The man who lived at Google HQ

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The man who lived at Google

When most people claim they live at work they mean it metaphorically. It’s the kind of thing you find yourself saying on a Friday afternoon, weeping, with your head in your hands.

But for Ben Discoe, it was the literal truth. He lived in a van in his employer’s car park, showered at the on-site gym and ate at the work canteens for over a year.

It helped that his employer was Google – and that Google HQ in Mountain View, California is one of the most progressive and all-round awesome places that you can work at in the world.

We know this because Ben wasn’t the only employee to live at the Googleplex.

13 Months on campus

Ben Discoe moved into Google HQ for pragmatic reasons. “I had a house payment (on my farm in Hawaii) and alimony to pay,” said Ben in a thread on Quora, “No money left for South Bay rental prices.”

Instead, Software Engineer Ben dug into his pockets and bought a van. “I got a 1990 GMC Vandura custom conversion van for $1800 (blue velour, wood paneling, previously tricked out by a burner) and that was my entire rent for 13 months.”

Ben kitted out his digs with an Ikea mattress, put up some curtains and, abracadabra, he had his own mobile bedsit. A very comfortable one at that.

“The van was actually really cozy,” Ben told us by email, “In fact, nicer than a lot of motel rooms I’ve stayed in.”

You’d think that parking a van up at Google HQ and leaving it there would attract some unwanted attention from local law enforcement, but security staff pretty much left the van-dwelling Googler to get on with his unusual life.

“Google Security came by very early on,” said Ben, ”but once they determined that the guy in the mysteriously parked white van was just an eccentric Googler and not the Unabomber, they never came by again.”

Home sweet home. Ben Discoe's camper van.  © Ben Discoe, used with permission.

Home sweet home. Ben Discoe’s camper van. © Ben Discoe, used with permission.

Parties in the Car Park

Ben’s 13 month stint in his converted camper van is the longest that any named Google employee has lived at work – but he’s far from the only employee to go down that route.

Matthew J Weaver almost beat Ben’s record, with 54 weeks of Google living. His reason for taking the challenge was a bit more frivolous.

“I did it for a dare,” the former Site Ecologist admitted on Quora, “It was excellent for my career.”

In contrast to Ben, Matthew lived at Google in lavish style, parking up a full-sized recreational vehicle.

“We would hold regular parties at the RV on Thursdays when the weather didn’t suck,” says Weaver, “I had an astroturf lawn and white picket fence for a while.”

Former visual designer Brandon Oxendine used the same method as Ben to camp on campus for three months. Station wagon? Check. Ikea mattress? Check. The only difference is that Brandon went for black curtains instead of Ben’s more chintzy choice

“I’ve always enjoyed having very little possessions and have always had dreams of living out of a car ever since my first car,” wrote Brandon, “I would do it again.”

And though it can’t be verified, there’s even an anonymous Googler who claims that he’s lived on site since December 2011 – and is still living there.

Feeling Lucky?

In common with other big money businesses, Google sees the advantage of keeping it’s employees on site as much as possible. That means perks aplenty.

“I was in a unique situation working at Google where I had showers and food that were very convenient to me,” says Brandon Oxendine. Some of the facilities are the kind of thing you might find at any large company HQ. Google Software Engineer Anshul Jain says there are about 25 different restaurants and cafes – all of them free.

“The cuisines are from all around the world,” says Anshul, “Indian, US, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, mediterranean, continental and so on.”

“Breakfast stopped at 9:30, and dinner started at 6:30,” says Jeff Nelson, a former Google Engineer who invented the Google Chromebook computer, “It was probably a good strategy to encourage employees to stay at work for more than 9 hours a day.”

Every building on the complex has its own mini-kitchen too, so that staff can cook for themselves. And, scattered around are tubs full of candy and nuts for employees to dip into on the go. It’s a bit like when someone brings a box of Quality Street into the office at Christmas, only every day and everywhere.

There’s also a gym (in building number 40), several laundry rooms and two swimming pools. While some of these facilities are the kind of thing you might find in any Silicon Valley start-up or Canary Wharf bank, others are more impressive.

There’s an open-air basketball court and a putting green for those who want to keep fit without pumping iron. Large areas of the site are made up of parkland and landscaped gardens, where staff are free to stroll with the freedom to think and create.  It’s not just the main Google HQ that has these special features either. Amsterdam’s Google office has indoor cycle lanes, Zurich’s HQ has a giant slide between floors and in Boulder, Colorado there’s a climbing wall. It’s like working for Willy Wonka.

The Energypod by Metronap - one of many sleep pods you'll find dotted around Google HQ.

The Energypod by Metronap – one of many sleep pods you’ll find dotted around Google HQ.

En-suite, on site

Short of supplying pyjamas, slippers and room service, the Googleplex offers its workers everything they need to survive and thrive without ever leaving the campus. There’s evidence that some employees occasionally crash at work overnight, even if they don’t go to the same lengths as Ben Discoe and Brandon Oxendine.

“The moon room is very comfortable,” says Google employee Sherwin Yu, “It’s entirely dark and there are huge bean couches. I’ve accidentally stumbled on people sleeping there at night, and I’ve spent several nights there myself.”

“There’s nothing in the culture or corporate position that openly condones it,” said Ben Discoe when we asked if Google encouraged its employees to camp there, “On the other hand, it’s all upside for a tech company to have its engineers close-by, so they’d have no reason to oppose it either.”

In fact, living on campus is such a natural part of the culture that tips were openly shared on the local network.

“There is a page on the (old, internal) Google wiki called “Living at Google” which unfortunately can’t be shared, but it’s really funny,” Ben revealed at Quora, “I added useful tips to it.”

“The Wiki talked mostly about sneaking naps in the buildings, showering in the gym etc,” Ben told us when we followed up, “It was lacking much information about sleeping in a vehicle, so that’s mostly what I recall adding, I gave details on my van and how it was customised.”

Now Ben has gone on to work elsewhere and a new generation of youthful Googlers will be taking up internships and entry level positions. Some of them may well be accessing that old Wiki, gathering tips and starting to scour the Craigs List ads for reasonably priced, used camper vans.

Envious? Us? You bet we are.

How to win the lottery

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As slogans go, “it could be you” is a pretty good one – because it’s absolutely true. Anyone can pick six numbers, hand over their money and buy a winning lottery ticket.

Anyone.

It’s now 20 years since the National Lottery launched. Lotto dosh can still be life changing money, with the highest ever jackpot an unbeaten £42,008,610. It’s no wonder 32 million people still plop down their two quid for a go on the Lotto every week. Winning that money though, that’s a rare thing indeed. How can you join the 3,400 players who’ve done it so far?

Odds and Probability

When you choose your lottery numbers, the odds are convincingly stacked against you.

The first number you choose in the UK lottery has six chances out of forty nine of being the right one. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Problem is, as you pick more numbers, the odds get worse. The second number you pick has a five in forty eight chance of being in right. The third ball has a four in forty seven chance of being right, and so on.

Ball Number Odds of Being Right Odds of Being Wrong
1 6/49 43/49
2 5/48 42/48
3 4/47 41/47
4 3/46 40/46
5 2/45 39/45
6 1/44 38/44

 

That’s translates to a 43.6% chance that you won’t be able to pick a single winning number. Overall your odds of picking the right numbers for the lottery are 1 in 13,983,816.

Let’s repeat that in words so that it sinks in. The odds are one in thirteen million, nine hundred and eight three thousand, eight hundred and sixteen.

The aptly named James Clewett, a physicist who has worked with the Mathematical Research Sciences Institute at the University of California, Berkeley demonstrates the maths behind these stats in this video from the Numberphile series, just prove that we’re not making all this up:

Systematic Thinking

Some people put their faith in statistical systems, studying how many times a category of numbers appear. It’s natural to assume this will work, because there are plenty of things we bet on where it actually does. In sports betting, you can statistically chart the performance of a player over a season. You can track the conditions that are most favourable to a specific horse. You can tell if a team is on form or not.

Mathematician Renato Gianella reckons he’s studied enough lottery systems around the world to predict similar patterns; numbers that turn up more frequently than others and in specific sequences. He’s turned his scholarly research into an online number picking system called LotoRainbow.

His system colour codes batches of numbers and gives you similarly colour coded templates that enable you to pick your own systematic sequence.

We remain sceptical. Statistics may show results that look like patterns, but those patterns are as randomly generated as the lottery numbers themselves.

By the same token, there’s no actual harm in using LotoRainbow’s template to choose your numbers. It’s just as good as any other method. The odds remain the same.

Another “system” people use is to repeat the same set of numbers every week in an attempt to beat the odds. The intuition is that a sequence of numbers that is similar must appear eventually. Unfortunately, those people are wrong.

The thing about odds is that they are constant. For example, if you flip a coin you will get heads or tails. If you flip it again, you will get heads or tails. The chances are always 50/50.

“If you get five heads in a row, it does not mean the next time it is more likely to be tails,” says Dr. John Haigh emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Sussex, “The odds are still 50/50”.

In the same way, the odds of choosing a sequence of six correct numbers out of forty nine will always be 1 in 13,983,816.

 

Win the lottery - So many lottery combinations to choose from... One of 'em must be ready to cough up! Image in Public Domain via WikiMedia.

So many lottery combinations to choose from… One of ‘em must be ready to cough up! Image in Public Domain via WikiMedia.

Hack the Odds

Now that we’ve crushed your dreams with the knowledge that the odds of picking six numbers to win the lottery are ludicrously high, there is a way to improve your chances. You hack the odds.

All the genuine tips we’ve been able to glean from experts do exactly that in one form or another. The first method is one that many lottery players already, instinctively indulge in. And we know because we’ve stood behind them in the queue while they’re doing it. The answer is to buy more tickets.

“The only way to increase your chances of winning a lottery is to increase your expected loss at the same time,” says David Joyce, Professor of Mathematics at Clarke University, Massachusetts.

“You can buy more tickets to increase the probability of winning at least once,” says Joyce, “But that also increases the probability that you’ll lose a lot, too.”

Every time you choose a new set of numbers, you increase your odds of winning. Choose one set of numbers and you have 1 in 13,983,816 chance of walking away with the jackpot. Select two sets of numbers and the odds reduce to 1 in 6,991,908.

Still, those odds are pretty high. You have more chance of being struck by lightning.

Buy More Tickets

In theory you could change your odds of winning the lottery by buying every ticket… While you LOL yourself silly at the stupidity of that idea, consider this; it’s already been done. At least twice.

In 1992 accountant Stefan Klincewicz formed a syndicate to win the Irish lottery, with the intention to strike when the pot grew sufficiently large enough to make the sting pay. Sure enough, the jackpot hit 2.2 million Irish pounds and Klincewicz’s investors began systematically buying up every numeric combination they could. A few days before the draw Irish lottery chiefs noticed the dramatic upturn in ticket sales and shut down machines across the country.

It was too late though – the 28 strong syndicate had spent 900,000 Irish pounds on 80% of the draw’s possible combinations. They won the pot.

The Irish lottery had a couple of special characteristics that made it more vulnerable to this kind of attack than other lotteries. A 100 pound prize for matching four numbers meant that the syndicate was able to rake in an additional 400,000 Irish pounds in secondary prizes on top of the jackpot.

While such an escapade may be difficult to repeat, there’s something we can learn and earn from this; syndicates win the lottery a lot. When you club together with friends you have more buying power. The return may be smaller, but it can still be enough to jack in your job.

Win the lottery - A syndicate can help you win more often. More tickets bought - more chances. Image by Matthew Anderson used under a CC 2.0 license.

A syndicate can help you win more often. More tickets bought – more chances. Image by Matthew Anderson used under a CC 2.0 license.

Win More Money

Are there any genuine ways to win the lottery without spending more money? Oh yes. Because people are a weird bunch who believe whatever you tell them – you can take advantage. Science boffins say that the best way to choose your numbers is – wait for it – entirely at random.

When you use a system, you’re more likely to pick the same numbers as other people. That means, if you do win with your numbers, you might not be the only one.

“If you pick the least popular numbers and win, then you will probably share your jackpot with fewer people,” Dr John Haigh recently told the Telegraph.

You can even take this a step further, turning the superstitions of others to more advantage. Because people tend to use dates when picking their numbers, there are certain clusters that crop up in other people’s systems all the time. The numbers one to twelve are popular because they correspond to the months of the year. The number nineteen is a frequent choice for a similar reason – because people often put the year they were born into their system. For everyone old enough to do the lottery, that’s 19-something…

And here’s one more thing. Numbers over 31 are neglected by lottery players who rely on dates, because there are a maximum of 31 days in the month.

Knowing this may not help you choose a winning set of numbers, but it may help you win big if you do.

Using dates alone to pick your numbers restricts you to a smaller set - and makes it more likely you'll have to split your winnings.

Using dates alone to pick your numbers restricts you to a smaller set – and makes it more likely you’ll have to split your winnings.

The Utility of Money

Our final words on winning big are more philosophical. Peter Flom, an independent statistical consultant, points out that taking part in the lottery in a modest way is a return in itself

“The utility of money is not linear,” says Flom, “For many people, the loss of (say) $10 per week is inconsequential – while the gain of many millions is consequential.”

In other words, if you get pleasure from a regular, inconsequential investment, it’s good for you in the long run. You help the arts and funding of culture in this country. If you’re lucky, you might win a few extra quid every now and then. If you’re amazingly fortunate, you could win millions.

“If someone spends a pound a week playing the lottery and for that pound a week they’re getting hope, excitement and a Saturday night buzz, I think that’s great value,” says James Clewett, “If I hear of somebody spending 10, 20 quid a week on lottery tickets – stop! Please stop!”

How to Build a Bionic Man

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We can rebuild you! Well almost. There’s barely a bit of the human body we can’t 3D print, grow in a tube or cobble together with plastic these days. And by “we” – we actually mean extremely brainy scientific boffins.

Those boffins are still some way from creating a fully artificial human, but medical science is at a tipping point where many human “components” can now be replaced or at least repaired by artificial means. And though many of these parts are still in prototype, it won’t be long before they’re in general medical use.

Don’t believe us? Here are some choice body parts you’ll soon be able to replace.

Have a Heart

Things weren’t looking too good for Chad Washington at the end of 2012. The 35 year old’s body was rejecting the heart he’d had transplanted six months earlier. A new transplant wasn’t an option. His immune system was attacking the donor organ and would do the same to another heart.

Chad Washington and the rucksack that powers his heart.

Chad Washington and the rucksack that powers his heart.

Doctors at the University of California in Los Angeles had an answer though. On October 29th, Chad had the failing organ removed in a seven-hour operation and replaced with a bionic implant.

“By removing the patient’s diseased donor heart, we removed the source of his end-stage heart failure,” said Dr. Ali Nsair, an assistant professor of cardiology at UCLA. “The artificial heart allows his body to recover and get ready for a heart transplant in a few months.”

Weighing in at 13.5 lbs (6 kg), Chad’s new heart has a battery that fits into a rucksack. Previous mechanical heart patients were house-bound or had to live out their lives on hospital wards – but Chad can pick-up groceries at the corner shop or watch a football game. He can even go for a modest ramble in the countryside.

Offally Good

Even though we can now safely transplant most living organs, the development of artificial alternatives remains crucial.

“Less than 10% of people who need a kidney transplant can get one,” says Professor Shuvo Roy, who heads up the Biomedical Microdevices Laboratory at UC San Francisco, “There are just not enough organs available.”

Professor Roy’s lab is working on a bio-mechanical kidney, a fully implantable device designed to replace dialysis and kidney transplants. Already fast tracked for trials, the organ should be cleared for clinical use by 2020.

“The underlying concept has been demonstrated to work in patients,”explains Professor Roy. “We are building on known scientific principles, instead of looking for new discoveries.”

The artificial kidney is no stop gap either. It’s not intended for use as a last resort when “real” organs aren’t available. The Professor and his collaborators want this to be a frontline therapy to replace organic transplants entirely…

The latest prototype of UCSF's artificial kidney is on the right. Doesn't look like a kidney, but does the job...

The latest prototype of UCSF’s artificial kidney is on the right. Doesn’t look like a kidney, but does the job…

Deep Breath

Full lung replacements aren’t quite ready for primetime, but we’re getting close. The “total artificial lung” won’t look much like the pink breathing sacks you have hidden inside your chest – but it will do the same job. There are already portable prototypes that sit outside the body, about the size of a tin can.

A team has been working on the implantable breathing machine now for 23 years, based on research work conducted by Professor Robert Bartlett at the University of Michigan.

At this stage in the biolung’s development, it’s designed as temporary solution “ It will be
just a bridge to transplantation,” Professor Bartlett told Thoracic Surgery News, It will come along in the usual fashion of artificial organs: relatively slowly.”

In the future, patients may not need to wait as long for a transplant though. They may go from one type of artificial lung to another; a lung that has been organically grown in a lab.

Researchers at the University of Texas have already done just that, growing laboratory lungs from human stem cells. Though it may be more accurate to say the UT lungs were “regenerated”. The team used damaged lungs from donor patients as a “scaffold” and then repaired them with stem cell tissue, growing the regenerated lungs in a fish tank…

“I’m not kidding,” team leader Dr. Joan Nichols told Medical News Today, “He went and bought it from a pet store…”

The technique means that, in about a decade’s time, there will be many more donor organs available to those who need them.

Second Sight

The cross-pollination of biological science with engineering – bioengineering – allows researchers to create solutions that seem like science fiction. When Professor of engineering Wentai Liu was asked to help create an artificial retina at UCLA in 1988, he felt pretty much the same way.

“I thought it was a great idea,” says Professor Liu. “But I asked, ‘What can I do?’ because I didn’t know much about biology.”

Project lead Dr. Mark Humayun handed him a medical manual the size of War and Peace. “It was a very steep learning curve,” recalls Liu.

Liu’s background in integrated chip design led to some novel innovations and, twenty-five years later, the bionic eye is now an incredible reality.

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System brings sight to sufferers of macular degeneration and other diseases affecting vision, using a technology that effectively wires a digital camera into an artificial retina that’s implanted in the wearer’s eye.

Beneficiaries of the technology are able to see outlines, light and shapes— some for the first time in decades.

The "bionic eye" is reality - its technology already in place.

The “bionic eye” is reality – its technology already in place.

Ear Hear

Sight’s not the only sense that can be replaced by bionic implants. Hearing aids are evolving beyond simple amplification systems into replacement ears. Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales have created cochlear implants that not only enable some deaf people to hear speech for the first time – but hear differences in pitch.

In a true synergy of biology and engineering, the UNSW’s research team have discovered a way to encourage nerves in the ear canal to regrow, stimulated by “neurotrophins”; a type of naturally occurring protein. The implant delivers the neurotrophins directly to where they are needed; the inner ear.

“People with cochlear implants do well with understanding speech, but their perception of pitch can be poor, so they often miss out on the joy of music,” says Prof. Gary Housley, of the Translational Neuroscience Facility at UNSW, “Ultimately, we hope that after further research, people who depend on cochlear implant devices will be able to enjoy a broader dynamic and tonal range of sound.”

More than a Feeling

When it comes to replacing limbs, bioengineers are already batting it out of the park. The 2013 Paralympics showcased a range of artificial limb technologies, from running blades to ski attachments that not only replace missing legs, but augment them.

Limb replacement technologies are so advanced that we’re moving on from bio-mimicry and precision engineering to mind control. The next wave of prosthetic legs and arms will be controlled by electrical impulses from the human mind…

These technologies partly harness the hard-wired neurological and psychological attachment we already have to our limbs. 48 year old Igor Spetic is among the first to try out a new artificial hand that’s controlled by his mind. The prosthetic not only reacts to his mental commands, it even has a sense of touch.

In blind tests, Spetic was able to distinguish between different materials brushed along the artificial limb – including sandpaper and cotton – in 20 different places along the arm. The artificial hand was developed at Case Western Reserve University.

Limb enhancement is so far along that it’s the one bioengineering technology that can clearly improve on the squishy organic bodies we were born with.

Professor Homayoon Kazerooni’s group at the University of California, Berkeley branch, is making exoskeletons that make people stronger and give them more stamina. The commercial applications of the work, partly funded by the military, are already available.

The HULC exoskeleton, making soldiers better, stronger and faster.

The HULC exoskeleton, making soldiers better, stronger and faster.

These exoskeletons use robot technologies to improve human lifting power and endurance. For example, the HULC exoskeleton, developed jointly by Berkeley Bionics and Lockheed Martin, enables a person to carry up to 200 lbs in weight. Wearers can walk, run and jump pretty much as normal—and will use less oxygen in the process because the exoskeleton does most of the work.

So far, artificial organs, limbs and cybernetic systems have mostly been used when our too-frail biological systems fail to do their job or our existing strength needs augmentation. But it’s only a matter of time before these replacements become better than life.

In fact, when you look closely at it, there’s only one major body part left that we can’t yet replace… And that’s the brain.

And that’s a comforting thing to know. We may be invaded by robo-zombies in the future, with mechanical hearts and lungs grown in a jar, but we’ll still be able to kill them with a swift blow to the head…

How to make the perfect cup of tea

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Image by Timo Arnall used under a CC 2.0 license.

Image by Timo Arnall used under a CC 2.0 license.

Tea is magic. Its curative powers know no bounds. Bad news about your driving test? Have a nice cup of tea. Missed that promotion at work? Two sugars in mine please. Zombie apocalypse? Tea.

The British consume 165 million cups of tea every day. That’s 60.2 billion cuppas a year. To put into perspective how awash with tea we are, the UK population is 63.6 million people – so that’s three cups every day for every man, woman and child. At least.

But not all of it’s good tea. For every mug that makes you gasp in satisfaction and delight, there’s always one you leave half drunk, unloved, on the kitchen worktop.

If we drink so much tea, shouldn’t we pledge to accept no less that the best every time? Less dishwater and powdered milk, more Assam served in your favourite mug. Of course we should. This post is full of tips from tea experts, on making your favourite brew better. But first, a bit of background.

We weren’t always such tea freaks

Tea was first imported into the British Isles at the beginning of the 17th Century, according to the UK Tea and Infusions Association. It took a while to catch on. In 1660 the famed diarist Samuel Pepys wrote that he ‘did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never drank before’. He didn’t say what he thought about it though.

Like many of our predilections, it didn’t become really popular until it was endorsed by a celebrity.

Catherine of Braganza - the Princess Kate of her day.

Catherine of Braganza – the Princess Kate of her day.

Charles the Second married Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza in 1661. Reaching British shores after a long sea journey from the Mediterranean, she was gasping for a cuppa. It was such a rare and exotic beverage at the time that she was given a tall glass of England’s other national drink instead; beer. It didn’t go down too well.

Soon Catherine’s addiction to tea spread through the court of the King, into the upper classes and, eventually, their minions. The first bulk orders of China tea to the UK were recorded in 1664.

As for adding milk – we can blame the French for that. The practice began in the mid 17th century, a decade before Catherine of Brazanga married Charles II. Depending on which source you believe, milk was used among the French aristocracy to temper the bitter taste of dark tea – though there’s some evidence that cold milk prevented delicate porcelain cups from cracking when hot tea was poured into them.

We may have begun drinking Chinese teas in good old Blighty, but demand soon outstripped supply. Established trade routes and our colonial past meant that, over time, Indian tea became more popular. The standard tea we drink now, that the rest of the world knows as “English Breakfast Tea” is mainly Assam, with a blend of Ceylon and Kenyan black teas.

Some tea is more equal than others

By the 20th century tea was so well established that the debate about how you make the perfect cup of tea could begin. One of the first to pitch in, curiously, was journalist, intellectual and novelist George Orwell – who had some very particular ideas about his cuppa. His 1942 essay “A Nice Cup of Tea” set out eleven essential tips for a lovely brew. Some of them now sound strange and anachronistic.

For example, Orwell tells us to choose loose Indian or Ceylon tea, but not bother using a strainer. “In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful,” Orwell wrote, “Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.”

But the chap who wrote 1984 and Animal Farm has some advice that has lasted the test of time too. He used a teapot – as was much more common – and gave it a good jiggle to mix up the leaves after adding hot water. It should go without saying that the pot is warmed before hand.

Orwell also tells us to “pour the cream off the milk” before pouring it into the cup. These days we can buy ready skimmed milk – and it helps the natural taste of the tea come through.

20th century thinker George Orwell enjoying a cup of tea with leaves floating around in it. Probably.

20th century thinker George Orwell enjoying a cup of tea with leaves floating around in it. Probably.

Advice from China

Though tastes have changed, modern experts are still convinced that loose tea is best. Don Mei at tea specialists Chinalife has some splendid tips for brewing up. Though they specialise in very high end and healthy teas we can still use some of the advice in our search for the perfect cuppa.

He suggests that you should always use loose leaf tea – and that it’s not as inconvenient as you might think.

“Tea bags contain very poor quality tea,” says Mei, “You can be drinking twigs, secondary leaves, things you really shouldn’t be drinking.”

This tea-and-other-stuff mixture, says Mei, is mulched into a dust that releases the bitter tannins in the infusion too quickly – which may be one reason why we Brits like our tea with milk.

Mei gets around the problem of bits in your tea by suggesting that you use an infuser basket in your teapot – a good sized mesh container that lets the hot water get to the tea leaves. You can buy teapots with infusers built in.

Another good tip from Don Mei is to use more tea and brew it for a shorter time. The usual western way of making tea is to pop a couple of teaspoons in the pot and brew it for ages. This produces a drink with lots of sticky tannins and less of the fresh, light flavour of the leaves.

An advantage of this approach is that you can reuse the tea for a few more brews.

Heston’s Tea Maker

If there’s one person in the world who can tell us how to precisely and exactly brew any beverage of your choice, then it has to be scientific chef Heston Blumenthal. Our people spoke to his people at kitchen appliance maker Sage by Heston Blumenthal who pointed us in the direction of some of the clever cook’s tea making tips. They include:

  • Let hot water cool before you pour it on the tea leaves. Boiling water makes the tea bitter.
  • Milk should go in second – so you can gauge the strength of the tea. That’s one tip both Heston and George Orwell can agree upon.
  • Temperature and time are the most important factors. Water should be off the boil but above 70 degrees and you should give your tea enough time to brew naturally.

If you’re making tea the old fashioned way, these tips will definitely help – but Blumenthal has gone further. He’s taken all the guesswork out of making the perfect cup of tea by helping to develop his own tea making device. The Tea Maker – made by Sage – turns any kind of loose tea into the perfect cuppa. You add water, load the filter with loose tea and then set the Tea Maker to brew your beverage to taste. The result? Tea that’s exactly right, every time.

Tea, the everyday way

So, now we know  the very best way to make tea.

  • You use loose leaves, in a warm tea pot using water that’s just off the boil.
  • You give the pot a swirl and leave it to stand for a good few minutes.
  • Stirring or pressing the leaves with a spoon bruises them and impairs the flavour, so don’t do that – but do use an infuser or strainer to stop the leaves from escaping the pot when you pour. George Orwell didn’t mind getting bits in his teeth, but we do.
  • Finally, milk goes into the cup after the tea, preferably skimmed or semi.

But what if you don’t have time for all this faff? Sometimes you’ve only a few minutes to chuck a tea bag into a mug. Gill Mann, director of Delimann of Devon, thinks you can still make a great cup of tea that way with a technique she thinks is foolproof.

Tea_bags

She told us you should:

  1. Add 200 ml of freshly boiled water to your tea bag (the best quality you can get)
  2. Allow the tea bag to brew for 2 minutes
  3. Remove the tea bag
  4. Add 10 ml of milk
  5. Wait 6 minutes for the cup of tea to reach its optimum temperature of 60c
  6. Sit back and enjoy!

Gill’s company Delimann delivers lovely cream teas all around the UK, so her very precise instructions should be taken very seriously. Perhaps they’re the modern equivalent of George Orwell’s famous eleven steps.

Nine Zombie Games You Have to Play

Posted by & filed under Factoid, Interviews.

 

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Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? One group of people definitely is. Gamers.

If there’s one subculture that has spent more time training for the rise of the undead, it’s joystick twitchers. The zombie apocalypse is the go-to storyline for an astonishing number of the mainstream games we know and love. Doom? Space marine satanically possessed zombies. Half-Life? Crab headed ex-scientist zombies. Monkey Island 2? Zombie pirates.

Pirates, who are also zombies. Awesome.

Some games take zombie action to an entirely different level though. These are the Dawn of the Dead of zombie games. Games where clearing wave after wave of classic, shuffling reanimated corpses is an exhilarating treat – or where deadly variants challenge your hand-eye co-ordination to the max.

We asked tech writers and gamers for their favourite zombie games and what they came up with is the cream of the genre. Ladies and Gentlemen, let your training begin:

Zombie Zombie
Play it on: ZX Spectrum (or a PC or Mac, with emulation)

ZombieZombie

Zombie titles go back to the dawn of video gaming. ZX Spectrum title Zombie Zombie is lifestyle and tech writer Lou Hattersley’s favourite of the genre. The 30 year old undead simulator had “3D multi-viewpoint graphics” and a built in level designer that enabled you to “design your own cities and save them to tape”.

“It’s the sequel to Ant Attack, which I adored,” says Hattersley, “ It was one of the first true isometric games, so it felt wholly different to anything else. It was also one of the first survival games. And it was one of the few games where you could choose to play as a girl!”

Best news – you don’t actually need a ZX Spectrum to play it thanks to the weird world of emulation. Emulators enable you to run programs meant for old hardware on your computer, phone or tablet. You’ll find a humongous list at World of Spectrum and a direct download for the original Zombie Zombie is there too.

Zombies
Play it on: iPhone, iPad

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The second game in our list would have gobsmacked your Spectrum owning Dad. You can play Bignic’s Zombies on your mobile telephone!

There’s some shared DNA between Zombie Zombie and its more frenetic, phone-based great grandson. They share pleasantly old school pixellated graphics, an isometric 3D view and a zombie threat to survive. But Zombies is much more knowing, post-modern and, in places, laugh out loud funny.

Craig Grannell, iOS games expert and the guy behind iphonetiny.com rates it as his favourite zombie gaming experience, citing the “tongue in cheek dialogue, addictive twin-stick shooty gameplay and countless corporate undead,” as key reasons why you should hand over your 69p for Zombies right now.

Bonus level: Developers Bignic developed the premise further for a PC version called Corporate Lifestyle Simulator.

Dead Space
Play it on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3

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2008’s Dead Space is tech columnist Gary Marshall’s choice, claiming that it’s “one of the most frightening games I’ve ever played.”

While investigating a distress signal, you and your crew crash into the landing bay of a vast space vessel. You draw the short straw and are sent out to fix the bigger ship’s life support systems. Lurking in the dark are the mutated, reanimated corpses of its former crew. The game calls them Necromorphs, but lets call a spade a spade here; they’re fricking space zombies – and all you’ve got to stop them from killing you is an oddball collection of mining tools…

Not only is Dead Space one of the most trouser-moistening zombie games ever made, it also messes with all your zombie expectations. We all know that Earth zombies can be dispatched with a crushing blow to the brain-container. The Necromorphs? You have to strategically cut bits off them. And if you cut off the wrong bit – they’ll just grow it back. Ew.

It’s currently £9.99 on Steam.

DayZ
Play it on: PC

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We should hesitate to recommend DayZ right now, because – in the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – it’s cookie dough. It hasn’t quite finished baking yet. But, then again… cookie dough. Nom nom nom.

The version of DayZ that’s commercially available is what developers call an “alpha”, which means that it’s unpolished, buggy and there are some major features missing. If you’re willing to put up with that, it’s one of the most emotionally draining and potentially exhilarating games you will ever play.

DayZ is a first person post-apocalypse survival simulator. You wake up in the countryside with nothing more to your name than a flashlight and the clothes you’re standing up in. The only real goal you have is to stay alive by foraging for food, water and weapons, and finding shelter.

That would be easy if you were alone, but you’re not. A virus has decimated the population and there are zombies wandering about who want to eat your dinner straight out of your large intestine. But that’s not even the scariest thing about DayZ. The scariest thing is that the map’s full of other people… real people. There are other players on the same server, trying to survive, just like you are. And not everyone is friendly.

Sniper Elite V2: Nazi Zombie Army 2
Play it on: PC

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You’d think that games featuring raging hordes of Nazi zombies would be fairly rare – but there are at least two worth a place in this list. The first is Call of Duty: Black Ops II in Zombie Mode. Previous entries in the series enable you to switch antagonists from regular cartoon evil Nazis to ravenous undead Nazis, but Black Ops II does it best. “ I just can’t find anything that’s as fast paced and exciting with rewards and a story line,” says avid gamer Erik Selby.

Though Blacks Ops II in Zombie Mode is a thing of savage beauty, it would be remiss of us to bypass it for the more obscure and, quite frankly, bat-crap crazy Sniper Elite V2: Nazi Zombie Army 2.

A slow paced assassination simulator set behind enemy lines during World War II, the Sniper Elite series was and is already controversial for its extremely icky, slow-mo “bullet shots”.

The Nazi Zombie Army versions takes the same premise and fills maps full of rampaging Nazi zombies. Instead of carefully planning neat and careful assaults on watchtowers, military vehicles and abandoned churches, you are simply overwhelmed by wave after wave of Nazi undead – some of them with special Satanic powers – in a Left 4 Dead kill-or-be-killed stylee. So that’s nice.

Left 4 Dead 2
Play it on: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Linux

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If you’re a fan of first person shooters, then Left 4 Dead 2 will take some beating – possibly with a cricket bat or an axe. The original Left 4 Dead popularised co-op mission play more than any other game, with up to four players collaborating at a time. They can be random strangers on a distant server, a bunch of friends or computer controlled bots. L4D2 – as its friends call it – does all that but better.

Log in to the game and soon there are swarms of fast moving zombies leaping and running towards you in a post-apocalyptic city-scape. You’re armed with a sub-machine gun, or pistol or shotgun which needs reloading every 30 seconds. When you run out of ammo or things to hit zombies with, you have the ability to shove individual attackers back into the swarm a couple of inches (arms flailing, viscera splashing everywhere) by feebly right clicking on them.

You pick off some lone shuffling zombies, you are attacked by a horde of them, everything goes quiet, you move around a bit. If you’re lucky enough to have a health pack, you heal. Rinse and repeat. There’s little sense of progress. There’s little sense at all. But it’s utterly and terrifyingly thrilling.

The Walking Dead: The Game
Play it on: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad

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Based on the comics rather than the TV series, The Walking Dead is the most head mangling, emotionally manipulative game in the history of fictional narrative. While just about every other title in this article is just some variation of you and some weapons against never-ending waves of the mumbling undead, The Walking Dead does a horrible thing. It makes you care.

You’re part of a story where you team up with other survivors to build defenses against the zombie hordes. You form relationships, make key decisions about who eats and who doesn’t, who stays and who leaves. At times you decide who lives and who dies.

Season One of The Walking Dead is harrowing enough but, in Season Two it’s no spoiler to reveal that you play through the story as Clementine, a 10 year old girl with really big sad eyes. Though there are only so many outcomes, it still feels like you’re responsible for every terrible thing she has to do to save herself or her friends. If you thought it was impossible for a video game to make you cry, you thought wrong.

The Last of Us
Play it on: PS3, PS4

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Like Dead Space, the Last of Us doesn’t call its zombies zombies. If we’re being picky, neither does The Walking Dead (even though the game’s “walkers” are clearly based on the classic George Romero template). Gamer Jordan Smith thinks they’re zombies though: “I went for ‘does it look dead and run straight at you?’”

In which case, the answer is definitely “yes”.

If all you’ve seen are trailers for The Last of Us, which is likely because it’s PlayStation exclusive, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a sentimental adventure tale about a young girl adapting to the end of the world; a bit like The Walking Dead. We cheekily selected screenshots that highlight the similarity too…

Although the two games share a similar premise, the Last of Us is much more action packed and exciting than it’s dour and sentimental cousin. It’s an open 3D survival horror, with much of the story told through missions where you have complete control – and it’s all the more immersive for it. Plus the story’s infected monsters are much, much scarier. “It made me curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep,” says Jordan.

Resident Evil
Play it on: PC, PlayStation, SegaSaturn, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360

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The greatest zombie game of all time? More than one of the pundits we spoke to went for the same title: Resident Evil.

The zombie video game that spawned dozens of sequels and its own blockbuster movie series (seven so far with the eighth due in 2016) started life as “Bio Hazard”, originally a Japanese PlayStation exclusive. With a name change and bit of polish, it was released in Europe and the US on just about every other platform.

The third person shooter, set mainly around a creepy mansion, is credited for kickstarting the entire survival horror genre. Dan Oliver, editor-in-chief of Future Publishing’s raft of creative magazines says it’s “scary enough that the first time I played it – into the early hours at a friend’s house – I ended up legging it home through the abandoned (and terrifying) streets of Bath.”

Gamer Phil Brown was similarly scarred by Evil: “You can’t get better than the live action intro and that first shot of a zombie eating Kenneth!” says Brown “11 year old me was won over instantly.”

Resident Evil was remade in 2002 for the short-lived GameCube – and that version is due to get a high definition overhaul with a new PC release (pictured above) in early 2015. You’ll get a chance to relive the hype all over again soon.

How to Survive Freshers Week

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To..., Interviews.

How to survive Freshers Week

Image used under a CC 2.0 license – by CollegeDegrees360

Freshers week is a feast of firsts and one off happenings. You’ll only leave home for the first time once. You’ll only move in with strangers for the first time once. You’ll only start university for the first time once.

These experiences are common to every one, but you may have others. One thing’s for certain – it’ll be the time of your life.

For some universities it’s freshers week right now – for others the chaos begins next week. We spoke to people who know all about surviving freshers week and student life to get the best advice; recent graduates.

These are people that have not only been there and done that – they’ve lived to tell the tale, finished their courses and got to wear the funny hat and gown they give you at the end of your three years. You should pay attention to what they have to say.

Surviving the Week

There are two freshers weeks. The official week’s activities laid on by your university and student union are designed to ease you into academic life, with a series of events, introductory presentations and the virtual paperwork of registration.

Then there’s the “freshers week” that happens outside the university – explicitly designed to part you from your loan.

The wodge of cash you get at the beginning of the semester may be the most money you’ve ever had. You’ll land in a city or town full of new students – perhaps one that’s unfamiliar to you, but probably not. You’re just about old enough to drink legally. These three things together can be a dangerous combination.

Fresher's party in full flow.

Fresher’s party in full flow. Image by SUARTS used under a CC 2.0 License.

 

There’ll be club promoters on every corner with the promise of cheapo drinks, pubs and fast food restaurants trying to reel you in with 2 for 1 offers. Keep this is mind; it’s expensive to go out every night and eat out for every meal whether it’s heavily discounted or not… This is not a lifestyle – this is real life.

You will, of course, want to enjoy yourself though. The best advice anyone can offer here is, don’t go mad.

Remember this: fresher’s week isn’t an endurance test. It’s not a week in Ibiza. It’s the beginning of your university career.

Some students make the mistake of thinking that fresher’s week is what university is like, keeping up the clubbing and all-nighters long after the Autumn warmth of September has faded. We like to call those students Triple F; “Future Fast Food Employees”.

Managing Cash

Your student loan is meant to last, paying for food, bills, rent and books until the next lot comes along. The most sensible students budget from the beginning. Food is a huge expense. Bigger than you might expect.

Food prices have been rising since the recession and are likely to continue to do so until 2018, according to one report.

There are ways to cut your food bill right from the beginning. We suggest:

  • Cooking all food from scratch and taking turns with flatmates if you can
  • Using the A Girl Called Jack website for cheap recipes and advice on saving on food
  • Making meal plans so that you only buy ingredients for the food you cook

Recent graduate Kirsten Thorpe found that student life turned her into a bargain hunter

“I buy in bulk or wait for items I want to go on sale,” Kirsten told us, “Recently I found a shop that had cans of monster for 69p. I picked up about 20 cans and saved at least 50% over buying it at a campus shop.”

You'll need to start buying your energy drinks in bulk - to save money. Image by Ryosuke Hosoi used under a CC 2.0 license.

You’ll need to start buying your energy drinks in bulk – to save money. Image by Ryosuke Hosoi used under a CC 2.0 license.

Making Friends

One of the biggest worries new students have is that they won’t make friends. Funny thing is, everyone else is thinking the same; worrying they’ll be the one who gets left out.

“Even if you’re not a really outgoing person, join in as much as possible,” says Alice Booth, who graduated this summer, “Remember that everyone else is really nervous too, it’s not just you.”

The scramble to make friends is so primal that you may even end up making more friends than you want.  The first people you sit near are in danger of becoming your special “Freshers Friends”. They invite you to lunch and you’re so afraid that you won’t meet anyone else that you hang-out for a day or two even though you have little in common… A week or two down the line, you’ve hooked up with people you have more in common with – and you pass your freshers friend in the corridor. You both look the other way… This is both horribly embarrassing and perfectly normal.

So, making friends will probably be easier than you expect – but you have to ensure you meet the right people. Especially if you’re naturally shy. That means making the most of opportunities to choose your friends.

“Get yourself out there,” says Kirsten, “A big mistake I made was not being proactive in meeting people and joining clubs. When I had a bad patch later on, I didn’t have very close people around me.”

Living in Halls

Most students with a conditional offer will be allocated halls on arriving at university. These days even private student accommodation resembles the “living in halls” experience – with shared kitchens, bathrooms and communal areas. It’s a safe student bubble and you should make the most of it.

“I lived at home throughout uni so didn’t get involved with freshers at all…” says journalist Beth Wilson, another summer graduate, “I saved a lot of money living at home but I wouldn’t advise it to others. You do miss out on ‘uni life’ and it meant you’re probably only going to be friends with coursemates. Most people meet their friends through living in halls.”

Another recent graduate, Amy Johnson, offers a tip for making friends when you arrive.

“Leave your bedroom door open if you’ve just moved into halls and you’re just chilling out. People are much more likely to pop their head around the door and start a conversation if you do!”

We envy students  at the University of Aberdeen with halls as swanky as this!

We envy students at the University of Aberdeen with halls as swanky as this!

Finding Your Way Around

You’re not just starting a new life away from home when you go to university. Lots of students are experiencing a new part of the country for the first time. Erik Selby, who graduated this year, has an idea for getting to know your surroundings while bonding with your new friends.

“Explore the city with your new flat mates,” says Erik, “Work out your bus and train routes to Uni. Depending on what city you’re in, lots of Unis do cheap bike rental schemes with pre-planned and mapped safe routes to Uni from accommodation and between campuses.”

Another thing to remember; if you have a smartphone you have personal sat-nav. Open up Google Maps on an Android phone or Apple Maps on iOS and you’ll never be lost.

Do Something New

There’s a fresher’s week “fringe” of beery delights and club nights, but students cannot live on Jagerbombs alone.

As well as your course of study, university gives you a chance to try things you may never have thought of. Hannah, a young student from Stoke was homesick and ready to leave her course three weeks in until a tutor suggested she join a society or club. She took up climbing and never looked back. Or down.

Edward was another student who found it difficult to get talking to others. He joined the university Lacrosse team, learned a new sport and got to travel with the side as it played in tournaments all over the country.

‘Take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to you,” says Jessica Balme, a recent graduate who now works with Leeds Beckett University’s Student Union, “Try something that you wouldn’t ever dream of, join a society and get as much course related experience as you can. But be careful not to burn out!”

Freshers check out the societies they can join at Lancaster University.

Freshers check out the societies they can join at Lancaster University.

Getting Ready for Study

And finally – the main reason you’re actually at university during fresher’s week at all is so you can start your degree. We know that may be a radical idea to get your two Bs and a C at A level around, but it’s the hard truth.

While freshers week is going on all around you, with its shiny special offers, poster sales and society fairs, a parallel thing called “Induction Week” is also happening. That’s the official stuff the university want you to go to. Here’s our best piece of advice:

That stuff is not optional.

It’s the actual reason you’re there and if you miss any of it, you’re going to be mighty confused. Don’t believe us? Ask Polly Wilson who is currently acing her final year at Leeds Beckett University:

“New students should make sure they attend everything they’re required to right at the start,” says Polly “All the inductions that are needed, tours of the University and the Fresher’s Fair. This really helped me through the first semester of my course because I felt I was prepared.”

There you have it – straight from the mouths of graduates and students who’ve been through freshers week and survived. Now it’s your turn, soldier. Keep your head down, make sure your shoelaces are tied and never buy cocktails by the jug. You’ll be fine.

How to be a YouTube millionaire

Posted by & filed under Celebrities, How To..., Interviews, Media, Video.

How to be a YouTube millionaire.

Last year, 24 year old Felix Kjellberg made $4 million from playing video games. To be more precise, Felix made $4 million from playing video games really badly.

Known as PewDiePie online, millions of YouTube users love the camp, crazy commentary Kjellberg comes up with as he sword-fights with Minecraft zombies or screams like a girl playing Silent Hill. Over 30 million people subscribe to his PewDiePie channel, making it the most popular on YouTube.

So – yeah. $4 million. You’re probably thinking, like us, “I play video games really badly! I sound a bit stupid when I talk! Maybe I can make a fortune on YouTube.”

Well, that’s true, you could. But there’s one big difference between us and Felix. He’s actually doing it. Want to be the next YouTube millionaire? We talk to people who know exactly how to get you there.

Show Me the Money

In May 2007, YouTube launched its “Partner Program”. Under this initiative, popular YouTubers were able, for the first time, to run advertising on their videos. At first, it was a shadowy, secretive feature – with YouTube cherry-picking popular uploaders for its program. In 2012, the service was opened to everyone. Party time.

YouTube has been cagey about the exact amount of money its users can earn from the partner program – and it’s strongly rumoured that the more popular you are, the better the terms you get. In a Reddit AMA Felix Kjellberg refused to disclose how much he received from a single click on an advert:

“It’s against YouTube’s policy to answer that unfortunately. But there’s no exact number really.”

PewDiePie’s millions – and his earning capacity – is an extreme example. YouTube’s biggest earners are privileged.

“There are certain features that only some partners have,” an anonymous YouTube insider told Reddit users, “There are people that get away with more things. There are gifts/grants given to only the top YouTubers. There are people that are responded to by the company more quickly than others.”

If you want to aim for a more achievable goal, look further down the pecking order. Olga Kay, is YouTube’s equivalent of a nine-to-fiver, building an audience since 2006. The New York Times reported her earnings from make up videos and game commentary on YouTube as “$100,000 to $130,000 in each of the last three years”.

To keep that up, she has to publish up to 20 videos a week across five channels to a total of around 2 million subscribers. “It’s very stressful,” she told the NYT, “Every morning I wake up and think, ‘What can I do that’s different that will keep me relevant for another year?’”

It’s a real job but, personally, it still sounds better than waking up every morning knowing you’ll spend the day flipping burgers.

Music’s in the heart

Financial success isn’t the only benefit of YouTube stardom. Some of the platform’s biggest winners are musicians, sidestepping the old school routes of either a) slogging around the country in a transit van playing gigs to single figure audiences or b) going to stage school and successfully auditioning for the next big boy and/or girl band.

With YouTube, many media savvy singers, instrumentalists and songwriters have been able to build up a substantial following without ever leaving their bedrooms. Like Christina Grimmie, who began covering other artists on her channel ZeldaXLove64 five years ago – with a version of Nelly’s “Just a Dream” attracting 115 million hits. In 2010 she came second in a YouTube music competition – which doesn’t seem too impressive until you know that the other people in the top five were Justin Bieber, Selina Gomez, Nicky Minaj and Rihanna.

Now signed to major label Island Records, most of Grimmie’s success can be directly attributed to the audience she cultivated on YouTube.

So, how do you get there? It’s clear from the story of Olga Kay that you can treat it like a job and grind out a living from the site. The big success stories like Christina Grimmie show what’s possible when you have talent to match the graft.

We spoke to three of YouTube’s biggest stars to find out if there was a secret formula we could repeat.

Corey Vidal

A bona fide YouTube veteran, Corey Vidal was one of the first people to be signed up to YouTube’s partner program when it was introduced. Though he has clips dating back eight years, Corey’s best known video, an awesome acapella tribute to composer John Williams, was uploaded in 2008. With over 19 million views, it features bits from the themes to Close Encounters, Jaws and Superman – and the best wookie impression you’ll ever hear.

His tips for success are concise, “I always tell people to start out by making crap. Then find a way to make that crap better,” Corey told us – mirroring Samuel Beckett’s maxim that if you fail at first, you should try again and ‘fail better’.

He says you shouldn’t worry too much about looking for the perfect idea. Working at it is more important.

“A lot of people get hung up wanting to start a YouTube channel, but they build up their ideas so high in their head that it actually prevents them from going and making videos,” says Corey, “Don’t worry about making things perfect.”

“Get going. Make videos. Then make more. That’s the best way to not only get started, but to grow as fast as possible.”

Gunnarolla

Good timing is a recurring theme when you speak to YouTube superstars. Andrew Gunadie, known to YouTube as Gunnarolla, struck gold with a comedy song called “Canadian, Please” that racked up four and a half million views.

Canadian, Please was a perfect combination of good content, good timing, and fulfilling a niche,” Andrew told us recently, “Canadian content, or more specifically, content that propped Canadians up and poked fun at stereotypes, was not something that we had seen a lot of on YouTube back in 2009 when it went viral”

The channel now has close to 80,000 subscribers with travel and video blogs rubbing alongside the funny songs. Gunnarolla’s currently on a tour of Germany and the UK, playing his music live in London, Birmingham and Manchester and the end of September. It’s been hard work getting there, despite the viral success.

“I’ve strived to be authentic in everything that I do – from videoblogs to music videos to all of my travel stuff,” says Andrew, “I like to involve the audience as much as possible in my work – that interactivity is one of the biggest benefits to a platform like YouTube, and I don’t think we tap into it enough. I’ve resisted the temptation to do the same thing every week, or to pander to the lowest common denominator.”

If you want to follow in Gunnarolla’s footsteps, it’ll take a great deal of dedication. “You’ve got to decide what you want out of this platform and work hard for it,” says Andrew, “If there was a secret to “going viral”, then a lot of us would be “going viral” today. There are just some things out of your control.”

Smoukahontas

20 year old Sara M Forsberg is better known as Smoukahontas, a prodigiously talented impressionist and video blogger who can (and does) play a variety of musical instruments on her goofy YouTube channel.

Unlike Olga Kay or Gunnarolla, Sara hasn’t had to work too hard for her YouTube fame, striking it lucky with a handful of viral videos instead. The best known of these, “What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners” showcases Forsberg’s perfect ear for accents and her ability to speak gobbledegook at the speed of sound.

To date, the clip’s had 12.4 million hits… and it attracted the attention of Capitol Records to her channel. As a result, she’s now the first Finnish person to sign to an American major label.

Unlike some YouTubers, there wasn’t much of game plan when she started, “I just wanted to do what felt fun for me,” she told us, “Simple rule in life; dare to be you!”

Ultimately, Sara’s story shows that you can throw the rule book out of the window and still succeed – if you have the chops to make it. “(You should) be creative, be yourself,” says Sara, “Believe in your talent and use the things you’re best at.”

Over and over, the one piece of advice that stuck as we spoke to YouTube’s biggest hitters was this; work at it. You’ll need talent and you may even need a bit of luck, but the main thing you’ll need are videos – and lots of them.

There are people reading this article who could be making a living right now from playing video games, or writing songs on the ukulele or doing make-up demonstrations. That’s got to be better than flipping burgers.

What’s it really like to visit North Korea?

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

nkbanner

 

Why would you want to visit North Korea, a country where a quarter of the population is starving and slagging off the government can buy you a trip to a prison camp? It turns out that it’s a surprisingly nice to place be, on the surface…

North Korea was forged in war. Annexed by Japan in 1910, Korea was divvied up between the Soviet Union and the USA after World War II. But while East and West Germany were able to survive the same treatment and reunify in the 1980s, the conflict between North and South Korea was always more volatile. A war over sovereignty that began in 1950 was never officially ended. The two nations still co-exist under an uneasy ceasefire.

Team America's less than respectful depiction of North Korea's Dear Leader, the late King Jong-il

Team America’s less than respectful depiction of North Korea’s Dear Leader, the late King Jong-il

Though it claims to be a democratic state, North Korea is controlled by a single family - a totalitarian regime lead by the Kim dynasty and their Worker’s Party of Korea. And they don’t call it “North Korea” – they call it the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. DPRK for short.

“It’s a dictatorship of the most extreme kind,” says travel writer Tim Urban at his site whatbutwhy.com, “A cult of personality beyond anything Stalin or Mao could have imagined.”

You probably know that. You’ve seen Team America: World Police.

What you may not know is that foreigners are allowed in to visit North Korea. No, really. A country whose citizens are forbidden from leaving has its own tourist industry.

This is what they see.

Take the tour

You can’t just fly into North Korea via EasyJet and check into a Holiday Inn. Nor can you, curiously, cross into the country from South Korea. There are other restrictions too.

“You cannot travel on passports from the US, South Korea or Israel,” Australian journalist Ari Sharp discovered on a trip in 2005, “You cannot travel around freely within North Korea, but must at all times be accompanied by two North Korean government officials (the second one, presumably, to keep an eye on the first).”

North Korean visitors have to sign up for organised trips. They’re carefully controlled by government appointed guides and managed by one of three state controlled travel companies. Small groups of western tourists are politely allowed into the country for a few days, politely shown around a selection of sights, then just as politely taken back to the airport for their flight home. Though, in recent years, the tour has expanded to other areas, it tends to focus on the golden showcase  city of Pyongyang; DPRK’s capital.

Don’t get ideas about wandering off too far either. The UK’s official travel guidelines are quite clear about that: “In 2008 a South Korean tourist who strayed into a restricted military area was shot dead,” the site warns gravely.

It also cheerily claims that crime against tourists is refreshingly low. So, that’s OK then.

The go-to hotel

As travel writer Tim Urban notes, just about everyone who lands in Pyongyang ends up in the Yanggakdo hotel.

“You know why they put all visitors here?” says Urban, “Because it’s on an island in the middle of the city”

Music writer Fraser Lewry, who visited North Korea on a carefully orchestrated tour, confirms this:

“The place feels completely different to the rest of Pyongyang,” he wrote in a blog post about his travels, “Probably because it sits on an island in the middle of the Taedong River, effectively isolating it from the rest of the city.”

The presence of so many western tourists gives the Yanggakdo a peculiar ambience.

“It’s a bit anarchic after everything else we’ve seen,” says Lewry, “There’s a nine-hole golf course out front, a ten-pin bowling alley, rumours of a brothel in the basement, and an Egyptian-themed karaoke bar.”

“Even when the rest of the country and much of Pyongyang is without electricity, heat or air conditioning, the Yanggakdo is always bright and comfortable, says Tim Urban, “All part of the plan to project a certain image of the country to visitors.”

Inside the foyer of the Yanggakdo Hotel. (Image by Clay Gilliand used under a CC 2.0 license)

Inside the foyer of the Yanggakdo Hotel. (Image by Clay Gilliland used under a CC 2.0 license)

Seeing the sights

The Yanggakdo, with its late bar and karaoke nights is a decadent contrast to the rest of the tour, which plays out like a crash course in contemporary history, North Korean style.

Tourists are treated to a militarily precise series of visits to a checklist of sites. This is an alternate world where America began the Korean war, the US is routinely referred to as the “American imperialist aggressor” and is blamed for everything wrong on planet Earth.

That’s what the tour’s for; to reinforce North Korea’s side of the story and, almost incidentally, to show off a society with a creepy sense of precision and order. The Pyongyang Metro does a remarkable job of the latter

The Metro is almost always described in utopian terms – a tribute to North Korean precision, politeness and local largesse. But you’re only allowed to ride one stop.

Fraser Lewry described it as “the only part of the tour that feels stage-managed” as the group was driven to Puhung (Rehabilitation) station and took the train to Yonggwang (Glory). Few foreigners know what the rest of the network looks like, but this bit makes the Jubilee line resemble like a series of forgotten sewer pipes.

“Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, some formal, others attempting to represent fireworks exploding above us,” says Ari Sharp “Whilst to the sides, behind the tracks, were majestic murals, at one station depicting Kim Il Sung in all his deceased glory.”

The Pyongyang Metro. (Image by Roman Harak used under a CC 2.0 license)

The Pyongyang Metro. (Image by Roman Harak used under a CC 2.0 license)

Dead dictators

About those Kims. One of the big, early stops on the tour is the mausoleum of Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his late son, the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. This is not like going to see any old celebrity resting place. This is not Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. This is a full afternoon’s excursion to a repurposed palace – the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

Formerly Kim Il Sung’s official residence, the palace was converted at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars when the elder Kim died in 1994. Both former leaders lie within, embalmed by Russian specialists, on public display under glass.

Despite its vast size and the fact that it’s on the official tour, you can’t turn up in your “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt wearing flip-flops.

“Today we’ve been requested to wear more formal attire, and locating clothes that fit comfortably hasn’t been easy for a man of my sporting bulk,” recounts Fraser Lewry, “We quickly learn that this isn’t going to be a straightforward visit.”

Fraser and others have described a journey into the mausoleum along moving walkways, up escalators lined with red velvet, into a vast white marble hallway. Finally, you reach the Great Leader, lying peacefully plasticised. The Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, has a room of his own beyond that. It’s the only part of the tour where photography is prohibited.

“On a visit with many tense moments, the time I spent in here was the tensest,” says Tim Urban, “We had to walk single file in and out and bow three times.”

 

Statue of Great Leader, the late Kim Il Song. (Image by Roman Harak, used under CC 2.0 license)

Statue of Great Leader, the late Kim Il Song. (Image by Roman Harak, used under CC 2.0 license)

Behind the scenes

The tour continues around museums and monuments – and even to the DMZ; the infamous Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. It’s the only place outside Pyongyang that the tour visits. There, a series of blue huts straddle the demarcation line between where – at least once a year – representatives of North and South meet to discuss terms. At one time tourists were able to enter the huts, but no longer. It has the look of an abandoned factory, guarded by soldiers with assault weapons.

It sounds pants-wettingly frightful, but, as visitors often report, the reality is less intimidating.

“The atmosphere is surprisingly carefree,” says Fraser Lewry, “The military guide showing a scale model of the area before clambering on board our bus to guide us further into the DMZ. It’s here we learn how the two sides are still officially at war.”

The DMZ between North and South Korea looks like a set from an 80s Bond film. (Image by Stefan Krasowski, used under a CC 2.0 license)

The DMZ between North and South Korea looks like a set from an 80s Bond film. (Image by Stefan Krasowski, used under a CC 2.0 license)

 

There’s something of the film set about the entire tour. Though North Korea has the fourth largest military force in the world, giant monuments to war victories that are mostly imagined and lavish government buildings, there are frequent power cuts across the city and everything is a little worn and shabby. Even the chic parts.

“There will be a gorgeous museum with huge chandeliers and polished marble floors, but the water won’t be running in the bathroom,” says Tim Urban, “Or a high-end restaurant with upscale decor that’s also sweltering hot because the air conditioning isn’t working.”

That sense of being one step outside reality is helped by North Korea’s own citizens. They’re polite and helpful to an individual.

“Only one man, while in the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, hissed at us group of foreigners as he passed by,” reports travel blogger Derek Earl Baron, “He literally made a face like a cat hissing and hissed loudly at us.”

Previous visitors have reported suspicions that the tours were populated by actors – but as rules have relaxed over the years, it’s apparent that’s not the case. They’re just all drinking the same Kool-Aid.

“During a few experiences on the trip – such as on the Pyongyang Metro or whilst walking to the hotel in Kaesong – we were freely encouraged to engage with local people,” says Ari Sharp, “There was never a problem with us lingering a little behind the group, or meandering in a way that left us surrounded by North Koreans.”

And, why not? The government scripted version of the world is the only one North Koreans really know. North Koreans know about European football, The Beatles and the BBC, but this is a country with only four television stations, all of them state controlled. Great Leader Kim Jong Il published a book called “Guidance for Journalists” that advises that “newspapers carry articles in which they unfailingly hold the president in high esteem, adore him and praise him as the great revolutionary leader”.

“It pervades almost every aspect of life in this country,” says Derek Earl Baron of North Korea’s pro-government propaganda, “The amount of it, whether on display on large signs throughout Pyongyang, in North Korean films, on television, as part of everyone’s education, in theater performances and cultural events, books, newspapers, music and more, is unreal.”

North Korea's Arirang or "Mass Games" demonstrates a near superhuman level of precision and discipline.

North Korea’s Arirang or “Mass Games” demonstrates a near superhuman level of precision and discipline. (Image by Stephan used under a CC 2.0 license)

 

Everything is awesome

In recent years, bloggers and travel writers have reported a greater degree of freedom than earlier visitors. Under current leader Kim Jong-un, rules have relaxed. Visitors are allowed to wander away from the group and explore a little. But only a little. After a day of sightseeing the group returns to the hotel for drinks and karaoke and dog noodle soup. Groups are now allowed to tour DPRK’s second city Hamhung and the newly minted beach resort of Wonsan. In general, everything seems awesome.

Except that it isn’t.

The carefully orchestrated tours of Pyongyangm Hamhung and the DMZ shield outsiders from the realities of poverty beyond these places. In a country with a yearly GDP per head of just $1800, the public wealth of the capital, its gleaming modern metro, palaces, nightclubs, vast parks and empty flyovers take on a sinister resonance.

80 miles north, in Kaesong, things are different. “The shelves in most stores are noticeably half-empty,” reports Tim Sullivan for the Associated Press “and dirty side streets lead to clusters of small houses, many little more than shacks, with bulging walls and broken roofs.”

The power crisis is more pronounced here, “We supply electricity in the evening, so people can enjoy their lives,” a Kaesong official told the Associated Press, “During the daytime the electricity goes to small factories. This is normal.”

While the rest of the world can be seen by satellite, North Korea disappears at night, unable to keep street lamps burning while citizens sleep.

A recent United Nations report suggests that a quarter of North Korean children are suffering chronic malnutrition. Investigators estimate that the country would need to import 507,000 metric tons of cereals to meet its basic food needs in 2013.

You would think that, in most countries, there would be protest and complaint; a grassroots movement to change the lot of North Korean people.

“Many people still think the poverty in North Korea is because of sanctions from the outside world, rather than the corruption and inefficiency of the leadership,” says Jae young, a North Korean who was able to defect to the South, “Even if people do have doubts, it is hard for them to talk to each other about them… Criticism of the leaders is something that can lead to someone being sent from their city to the countryside; to a prison camp, or even worse.”

While the travellers we canvassed saw bus-window glimpses of the real North Korea on their tours there are few visits to other towns or even trips to the high rise apartments on the outskirts of the capital where ordinary people live. Even the latest train tours cross country carefully shunt tourists from Pyongyang, to Hamhung and the resort of Wonsan.

North Korea is, by any reckoning, a third world country – and a tour of DPRK is as manufactured as a trip to Disneyland.

 

Celebs Who Are Reptillian Shapeshifters (According To YouTube)

Posted by & filed under Celebrities, How To..., Infographics.

Alienigena

I think there can be no doubt at all that some of us are aliens. There’s simply too much evidence out there and too many blogs, sites and niche magazines dedicated to the fact. But there seems to be a massive proportion of the famous and renowned who were born as thinly disguised reptiles, arrived here from another planet and decided to pursue a career in light entertainment while avidly observing our behaviour. A few brave souls, particularly on YouTube, are dedicated to unmasking these lizard people for the baddies that they are and telling the world who is a shapeshifter and why. Here are a few of the top candidates, with indefatigable proof included.

GEORGE BUSH

Not George W. Bush, he is merely the son of an alien, but his dad, George Bush Snr, the one that Homer Simpson beat up. In this video, you can see that his fearful reptillian eyes shape-shift in a weird manner during a debate with Bill Clinton (probably another alien, he just hides it better). Others claim his weird eyes are down to demonic possession. Either way, it’s not good.

PAUL McCARTNEY

You’ll see a whole host of reptillian shape-shifters on offer in this video, but it’s Paul ‘Macca’ McCartney who is the most weird and alien. It would certainly explain a lot. Wings. The Frog Chorus. His constant ‘thumbs up’ gestures. He is signalling to his home planet and letting them know how easy it is to conquer the pop charts over here. Especially at Christmas.

AVRIL LAVIGNE

Is she a Martian? Is she a vampire (a space vampire obviously)? Or is she just double jointed? (If a gum can be double jointed). Whatever the reasons, there is something odd going on inside Avril Lavigne’s mouth and we don’t mean her Canadian accent. Does the disappearing flatness of her munchers indicate some kind of alien shenanigans? Wake up people! Of course it does!

RIHANNA

The evidence that Ri-Ri is a shapeshifter of the highest order appears to be  displayed here in a selection of saucy pictures presented in a slideshow format. Her fondness for doing ‘devil hands’ while being photographed also adds to the ammunition. Oh and then there’s her ‘Triad Hyperspace Sacred Geometry Magnetism’ which she’s always chucking in our faces. And her last name is Fenty, which sounds dead alieny to me.

ANGELINA JOLIE

Busted! Sorry Angelina, but here is indisputable proof that you are indeed an Illuminati funded reptillian shapeshifter from beyond the black hole sun. How else can you explain that bit of white powder on your jaw? Obviously you were trying to cover up your natural grey skin and scales. And not that you got a bit over-zealous with the talcum powder when you got out of the bath.

ELVIS PRESLEY

You cannot deny that in this footage, Elvis looks really, really weird. Maybe it’s the distorted black and white video footage. Or maybe it’s because he’s the King, not only of Rock and Roll but also the universe. I mean, it is hard to look normal in a sequinned jump suit, but even so, there is something very reptillian about this whole scenario.

STEVE-O

So why would the reptillian, Illuminati, shapeshifting agenda want to recruit the star of Jackass, known for his utterly stupid antics, for their evil designs? Maybe to lull us into a false sense of security and convince us that these mutant overlords are mere buffoons before  make their move and enslave us? Or to bamboozle us with their stunts until we’re suddenly under their control and mining space minerals on this distant moon before we know it? Either option is too hideous to consider.

JAMES BROWN

No! Not the Godfather of soul? The hardworkingest man in showbusiness? Mr Please Please Please himself? I’m sorry but the evidence is overwhelming. Not only was James a Sex Machine, but he was also a repitillian shapeshifting machine, beaming his observations back to his home planet in an attempt to unearth our weak spots. There is no way that the dodgy video feed is responsible for the curious altering of his face, it has to be the Illuminati.

JUSTIN BIEBER

You may think he’s just a sweet and innocent child. But if Justin was going to reveal his obvious reptillian background, it would be while he’s under pressure and on trial for drag racing. Of course he would signal for help from his alien bosses and request a tractor beam to safety. Sadly, on this occasion, it never arrived.

KATE & WILLS

Alongside the Pope and leading weather presenters, you would assume the leading figures of the alien insectoid monster army would be members of the royal family. As this slow motion, non-curated footage proves, there is certainly something amiss with the faces of Prince William and his lizard bride Kate. Whether it’s their alien heritage, or just the fact that they are English, can’t be immediately established. But the continued existence of Prince Phillip establishes that there is something other-worldly happening with our royals.

How to be more like The Doctor

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To..., Media, Video.

How to be more like The Doctor

He’s over two thousand years old, travels through space and time in a wooden box and is always the smartest person in the room. Who wouldn’t want to be more like the Doctor?

Coming back to the telly box this Saturday, Doctor Who is now in its 51st year – with a title character who could teach us a thing or two about how to live a life more interesting. While we don’t know exactly what Peter Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor will be like yet, we can speculate.

His face changes every few years, but he’s always the Doctor; an eccentric mass of compassion, cleverness and contradiction. These constants make him a truly fantastic hero – and a realistic role model.

You don’t need a police call box that’s bigger on the inside or two hearts to be a better, less boring, more adventurous you. Let’s count down the ways you can be a bit more like the Doctor.

The Doctor is never cowardly or cruel

Former script editor and Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks was first to describe the titular time lord as “never cowardly or cruel”. Those words were used again as the Doctor’s motto in the 50th anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor”.

There have been stumbles along the way. The first Doctor kidnapped two of his granddaughter’s teachers because they discovered the TARDIS. That was a bit naughty. But, on the whole, the Doctor treats people, good people, with kindness and compassion – and he puts them first.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the fifth Doctor’s final episode. Poisoned, on the brink of death and not knowing whether he’ll regenerate, Peter Davison’s Doctor gives the only shot of antidote to his companion Peri. And then, the ultimate sacrifice; he turns into Colin Baker.

He loves to get lost

You don’t have to be a sci-fi anorak to know that two thirds of Doctor Who stories begin with the TARDIS materialising in an unspecified time in history or on an unknown planet. Occasionally, the Doctor knows exactly where they are – but those times are rare. He explores anyway.

And what he finds is always amazing.

From far future space stations stuffed with the last of humanity (The Ark in Space) to the last days of an ancient civilization (The Fires of Pompeii). From a 1920s cargo ship in the middle of the Indian ocean (Carnival of Monsters) to a planet populated by humanoid cats (Survival).

In eleventh Doctor episode The Doctor’s Wife, our hero is able to talk to the TARDIS in human form – and the secret of its eccentric navigation is revealed:

The Doctor: You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.
The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

The moral? Getting lost is good. If you stay in the same place, you never push your boundaries – you learn nothing new. You never grow. So forgive us when we say, do you want to be more interesting? Then get lost.

The first Doctor didn't really pilot the TARDIS at all. He just set off and hoped for the best...

The first Doctor didn’t really pilot the TARDIS at all. He just set off and hoped for the best…

He uses his wits rather than his fists

The Doctor’s definitely a man of action – how many other superheroes know Venusian aikido? But if he can talk his way out of a situation, he usually will.

Doctor Who’s monologues are legendary.

Sometimes he’s just thinking out loud, working out his next move. Other times he’s distracting the enemy or stalling for time. Mostly, he just seems to like the sound of his own voice.

And when the Doctor talks, his enemies listen. How many times has the Doctor stood before a Dalek platoon, giving a four page speech? Everyone else they simply exterminate on sight.

It’s not necessarily the gobbiness we’re suggesting you should emulate, but a commitment to working things out with words rather than violence. That’s something everyone can look up to.

The eleventh Doctor began his stint scaring off an alien race called the Atraxi, by simply telling them who he was.

The eleventh Doctor began his stint scaring off an alien race called the Atraxi, by simply telling them who he was.

He’s a bit cocky

We shy away from calling it arrogance, because arrogance is an exaggerated sense of one’s capabilities. The Doctor’s earned every fibre of bravado and every drop of conceit in his body.

And we could all do with a bit of that. Earned conceit. When you’re good at something, you should acknowledge it. Confidence pushes you on to do even better things.

Of course, the Doctor’s a bit of an all round big head. When asked by companion Liz Shaw what he’s a Doctor of, the third incarnation replies, “Practically everything, my dear.”

If you’d been alive for hundreds of years, habitually defeating evil doers with a couple of quips, a call box and a screwdriver, you’d probably have a touch of cockiness about you too.

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He has his own style

We’re not suggesting you should dress like the Doctor. In fact, the sight of dumpy, middle-aged men wearing Matt Smith tweeds is enough to make Cybermen cry tears of pure mercury. But there’s nothing wrong with being a bit of a dandy.

The Doctor is a man of unique sartorial taste, whether he’s rocking a fur coat and braces, swishing a black cape or wearing the uniform of a German u-boat commander. He always stands out rather than sticks out.

Well, we say “always” – but there’s usually an exception and that exception is the sixth Doctor. Poor Six. Or, as some unkind fans call him, “the technicolour yawn”.

The Doctor - a dandy in any incarnation.

The Doctor – a dandy in almost every incarnation.

Almost.

Almost.

The Doctor does what’s right

Perhaps the Doctor’s key characteristic, the thing that really drives him, is a desire to do what is fair. In a world full of ‘roid rage superheroes fighting for justice or acting out of revenge, it makes a quintessentially British change.

Despite several opportunities to wipe out the entire Dalek race, for example, the Doctor can never quite bring himself to commit outright genocide. The fourth Doctor was the first to get the opportunity, but when the time came to destroy fiction’s favourite Nazi pepperpots, he couldn’t flick the switch.

So deep is this sense of right and wrong ingrained that an incarnation of the Doctor who did annihilate the Daleks (and the Time Lords) is written out of his history, deemed unfit to carry the name “Doctor”. Harsh.

“Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?”

“Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?”

He questions authority

100% rebel time lord; that’s how Peter Capaldi describes his 12th Doctor. None of his predecessors was particularly fond of authority, but two regenerations had more run-ins than most.

The third Doctor began his tenure exiled to Earth, seconded as a scientific advisor to military organisation UNIT. He spent most of his time butting heads with bureaucracy in the form of UNIT leader Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, of whom he famously says “You know Brigadier, your methods have all the refined subtlety of a bull in a china shop.”

The sixth Doctor spent an entire season in a timelord court accused of “interference”, but he barely acknowledges its power over him, preferring to banter cockily with the Inquisitor – a time lord judge – and an evil future incarnation of himself known as The Valeyard.

That’s right. The Doctor’s so rebellious that he even refuses to recognise his own authority. It makes our brains hurt too.

He changes

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “everything changes”. It’s the only constant in the universe.

The Doctor changes more drastically than most, regenerating into an entirely new body when the old one is “wearing a bit thin”. Though his looks and personality transform, he’s still the same person underneath though. He’s still the Doctor.

Not every incarnation of the Doctor accepts the change well. The second has renewal forced on him by the time lords and doesn’t like his new face. “Oh no!” he says, finding a mirror, “That’s not me at all!”

The tenth Doctor’s final words were simply “I don’t want to go”.

But every time the Doctor changes, he gets over it eventually. He has a nap, brushes himself down, picks out some new clothes and carries on. And that’s the best any of us can do; never give up and never give in.

As for the new Doctor, the change has already started. Oh well – here we go again!

Animated images courtesy of Doctor Who GIFs