A New Year

The last New Year's resolution I made (and the only one I remember keeping) was to never make another New Year's resolution again. Instead, I have tried to do better at setting achievable goals throughout the year and to not beat myself up too harshly if I have failed to achieve them. This year should be no different.

In an attempt to keep myself on track, I thought it would be a positive act if I publicly listed here some of my immediate and longer term goals for the next few months, as well as some general changes I will be making (or trying to make).

1. Write more

I quite enjoy writing and made it a goal late last year to blog once a week, every Monday. I was reasonably successful but somehow slipped since the New Year1. However, just as with my recent slip back into smoking and the ongoing climb back out, I will have to learn from it and forge on.

Clearly, writing more often is not as important as resisting the nicotine siren song, but it is important to me, so I intend to get back on track, posting a blog once a week (perhaps twice, if I can find enough interesting things on which to blog). I would also like to get back into creative writing with some short stories, songs and more.

2. Record more

Two years ago I had grand plans of recording an album. I still have those plans although after initial success with Holding On, I let it slide as a priority. I would like to get back on this and see if I can make Nothing Left To Take before the year is out. This is a big challenge for me as I find the process of recording both exhausting and stressful. Realising that the whole album feels like a lofty goal to me right now, I will settle for at least getting a couple of songs done.

3. Experience more

My wife, Chrissy, and I made a vow last year to prioritise experiences over things. A big part of that has been to travel more. This year I intend to visit my family and friends in England. It has been two years since I was last there and even longer since I saw some of my friends.

Besides England, I would like to see more of the US (some upcoming weddings should help a little with that) and perhaps travel further afield (anyone looking for guests?). I will also be looking to experience new things and challenge my anxieties.

4. Exercise more

My weight and I have a long, arduous relationship. From visiting a dietitian with my mum when I was just 11 or 12, to running in 5Ks, and a lot of good and bad places in between, I have battled the scales. I have recently been losing that battle, especially with the revived hand-to-mouth habit thanks to a brief return to the smokes. With that in mind, I am serious about making exercise a part of my routine and tapping my willpower when pizza comes calling.

5. Read more

Last year I managed to use reading to get myself back into the gym. I discovered that with the help of a decent book, I could zone out and tolerate an hour of exercise. I will continue that trend and look for other opportunities to read. To that end, I have bought myself a Kindle (it arrives today) and will be returning to my childhood ways, losing hours and hours to an entertaining read. Not only will this help me in my creative writing, but I think it will also help in finding new experiences, new conversations, and new friends.

6. Listen more

I talk a lot. It is one of two things that have been said to me more than any other thing that I can recall in my entire life. I am tall and I talk a lot2. Telling me about either changes neither, but I understand why people continue to feel the need to share their observations on these characteristics.

Contrary to what others may perceive, I do try very hard to curb my talking (curbing my height is much more difficult so I don't try), but there is always more to be done. The biggest issue with talking a lot (a side effect of having a mind that never wants to stop) is that I often don't give others the opportunity to talk and share, which means I listen less and learn less. I have made huge strides in this over the years and I will continue to do what I can to get better at this.

7. Appreciate more

Two years ago I started my own gratitude project, posting daily the things for which I was grateful. It started on Twitter and Facebook, migrated to my blog, and then sort of ended as I failed to find the right place to express it. Showing gratitude is important and I want to continue to do so. However, I found that arbitrarily finding things for which to be grateful turned into a burden, especially on days when "coffee" was one of the items.

More recently, I decided that if I was to express gratitude it would be for specific people and their actions, rather than objects and events. Last year as part of this shift in focus, I intended to start a different take on the gratitude project, but I did not follow through with the execution. This year, I will.

8. Contribute more

The flip-side to gratitude (at least for me) is contribution; doing things for others. Whether this is through my efforts at work, in the developer community, or among my family and friends, I want to do more to give to others and contribute to the well-being of others.

And in conlusion…

I am sure I could come up with more things but this feels like a lot to me. I have no idea if I will be able to live up to the ambition, but at least I have a point of focus, a rough outline to guide me as I make mistakes and share success.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. I realise it is not always relevant to you, but I hope that it continues to be interesting. Please share your thoughts in the comments and perhaps share what 2015 has in store for you.


  1. I'm writing this on Tuesday, for example 

  2. a third in recent years is that I have an accent – something that I share with everyone else who talks 

Learning Poetry: Exercise 5

This is the fifth entry in a series documenting my attempts at exercises in Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking The Poet Within. Since exercise one in the book did not require a post and because I did not really think about it, all my posts are one off, so this post corresponds to exercise six in the book1. For previous exercises, see my earlier posts:

The exercise

  1. Write some anapaestic2 hexameters3 describing how to get to your house
  2. And some dactylic4 pentameter5 on the subject of cows. For fun these should be in the classical manner: four dactyls and a spondee6, with the spondee as spondaic as English will allow7.

The results

From the road take a right by the charlatans office and stop at the sign,
Then straight on by the taxi and seventies house with the hedgerows in line.
You might find that we don't have a car in the drive but we're still there at home.
Try the doorbell and see if we answer, if not don't despair, try the phone.

Fenced in by the powered electrified wires that we stretched out
Far across pastures they stand and they chew upon green grass
Neighbours confused why the cows are all standing in straight lines.
Cattle unsure of the pain they receive if they touch it.

  1. If you want to follow along, you can get your own copy of the book from most book retailers, such as Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor 

  2. The anapaestic meter is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable, as in: ti-ti-tum 

  3. A line of verse containing six metrical feet 

  4. The dactylic meter is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, as in: tum-ti-ti 

  5. A line of verse containing five metrical feet 

  6. two stressed syllables, as in tumtum 

  7. Unlike French, where each syllable is usually supposed to get equal stress, English does not tend to have words with two stressed syllables side-by-side – this is why English speakers often incorrectly add emphasis when speaking French 

Pie and Pirates

Just as with Hell and Hot Chocolate, this was my entry in a short story contest held among the denizens of http://bbs.chrismoore.com (affectionately known to the Mooreons that frequent it as The Boardello).  The challenge was to write a story with the title Pie and Pirates. It's not the best thing I ever wrote, hastily crafted between CounterStrike:Source games, but it did earn me some gel pirates to stick to the window of my apartment.

Pie and Pirates

by Jeff Yates

“Give me the pie and no one gets hurt!” I shouted so that everyone in the tavern could hear. “Argh!” I added, remembering that I was a pirate and it was kind of a rule.

The warning shot I’d fired a few moments earlier, killing Bearded Bill’s parrot and wounding Bearded Bill (who wasn’t actually bearded or named Bill due to him being only 7 years old and named Tarquin), had already silenced the room, making shouting pretty redundant, but it too was kind of a rule.

“Come on, come on! Avast with the pie already! Argh!” said Bearded Bill (still without a beard), who then turned to me and whispered, “I can’t believe you shot Spongebob.”

“Sorry, matey,” I said, eyeing the corpse of his dead beloved as it lay in a feathered heap on the floor. “I never was very good with a pistol, I’m more of a swashbuckler, myself. We’ll get you another parrot.” I ruffled his hair.

“I can’t believe you shot me,” he continued with surprise, as though he’d forgotten all about it until the blood reminded him.

“I said I was sorry! Focus on the matter at hand?” I was hungry and had no time for Bill’s whinging. I turned back to the room and eyed the occupants with suspicion just in case they were getting any bright ideas. “Avast, ye landlubbers! Get the pie or the parrot won’t be the only one to be meeting his maker! Argh!”

Bill, with only a year at sea, was quite naive in the ways of the pirate. I, however, had been at sea for over two years now and at 9, had seen all the world had to see. I was a ruthless killer. A highwayman of the high seas. The scourge of every…

“Excuse me!” said the tavern keeper from the back of the room, “Number 65?”

Bill checked our ticket. “That’s us!” he called back. I elbowed his ribs and raised my eyebrows. “Oh right, Argh!”

As we walked out of the tavern — me carrying the pie, Bill carrying a dead parrot and nursing his wounded shoulder — the keeper shouted after us, “See you next week, boys!”

We both waved behind us and headed for home.

* * *

It took us fifteen minutes or more to trek back to the ship, but once there, we were greeted with growls and licks from the scurvy dogs aboard.

“Good to see you, mateys!” said Bill to the old seadogs.

“Avast! Ye scurvy dogs. Argh!” I added, “And now for the feast! Argh!”

“Argh!” said Bill.

We both sat down on deck and reached for the pie, eagerly anticipating its taste.

“I hope you two aren’t eating that pie!” shouted Captain Mum.

“Aw, mum!” we whined in unison, “We’re playing pirates!”

“I’ll give you pirates! Bring that pie inside before the dogs get it!”

And so, Bearded Bill and One-Eyed Jack, heads hung in shame, walked the plank into the kitchen and sat down for tea.

Mr. Simpson

I want to take this blog entry to tell you all about the man I knew as Mr. Simpson. The problem is, I don't know that much about him, so instead, I'll tell you what I remember.

Mr. David Simpson was one of my high school English teachers. He was really Dr. Simpson, yet he seemed to go out of his way to avoid the title that he had earned. He was a tall, bespectacled,  dark-haired man whom I always remember wearing a suit and tie. He was always impeccably groomed and he had a razor sharp wit.

Mr. Simpson somehow got me to connect with Shakespeare. He had us creating a cast list for our own Romeo & Juliet movie based on whichever contemporary actors we wanted. All mine were from Whose Line Is It Anyway (I was never going to be a casting director), but somehow, his discussion about my justifications for Tony Slattery and Josie Lawrence to be the lead roles was never condescending (it probably should have been). We even watched Romeo & Juliet1 on VHS, so that we could experience Shakespeare through the actors rather than just from the text. Because of Mr. Simpson, The Taming of the Shrew is my favourite Shakespeare play.

Mr. Simpson encouraged me to write. He gave me access to the Apple Mac in his classroom so that I could spend more time writing my homework with a computer to overcome my poor handwriting. He pushed me to write for the school newspaper (though much to our lament, I never made it to print). I wrote a short science fiction story on my Amiga 500— it was 20-something pages long once printed from the dot matrix printer my Dad had bought me from a bric-a-brac store in Blackpool. When I gave it to him to read, eager to hear what he had to say, Mr. Simpson took it home and read it, and he gave me feedback.

Mr. Simpson helped me cope with bullies.

Mr. Simpson and I had our first trips to the top of the Eiffel Tower together. I know because as we made our journey to the top, he proclaimed to the elevator full of other sixth formers from school, "My first time up the Eiffel Tower, and with Jeff Yates too!" Everyone laughed and though I felt a little embarrassed at the time, I look back on it fondly now. And when I subsequently got left behind at the top of the tower for 30 minutes, Mr. Simpson and the other teachers were happy to let me tag along with them for dinner when they found me alone, waiting at the rendezvous point an hour early2.

If my memory were better, I'd be able to tell you more, if my memory were better. The thing is, this might be the best my memory will ever be when it comes to Mr. Simpson. I found out today that sometime in the last few years, he passed away aged 47 years old. I don't know when or how, just that he's gone, that those imagined emails or conversations where we got to reminisce as adults, where I got to thank him for everything that he had done for me— all the things he knew about and the many he didn't, where I got to try and pay him back for his lessons and support will not exist.

It's cliché, but don't wait. Take the opportunity to reach out to those who have influenced your life for the better and thank them. Do it before that opportunity isn't there anymore. I am still crying as I write this. I wish I could take every tear back just to shake his hand and say, "Thank you."

Mr. Simpson was a great teacher and though we hadn't spoken in over 15 years, I will miss him.

  1. The version from before Leo. 

  2. The journey to get there is another story. 

Learning Poetry: Exercise 2

This is the second part in a series of posts documenting my efforts learning more about prosody:

In the last post, I explained how I was learning to be a better poet. I also included my attempts from the first exercise in Stephen Fry's book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within. Now it is time for the fruits of the second exercise. I would love to hear your thoughts on my attempts – what works, what does not, where you think I've gone wrong. Perhaps you might get a copy of the book and have a go yourself. If you do, I'd really like to see your results.

The Exercise

Write five pairs of blank iambic pentameter in which the first line of each pair is end-stopped1 and there are no caesuras2, then write five pairs of blank iambic pentameter with the same meaning, but using enjambment3 and at least two caesuras.

The topics for each of the five pairs are:

  1. Precisely what you see outside your window.
  2. Precisely what you'd like to eat, right this minute.
  3. Precisely what you last remember dreaming about.
  4. Precisely what uncompleted chores are niggling at you.
  5. Precisely what you hate about your body.

The Results


  1. The blur of trees is racing out of sight,
    As speedily the train ploughs down the line.

  2. A pack of tasty chips from in my bag.
    The ones I bought last night inside the store.

  3. A crazed outlandish woman blocked my path,
    Demanding love and drinks from all my friends.

  4. I really must repair the door and step,
    And take the time to see the naked earth.

  5. My gut has grown from laziness and food,
    It hurts to walk upon my foot as well.

Using enjambment and caesuras

  1. The trees, in blurs of green that race beside
    the train, demark the path we travel on.

  2. Some chips, perhaps a drink of something, I bought
    selections from the store last night. Thank God.

  3. So drunk, the girl accosted me, she asked
    if anyone would like a kiss. We ran.

  4. The earth is bare, it waits for seeds, we might
    sew grass or herbs. And still the door needs work.

  5. From food, my gut has grown to fill the space
    beyond my pants. Yet still my foot, it aches.

  1. A single thought that finished with the line. 

  2. Pauses, which break up the flow. 

  3. Where the meaning runs on from one line to the next.