Sunday, March 12, 2017

Where In The World Has Your Browsing History Taken You Today?

I usually joke that if anyone looked at my internet browsing history, I’d very likely get locked up. Research takes me to all kinds of strange websites, and hunting down weird bits of information. This week has been no exception.

I’m also right up against a deadline for the next Charlie Fox book, which is just reaching the closing stages – the part where I’m really loath to tear myself away. So, I thought I would share with you today’s browsing history.

The other reason for this is that I recently had a reminder from fellow crime author Sarah Hilary that entries for the Flashbang Flash Fiction competition were just about to close. I’m one of the judges for this, and have been for several years now. And the winner that still sticks in my mind was Iain Rowan’s entry, Search History from 2012. It went from ‘internet dating’, via ‘engagement rings’ and ‘wedding venues’ to ‘signs your partner is seeing someone else', ‘woodchipper hire’, and finally back to ‘internet dating’ again.

I don’t think my browsing history is quite that elegant, but at the moment I have tabs open on my desktop for Google Maps, on which I’ve been investigating the overland route between the port of Odessa on the Black Sea, Ukraine, and Borovets in the mountains of Bulgaria, via Moldova and Romania.

Very useful to know it was around 1060km, and would take at least fourteen-and-a-half hours, if nobody wanted to stop to eat, sleep, or go to the loo!

I dragged the route over a little because I particularly wanted to take my travellers through Transnistra – the next tab I have open. Transnistra, also known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), is a kind of semi-autonomous strip on the western side of Moldova between the River Dniester and the Ukrainian border. After the breakup of the USSR, it strove for independence, and a brief war was fought over this in the early 1990s. It now has its own president, currency, licence plate, national anthem and flag – the only one still to bear the Soviet hammer and sickle. It has been recognised as an independent state by just three countries, none of which are UN member states.

I have a page open from the World Nomads website discussing how safe Moldova is for tourists, and about police corruption. Fascinating stuff.

A news item in The Guardian recently caught my eye, about the new president’s intention to increase spending on the military, but to cut budgets for other, equally vital services, which may in the long run do more to keep the peace than a soldier with a gun.

I was sent a link to this TinyBuddha blog by David deSouza about small ways in which you can give back, including online mind games that donate rice to charity – – and a Tamagotchi-style app called Forest that allows you to cultivate a virtual tree by keeping off your mobile devices, thus improving your time spent at work, actually working. And the nicest thing is, apparently the people behind the app do actually go out and plant real trees in relation to the number of ones you’ve virtually grown.

Another open page is The Common Room blog on the Pterion, which is the area of the skull just behind the temple, where four bones of the skull meet, creating a weak point. A sub-cranial artery runs through this area, making it especially vulnerable to attack.

And finally, a page found via the AOL news, on a story that women applying for a UK driving licence are obliged to answer questions about their marital status, which are not asked of male applicants. The item in question highlighted the problems on particular woman had when she, too, asked for no title on her new licence, only for it to turn up incorrectly labelling her as ‘Mrs’. It’s not so much the story that interested me, as the comments below the piece, which gave away rather a lot about the attitudes of the commenters. All useful research …

So, what would anyone looking at your recent browsing history have found?

This week’s word of the week is kakorrhaphiophobia, meaning an abnormal fear of failure. It comes from atychiphobia, meaning a fear of failure, but with the addition of kako, from the Greek for ‘bad’. So, really bad fear of failure.

Right, back to my deadline!


  1. Well, let's see... my most recently opened tab is some silly blog site where the bloggers suffer from something called kakorrhaphiophobia, whatever the hell that is. Because I've been working so hard lately, and my work, alas, doesn't lend itself to browsing bizarre websites, about the most interesting pages I've had open were how to butcher a chicken, and how to cook an old hen. You see, one of my 3-year old hens learned how to break eggs a few weeks back, and my egg collection dropped to zero. It was a stressful morning a few days ago, more for the hen than for me, I suspect. A lot of 'firsts' were achieved. :-(

    But I know how to deal with politicians now...

  2. What great way question, Zoe. In the past couple of days I have searched a Washington Post article on Steve Bannon's peripatetic, rather sleazy pre-Trump existence, a 1915 book called "The German Army at War," the history of Earth Day, a bunch of map searches about places in Florence, and the shape of Richard III's spine. The most emotional search has been my latest--the weather forecast for NYC. Despite my Herculean efforts to avoid winter, a big storm should be hitting my home base just as my plane lands on Tuesday. :((

    I loved Iain Rowan's story!!!

  3. You've made me very eager to read your book with the road trip via Romania and Moldova, especially Transnistria, Zoe! I know that part of the world a bit, although things keep changing.

  4. I'd say my browsing history these days is an embarrassment. No sex, no booze, no guns, no violence. Just politics...then again, I guess that more than covers all those more traditional categories.

    By the way, if your open browser windows in any way reflect holiday planning on your part, I hope you'll turn south and head down our way. Our cops can match up to theirs any time.

  5. I am always wandering around posh folks houses on the net looking for places for my characters to live. I can get quite lost doing that. 'You'd think for a £600000 flat in Edinburgh they would have nicer towels in the loo.' ETC.
    As for the rest of the internet searches... I'd be arrested.
    And the pterion... middle meningeal artery ... one whack with a cricket ball..patient goes down, gets up, feels fine ... then falls asleep and does not wake up. Well that way the way of it before Brexit!