Simply The Best Carrot Cake Recipe

A slice of carrot cake heaven
A slice of carrot cake heaven

As a special gift to you all on the first day of 2013, my wonderful, creative, and talented wife, Fatma, has allowed me to share her famous carrot cake recipe.
Not only is this the tastiest, most wholesome carrot cake ever likely to pass your lips, it is also unbelievably light, containing almost no fat or butter, and is so easy to make, even I can do it. Continue reading “Simply The Best Carrot Cake Recipe”

Surviving Neonatal Care – The 65-day Journey Home from BWH NICU.

IMG_0156Having been asked by staff at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to write a short account of our experiences there, following the birth of our twins, this is an attempt to summarise those 9 1/2 weeks in a way that might be useful to other parents about to embark on a similar journey.

For most parents-to-be, the expectation is of a natural child-birth after some  40 weeks of pregnancy – give or take a week or so. As parents of twins, we knew our two would probably arrive 2 or 3 weeks earlier than this, which for us would hopefully mean just in time for Christmas. Yet from around week 23, with the start of intermittent bleeding and water-loss, these expectations were about to be shattered. Continue reading “Surviving Neonatal Care – The 65-day Journey Home from BWH NICU.”

Why debate gun control when the evidence speaks for itself?

Whether yesterday’s tragedy could have been avoided with tighter gun controls will once again be hotly debated. For those of us watching from the other side of the pond, it’s hard to understand the passion with which so many Americans defend what they see as their god-given right to bear arms. But when mainstream news anchors like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly behave like this towards anyone with the temerity to challenge that right, one soon realises how entrenched this “gun culture” has become, and how hard it will be to eradicate. Incidentally, inviting people onto your show only to lecture them on why you think they are wrong and without giving them any opportunity to defend their position, does seem a bizarre variation on the “interview” format. Continue reading “Why debate gun control when the evidence speaks for itself?”

Sentience, Morality and Veganism

Following my post last week, questioning the consciousness of newborns, I exchanged a number of tweets with a professor of developmental psychology, who made the interesting observation that,

The points you make also, paradoxically, show why conscious awareness should not be a criterion for personhood.
(and that is a whole bag of worms, potentially, for topics like animal rights theory, “fetal personhood” bills, etc). Good stuff

So if you don’t need to be conscious to be regarded as a person, what criteria should be used? What about someone in a persistent vegetative state for example? I put this to my newly acquainted professor, who responded as follows:

huge question. I can argue several different sides of it! 🙂 I have different personal vs. political views. Nutshell: sentience

She then continued: Continue reading “Sentience, Morality and Veganism”

Neonatal Consciousness – What is it like (if anything) to be a newborn baby?

Alya Joy Denman, 25 days after birth, 32 weeks gestation

Five weeks after the nail-biting experience of having our twins born two months early, my wife and I have now settled into a routine of regular visits to the neonatal intensive care unit, where our little boy and girl try to complete the remainder of their gestation in perspex boxes.

And so, as they lie there, mostly peacefully but with occasional myoclonic jerks, hiccups and tentative openings of the eyes, I find myself wondering what, if anything could be passing through their little minds. Do they even have minds? Are they even capable of consciousness at such an early stage of development? Continue reading “Neonatal Consciousness – What is it like (if anything) to be a newborn baby?”

The slow climb to babyhood – First reflections on the premature birth of our twins.

Hakan James Denman on the day of his birth at 28 weeks gestation

On Wednesday October 17th2012, at 10:14am, a tiny baby boy weighing just 1.05Kg was lifted from my wife’s womb through an emergency Caesarian section. One minute later, following a slight widening of the incision, he was joined by his 915g twin sister.

As I sat, head-end of the partition, comforting my awake yet spinally anaesthetized spouse, I caught glimpses of red and pink flesh being whisked away into the corner of the room, where a half-dozen doctors and nurses immediately busied themselves with swift, practised efficiency. For the next minute or so, the operating theatre seemed eerily quiet, then a brief, soft, plaintive cry broke the silence. This was followed almost immediately by a repetitive, almost musical set of tones reminiscent of an arcade game, but which, under the circumstances seemed more likely to be an alarm of some kind. Here I must admit, I lost track of time. For what seemed like a further 30 minutes, but which in hindsight was probably only 5 or 10, we waited, trying to take comfort in each other’s presence, desperately hoping to hear that our babies were safe and well. Continue reading “The slow climb to babyhood – First reflections on the premature birth of our twins.”

What if money was no object?

Today on Facebook, an old school friend shared the above video, in which the late British philosopher, Alan Watts, in a gentle, fatherly and wonderfully mellifluous tone, makes a strong case for pursuing whatever activity we would desire if money was no object.  This beguiling thought inevitably got me thinking about the dilemma faced by most first-time or would-be authors.

Most people I know seem to have, at one time or another, thought of writing a book. And while the flood of self-published e-books appearing on Amazon might suggest that an increasing number are now moving beyond the “thinking” stage, I wonder if we’re just seeing more of the iceberg that was always there, and that Amazon has merely raised the specific gravity of the sea in which that iceberg floats.

So why this reluctance to move from thought into action? Continue reading “What if money was no object?”

Science Fiction Plausibility & The Donnie Darko Effect

My eldest daughter and I recently rented the film Source Code, a fast-paced time-slip / alternative-reality action thriller in which an US army pilot, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, awakens on a commuter train with no memory of how he got there, and inexplicably inhabiting the body of a total stranger. After 8 minutes, the train blows up, although you’ll be pleased to hear that this is not the end of the story. As Science Fiction films go, it’s not bad – providing you don’t examine the science too carefully. The plot rips along, ticking all the boxes for action, fantasy, romance and mystery with even a hint of philosophical questioning, which sets you thinking (or rather scratching your head) after the film ends. So it was no surprise when, as the credits started to roll, my daughter turned to me with the now familiar words, “Wait a minute! So what really happened?”  Continue reading “Science Fiction Plausibility & The Donnie Darko Effect”

Why do we like Music? – Part 2 – Answer: Fractals?

In part 1 of this essay, we looked briefly at the history of music and at possible explanations for its universal appeal.  Today, I want to discuss three recent pieces of  research which further support and expand on what we’ve already discussed. Continue reading “Why do we like Music? – Part 2 – Answer: Fractals?”

Why do we like music? – Part 1

listening to music
listening to music
Listening To Music by Petr Kratochvil

Music seems to have a been a part of human culture since the beginning of culture itself. Earlier this year, researchers excavating caves in southern Germany found ancient flutes carved from mammoth ivory, subsequently shown via Carbon dating to be between 42000 and 43000 years old. This means we were making music at least as far back as the time when we shared the Earth with Neanderthals.  But why? Continue reading “Why do we like music? – Part 1”