This whole TalkTalk issue got me thinking about passwords when a friend told me they still used something basic or they had to write it on a post-it note. After getting properly told off, I gave them a few tips to avoid using stupid easy passwords (like these).

Seriously, access to your online accounts can cause a WHOLE WORLD OF PAIN and unless you are happy to leave your wallet/purse with a list of your credit card PINs on the registration table at the National Association of Sticky Fingered Gits conference, then change them now!

I know it is difficult to remember them all, which is why I used a combination of Lastpass and 1Password to keep passwords under control, although Lastpass should do you. Choose a master password that is as long as possible and then use Lastpass to create and store specific passwords for each service you use. What this means is that if someone DOES get your details via a TalkTalk style hack, they won’t be able to use the same details to try and get into your PayPal, Facebook, eBay etc. accounts.

So how to come up with a long password that you can actually remember? Simple, think of a favourite song or phrase and use the first letters of each word. So using Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as an example would give us:


The song is easy to remember, but put those first letters together and you get ‘Ttls,hiwwya,uatwsh,ladits.’ Now add one a word or something that means something to you like your pets name and your birthday which could give you ‘Ttls,hiwwya,uatwsh,ladits.Tiddles01012015’

Chuck that in https://howsecureismypassword.net/ and it shows how secure this is, and after a few uses you will soon get used to typing it (with Lastpass, you only have to type it once per session).



Featured Image courtesy of Ned Potter via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons (CC by 2.0) license.


Paris, Snails and Strikes

Another week, another project meeting! This time it was a few days in Paris for a project called Not Only Fair Play which is focussed on schools and sport.

For once, the journey wasn’t painful as there were no connections although on arrival at Charles De Gaulle there was a bit of a queue due to Immigration staff being away for lunch (or so it seemed!).

The food was excellent, as was the wine but the bins were overflowing apparently due to another strike. One morning a bin truck did turn up but the guy decided to empty some bins and leave the others – he did pick up whatever he dropped though!

I did manage to get a few hours of touristy stuff during the trip and main things I learned was that the Eiffel Tower is just like Blackpool, the Louvre is bloody massive and the street vendors are grumpy sods.

Whilst the street vendor reluctantly provided a colleague with a paper bag for a purchase, all the waiting staff I saw were great. Well, apart from the lady who took our order near Sacre Cours – the gave the impression of understanding us but the only English word she responded with was beautiful. Probably the reason why they got the order wrong four times which led to a very apologetic manager comping us more of the meal along with a nice bottle of wine.

After hiking up to Sacre Cours, the place was filled with tents selling local produce; wine, beer, cheese, meat and all sorts of other foods. It was teeming with people of all ages having a drink and something to eat with no trouble whatsoever. Most definitely a different drinking culture to most of the UK!

All in all, a great trip and hopefully I can head back at some point to do the real touristy stuff like buying a plastic Eiffel Tower and waiting four hours to view the Mona Lisa from 30 yards away.


I love Zoe

In fact, I love her so much that I have spent a small fortune on her – with my wife’s permission!

I should mention that Zoe isn’t a result of my second mid-life crisis and human, but is a lump of metal with four wheel and no internal combustion engine. She is electric.

After learning a bit about renewables and sustainable transport via some of the projects I am currently working on, I took a look to try and replaced the hated Kia and found it to be ridiculously cheap. Renault contribute £5k as do the government meaning I get a brand new car with negligible fuel costs for £160 per month – cheaper than the Kia. Sure the range is only 60-100 miles, but that is more than enough for my 40 mile commute and the college now has charging points.

So in addition to the reduced costs, I can climb into my ivory tower and take the moral high ground the next time a 4×4 or Volkswagen driver tuts as they walk past me when I’m smoking in the street :)

Order times are long though so I won’t get the chance to enjoy a ride with Zoe until the new year so I’ll continue polluting in the meantime.



In the few months I’ve been in my new job (see previous post), I have been lucky to take a few European trips to Spain and Italy, but a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to again visit Romania for a project meeting.

My previous trip had been to the north, deep into the Carpathians and involved seeing a wild bear just a few feet away from me, a helicopter trip across the country and a Hungarian Count but that is another story. I loved the place and looked forward to returning, this time to Bucharest.

Those of you who know me reasonably well will know that I struggle to speak English from time to time, never mind any other languages – essentially my Romanian is as good as my figure skating. With this in mind, finding myself at Bucharest airport at 00:30 in the morning with no local currency and my taxi nowhere in sight wasn’t the best start to the trip! Thirty minutes later as panic was setting in and after being propositioned by a number of dodgy cabbies, I saw my name upside-down on an iPad – normally I ignore my given name Laurence, but on this occasion the happiness and relief gave me goosebumps.

Bucharest is a strange city. I have been to Eastern European cities before but nowhere with such a dichotomy of buildings – wonderful architecture was stuck right next to brutalist communist concrete blocks. Mind you, nothing prepared me for the government building that Caucescu built to show off his power – it must have been at least 300 metres wide and dominated everything around it. Dictatorship personified.

My main surprise though was the fact that it would appear the UK stag and hen parties hadn’t discovered the place yet. Somewhere that is on a budget airline route and has beer for 50 and Mojitos for a pound is surely going to be spoiled at some point with L plates and pissed up Brits.

Anyway, recommended for a short city break, although I have to admit to preferring the more rural parts of the country.

Next stop, Paris…


Games no more…

So after close to 21 years, I have a job that isn’t part of the games industry. And I feel great!

Sure, a career change after so many years has been a proper culture shock but the removal of the stress of running your own company has improved my life no end. The culture shock was enhanced due to moving from self employment in the games industry to employment in the public sector – educations specifically. No longer do things ‘just get done’ but the positive is knowing that I am making a small change to peoples lives for the better. 

When I say education, this doesn’t mean that I have swapped the sheep herding of games project management for the sheep herding of teaching, but I am now International Project Lead at the local college. It’s a fascinating position involving leading the EU funded projects that the college takes part in – and recently I have now been given the college Incubation space to look after which is right up my street. Some great small businesses are already up and running in there and hopefully I can provide a bit of help to make them a success.

So all change although I still have a fair bit of travelling so no doubt I’ll still be complaining about airlines and dodgy overseas hotels although the days of travelling transatlantic in business class are long over.


The Moon God

Another short written for OU last year. Due to time constaints this wasn’t edited too much from the original blast of words so still needs a lot of editing and redrafting but thought I may as well post in it’s original word-dump…



Being stationed on the Moon, she always thought she had the best office view in the world – that is, until her usual 05:30 alarm woke her and she found the stars had gone.

Eyes wide, she stared out of the window; the entire sky was black. Earth was still there, shining bright over the horizon although she didn’t think it held it’s normal beauty maybe due to it being surrounded by total blackness.

Breathing heavily as she ran from the living area of the complex through to the control area, she pushed the communications button to get in touch with her colleagues down below on the surface. Silence, not even the usual static. No response. Everything seemed to be operational, her screens glowed with data but looking closer her heart went cold and knees started to buckle.

The large Helvetica counter on one monitor read 0.


Her task as Resource Guardian was to monitor life on the planet below and ensure each nation was compliant with the Population Agreement of 2230, her simple mission to ensure that forced euthanasia was taking place to keep the global population under 500 million and allow the diminishing natural resources to last until the Replenishment Plan was fully activated. The dark side of her mission was her power to force euthanasia by a simple command, a power she had never had to use. The public on the planet below referred to her as the Moon God.

The counter provided an accurate population number and that population was zero.

Tracing through the recent logs, she noticed that whilst she was asleep at 02:35 the population dropped within a minute to 437 million before gradually dropping to zero over the next 90 minutes.

It didn’t look like an error. It looked like she was the last person in the world alive.

Quickly, she found the old-fashioned paper guidelines for use in an emergency. Unused to the feel of paper she struggled to turn the pages over without them sticking together before remembering an old movie she once watched where the mass murderer had licked his fingers to fix the same issue – it worked. As she expected, there was no page detailed the procedure for when the counter reached zero nor was there a procedure for being the last person alive.

She remained calm. She didn’t have anyone down on the planet to mourn, her family had long since travelled to the shadows. She had no friends, in fact she had only ever had one friend until she betrayed her confidence – after that she trusted no one and consigned herself to a life alone. It didn’t upset her though, her analytical mind and lack of emotional baggage had served her well through her career. Starting off in research, she had soon risen through the ranks of the Earth Space Agency until becoming the youngest Director in its history. With her emotionless personality and her psychological expertise she was an obvious choice to take the role of Resource Guardian when the role became available.

Nearly eighteen months into the job she could carry out her tasks running on auto-pilot, whilst using the many other hours she had available to expand her knowledge through constant reading. This was her next move as she started to trawl through the world network to try find out anything she could. All seemed normal with the usual stream of zero-G selfies, hoverboard crashcams and porn until 02:35 when she started to find messages expressing horror in all six remaining languages of the world. Each message carried little detail but the majority of them referred to ‘the shadows’; nothing else.

Trying the radio again brought the same silent result. Deciding to head over to the engineering module to check the diagnostics were correct, she picked up her Omnikit and ran through the tunnel to the other side of the complex. Normally, she enjoyed this short trip as the tunnel had been constructed of a transparent material giving her an amazing view of the dusty grey lunar landscape outside, but at this time her stomach was doing somersaults, something she had rarely felt before and definitely didn’t like.

All the diagnostics she ran on the complex systems passed with no issues. Her stomach churned even more as she started to believe that she really could be the last human alive. It didn’t make sense to her though, her logical mind couldn’t comprehend how or why? Heading back to the command module she stopped in the connecting tunnel to look and collect her thoughts. Confused and needing to find out what was happening, she gazed outside and noticed the light was fading. This shouldn’t have been possible as the sun rose less than four days ago so there were still many days left of this lunar day. Sunset was also pretty rapid, far quicker than down on Earth so there was little time for the light to fade but fading it was – and then blackness.

It was only as all light departed leaving her in complete and total darkness that she started to panic. Hands shaking she tentatively reached out to find her way back to the command module. The darkness was clinging and oppressive, unlike anything she had ever experienced and she felt a wave of coldness race through her. Becoming disorientated in the total darkness and with panic starting to overwhelm her, she collapsed to the floor with chest heaving whilst struggling to breathe.

Her mind raced – if the lights were off, then the power was down and the backup generators not running which meant she had no oxygen being recirculated. Her breathing become more laboured as she struggled but as her mental senses began to return to her, she realised that even with no new oxygen, the complex had a few days of air due to its size. Her breathing began returning to normal and as she was about to return to her feet to try and find her bearings, the dim emergency lighting powered up temporarily blinding her as her eyes got used again to vision.

The engineering module was unusually quiet when she arrived. The emergency generators were outside, but to preserve power all but essential services were turned off when they were in use so the usual hum and glow was absent. She did notice that the current power input from the kilometres of solar cells installed to keep the system operating was zero. Again she couldn’t comprehend this as the console showed connectivity to the array, but no power. Strength returning, she raced to the nearest observation panel – the only way there was no power was if the sun had set which would have meant she had lost nearly three weeks somewhere. Eyes wide, she stared out of the observation panel with hands against the cold graphene walls and her face pressed against the transparent window, she couldn’t see the sun – there was no light outside at all.

It was at this point that the meltdown started. She started to feel her head bang like never before. Along with the headache her extremities started to tingle and she started to find difficulty in focusing her mind. She suddenly realised that she was sitting on the floor, tucked into a corner with tears in her eyes.

Her mind was drifting, floating around her life. At first she experienced terror at being the last person alive before her subconscious reconnected with her logical mind and she realized it wouldn’t actually be that bad. She had always been alone, tormented by colleagues who kept trying to befriend her and inviting her into their networks. It had never interested her, friends only added a layer of stress and responsibility that conflicted with her career and constant need for learning. She preferred to be alone; she craved the solitude and only ever wanted her own company as this was the only company that understood her. As her mind processed these thoughts a big smile appeared on her face; her first smile in many years.

She was calm during her return to the main module. Passing through the kitchen and stores she grabbed a few supplies before locking the door and taking a breath. Her thirst for knowledge was still looking for an answer; an explanation. Sitting on the upright chair she again started searching through the recent logs to satisfy her needs. Hours passed as she engrossed herself but still she was no closer to an understanding. Something happened at 02:35 but nobody had actually said WHAT it actually was. Frustrated, she threw her graphite cup to the floor watching it shatter into many pieces.

Feeling weary both in mind and body she lay down in her cot to rest. As she lay, she continue to think about the solitude. As sleep took over, her final thought was of happiness – being the last human alive was an honour, even if she didn’t really like the rest of humanity. As she slept, again she smiled.

She woke with a start. One of those awakenings where the whole body seems to defy gravity and jump up. Her eyes caught the clock showing 01:47 as she noticed that there was again light outside. Jumping up so quickly that she felt a little faint, she noticed out of the small window that there were stars. Heart again pounding, she ran through the corridors noticing on the way that full power had been restored. Arriving at the control module she could see sun, stars and the earth peering over the horizon. There was crackling music coming from the communications panel and a voice telling her to ‘answer the damn radio’. Completely confused, she looked at the counter.


With a blank look on her face the pushed the comms button and her words stumbled out.

‘Yeah. Er, I’m here.’

‘Get your lazy butt out of that cot and give me your report’

She sighed, a long sigh of disappointment. No longer the last human alive. No longer truly alone. No longer special, she felt empty. With no idea what had happened she noticed the sharp debris on the floor where she had smashed her cup – her mind processed that everything DID happen, it wasn’t just a strange dream.

Being a professional, she dropped back into her normal role routine instantly but her smile was gone. Loneliness overcame her being as the lives of half a billion people returned to her world.

Her life returned to normality. She checked the counter and she read, repeated day after day but her mind constantly returned to the memory of bliss she had experienced towards the end of her episode. The more she thought about it, the emptier she felt and the emptier she felt, the more she longed for that feeling again. She never once smiled. Eleven days later she made the decision.

Knowing exactly how to free herself from the emptiness, sadness and heavy oppression she felt, she walked calmly to the command module and started flicking switches and entering commands at the terminal. The number 500,000,000 appeared on screen. Running her finger slowly down the screen the number reduced.


She slowly continued, eyes fixed to the number getting smaller and smaller.


Voices screamed over the communications channel before gradually fading.





The clock showed 04:05. The counter showed zero.


Ella smiled. Happy. She was special again. She truly was the last human alive.


Featured image © Bill Young via Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0 license

Image by byronv2 via Flickr


Quick one written for my OU course last year. I thought it was pretty crap but my tutor seemed to like it :)

Heads bowed
praying to the god of Apple,
Oblivious to the world passing by,
Interested only by the trending topics,
Consumed by the never ending supply
of Likes and Updates,
Instagrams and Vine,
Communication sans vowels,
acronyms combine.
Quadragenarians shrug
WTF eh?

Image © byronv2 via Flickr. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0 license

2014-03-29 16.22.51


One of the poems I wrote as part of my OU studies. Apparently its a pantoum, hence the repetition :)

Fingertips blue, ears bright red
Why are we here, not home instead?
Cold, salty air assaulting the lips
North Sea sprays over as it rises and dips.

Really. Why are we here, not home instead?
Yell the six hundred cheering the boys in dark red
The North Sea crashing over, the small pointless stand
Salvation appears, to warm up the hands.

The six hundred idiots screaming abuse
Showering the ref with jeers and boos
Salvation is here, fingers starting to flex
Warm pie and a bovril, better than sex.

Showering the ref, abusing with flair
Dribble, cross, Goal! Cheers fill the air
Better than sex, but don’t tell the wife
Footie on Saturday, our reason for life.

Dribble, cross, Goal, all part of the fun
The Cold, salty air, its damage now done
Footie on Saturday, to Gayfield we fled
With fingertips blue and our ears a bright red.


Letter with pen and glasses 1

Open University – Creative Writing

those of you who actually know me, like in real life person stuff, will know that I started my Open University degree in 1994! Yep, seriously!

Anyway, last year I got a message saying I only had a few more years to finish it off so this year I am studying a Creative Writing course. The first part was fine although I did get confused with omnipresence, limited omnipresence and other bits and bobs but the true confusion has arrived with Part 2 – poetry.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of poetry (all I can recall is the first few lines to a Betjeman poem I had to study at school; ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn’t fit to graze a cow’ or something similar) and I have always been useless writing it so this is a proper struggle. Fortunately it seems that poetry no longer has to rhyme (sort of in the same way that modern art doesn’t need to be artistic) which makes like so much easier for me.

So from now on in, I can pretty much
write as I see fit,
with no requirement
for lines to rhyme
as long as I alliterate
and observe rhythm
which this collection of words

Anyway, I hate people reading what I write but that is pretty pointless I guess so I’ll post some of my pieces up here for you to ignore.

Mind you, I have recently had an article published in a journal no less. The official bibliographic details are

Scragg, L. (2014) ‘Everyone is a games developer’ The Computer Games
Journal 3(2b) (Special Edition – ‘What is missing from games?’), pp.203 –

which I think is pretty cool!

Anyway, back to self-assessment….




I know I am a bit of a travel snob. I hate flying economy, I never go on buses and I try and avoid using the train wherever possible. I know I am contributing to climate change with my obsession with driving myself wherever I go but at least in my car I am (mostly) in control of my own environment.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of getting the train from Arbroath to Glasgow. Now normally this journey is okay albeit pretty crowded as I try and sleep on the journey (due to the 06:00 early start). Unfortunately yesterday I ended up sitting next to the most annoying person I have ever sat next to on a plane.

First she wanted me to put her heavy luggage overhead for her. Now I have no problem with this and am normally glad to help but I didn’t even get a thank you for doing it. After she eventually got into the window seat and I sat down, she proceeded to elbow me whilst she turned into Mr Tickle whilst trying to take her coat off.

Bruised and slightly annoyed, I put my headphones back in and heard her booming voice above Atom Heart Mother at full blast. She was telling me that I was sitting in her colleagues seat and that I would have to move when he got on in Perth. I had my ticket on the table and took a quick glance in case I was in the wrong seat – I wasn’t. It took a good 30 seconds to explain to her that both my seat reservation and the ticket above the seat said that this was the seat I had reserved and not her colleague. She then got grumpy and turned away when I was in mid conversation.

By this time I was getting pissed off. Then it got worse. Much worse.

She suddenly realised the knew the person sitting behind and turned around to talk to her. Her big loud fucking mouth was inches away from my ear whilst she spent 15 minutes talking to this person whom she obviously used to work with, about all the gossip in her shitty little life and her shitty little job.

In hindsight, I should have told her in no uncertain terms that NO FUCKER IS INTERESTED NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP, but I was still in polite mode and she hadn’t yet clicked my FUCKING RAGING button. After hearing all about how Gail from the Admin department was a bit of a slag, and how Adam should have been fired three times now for what he did (she never said what he did but I think it could have been telling her to shut the fuck up), I gave up on listening to music and tried to zone out – her decibel laden mouth had drowned out even my worse music.

At Perth, her ex-colleague got off as did the guy sitting opposite her across the table. She nudged me, or rather she digged me in the ribs just as I was relaxing with my eyes shut. “You were right. He is sitting in that seat”, she said and I managed to give me my most sarcastic “Fantastic” in reply. She knew I was pissed off.

…and then it came. Her colleague sat down and what happened next had me (and the person sitting opposite me who also had to hear about Gail and slut and Adam the fucking hero) staring at her incredulously. Her first words to her colleague were “You’ll never guess who I have just been speaking to…?”. This WASN’T a rhetorical question for her, her colleague really did have to guess. After an age where I was dreaming of lobotomisation, she piped up with “She didn’t speak to me in ages after what happened. I’d cross the street to get away from her but she was speaking to me nice as pie”.


She seriously destroyed my hearing talking to someone whom she didn’t like? No only was she a gossiping annoying megaphone mouthed pain in the fucking arse, but she was a two faced hypocrite as well.

I gave up at that point and accepted my fate. Another hour of her massive fucking gob spewing high decibel bollocks about fuck knows to her colleague. It is him I feel sorry for as it looked like they were on a work awayday/stayover so whilst I managed to stop the ringing in my ears an hour or so after getting off the train, he is probably still getting it even now.

Sorry pal….
and that is why I try and avoid public transport…