that I have always respected women in principle – I was *incredibly* pleased when a high school friend I hadn’t seen for years said I had always been a good feminist. But I wonder if in my younger days a combination of enthusiasm, social and physical clumsiness, and sometimes a drink or two, I always was. I have likely been inappropriate, but hopefully nothing more. Further, I apologise for the many more instances where I have been inactive. I am sure I have stood by when I should have intervened. Either way, I apologise sincerely for both my actions and any consequences of them.

For a start, we should treat reports of harassment, assault and rape seriously. This doesn’t mean just believing reports, as there is a small phenomenon of false reporting, but it means not dismissing reports and trying to build a narrative to shift blame from men to women. If someone reports something to you, listen, sympathise and work with them to understand what they need to do to safeguard themselves and others.

Second, recognise that the rate at which this happens is a *massive* problem, and focus on that. Sure, there are some interesting discussions to be had about how we enumerate the issue, or how we draw definitions between different kinds of offence morally and in law. But we have easily sufficient evidence to think it’s a problem worth acting on, and when people are asking for recognition of that, someone coming from outside the conversation to drag it on to minor technical points looks like an attempt to avoid the issue. It isn’t necessarily misogyny or intentional obfuscation, but the two can be very difficult to differentiate. This is basically the problem with #notallmen.

As people in a position of strength and privilege we should challenge things we think people are not comfortable with. This means both structural pervasive problems, such as expected gender roles and imbalance in the home and workplace, and individual instances, where someone appears to be in distress. Men normally risk much less by challenging other men than women do, and are likely to have better outcomes. Of course, we need to be careful not to assume we know what others want and act on their behalf without confirming – assuming that as a man you can rescue the damsel in distress comes across badly, even with the best of intentions. But that doesn’t mean standing by inactively while female colleagues get talked over and ignored in the bar or office, or when they get catcalled and followed in public.

Proactively, we should intentionally design places, organisations and systems to improve the situation. There are some great programmes around social education, and I liked the old advert aimed at teens which shows a youngster getting carried away because I can imagine that being a really common problem that would happen much less with a little more understanding and perspective, and properly describing consent is vital. However, that’s just the obvious surface stuff – abuse comes in many more forms than just rape, and we need to be developing a culture in which none of it is acceptable. Setting up spaces and actively engaging can get to be complex, including in terms of concrete actions that benefit people without inadvertently causing other problems for groups elsewhere, such as people of colour, people of various sexualities or trans folx. But we have to embrace that complexity by actively engaging with these groups to ensure that what we are doing works for everyone – it is pretty clear that when straight white men built the world alone we made it work only for us.


I’m painfully aware that I don’t really have solutions beyond trying to support women and make men recognise the scale of the problem, which is why it took me so long to respond to #metoo. But hopefully that’s enough to be starting with.

The Samaritans Radar app – the problem is right there in the name.

I am distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of a system to alert people to any mental health related terms that I have not consented to.

I would be supportive of an opt-in system, where people who might know they are likely to have crisis moments might set something up to alert certain trusted friends and family, and having Samaritan volunteers contactable through twitter in the first instance makes a lot of sense.

I strongly suspect that this is a very well intentioned, but very poorly thought through system.


**This entry is about the Samaritans Twitter app and has brief references to stalking and suicide**

It’s always been assumed that in large organisations, the higher-ups don’t really know what the lower-downs are doing and decisions often get made that leaves those who do the work shaking their heads at what’s going on.

Full disclosure: I used to be a Samaritans volunteer. I worked on the phone line, the email and face to face. I did this for roughly three years. Samaritan volunteers get very good training on how to do their job.

Today the Samaritans released information about a new app – the Samaritans Radar. It’s designed to monitor the tweets from the people the app-user follows on Twitter and flags up any Tweets with specific key words and phrases  that might be concerning, and reports them to the app-user. At first glance a nice way to make sure…

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A Response to ‘Women Against Feminism.’


Imagine this:

The year is 2014. You are a white Western woman. You wake up in the morning in a comfortably sized house or flat. You have a full or part-time job that enables you to pay your rent or mortgage. You have been to school and maybe even college or university as well. You can read and write and count. You own a car or have a driver’s licence. You have enough money in your own bank account to feed and clothe yourself. You have access to the Internet. You can vote. You have a boyfriend or girlfriend of your choosing, who you can also marry if you want to, and raise a family with. You walk down the street wearing whatever you feel like wearing. You can go to bars and clubs and sleep with whomever you want.

Your world is full of freedom and possibility.

Then you…

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I have decided to sync my WordPress account with my Blogger account. This isn’t very exciting at all except for the fact that the Blogger account is attached to my Google account, and so will come out with what is basically my real name. My old posts won’t transfer over, but new ones should post to both.

I had to have a quick think about this before doing it, as I know that people are concerned about internet anonymity. I was for a while but am much less so now – I don’t do or say anything sufficiently controversial for it to be a problem, and would be happy to stand by, explain or perhaps change my mind on anything I have said previously, or anything I would willingly say now. I have been meaning to talk about internet anonymity for a while, and at some point I may actually get round to doing it.

I guess the main thing for me to be concerned about is the fact that I have spoken about my strong dislike for the reforms of the NHS under the coalition – as a middle manager in NHS England, there is a risk that this is career limiting. I should make it clear that while there are major elements that I massively disagree with in the new structure, I am determined as always to make it work as well as possible for the people who require and rely on the NHS. I have a suspicion that Hunt, Cameron and Lansley aren’t that taken with that approach, but I am certain that anyone who ever has a real say on me getting a job or not would be pleased.

The second thing that concerned me was talking more openly about mental health issues under my name. I suffer from depression, and am often a little guarded in discussing this in real life. However, I have decided that the benefits of demonstrating that it is OK to talk about these things outweighs the discomfort I may have from people knowing that it is an issue. With respect to work, I don’t think this should be a problem – any organisation that I would be interested in working for would be able to accommodate that – especially given that it isn’t a threat to my work anyway.

So anyway – online me, pixie359, is now much more easily associated with my offline identity, Miles Taylor. And here is my face.


Miles mug shot


I recently supported my wife through a pregnancy and birth with some, but by no means terrible, complications. My wife was largely immobile in the weeks beforehand, and my son took 36 hours and a caesarian section to be born. Since then he has mostly fed and slept quite well, after a testing few days when he wasn’t getting enough milk and we weren’t topping up with formula milk. I love them both very much, and am very proud and pleased to be a father.

I know Kung-Fu

Clearly the best baby


And it all made me think a little bit about abortion. My view hasn’t changed, but has been strengthened. I am even more strongly pro-choice than I was.

Having seen how difficult pregnancy, childbirth and very early parenthood are, it is strikingly clear that women should be allowed to abort unwanted or problematic pregnancies. Our baby was planned, we are secure in our relationship, housing and finances, my wife was lucky enough to have a healthy baby, and has been supported (hopefully well) by me and a wonderful set of family and friends. And still we struggle. Because it is *hard*.

Forcing this on someone against their wishes is awful, and a hugely disproportionate punishment for carelessness, changes to circumstance or worse.

I don’t think that early stage abortions should be restricted at all, by which I mean before the foetus is likely to have developed a nervous system. Until that point, it can’t even feel basic sensation, so can’t suffer, and so I don’t think has intrinsic value. It is literally no different from any other lump of cells, except it is parasitic and disruptive, with massive mid and long-term consequences if left unchecked.

However, that doesn’t mean that women should just be left to it. I suspect women who have an abortion without being significantly impacted are few and far between, and with abortions should come support. It is difficult to make sure this role doesn’t get taken over by organisations with an anti-choice agenda, but I think it’s important that support is offered.

I am not particularly well versed on baby development, and can’t say anything about how they experience sensation in the early stages of neural development or when they start to develop a sense of self, and I’m not particularly interested in viability as a criteria for parental responsibility. The main consideration for me in this sort of situation is suffering, of all parties, and for all decisions.

I think I would take a fair bit of convincing that a foetus suffers sufficiently at most points in development to make a case against abortion when there is a serious disability or health risk to either party.

I am still a little conflicted about elective late term abortions. Theoretically I think there should probably be a cut off in intentionally killing a foetus at the point where it could, by an equivalently traumatic or invasive procedure, live. So, for example, a woman carrying a 30 week old baby would likely have to give birth to the baby or have a C-section, and whether the baby is dead or alive would not affect that process much. At that point, I think the woman should still be allowed to terminate the pregnancy, but perhaps not by killing the child.

The complexities really come in the time between viability as in ‘could just about survive but with high risk of long term problems‘ and viability as in ‘could survive in the wild on its own‘. How reasonable is it to ask that a woman at 28 weeks pregnant, carrying a baby that may well be viable, but with a higher risk of health problems, carry to at least 34 weeks, making it very likely that the baby could survive just fine? I suspect that the additional few weeks would be a toll on the mother, but I am not sure how this weighs against the likelihood of long-term effects on the baby.


What the result of all this, and how that would be enacted legally I have no idea. Translating principles based on theoretical limits like the point of sentience into laws for society is basically impossible, and there are a million practical problems that I haven’t thought about. I don’t have a massive problem with elective abortions only being allowed up until a certain point in normal cases, although I think there should be room for exceptional circumstances such as diagnosis of complications and, perhaps most controversially, not knowing they were pregnant.

Of course this might then start a rash of babies being delivered early by mothers that don’t want them, but A) I very much doubt it would be in any real numbers and B) aren’t there loads of gay or infertile couples after small babies to adopt?