Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Running eye-tracking experiments with PsychoPy and Tobii: A step-by-step guide for technophobes and novices

Over the past 2 years of my PhD I've found myself edging around the boundaries of my comfort zone - often dipping my toes in the distinctly uncomfortable - on many occasions. There has only been one situation that has left me feeling so utterly incapable that I didn't think I'd be able to make it through, and that was most recently, when trying to set up a new eye-tracking experiment using PsychoPy, with Tobii as my eye-tracking interface.

There are numerous reasons why I wanted to do this - mainly because it was on every count better than the only other option I had - but I won't go into them here. All I'll say is that, after the Leeds Multimodality Conference, during which I attended an excellent Tobii workshop with Dr Tim Holmes of Acuity Intelligence and found out about PsychoPy, I was convinced that this would be the solution to the many problems I had been facing. I could say that it was also the start of a new set of problems, and I wouldn't be lying if I did, but the slant that I prefer is that it was the start of a (very) steep learning curve, one which I am very happy to be nearing the top of, and one which I can confidently say has changed my technophobic ways for the better.

Armed with some helpful user guides, words of encouragement from Tim and a few very kind and highly intelligent neighbours and colleagues, I finally got to the stage where I was able to run my full experiment through PsychoPy as I had hoped I would. Part of my problem was a lack of information online for people who really do know nothing about coding - I am (was?) one of these people, and while I see now that I got myself quite far using only information sourced from the excellent PsychoPy User Group, life would have been much easier, and a large amount of time would have been saved, if I'd had access to a simple step-by-step guide to setting up a simple experiment in PsychoPy that was able to talk to Tobii.

So, here is that step-by-step guide, and if one other computing novice out there benefits from it then it will all have been worthwhile! I may have missed out some obvious issues, and I may be using a non-technical language that is insulting to anyone who knows anything about this stuff: for this I apologise in advance, and welcome any comments, suggestions or advice on this topic.There are still some technical issues, and if these get resolved I will most happily post further information as I acquire it. People much smarter than me have helped and still are helping with this at every stage, and I should say that none of them have found it easy or obvious - one small fact that I have consoled myself with on a number of occasions!

Please note that this guide is tailored to Windows computers only. If you are on Mac or Linux then let me know and I can send some more specific information :) 

First thing to note: you need to find out what bitness your computer is, as this is important for everything you do from hereon-in. You can find that out here, if you don't already know. 

1. Build experiment in PsychoPy Builder.

2. Add a code component into your experiment. This will enable communication between PsychoPy and the eye-tracker. A simple code can be copied from the Stroop for eye-tracking demo, which can be found in the materials from an ECEM workshop, located here (under 'Previous Events'). On page 17-19 of the PDF Py4ET you can find a code for the Stroop demo. This can be copied and then amended to suit the purposes of your own experiment. Don’t forget to make sure that the code is aligned exactly as it is in the Stroop demo: if you miss out an indentation it will not work!

For the purposes of my experiment I only needed PsychoPy to talk to the eye-tracker; no response was required from the participants in terms of mouse-clicks or keyboard-presses, so I deleted these sections from the Stroop demo code. If you leave them in it will still work, but you will find code in your data that specifies when you clicked the mouse to start, or pressed Escape to finish.

3. Now you need to set up the iohub. This took me a while as it wouldn't work and I couldn't work out why. Iohub is a package for use with Python, and enables the use of external devices and the monitoring and coding of events through these devices.

First, you need to make sure that you have Python installed on your computer. Iohub is now merged with PsychoPy, so if you have an updated version of PsychoPy (1.74 or higher) you will already have iohub installed by default. However, there are a few more packages that need to be installed before PsychoPy will talk to the iohub. These can be found here.

So, before you start, it’s worth getting a few things in order on your C: drive. Make sure that Python has a folder on the C: drive – C:\Python27. Then make sure that your experiment is saved in this drive, under …\Lib\site-packages.

Now you want to download all of the iohub dependencies for the version of Python that matches the version in your C: drive, and save them all to the \site-packages folder. This makes sure that everything is in the right place for your experiment – if it isn’t in the right place, PsychoPy won’t know where to retrieve the files from.

4. Once the iohub is installed you need to install the SDK. This is a language binding, which means it enables communication between various coding software and Tobii. It works with Python, and so can be used with PsychoPy, but is also compatible with EPrime and Matlab. SDK simply stands for software development kit, and Acuity Intelligence has created it to be fully integrated with Tobii, so it’s very easy to run.

Before installing the SDK you need to make sure you have Bonjour downloaded on your system. This is a device which locates any eye trackers that are connected to your computer either through a USB or through a network. 

You'll also need Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 SP1 Redistributable Package, which can be downloaded here

Now it’s time to install the SDK, which comes as a zip file, and should be unpacked to the C: drive. As well as the SDK files you’ll find some information on how to build experiments through the SDK (as opposed to using iohub) and some demos, too.

5. Next you need to add the appropriate eye-tracker to the code and make sure that all of the relevant information is provided in PsychoPy. In ‘Experiment Settings’ at the top of the PsychoPy screen you will find some blank boxes for ‘Experiment info’. Create a field for the eye tracker called Eye Tracker (or similar) and under default type in tobii_std.yaml. When you run the experiment this should come up in the dialogue box before you start.

Now we need to return to the ECEM materials folder to locate the .yaml file which will tell PsychoPy all of the necessary information about the eye tracker. Go to the Stroop demos folder (with eye tracking) and you will find four .yaml files all labelled in relation to various eye-trackers. Copy the tobii_std file and paste it into the site-packages folder.

6. Now it’s time to set a path for the experiment so that all of the packages can talk to one another. This is most easily done in the Environment Variables settings of your computer. In Windows 8 this can be found under Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced System Settings > Advanced. Click on the ‘Environment Variables’ button and then click on ‘New…’.  Under Variable Name type PYTHONPATH, and set the variable to the Modules folder in the unzipped SDK folder. So, if the modules folder can be found under C:\...\tobii-analytics-sdk-3.0.83-win-x32\tobii-analytics-sdk-3.0.83-win-Win32\Python27\Modules, you need to set the variable up as %PYTHONPATH%;C:\Users\Catherine\Documents\tobii-analytics-sdk-3.0.83-win-x32\tobii-analytics-sdk-3.0.83-win-Win32\Python27\Modules.

Now if you try to run your experiment in PsychoPy it should work!

 7. Finally, we have to get Tobii ready to start tracking eye movements while PsychoPy is running the actual experiment. This bit is easy! Just set up a new experiment and add the ‘Screen Record’ icon from the media toolbar to the timeline. Now you are ready to run the experiment!

To run your experiment, begin recording in Tobii and calibrate the participant as you would normally. When the calibration is finished, start the experiment in Tobii as normal – this will enable the eye-tracker to get data on the participant’s eye movements – and then run your experiment in PsychoPy. When the experiment is over, just press ‘Esc’ (or the equivalent key to finish running the experiment in Tobii) and screen recording will stop on the eye tracker. 

Good luck! And please provide any feedback: both positive and negative comments are welcome!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

My Own Version of Normal.

There has been a lot of dedicated time for discussion about mental health issues in the media recently. From #timetotalk day at the beginning of February, to Eating Disorders Awareness Week a couple of weeks ago. Appropriately for me, there was also an OCD week of action recently. OCD is something I rarely talk about outside the comfort of my own home/CBT session, but its presence in my life is becoming more noticeable as I see people rising to address mental health issues via social media, and I feel I owe it to myself as well as any other OCD sufferers out there to acknowledge OCD for what it is, which is probably way more than most people think it is. According to the OCD week of action is was "time to act", but in my case I've been acting (knowingly) for more than 12 years, and I realised that it's probably time to stop acting. Contrary to the usual mantra, it may, finally, be time to stop acting and start talking, so here we go.

I don't feel any need to 'come out' about my OCD - no reason to apologise or confess anything in particular. Those who matter to me never ask me to, and never question why I behave the way I do. It's not something I've purposely hidden, but have instead come to keep sealed under an ever-tightening lid of reflexive excuses. After all, it's not something that arrives easily into conversation, and while in retrospect I wish I'd had the guts to say 'it might seem like I'm a bit weird but actually it's OCD' to every new friend I've made over the years, somehow that doesn't quite work in reality. I know that to a large extent it's down to the endless stereotypes of neatness, checking the front door twice, using hand sanitizer, and so on, and partly down to the trivialization of the condition by so many people who self-define as being 'OCD-ish' because they like to iron their shirts in a certain way. Anyway, it's obvious that the general public's idea of OCD is completely misconstrued, so maybe it's time to explain.

OCD: obsessive compulsive disorder. According to
intensely negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, combined with a chronic feeling of doubt or danger (obsessions). In order to quell the thought or quieten the anxiety, they will often repeat an action, again and again (compulsions).
I would also use the word 'irrational' here. Often intensely, ridiculously irrational but perfectly sensible and obvious to the obsessive compulsive person. There is nothing obsessive, compulsive or indeed irrational about washing hands before eating. I think that actually comes under 'good personal hygiene'.

As this is a condition that is very much grounded in behaviours, OCD symptoms are unlike the symptoms of many other mental health issues because they are (often) visible. You need to look closely, but they are there. It has been my preoccupation over the past 12 years to make them as invisible as possible, and while in some ways this has been a therapy in itself, it's also caused a whole load of compulsive behaviours to stay locked up as habits and reflexes. I should add here that at the moment I'm more on top of these habits and behaviours than I have been in a long time - some days I'm not even aware of the presence of an OCD in my life, and I know that this makes me one of the lucky ones. But when I think back over time and how the behaviours that I see as 'mine' have mutated, largely alongside the periods of life that have been the most difficult, I'm generally pretty amazed by the way this thing has taken hold of me. Strangest of all, some of the things that I could never have faced back in the early days of my OCD diagnosis are perfectly fine for me now, while back then I was able to do things that I wouldn't dream of doing now. And when I see other people doing those things (which I do, every single hour of every single day), my insides recoil in horror and I experience just a prickle of the fear that stops me from doing them myself. Weird eh? However, this also gives me hope that one day I might not be this weird at all - maybe one day I'll be able to do it all, and that would be awesome.

A little mantra that I go by is 'get out of your comfort zone'. Usually I'm referring to PhD-related activities, or to running or climbing or even trying a new kind of food or music genre, but in reality outside my comfort zone is my default setting, and it's when my comfort zone is completely out of sight that the OCD behaviours really take hold; generally during periods of high pressure, stress or upset, or when there are lots of people to deal with all at once. There are other times when I'm able to push those comfort zone boundaries as far as I can, and naturally this is during periods when I'm especially chilled out or having fun - it's the reason I can run in races (pre-marathon toilets are no one's idea of a safe environment) and that I've surprised myself so much on occasions at friends' houses when all of my OCD behaviours go out the window and I can chill out with a glass of wine. Those days are the best.

The worst thing about having OCD is that it's all-consuming; there are very rarely periods of down-time, even when I'm well within the boundaries of my comfort zone. It's a bit like being stuck in a cage, which shrinks and shrinks as anxiety increases, until the bars are squeezing in too tight and the noise is too loud and I'm pretty sure the only option is to self-combust. There have been times when I've rushed out of a shop halfway through buying something at the checkout, or thrown out large quantities of food 'just in case', or whole days when I haven't had a glass of water or something to eat, just because I was too stuck in that tightening cage to be able to grab on to anything rational to help pull me back out. It's here that I quietly recognise the very tiny number of people (n=2) who I've shared my thought-processes in detail with - one of whom has meandered slowly out of my life, and the other who has committed to putting up with me for life - and their patience and resilience in the face of these unpredictable reactions to normal life situations. Living with someone with OCD is pretty tough - walking on eggshells would be an appropriate expression - as OCD eyes and ears are constantly looking out for threats to the safe (for me) environment of home. I've trained myself not to look as Daniel hangs out the towels or empties the dishwasher, but there's still that rush of fear when I hear him going about these perfectly normal jobs without my standards being imposed on him as he does so. Imagine having to do every task yourself in order to make sure everything conforms to the rules of an OCD. Exhausting. Equally exhausting are the myriad 'normal' tasks that come with being an independent human: I could write a whole blog post on the intricacies of making a cheese sandwich with OCD.

Most people have to face their biggest fears at certain times in their lives. Some people choose to do it - climbing the Eiffel Tower and peeping over the edge of the top balcony, doing a sky dive - while others just go for it when presented with the opportunity - picking up a spider and popping it safely out of the window, stroking a dog - and then there's the awful, unavoidable things that sometimes force people to face what they're most afraid of - taking a trip on a plane, speaking in public. That feeling of relief when you face something that terrifies you and realise that you're ok, that you've survived at the end of it, is not comparable to anything else. Relief combined with pride combined with the aftershock of terror, sort of like being drunk momentarily - it's quite a good feeling, from what I can tell from my own experiences of jumping off things or peering over things or talking in front of large numbers of people. Similarly, while it's been a while now since I 'faced' door handles, and over a year since I mastered the technique of eating a tangerine without touching it with my hands, still every time I do these things (every day) I notice, and my stomach sort of flips and the cage bars rattle, and then I remember that it's ok because I've 'survived' it now hundreds of times in a row*, and then my heart and my head do a little victory dance together, and slowly those bars get a little bit further away. I call these moments small victories, comparable to jumping out of a plane time and time again, forever grateful for surviving, yet always aware that next time I might not. So then I touch the nearest chair or doorframe, just in case, and continue on my way.

If you like to laugh while learning about OCD then check out my friend Adam's stand up set, OCD Octopus!

*here I pause to tap on the coffee table, just in case

Friday, 31 January 2014

A Veganuary in Review

The Veganuary campaign caught my eye on Twitter in the run-up to Christmas, and just happened to coincide with a period of serious umming and aahhing about the food choices I did and didn't want to make. It's been exciting to see the momentum that it's picked up over the course of January, and while I don't feel that I've been a fully on-board participant (for reasons that I'll go into shortly), it's been a fun and surprisingly challenging experience that I'm glad I took on.

Before I begin to try summarising all of the things that this vegan month has brought, some important facts need to be considered:

1) I've been meat-free since 2003.
2) I became fully vegetarian in 2005, by which I mean no gelatin, no anchovies, no oyster sauce, etc.
3) In my view there is nothing more glorious than bread lavished with a thick layer of salty butter. Nothing.
4) I've been considering and reconsidering my vegetarianism for a year or so, and in November I started eating fish again.
5) During marathon training I've tended to give up milk - at least during the week - as I find my gut is more sensitive when I'm putting myself through so much physical torture training.

Based on facts #1, #2 and #5, I thought that going vegan for a month would be a breeze. We eat pretty much no dairy in our evening meals, I tend to stick with veggies or soup for lunch, and porridge can easily be made with non-dairy milk, right? I'm sure that it was much easier for me than it would have been for many meat-eaters out there, trying out veganism for the first time, but in fact it was much more of a challenge (and at times, a headache) than I had anticipated.

I started Veganuary on 2nd January (see above about my half-hearted commitment!) after a New Year's lunch of fish and chips - my first in years and years and years, at a lovely pub in Sandsend after a day walking in torrential rain. The batter was light and beautifully crisp and the fish was gloriously chunky, but still, after a few mouthfuls I could only think 'meh', and secretly wished that I'd ordered the vegetarian chilli. By the next day - a Thursday - I was ready to go, and we'd planned a menu of our favourite dairy-free meals to see us through the following week. But all my enthusiasm came undone almost as quickly as it had started, when I tucked in to a slice of freshly-baked bread the following Sunday, smothered with peanut butter. I tried olive oil, still it wouldn't do. So I bought some vegan 'margarine' (eurgh what a disgusting word) and have died a little inside (probably literally) every time I've used it.

Did someone say portion control?
A few days later I had a latte in my favourite coffee shop. Normally I would have got a frothy latte made with organic local milk, but my vegan option was distinctly less joyful, and moreover it was made with non-organic soya milk. My point has always been that, in my opinion at least, it is the small choices we make (organic dairy, no soy wherever possible, locally-produced cheese, etc. etc.) that make the biggest impact: turning vegetarian and living off manufactured Quorn nuggests of despair and soy-based proteins is probably not the best way to make a more positive impact on the world. But there I was, drowning in dairy-free, soya-shaped options, eating crayon-coloured melted plastic on my beautiful homemade bread, and feeling very much like veganism might be the worst choice I could make.

I was feeling pretty gloomy about the whole thing, and also missing cake (I have since baked a few great vegan cookies and muffins and have inevitably eaten more cakes than I ever would have otherwise), when it hit me like I imagine silence might hit any long-suffering victim of tinnitus - I no longer had stomach ache. Months and months - years and years! - of grinding cramps in my intestines went silent one day, and honestly haven't made an appearance since. Over the course of the month I feel as if my insides have taken a new lease of life - they're dancing a glorious, pain-free dance and everything just feels easier. I also feel lighter, somehow - not in the literal sense, too much cake for that, but in a physical sense, nonetheless.

Vegan cookies - they looked better than this in real life!
Once I realised that this little experiment was having such a positive effect on my health, and consequently my mood, it suddenly became pretty easy. I stopped fretting over the margarine and instead started to enjoy trying out new recipes, as well as going back to some of my old favourites. The next test came when I ran a half marathon on 20th January. Normally I'd have eggs after a long run, but instead I stuck to lentil soup. The weird cravings hit me harder than usual, and for some reason I found myself halfway through a rather large bag of crisps (why does anyone ever eat crisps?) before I noticed that they weren't vegan. Ah well. A better post-run recovery plan should have been in place, because it turns out that my usual recovery staples of eggs, milk and chocolate biscuits can't easily be replaced with lentils.

So now I am balanced between two lifestyles, unsure about which way to go next. Overall health is a big question, but to me the ethical side of what I eat is equally as big, and in my opinion veganism doesn't cut the mustard. Again, small choices over big sweeping commitments. I honestly don't know what I'll do next, but I'm pretty sure it won't involve fish - it turns out that it wasn't really for me, as delicious as Elly's spiced mackerel recipe was. I'm also sure that it won't involve soya milk or vegan 'butter' (pah!), but it probably will involve more avocados, nuts, nut butters and tahini. Just as my palate has transformed over the past 10 years to the point where fish and chips taste a bit 'samey', so too has it changed over the past month to find serious satisfaction in a handful of nuts, a 'creamy' tahini sauce, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Essentially, though, I think it's too easy to get bogged down in the shoulds and the shouldn'ts. While it's all too typical of our gloriously privileged society to think that we somehow have the right to have milk on our cereal and meat on our dinner plate every day, consideration of these issues is the first and most important step: once we start thinking, we're already acting. Vegetarianism, veganism, raw food, whatever - at the end of the day they're all sweeping commitments to habits that aren't ever going to be 100% ethically sound. Maybe the most important thing any individual can do in this respect is to consider their options alongside their choices, and to do whatever feels the most right, both personally and generally. That way we're more likely to make choices that stick for the longterm, and even when these choices change as we change (as has happened to me), to keep thinking and keep choosing what works best on both levels at any one point.

I definitely recommend testing out veganism, as it turns out that cutting out dairy can leave you feeling 100% better, and that's always worth a shot. Other than that, though, there are some seriously delicious vegan recipes out there that are worth trying out - my top 5 are linked below!

Oh She Glows' Roasted butternut squash pasta sauce

Oh She Glows' Roasted Buddha bowl

Oh She Glows' Creamy avocado pasta sauce

Oh She Glows' Creamy cauliflower 'Alfredo' 

Veggie Runners' best ever roasted squash


Monday, 6 January 2014

Twelve Awesome Memories from 2013

I was reluctant to do any sort of '2013 summary' this year, for a number of reasons. Mainly because it really has been an incredible year, and I wanted to avoid any gloaty account of the past 12 months as, let's face it, that's how these things can appear, especially after a relatively long silence here on my blog. But I've been doing lots of reflecting, as is typical in this part of the new year, and also looking over a few photos, of which there are relatively few. Some of the best moments of 2013 couldn't have been photographed even if I'd thought to take my camera along with me, and over time I know the memories will fade, leaving only massive moments and filtering all the tiny details. Words are swimming around in my head, and I want to capture the words to match the memories, before they disappear beyond concrete recollection.

It goes without saying that 2013 wasn't all good - I broke my toe on my wedding day, for a start, and even before then there was a sickly marathon and a few wedding-induced 'fiascos' that I'd rather leave aside. I don't need to write about the toe, and I certainly don't need to post any photos of it (though I do have some!), so let's focus on the positives, eh?

So, here are my twelve* awesome bits from 2013, in chronological order:

1. Falling over in the mud on the Cartmel Lakeland Trail
Mud is probably one of my favourite things ever, and a muddy trail race is, in my opinion, probably the only decent thing to do with  a freezing but bright Saturday morning. Cartmel was a Christmas present from my Dad - he'd signed me up for the faster race, and I was soon left behind by all the other wiry fell-runners. At first I was annoyed at myself for being too slow, but then I turned a corner and Morcambe Bay and an expanse of water stretching out to Scotland appeared before me, and I was on top of the world. I wasn't concentrating and I fell - whoooosh - through the mud, which provided a soft landing and covered me right down my right side. The fall forced me to chill out and enjoy the rest of the race, which was just amazing, and I would happily have done it all again once I got to the finish.

2. Coffee in the snow
We spent Easter weekend in Stockholm, just before I moved out there for a month to run an experiment. Scandinavia was still thick with snow, and we enjoyed an absolutely glorious few days wandering around the city and taking in its art galleries, cinnamon buns and waterside footpaths. We stopped off at the lovely Rosendals Trädgård for a coffee after a long morning walk through the city, and as the indoor seating was all taken, we decided to sit outside. The terrace was still covered in snow, but still we sat with a good few other hardy Swedes and watched the world go by with a cup of delicious Swedish coffee.

3. My first participant
I hope I'll never forget the nervous excitement rattling through me as I waited at the top of the steps at Stockholm University for my first parent-infant participants to arrive. I'd tested and tested the experiment, but still there was no way of knowing whether it would even work. For the first time I felt like a real scientist, and it was certainly a turning point in my outlook on what I do. Working with actual infants is such an eye-opener, and it provided such a brilliant perspective on 'the bigger picture', and really helped to make real of what I'm doing.

4. Getting home
The stillness in our house when I opened the door for the first time in over a month was just magical. Putting my feet back into my slippers, running around the house to look in every room, making myself a cup of tea and sitting on the sofa. I want to go away again and again just so I can feel that sense of warmth again and again when I walk through my own front door.

5. A PB at Keswick
Keswick half marathon took place only a couple of days after I got back from Stockholm (I actually planned my trip around it, but don't tell my supervisor), and after a month of marathon training in hilly Danderyd I was on top form. I remember so clearly my amazement on turning out of Grange along the Borrowdale road to realise that I was going to get a PB, and I still had time to stop for an energy gel. I never in a million years thought I'd do so well on such a difficult course, and I'm pretty sure I won't manage it again!

6. Terrace dining in the Languedoc

The best meal of my life, on a terrace in France. Most of it was designed specially for me from the rather meat-based menu, and in typical French style it was sublime. From the gazpacho amuse bouche to the bittersweet raspberry and chocolate tart (normally I'd steer well clear of a chocolate-based desert and head right for the STP!), to the beautiful cheese platter served stylishly on a piece of slate. The only downside was that we were cycling home, so we couldn't drink. Tant pis.

After months of planning, the inaugural Postgraduate and Academic Researchers in Linguistics at York (or PARLAY) conference turned out to be a smashing success. I was floating on adrenaline all day, and my head was pretty much taken over by the countless things that one has to think about during such an event, but at one point I looked out over the crowded room of delegates, all eating cakes and 'networking' just as we had promised in the proposal, and thought "we've done it". And it was wonderful.

8. Our first married breakfast
I can't pick one moment from the wedding day itself, but in all honesty, if I could do any part of it again I'd have my first breakfast with my new husband in the hotel the next morning again and again and again. We sat there for ages, feasting our way through the buffet and going through the minute details of the previous day as if it were a secret between us that no one else could share. I guess it was (and still is). We had the whole day ahead of us, where we would laze around in a swimming pool and spend the evening in our favourite pub with my family, and then of course the honeymoon beyond that. Sitting there at the little round table by the window we had everything that there was for us to have at that moment, and the best bit was that we knew it.

9. Climbing Blencathra
I squished my poor foot into my walking boots and didn't think for a second that I'd be able to get as far as the top of Blencathra, a mountain I've been eyeing up for years. We climbed and scrambled and pulled ourselves up the rock face, and I thought we might die, and we were sweaty and out of breath. The sun was shining, the views were stunning, and there was pretty much no one on the mountain but us and a few retirees enjoying the quieter season in the Lakeland calendar. What a perfect end to our honeymoon, finished off with veggie chilli at the Lakeland Pedlar in Keswick.

10. The National playing Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks at Manchester Apollo
We had our first dance to The National, and when they played 'our song' I was quite sure that would be my highlight. But then they finished with an acapella rendition of this song and I was moved to tears, my lungs suddenly purged of oxygen. Incredible.

11. Presenting at UCL
I gave my final eye-tracking presentation at a postgraduate conference at UCL in November. I knew my subject inside-out, I was reeling off a large and disgusting Starbucks, and the audience was friendly and optimally inquisitive about my work. It was such a high note on which to finish the eye-tracking project - I even got a few jokes in there and people actually laughed. That sense that the audience is on your side doesn't come about that often (I've found, anyway!), but when it does it's worth all of the awkward presentations and strange questions and flushing-red moments.

12. Running through York on the Yorkshire Marathon

The crowds were wonderful throughout this race, but I will never forget the runners singing along to a busker on Piccadilly as we headed out on the first few miles of the marathon. It was Don't Look Back in Anger, which wasn't at all fitting for the occasion, but still everyone crooned along together as we ran past. And then we got to run past the minster, which was phenomenal. I was blown away by it, and I still maintain that it was worth the £45 entry fee for those first four miles alone.

So. Much. Fun.

*I'm superstitious beyond all reason so let's stick to twelve.