Archive for February, 2008

Me and drink

I never thought I’d see the day: an hour spent procrastinating by doing instant messenger – with my mum and dad. Just show how times change, and that you can teach old parents new tricks!

It’s been a pretty full on week. Lots of meetings for this that and the other, and then there was Wednesday – when I had a pint of beer. That really threw me. Drunk after a few sips, and emotionally de-stabilised for the following 24 hours.

I was thinking afterwards how deciding not to drink alcohol as a matter of course has been the single-most positive lifestyle choice I have made this past year. When I drink, whilst in the short term I may feel more ‘relaxed’ (with immediate causes of concern fading into insignificance), as the hours progress so I become more emotionally unstable. We’re not talking bursting into tears or anything, more, unable to effectively deal with emotions, attaching undue weight to them and ultimately feeling controlled by them.

The following day I will often feel somewhat depressed, which in a way is far more dehabilitating than any hangover I might have.

With this is mind, I’ve come to appreciate that far from making life more fun and manageable, in the long term, drinking makes a life a lot harder. My nervous system has enough to deal with just being in this world – having to cope with the stimulant and depressant properties of alcohol doesn’t exactly help.

Drinking also makes life a lot harder for those around me, and especially those who are closest to me. *Twinkle* feels quite grateful that I have stopped drinking. It can be difficult having a meaningful relationship with someone who drinks regularly, partly as they are prone to forgetfulness and cease to play by the unspoken rules that help maintain trust and understanding. (It also means no more nights trying to lead a Joseph home who is insisting that he talks to all the road signs along the route).

I remember the birthday party of a friend that I went to a few years back. I recall sitting at the table (or perhaps this memory is actually just based on the photos) and having a long conversation with the birthday girl. A few weeks later she thanked me, and told me that that conversation had meant a lot to her. My reaction? I was pretty embarrassed, I couldn’t remember it at all. Realising this, my friend’s smile disappeared in disappointment. I felt very bad, almost as if I had conned her.

Since then, whenever I’ve drunk I’ve worn a bow-tie with a built-in MP3 recorder.

What I find interesting is how when I did drink as a matter of course (and did not necessarily get drunk in seconds), I never really noticed these negative side effects. There was no post-drink depression, it was just another day. Thus, I wonder, did I feel somewhat down in general and thus noticed no difference, or was it simply a lack of acknowledgment of the effects upon my emotional wellbeing?

Perhaps I should start drinking every day on an experimental basis and see if I do start feeling miserable… :-)

When Joseph Gets Drunk…

I’m not an advocate for a Teetotalistic revolution – for one thing, we need drunk students in order to support Higher Education in the UK (Sheffield Union’s Bar One is probably one of the most profitable bars in South Yorkshire!). And I know that alcohol has helped me hundreds of times in the past feel able to deal with social situations.

But now, for me personally, no alcohol is good, and 8 months after I stopped drinking I can’t ever see myself starting again. (Watch this space!)

Earthquake

Bloody hell! We just had an earthquake! Strong one too – we’re talking creaking walls!

Arts Tower still standing though.

That’s only the second one in my entire life I’ve felt in the UK…

Update: BBC News

Anne Tame the Artist

Two years ago my mother picked up a paint brush. She’d not really painted before, other than the walls, so I was pretty surprised when she started producing these great pictures.

I’ve uploaded a selection for you to have a look at. Once the album’s loaded click the buttons bottom left to change the way you view them.

Some of you may recognise this picture of a little girl – I met her in Shanghai – click here for the original.

Oraganic Vegees, our Wedding Date, and Peace

A mixture of thoughts tonight, starting with…

Weekly shopping

Delicious homemade organic potato and onion soup for supper.

Tuesdays are shopping day for me. I only shop in one place – Beanies – it’s a privately run wholefood shop that in addition to having a fantastic range of natural foods, has the freshest local organic fruit and veg in Sheffield. I have a standing order for a vegee box, which costs me £9.50 a week. This is an increase from last year’s £6 as the real price of vegetables has gone up due to last season’s extreme weather. Unlike supermarkets, which tend to only pay farmers what they feel like paying, places like Beanies will pass farmer’s costs on to consumers, and I am only too happy to pay the higher price if it means I am not supporting the exploitation of others.

Thus, almost half of my weekly shopping bill of about £22 is accounted for by delicious organic fruit and vegees, the other half by things like organic bread, yeast extract, raisins (for my porridge) and soya milk. I was fortunate to be given about 5kg of rice at the beginning of the year, and I bought myself 3kg of organic pasta, 2kg of which remains waiting to be eaten!

All this is a far cry from my shopping habits last year in Tokyo. There, our local wholefood shop had very few organic vegetables – most were just labelled “eco” meaning they had less pesticides on than normal vegees.

(Did you know, Japan uses more chemical fertilizers than any other country in the world. Even more than China).

I hope that next year I will be able to afford the high price demanded by producers of organic produce, as it really changes my whole relationship with food, and feels far more in harmony with what I feel my body needs.


The Wedding Date

The wedding date is set – Friday 25th July 2008! I’ll be phoning the vicar tomorrow to discuss what we’re going to do. I’m dead excited though…

Oh, and I think we might be able to invite ALL Mumblers too. Will keep you informed re. those plans.

So how does one organise a wedding anyway? What needs to be done? All ideas welcomed.


Daily Effort: Kanji & Ego

One week ago I decided that I really needed to put some energy into what was important but not urgent – study kanji. Over the past 7 days I have revised 100 kanji per day – it’s already having an effect. Oh, and I’m really making progress with my getting up time too; after one week of training my body clock is pretty close to a 6.30am wakeup. Good stuff. Daily exercise is proving to be fun too, and getting more enjoyable by the day as the tilt of the Earth makes for warmer mornings.

With so much going on I felt myself in need of reassurance at the weekend, and so started listening to Wayne Dyer‘s take on LaoTze’s TaoDeJing again (all 81 verses available here. In it’s raw form it’s not for the feint hearted – but with a guide one can really appreciate the wisdom it contains).

I do find it truly inspirational and uplifting. The central message for me is to trust, and let go. Such a simple thing, yet such a powerful tool for dealing with whatever challenges I may attract into my life.

It’s interesting how the first time I listened to it (a process which took about a month I think) I found myself drifting off at times, not really taking it all in, or struggling to understand these ideas which at times ran contrary to my own beliefs. Listening to it a second time, it feels a lot more natural, and in line with how I try to live my life – although a lot of it remains beyond me. But this time, I do recognise some of the benefits that are spoken of in my life, so some of it must have sunk in.

The biggest area for improvement for me lies in ego management. It’s so tricky to balance ego demands (for attention etc) with what I feel deep inside is ‘right’. Only the other day I caught my ego galloping off down the road, having latched on to the interest that the other party had shown in my activities. I was aware of this, and made a conscious decision to let it run its course – I’d pick up the pieces afterwards. I would like to get to the stage where even when beckoned my ego doesn’t feel the need to gallop off, but is content to just ‘be’.

It’s a tricky one, because I’m a great advocate of people accepting that they are indeed amazing and incredible, and of giving people the recognition that they deserve. But in oneself, well, if one’s not careful the resulting good feeling of that sort of attention can get hijacked by the ego – making for arrogance and ignorance.

Anyhow anyhow, it’s late, and all this blogging isn’t getting my dissertation off the ground. Best go to bed so I wake up happy and refreshed. And probably smelly after all those baked beans I’ve had today.

:-)

A new lease of photographic life

It’s amazing what an effect that podcast has had on my feelings towards photography. It’s really got me excited, makes me want to just take photos all over the place!

Having an understanding of where digital photography is now and where it’s going in the future is also very exciting. I love taking photos, and I love gadgets, thus hearing about the incredible new technologies that are being developed is really something to get jumpy-up-and-down about. As was said on the podcast, we’re now reaching the stage where digital photography has gone as far as it can in duplicating what film can do – we’re on this tipping point where the very nature of photography starts to change as technology enables us to do things that were never possible before.

Things like the new Nikon which can basically see more than the human eye can in low light conditions it’s that sensitive. Bye bye flash, hello low-light shots without grain.

I’ve also started to use the iso function on my Nikon D40x (iso determines the sensitivity of the sensor to light, but the more sensitive it is, the more grainy the image gets, just like with film (over 400 iso tends to = graininess)). I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but it was only last week when doing the food photo shoot that I realised I could manually set the iso. With a film camera you never had that choice – you put a 200 speed film in and that was that. Thus, I had no prior experience of having that choice and thus didn’t consider it an option.

Bamboo forest, Arashiyama

Looking through my photo library when sorted by iso, I see that I have shot quite a few with my D40x at 1600 iso without knowing it (when in auto mode) – and I must say, I’m pretty staggered by the lack of grain.

Listening to the podcast has also brought Apple’s Aperture 2 to my attention. Released a couple of weeks back, it’s Apple’s newest version of their answer to Adobe Lightroom. I downloaded the trial version last night before I went to bed. Seven hours later it was still importing my library of over 19,000 photos. I waited, and waited, and finally, when it was done, gave it a spin.

It’s nice, and sure, it’s well-integrated into the other Apple Apps – but it still doesn’t compare to LightRoom – so I’ll be sticking with that.

Unlike Photoshop, as well as being a photo library, Lightroom is primarily designed for making general adjustments to RAW images (as opposed to JPEGS etc), adjustments such as saturation, colour balance, exposure etc. It’s not for manipulating specific areas of a photo. Most non DSLR cameras record images in JPEG, which essentially means that the camera itself is deciding how to interpret the image captured through the lens. When you shoot in RAW, you just get the basic raw data, and you decide how it is interpreted before exporting it for print or publishing.

I’m also finding myself more and more inclined to not consider making a lot of money out of photography. I’d rather keep it as a hobby, using the images to illustrate my website / books etc.

So yeah, it’s all good.

Right, on with this newspaper article about the Kaguya space probe. Talk about new vocab…!