My Week In Happy: Why I interviewed Helen Arney

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Well, “Why wouldn’t you want to interview Helen Arney?”, you might ask?

Helen Arney (Photo: Vera de Kok)

Of course she is super-smart, funny and chic, that’s undeniable. Which is why, when I was booking my tickets for Festival of the Spoken Nerd at The Lowry, I was struck by the fact that she did not have a Wikipedia page dedicated to her.

Almost a year before the gig, I’d been to a Wiki Edit workshop run for Manchester Girl Geeks by Wikimedia UK.

From this experience I learned two things:

  1. Editing Wikipedia is really pretty easy
  2. More than 80% of Wikipedia editors are male (according to some research)

What did I do with this knowledge? Pretty much nothing until I noticed that Helen Arney didn’t have a Wikipedia page.

Then I remembered something.

Fellow Manchester Girl Geek Karen Pudner (@kpudner) had created a Wikipedia page for code-breaker Joan Clarke, who worked alongside Alan Turing on the Enigma Project at Bletchley Park.

Karen started the Wikipedia page in 2013 having attended a previous Manchester Girl Geeks Wiki Edit Day.

This was the year before Joan’s contribution to the team at Bletchley Park was recognised in The Imitation Game. Since then the page has been added to and edited by dozens of other users.

If another girl geek could write a woman into Wikipedia then maybe I could give it a shot?

I was so excited by the prospect that it was with some abandon that I launched into writing my first lines of words on Wikipedia.

So I’ve made a start on Helen Arney’s page, which is currently a described as a ‘Singer stub’. If you would like to add an edit of your own I’d be extremely happy.

So, why did you interview Helen Arney?

As well as her obvious fabness (see above), I thought it would be lovely to have something that I had written to be linked to from the Wikipedia page. And reciprocal linked (of course!).

You can read what Helen had to say on physics, funnyness and frocks right here.

My Week In Happy: Searching for gratitude

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The aftermath of the Santa Run at MediaCityUK.  
Note: I did not take part in the run, I just happened to be coming back from the gym at the time.

It’s been tough losing my beloved feline friend Cosmo. He was with me for far longer than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had, by my side for 15 years. Although his passing was anticipated, knowing it was coming hasn’t eased the pain – other than my ability to stop his pain.

So in these dark times, it is more important than ever for me to dig deep and turn up those things that bring me joy and for which I am grateful.

 Life is short

Earlier this year, a good friend of my lost his mother who was in her eighties. She was an amazing woman who raised four children, started university at the age of 52, qualified as a social worker and started a career aged 56, and became a gay rights campaigner in her fifties.

This started me thinking about my relationships with my family and other people that I felt I needed to do more to keep in touch with. What I did as a result of this:

  • Celebrated my dad’s birthday with my brother for the first time in over 30 years.
  • Made contact with a school friend I’d lost touch with and connected on Facebook.
  • Met another school friend who I hadn’t seen for 20 years – it was magical.

Moving round a lot and having a busy job are no longer good enough reasons for not staying in touch.

This is all rather more sombre than my usual updates, I am still doing good things (seeing Half Man Half Biscuit, laughing at Bridget Christie and pitching new content ideas), so please bear with me.

My Week In Happy: Feeling grateful for good friends

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I’ve lived in a quite few cities. Childhood in Coventry, teenage years in Norwich, university in Southampton, then back to Norwich before a 10 year stint in London, before finally landing here in Manchester.

In each stage of my life I’ve made new friends and do my best to stay in touch them even if sometimes months or even years have elapsed since we were last in contact.

This week, seeing some dear friends has make me extremely happy and grateful.

Mike

I met Mike when we worked at a small offshoot of a publishing house in Norwich in the mid-nineties. He’s always made a really big effort to keep in touch no matter what’s going on in either of our lives. Mike has sharp wit which is reflected in some of the greeting cards he has created for me over the years. Take a look at this gallery.

Some of the Mike's greeting card designs. Broccoli = Brockley.

Some of the Mike’s greeting card designs.

Lynsey

I have known Lynsey since we were about 14 years old. Contact may have ebbed and flowed over the years as we moved to different cities and did different things with our lives, but when we chat (usually online and about pretty much anything) it feels like no time has passed at all.

Lynsey is working on her first novel and blogging about it – the blog itself is a work of art in my eyes.

Birthday buddies

My friend Karen shares a birthday month with me. We love to celebrate and it’s been a month full of hiding cards and collections and eating several kilos of cake.

On Friday it was Karen’s birthday, an occasion that we marked at Chaophraya, a top Thai place in Manchester. To give you a flavour of what we got up to, here’s a gallery.

Erinma

I’ve got to know Erinma over the last couple of years through mutual friends and various geeky activities. We hooked up for the #HookedOnMusic late event on Saturday night at Manchester’s Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI).

Erinma has had a long involvement with the museum, developing and delivering fantastic citizen science projects including Turing’s Sunflowers and Hooked On Music. She is also one of the most generous and kind-hearted people you could ever hope to meet.

Cosmo update

icu-twitterMy cat, Cosmo, is an old boy who’s led an amazingly good and pampered life.

He’s not been too well for the last couple of months and has lost a lot of weight since the beginning of the year.

He’s at home being cared for in the Intensive Cuddle Unit and we’re going to back to the vets on Thursday to see how he’s doing.

 

My Week In Happy: Friends, food and folding

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As I (may have) mentioned in last week’s This Week In Happy my actual birthday fell this week i.e. since the last update.

It’s been a busy week, hence the delay in going to print with this edition.

Thursday

It was my birthday! Here’s a nice picture of my birthday morning haul.

Presents! Thanks everyone :)

Presents! Thanks everyone 🙂

Once in the office, my a-may-zing colleagues Karen, Flavia and Kathryn had loaded my desk with more pressies and cards. My last two birthdays have been fairly low key and I really appreciated all the fuss – especially when I was presented with a huge chocolate birthday cake and a chorus of ‘happy birthday’ in the office kitchen.

And just to milk my birthday celebration a little more we (me, Karen, Flavia, Kathryn) headed into town to Italian ‘tapas’ place San Carlo Cicchetti – where I ate a lot of tomatoes and couldn’t finish my dessert!

I feel truly blessed to have such kind, clever and funny friends and colleagues.

Sunday

In last week’s This Week In Happy: The many gifts of girl geeks I described the satisfaction I get from being part of this volunteer group that exists to offer women and girls a place to develop their interest in science and / or technology.

As part of Manchester Science Festival, Manchester Girl Geeks are taking part in a global effort to build the ‘MegaMenger‘ – a cube-based fractal using over a million business cards which “may be the largest fractal ever built”.

Inset names here

The ‘Menger Girls’ get folding – ably assisted by @Frimkron and @aPaulTaylor

Katie Steckles, the chair of Manchester Girl Geeks donned her ‘Think Maths‘ hat and hosted the pre-folding event with Sam Headleand at MOSI where the scale of the task in hand soon became apparent.

With 15 volunteer folders, fuelled by cake and caffeine, we just about completed 13 out of a hoped for 20 of the the ‘Level 1’ fractals we were aiming for.

Want to know how much folding is involved in building a Menger Sponge? Katie has made this ace tutorial explaining exactly how to fold your own Menger fractal.

We also started putting together some ideas a Menger folding playlist, which will grow in the build up to Manchester Science Festival. So far we’ve only come with Living In A Box by Living In A Box, and anything by Ben Folds Five.

Please do get in touch with any suggestions for additions to the playlist in the Comments section below.

My Week In Happy: The many gifts of girl geeks

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I want to spend some time talking about one particular thing that makes me happy so the diary entries for this week will be briefer than usual.

When I started off writing this I was inspired by the small gifts my friend Angie (@angieokchan) often presents me with. As a graphic designer, Angie always finds a novel way to package anything from a homegrown chilli to some ticket money.

I first met Angie through my involvement with Manchester Girl Geeks – a group of volunteers that puts on and supports events that provide a friendly place for women and girls to find out more about science and technology.

Angie designs a lot of the Manchester Girl Geeks (MGG) branding and publicity materials and also came up with a fantastic illustrated instruction sheet for our soft electronics workshop.

Manchester Girl Geeks

As I looked back over my entries on the MGG blog and the numerous photographs that I’ve taken at our events it made me realise that I was not only grateful for Angie for her generosity but Manchester Girl Geeks in general.

We are all volunteers but put our heart and soul into creating an supporting events that will reach more and more women and girls.

This degree of dedication was demonstrated recently when our chair Katie (@stecks) hosted a Sunday afternoon ‘Show & Tell’ event minus the use of her vocal chords (due to a cold), even giving her own talk on binary nail varnish!

So I would like to celebrate the commitment and hard work of the wonderful women I’ve met through Manchester Girl Geeks:

Other stuff that happened this week

Thursday night saw the launch of Manchester Science Festival at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) where former Happy Mondays’ dancer Bez made a surprise appearance and I got to pick the brain of a (very charming) academic involved in an upcoming sexology project.

My dear friends Erinma and Caroline then whisked me off for a pre-birthday curry.

On Saturday I celebrated my birthday early at a new club night ‘NQ Working Men’s Club’ held at Night & Day Cafe in Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter.

Top Northern Soul Dance School teacher Tobin Lochrie (@TobinLochrie) made it a super night out with dance classes, a raffle and 80s musical bingo. He even got the crowd singing happy birthday to me and gave me the honour of drawing the winning raffles tickets (I’ve never seen a woman move so fast to collect her prize of diet Spam!).

On Sunday I managed to make to TEDxSalford with my good friend Lord Toby Mildon (@tobymildon). It was great to see talks by:

  • Kate Russell (BBC Click presenter, on crowdfunding)
  • Jack Andraka (inventor of early detection kit for pancreatic cancer)
  • Jack Sim (founder of the World Toilet Organization)
  • Lucy Hawking (writes stories for children about astrophysics and astronomy) and
  • Professor Bruce Hood (cognitive scientist and father of the killer cardigan stunt)

Bonus gallery

 

My Week in Happy: A harvest of happiness

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At the heart of this blog is the belief that we can take responsibility for our own happiness. This does not mean we can necessarily control how we feel, rather that the things we choose do and the people we choose to interact with have a powerful effect on how we feel about ourselves and others. As I ask in this earlier blog:

Why wait for someone else to set the scene when you can run the show yourself?

I’m going to keep details of this week’s activities brief as the theme I want to explore is how our own positivity can be reflected back to us by the actions of others.

Monday

Was thrilled that the Safer Internet Day project I worked on earlier this year was nominated for a BBC Production Award for collaboration across the corporation.

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Jacqueline Jossa (EastEnders’ Lauren) did us a nice film about webcam hacking

We didn’t win in our category, that honour went very deservingly to D-Day at 70 coverage across TV, radio and online. BBC Production pulled out all the stops to make the nominees and winners of awards feel that their contributions and output felt really celebrated, with famous telly faces presenting each award.

I have to say that, for me, Nicholas Parsons stole the show with his sharp wit and midnight blue moccasins.

Wednesday

Last week I wrote about Lou Cordwell’s talk (Lou is founder of Manchester digital agency magneticNorth) at the @SheSaysMCR event.

I got chatting to her afterwards and was chuffed when she said she’d heard of Cheeruplove.com. I was even more chuffed when she invited me to the magneticNorth screening of Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets at The Deaf Institute.

I’ve always been a fan of Jarvis Cocker so I was delighted to watch this cute film about Pulp’s last gig in their home town of Sheffield.

I also ran into fellow BBC-er, executive product manager, Lucie McLean (@luciemclean) and had a great chat about projects we were working on and online safety for children.

Friday

I was delighted when an invitation to the launch party for Manchester Science Festival at MOSI was wafted under my nose.

I’m really excited about what’s lined up for this year – regarding Robin Ince’s gig last week as a bit of a pre-warm-up. This year there’s a bumper crop of events and activities across several sites covering everything from 3D printing to ‘Weather & Climate DIY’.

I was also lucky enough to get some cut-price tickets for me and my friend @angieokchan to see ‘Not I, Footfalls, and Rockaby’. This is a Samuel Beckett trilogy performed by very talent actor Lisa Dwan while the audience are plunged into complete darkness.

The result was an intense and powerful experience. In the first play, the audience can only make out a small glowing spot of light hovering several feet above the stage. Only by looking closely was able to see that this illuminated Dwan’s mouth as she ranted through a stream of consciousness that it seemed impossible that one person could sustain.

 Sunday

It’s great when Manchester Girl Geeks get together – literally anything can happen. Our ‘Show & Tell’ session at ThoughtWorks sparked a number of planned and impromptu talks on everything from mathematics to cosmetics. Girl Geeks chair Katie (@stecks) heroically hosted the event and gave a presentation minus her voice.

I’d also like to give a special mention to Gemma Hill (@Gem_Hill) who gave an extremely enthusiastic and energetic talk about her new project to create an open source ‘choose your own adventure’ game. I’m really interested to see how it develops.