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Disrupt the balance of everything

Summer schools are an important place to share your data collection method and get feedback from your peers.

Mine is experimental ethnography and one that hopefully will gain momentum with the release of the Microsoft Hololens 2. Collecting qualitative data needs to have a kick up its derrière.  Innovation in education is essential if the UK is to compete globally and make university a place for people to think up creative ways to solve societal problems. What excites me and gets me out of bed every morning is the thought of being different and upsetting the balance of everything.

Being different is easy if you don’t care what people think. It is easy if you have an imagination and want to create solutions to things that make you angry. As John Lydon said “Anger is an energy”. Indeed it is, however what every angry researcher needs is a champion/s, people who can see what you want to do will be good.

I guess there are two types of people, senders and goers! I’m definitely a ‘goer’ but without my champions encouraging me and giving me their time and knowledge, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. So it is to them I owe all my thanks.


Using mixed reality to collect qualitative data.

CGI taking the pixel; don’t believe the hype

When you watch anything with CGI the trick is to go… “Wow” then remember you are being sold a dream.

Don’t believe the hype.

Don’t get me wrong I love CGI. I mean truly LOVE it. I am a sci-fi and fantasy fan but I always remember that CGI is only someone’s imagination and that will never replace the truth; the truth that nature and real life can never be replaced with a computer programmer’s make-believe.

As a programmer my first qualification in the digital-arts was ‘C’ then I learnt OOP (Object-orientated Programming). I am hooked on anything binary and adore clever coding.

But, nothing moves me more than nature. Remember all things that CGI offers, nature offers it in abundance. We all need to get out and experience the world of flora and fauna in a more real way. Let me offer you an example. Recently as I sat in my favourite chair I smelt roses, that gorgeous sweet, heady smell of divine olfactory satisfaction. I hadn’t sprayed a room fragrance or seen it on a film… no, it was a vase full of roses from a friend’s garden. Real roses with a perfect real aroma.

I fill my house with cut flowers from the florist then I think… I should grow these myself and whilst I’m at it provide the butterflies and bees with food. I’ve rescued three chihuahuas and think… I should go to the animal shelter and volunteer.

Nature and all its glory are more than any CGI I can imaging or programme. I’ve got an 18-year-old kid and I’m trying to teach her to embrace nature more and social media LESS.

Okay I’ve got a proper fascination with Augmented Reality (AR) at the moment but truly I value nature over anything that can be turned into a pixel.

You choose which one you prefer but maybe this evening or this weekend get out into your garden or the forest or the county or the park or the animal shelter and tell pixels they are less than (<) nature and nature is more than (>) anything simulated on offer.

Embrace flora and fauna and tell CGI to pixel off!

Nature vs CGI.

Nature vs CGI. Ding Ding Ding… Nature wins.

Bats and water ecology – how they are symbiotic

Bats and water ecology – how they are symbiotic.

Bats are a protected species in the UK  under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Bats are also protected by the Conservation Regulations of 1994 and afford a lot of research because they are important for an ecological balance (as well as being so cute it almost hurts). Water is essential to a bat’s foregoing habits and I am of the opinion that water in the UK should also therefore be a ‘protected species’.

I made the case in my 4-part series Planet Earth is a sentient being that the planet and its biosphere is sentient and should be a fully paid up member of the UN as a State in its own right.

In this post I want to show how the lovely bat and the waterways of Great Britain are vital to the survival of the bat and as citizens, how protecting our water courses can improve our wellbeing.

Daubenton's bat

Daubenton’s bat

The Daubenton’s bat is a beautiful example of one of our bat species in the UK. The first amazing thing about these exquisite creatures is they live up to 22 years. They are insectivorous and roost near to water in woodlands. The map below shows where they are found and sadly in Germany and Austria they are an endangered species.

Where the Daubenton's bat are found globally

Where the Daubenton’s bat are found globally

These mouse-eared type bats are extremely cute with five toes on their feet and a lovely face. I hope I have convinced you that this little bat is cute and given you a concern for them. Let’s look at  its feeding habits and why British watercourses are important.

The Daubenton's bat has five toes and a lovely face

The Daubenton’s bat has five toes and a lovely face

Water pollution is mainly under control in the UK but the loss of aquatic insects can have devastating consequences to bat populations. Destroying waterside woodlands, farm run-off and manufacturing outlet pipes into the waterways of the UK can create terrible problems for the breeding habits of the small flies (especially chironomid midges), caddis flies and mayflies the Daubenton’s bat has in its diet. If the flies can’t breed, the bats can’t eat. This symbiotic relationship the bat and the river has is something special and vital for the circle of life.

The Daubenton’s bat needs us to lobby our MPs asking them to put watercourse management and protection from pollution and habitat destruction at the top of the agenda. Wherever you live in the world where bats feed on rivers, go one evening and just watch them skimming over the water collecting flies with a precision only nature can pull-off. Then write to your politicians and describe how beautiful our nature is and how important it is to your wellbeing. Tell them that nature definitely has an intrinsic value and your willingness to pay (WTP) is priceless!

Every single part of nature (the biosphere) needs our respect and protection, but water ecology is one that is special to me because it is so vulnerable and open to being abused/polluted. Nature belongs to you, it’s your responsibility to make sure it is treated with love so that not just the Daubenton’s bat can survive but it’s there for all our children and future generations to enjoy.

Please write to everyone telling them to protect the waterways of your country

These bats can’t speak so I will for them. Please write to everyone telling them to protect the waterways of your country



Muscle memory: Eighth wonder of the world (and so are plant based proteins).

Muscle memory to anyone who does sport/exercise will know and probably marvel at just how awesome muscle memory is. To me it is the eighth wonder of the world and so are plant-based proteins.

So let’s have a quick look at the ‘phenomenon of muscle memory’ (Staron et al 1991:637). It is widely known that after detraining for a period of time (even quite long ones), once you start retraining your muscles ‘remember’ the stress they endured from before and ‘grow’ back quickly to where they were when you stopped training. It is believed that a memory mechanism resides in the muscle fibres. Training your muscles increases muscle mass and force, stimulating tissues to multiply and to fuse with pre-existing fibres. This in turn supports the larger volume of cells, which are thousands of times larger than other cells in your body.

Studies show this could be as a result of both increased neural activity and/or muscle hypertrophy (from Greek ὑπέρ “excess” + τροφή “nourishment”). Hypertrophy is the increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells. Brain and body work in a symbiotic relationship it seems. This is good news for all sports people (by sport I mean all of them including ballet, dance, tennis, Pilates, yoga etc.).

I know from experience what detraining feels like after having shoulder surgery in 2013 resulting from a training injury.

Rotator cuff surgery 2013

Rotator cuff surgery 2013

I’ve just started retraining and getting into the zone mentally as well as training with a hardcore weightlifter (Glen who looks great). I’m expecting to very quickly get back to full strength and fitness (and a 4-pack) and just to add to the joys of pushing through the pain barriers to a glorious body I’ve returned to ballet after a 25 year break. I’m counting therefore on muscle memory to help me get into all those core-strength positions.

I said earlier that hypertrophy means, “excess nourishment” in Greek. Let’s turn to the question of proteins to build muscle.

You can’t just lift weights or do sport as a standalone method to increase muscle strength or mass. Food and nourishment are also needed. I am vegan so getting enough quality protein is paramount in my everyday nutritional requirements. Plant-based proteins are amazing; many are more protein packed than meat, and most contain other nutrients not available in meat. Most of them contain less saturated and unsaturated fat and as long as you eat a variety of plant-based proteins you will get the essential amino acids you need (except blood of course). Plant-based proteins do not produce uric acid, which causes liver problems and means less work for the body to break down, thus putting less strain on the digestive system. There are many advantages in eating plant-based proteins over animal ones, far too many for me to list here so I’ve put a few links you can surf for yourself. (UK) (USA)

In short, I eat plant-based proteins for many reasons, however as a seeker of all things logical here is my main reason.

Protein supps

My protein supps (suitable for vegans)

I want to eat primary plant-based proteins that are direct from the source of all life, the sun (thermal vents notwithstanding, thanks for pointing this out Duncan). I don’t want it as a secondary animal protein (rotting flesh that will be inside me) that is eaten and digested as plant-based proteins, then converted into meat based-protein. The animal is killed after suffering and moved around the planet; goodness only knows how old (or fresh) it is. In the UK in 2013 we had the scandal of horsemeat in foods labeled as beef. How disgusting. I for one love Black Beauty and Trigger, I don’t want to eat him or any other creature for that matter. Never mind the madness of growing more food to feed animals when there is starvation in the world [2].

I have to really work hard to make sure I eat enough food that contains plant-based proteins. I  go to the gym and ballet classes to put myself through pain, but I love it. Eating food that hasn’t been murdered and pushing my body to become an athlete is what I love doing. I do take a protein supplement, pea protein (82% protein), hemp protein and I follow vegan bodybuilders as my inspiration. Being vegan is a life-long learning curve and I find out new vegan knowledge every day. Robert Cheeke, Billy Simmonds and Branden Brazier are all vegan bodybuilders to name just three. If you want to read my weblog on  becoming a vegan click here.

Brendan Brazier

Brendan Brazier

Billy Simmonds

Billy Simmonds

Robert Cheeke

Robert Cheeke








I do think (unproved hypotheses) that vegan muscle memory is probably better than that of meat and dairy eaters as our muscles will probably have less hormones, antibiotics, pus etc. that are found in meat and diary products (as long as you have a plant-based diet that is not GMO).

So if you are into building muscle or sport why don’t you try a vegan diet for a bit? (I wouldn’t cut out meat completely, I’d go to fish to start with and slowly cut out dairy and all meat flesh). If you do, make sure you research it and work out how much protein you need. My daily intake when I’m working out is 115 grams per day. How much do you need?  According to Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 gram of daily protein per pound of body weight. That’s 139 grams for a 12.85  stone man (180-pound man) [3].

Also it is imperative that you take a vitamin B12 supplement as this is only stored in your body for up to 2 years after you give up dairy and meat. If you don’t your memory and other vital elements of your body will be detrimentally affected.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard work being vegan but the health and wellbeing benefits are amazing and along with the phenomenon of muscle memory I’m on my way to having a killer physique again.










[1] Staron RS, Leonardi MJ, Karapondo DL, Malicky ES, Falkel JE, Hagerman FC & Hikida RS. (1991). Strength and skeletal muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women after detraining and retraining. J Appl Physiol 70, 631-640



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Louie my adopted/rescued Chihuahua

Here is Louie Le Chi.

© Candace James

© Candace James

I adopted Louie in January from the Kennel Club Chihuahua Rescue and I just want to encourage you to always adopt an animal, whichever breed you prefer, from a rescue centre or shelter.

I am his forever home now and we are all totally in love with him. I am adopted so I totally understand the emotion behind this.

Louie wants to be a registered Pets As Therapy visitor and I want to raise awareness that Chihuahuas are NOT a toy, fashion accessory or a commodity to be traded.

There is a lovely scene in the film Beverley Hill Chihuahua (see below, it’s a night scene) where the Chihuahua leader explains the way the Chihuahua breed sees themselves.

Not many people are aware of this fact but the Chihuahua is the nearest genetic relation to the wild Wolf. Once you live with a Chihuahua you will understand that in fact this is very accurate. To be honest the Chihuahua is not for everyone as their needs are massive for such a small being. Louie is like having a toddler in the house again and very demanding of kisses, cuddles, walks, playing with his toys and training. Jane from the kennel club Chihuahua rescue said to me that only certain people deserve a Chihuahua, I understand what she meant now. I deserve Louie because I want to nurture him and include him in my life. The Chihuahua is also the dog with the longest lifespan and the average is 15 years (they live between 12-20 years).

The two main bonuses of having Louie is he is very portable and gets carried around shops, banks etc. and secondly he is so cute he (and I) can get away with it.

Louie makes people smile and start conversations. I can only say that I have had him since January 2014 and I am still wondering whether I rescued Louie or he in fact rescued me!

Louie has his own menu tab (see above) so keep popping back to see what he has been up to!

© Candace James

© Candace James


If you want something badly enough it will happen!

Sir Patrick Steward, Patron of UNA-UK and peace advocate

Sir Patrick Steward, Patron of UNA-UK and peace advocate

If you want something badly enough it will happen!

Sir Patrick Steward is the Patron of the UNA-UK. I was fortunate enough to meet him and share a few minutes face time with him and tell him about what I wanted badly enough, a vision of peace by promoting the Biosphere as a UN member state.

What did strike me about him was his humility and an air of going about his business to promote peace. That is something you can’t fake or attain, I think it is inherent in a person and I believe his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard was a direct result of that aura. I think once the Universe knows what you want bad enough It will conspire to make it happen!

I want to work for the United Nations one day and I believe I will. I also have a deep longing to promote peace and I always have.

When Sir Patrick gave his speech at last years UN forum I knew I was with the right people who I will share a career with and what he said moved my soul.

I also got to meet and listen to a lecture from Jeremy Gilley  who further inspired me on my quest.

Jeremy Gilly, Actor, Director, Peace activist

Jeremy Gilly, Actor, Director, Peace activist

So I  stuck at doing my BSc and MSc, I will graduate on the 15th July 2013 and I believe that doors will open as I want it badly enough.

Keep going with your dreams and aspirations because I believe for you it will happen, never stop or give up because I believe in you as Sir Patrick Steward aka Jean Luc Picard did in me, therefore I will make it so =:)

Sir Patrick giving me encouragement to stick at my 626 vision.

Sir Patrick giving me encouragement to stick at my 626 vision and ‘make it so’.


Earth Hour 2013 – 8.30pm on 23rd March

Earth Hour is that time of year when at 8.30pm on the 23rd of March we all think about our Biosphere for one hour. If we can, let’s turn our lights out for just one hour and show the Biosphere our love… it’s fun and shows those in authority just how many of us care about our planet!

WWF’s Earth Hour is a unique annual phenomenon that focuses the world’s attention on our amazing planet and how we need to protect it.

At 8.30pm on 23 March hundreds of millions of people will turn off their lights for one hour, on the same night, all across the world in a huge, symbolic show of support.

Ban Ki Moon even sent a message from the UN =:)

Make sure you’ll be doing it in the dark at 8.30pm on 23 March. Together we can make change happen.

– Simply join our event and let us know what you’ve got planned for Earth Hour
– Invite your friends to the event and help spread the word
– Register at to put yourselves on our UK map and share your plans, go to for events in your area

Earth Hour 2013

Earth Hour 2013

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Vegetarians and Vegans and punk fundamentalism

Vegetarians and vegans and

punk fundamentalism

Have you ever wondered why some people are vegan or vegetarian? If you are a vegan or vegetarian there is now research to show how our brains work in a different way to people who eat meat, and we are more empathetic to suffering in both humans (conspecifics) and animals than omnivores.

One interesting group I want to research are a subgroup of  Straight edge called Hardline who are punk fundamentalists and into radical deep ecology which includes veganism. In the following few weblogs I will be covering my findings with interviews and insights from the Hardline punk scene.

For now though I found  a piece of research that looks at feeding habits and levels of empathy associated with the different groups (vegan, vegetarian and omnivores).

The Brain Functional Networks Associated to Human and Animal Suffering Differ among Omnivores, Vegetarians and Vegans is a neurology experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The study postulated that neural responses to negative images of suffering involving both humans and animals differed amongst omnivores, vegetarians and vegans. The study was the first to measure neural correlations of empathy towards non-conspecifics in people with different social norms and their feeding habits (Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al. 2010).

Vegetarian and veganism

The term veganism was an extension of vegetarianism and sees all life as sentient, rejecting any animal suffering (including dairy, honey, and so on ), whereas vegetarians still eat dairy. Ethically speaking, vegans believe it is wrong to use and kill animals. This philosophy is based on ‘values and attitudes toward life, nature, and society’, which  is more than just a food choice (Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al, 2010: 2).

The Experiment

The study comprised of 60 right-handed healthy subjects with different feeding habits, 20 omnivores, 19 vegetarians, and 21 vegans. The paper did not explain how they arrived at those numbers.

The experimental design, using fMRI attached to the subject’s head, presented them with 150 pictures (40 human suffering, 40 animal suffering and 70 pleasant landscapes) in random order, using presentation software specifically designed for neurology ( version 9.70). The experiment was designed to see if visual representations of abuse and suffering affected people with different feeding choices and to monitor the different components of the brain’s networks associated with empathy and social cognition. They tested why the neural processes, showing empathy in vegetarians and vegans, extended to animals more than the omnivore subjects. It also comprised of a questionnaire based on an empathy assessment, showing an Empathy Quotient (EQ) score.


The main finding was a commonality of the functional architecture of emotional processing in vegetarians and vegans. It found that the vegetarians and vegans had a higher activation of empathy, related to areas of the brain, than omnivores, during both negative human and animal scenes, regardless of species. The part of the brain network that causes this is thought to be associated with emotions and social behaviour (D’Argembeau, A., Stawarczyk, D., Majerus, S., Collette, F., Van der Linden, M., et al, (2009).

Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al conclude that brain responses are evoked via negative images of suffering and significantly differ between vegetarians, vegans and omnivores as a comparison group. Also, there was a significant difference between the vegetarians and vegans. They suggest, therefore, different motivational factors are responsible for this, due to individual preferences and moral attitudes. (Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al 2010).

Table 1 sums up the findings and Figure 1 shows each feeding groups outcomes from the fMRI.




Responded more to human suffering than animal suffering.

Displayed more emotional empathy to human suffering than both the omnivores and vegans but slightly less than the vegans to animal suffering but more than the omnivores.

Responded the most to animal suffering than the vegetarians and omnivores and only slightly less than the vegetarians to human suffering, however it was more than the omnivores.

Table 1 – Feeding habits and empathy response to human and animal suffering images.


Different feeding habits produce a variety of empathy responses

Figure 1 – ‘Within-group analysis of activations. Cortical activations on a rendered brain from omnivore (A–H), vegetarian (I–R) and vegan (S–W) subjects during observation of pictures showing negative valence scenes of humans (A–D, I–N, S–V) or animals (E–H, O–R, Z–W). Images are in neurological convention. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010847.g002’ (Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al (2010).

The researchers did recognise the study had limitations with regards to the baseline scenes of landscapes, as it does not adequately measure a neural response to suffering per se; and they felt that further studies were needed to confirm their results (Filippi M, Riccitelli G, Falini A, Di Salle F, Vuilleumier P, et al, 2010: 7).

This I agree with, and I would be interested in choosing subjects from Punk, Hardline and non-punk/hardline as subjects to measure fMRI responses, for the same type of study.

For now though it does prove that vegans and vegetarians feel more empathy but the real research that I would personally like to study is does the brain dictate our feeding habits or do we ‘train’ our brains to react to suffering?

Animals need us to stop their suffering

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Send a Love letter to the Earth

This Valentine’s day send a love letter to Earth.

On the 14th February do something eco like using candles at home instead of the lights. You could share a bath and instead of driving to town for that romantic meal, stroll hand in hand.

Whatever you do have a fantastic Valentine’s day and if you haven’t got a loved one this year I’m using the Law of Attraction for you that you find the great love of your life for 2014 x

Love Earth this Valentine's day


Murder season to be jolly!

Murder season to be jolly!

Click here to listen to this blog

This time of year always makes me feel really sad for all the poor animals that suffer and die so people can eat them.

I often wonder how many people would actually do it veggie or vegan style and eat a plant based diet if they had to kill the animal themselves?

Anyway, here’s some alternatives for you.

Whatever you decide have a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year for 2013.

Hens are friends not food


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