Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nature at random

A couple of photos made during the last week. An attempt to control depth of field, which seems a lot easier than it really is...

Keep well...


The New Forests

Seen close to home during an early morning walk. I'd seen this quite often actually, but this time the absurdity of the situation struck me.

Click here or on the image for an enlargement.

Confused? You will be...

(see also this post written a couple of years ago...)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Welcome to the monkey house

I often wonder about why we do the things that we do, and the ways in which they're done. So often we people think we're so awfully clever, but after having read this one gets to think again...

Picture 5 monkeys placed in a cage. A new community is formed. From the ceiling of the cage hangs a bunch of bananas. A stepladder is placed under the bananas. As the first eager monkey rushes up the ladder, a firehose knocks him off and hoses down all the monekys. Shocked, they sit back and regroup. Later another monkey tries, with the same result. It make take repeated attempts by each monkey before they become conditioned (socialized really) to not climb the ladder.

At some point, the lesson has been learned by this closed culture and controls how they respond as a community. Then one monkey forgets and steps onto the ladder. But the firehose doesn’t have time to react. The other four monkeys grab the offender and beat him senseless. They’ve learned that in this society, you don’t climb the ladder.

Now the process of attrition and replacement in the society begins. One of the original monkeys is removed and a new monkey is added to the group. He spies the bananas and leaps onto the ladder, only to be dragged down and beaten by the rest of the group. After several attempts, the new monkey learns.

Another original monkey is replaced with a new monkey. And the same process follows. Then another and another and another. Soon we have a group of five monkeys who’ve never been soaked by the firehose, but won’t climb the ladder. This learned behavior was socialized into the group over time.

It no longer matters how many generations of monkeys follow. The new behavior is that a monkey climbing the ladder will be dragged off and beaten. None of the monkeys in the cage has ever been knocked off the ladder with a firehose. None have been soaked down. They don’t know what the consequence is because it’s been replaced by group behavior. They can’t remember being soaked. They don’t know why they do what they do. The accepted norm for this closed community is to beat anyone who tries to climb the ladder.

Isn’t that a lot like institutional memory? We don’t know why we do what we do. We do it this way because we’ve “always done it this way.” The real end consequence may no longer exist. It may not matter. It may have vanished. But we don’t climb that ladder in this cage buddy. It just isn’t done. We don’t operate that way here.

Hope this helps. It certainly got me thinking about the most self-explanatory things in life. Not always a good habit but it necessary and useful to "look outside the box" more often than I've been doing recently.

Keep well...


Monday, April 28, 2008

Six Random Things...

...which you mightn't want to know about me, but which I'm going to tell you anyway.

This is a meme which I've read in several places by now, sent to me by Helen yesterday.

The "rules":
1. Link to the person that tagged you - i.e. me
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about you in your blog post
4. Tag six people in your post
5. Let each person know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know your entry is up.

My take:
1. I can't type and listen to music at the same time since it distracts me no end and I can't concentrate. The same applies for television and people talking to me when writing or reading, it drives me nuts.

2. I'm always trying to order numbers into logical sequences, trying to find relationships between them and memorise them for some reason. Must be something genetic, one of my daughters has memorised pi to one hundred decimal places. In the same way, when reading subtitles on television I'm always trying to find the most efficient line breaks for easiest reading and if possible equal line lengths.

3. After having held a drivers licence for many years, the only traffic violation I've ever been fined for was cycling in a pedestrian zone.

4. I enjoy wordplays, double meanings and innuendo, love to use words as playthings in both Dutch and English.

5. I am ambidexterous, tend to use tools (including my mouse) with my left hand but write almost equally with both hands nowaday depending on the situation, have most strength in my right hand and arm but my left is better in fine motoric tasks for whatever reason.

6. I'm an exceedingly slow starter in the morning, I need a lot of quiet around me before I'm up and running for the coming day.

7. I can't figure out who to tag with this meme right now... will come back on this later today.

Keep well...


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coming up for air

Yesterday was a bit of an odd day, all things told. In one way it was a self-congratulatory moment I needed since the last week has been a difficult one. I've been in a negative spiral for a couple of days and only now start to feel a little more positive again after deliberately moving my thoughts to more practical matters and being outside more.

I went swimming again, for the first time in months since my treatment and a torn muscle in my shoulder which has more or less healed now. A lot of gardening has been done, still more needs to be done today but just by focussing on getting my house (and garden) in order has a healing effect of its own.

As written yesterday, a little reward was in order. After some confusion at the shop (it seems that the ordered shoes had ended up in the storage area and couldn't be found straight away) I am now the proud owner of these...

Looking forward to going outside again, will go for a walk shortly and start breaking in my shoes :-))

Keep well...


Saturday, April 26, 2008

One hundred days

I've made it. I hardly had any doubts about the fact that I could or would, but I've managed to reach one hundred days of being clean after my admission and treatment at the clinic in January. Time to pause for a moment and look back.

The first period was probably the most intensive for me, much happened in a short space of time during the detoxification treatment. Not only was my body purged of the toxins which had build up in the course of years, my mind was cleared of the short-term debris which was littering my life. A physical separation from my previous environment left me with the possibility to analyse what I'd been doing with my life, what the consequences were and what they would be if I continued my previous life-style for much longer. Techniques were learned to get my life back into balance, some useful, others less so. Insights were gained into my own damaged psyche and possibilities for recovery were set out for future consideration.

After coming home though, real life kicked in. In some ways this was the worst part, applying new knowledge to old situations, trying to bend dysfunctional life-situations into situations I could feel safe and happy in. I demanded, and was granted, a new workplace since the events of the last few months had been particularly distressing for me. The domestic circumstances needed reviewing, this probably being the most difficult task of all and one which is still a work in progress. I've managed to rebuild bridges with my children in the meantime, the relationship with my partner, which has already been at rock-bottom for years, has not improved and has taken a turn for the worse recently. Not a fun situation but the problems won't go away by themselves despite all wishes to the contrary.

Probably the most important aspect of my life that has changed is that I took the time and the opportunity to examine my own psyche and my own mental health, something I'd neglected for most of my life. Many problems had simply been ignored or pushed aside as irrelevant, others were latent and were coming to the surface now my addictive behaviour wasn't present to mask them, others again are significant psychological defects which had already presented themselves during most of my life but which hadn't been identified as such. Much work is being done at present to stabilise my mental health, identify what is useful for me and what is not, how to stand up and live my own life instead of simply reacting to the circumstances around me with little or no control at all.

All things told, it's been a long, difficult, enriching period, which is but a prelude for much more which is yet to come. I've promised myself a present for having come so far and will be going to town shortly to collect a new pair of good walking shoes I'd ordered a few weeks ago.

I think the most important thing I've learned in the meantime is that I need to be brutally honest with myself at all times, refrain from generalising or playing down the things I need, feel or should be doing at any given moment. I've learned that my life is important, not only for those around me but also for myself. It's my life, I need to deal with it and the consequences of my own actions. Nobody else will do it for me because everybody else has his/her hands full with their own lives so it's time to take my own responsibilities seriously and get the job done.

One hundred days is the end of a period. It's also the beginning of a new one. Thank you for reading and thinking along with me, perhaps for commenting and giving support during the recent upheavals, for the little bits of support given which helped me continue during the darkest moments of uncertainty. I feel blessed in many ways.

Thank you. Keep well...


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Situation sketch

I am, by nature, a fairly cautious person. If at all possible, I try to play safe and minimise the chances of difficulties arising so I can continue to feel comfortable in the delusion that everything's just OK, no problems around.

So when reality catches up on me, it's always a bit of a destabilising event. Getting knocked off my perch isn't much fun at the time, but it does force me to see what's happening with my eyes open for while.

Serious relationship issues are coming to a head here, issues which have been simmering for many years and still need dealing with, after as much cautiousness and procrastination as I could muster for such a long time. In the period since coming home I've been taking to working on all parts of my life which need improvement, rectification or repair with a reasonable amount of success. Less than I'd hoped but more than I'd expected up to now.

I'm a little off balance at the moment, more than usual this time since another down cycle is starting to make its presence felt. The tiredness is creeping up on me again, I'm thinking of taking a few days "off" although I'm officially still not working but on "occupational therapy", and doing something completely different for a short while to recollect my thoughts.

Time to find a way out of the fog, a lot needs to be done today.

Keep well...


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How to wash a cat

I run the risk of being branded a cat hater by now, but I really do love 'em... (honest ;-) )


A step-by-step guide for the less initiated...

Thoroughly clean the toilet. Put both lids of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl. Catch the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.

In one swift, smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape).
CAUTION! Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for anything they can get hold of.

Women come from Venus, men come from Mars, but where the hell did this come from...?

The cat will self agitate and make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from the toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this.

Yeah, sure... looking totally underwhelmed...

Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a "power wash and rinse" which I have found to be quite effective.

Throughly appreciating the effort being taken.

Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.

Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.

The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, through the bathroom and run outside where he will dry himself. Both the commode and the cat will be sparkling clean.

However, after said procedure, the cat will go and go hide itself under the house, getting itself totally dirty again.

Repeat above procedure...

Yours sincerely,
The Dog


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

It's Earth Day, coming to a planet close to you.


Enjoy it, cherish it and be glad :-))

And if you should ever be left feeling a little lost...

Early morning, on Mars.

Keep well...


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Elf Fantasy Fair (part 3) and catching up

It's been a strange but interesting couple of days at the Elf Fantasy Fair. Very worthwhile but also very tiring. Many photos were made, about 1200 in all which I've been sorting out today, leaving about 350 of an acceptable quality.

I'll be publishing my photos as soon as possible, I'm almost up to date with my blog and replying to some serious comments on a couple of previous posts published recently. Although my life's still a bit mixed up, it can only get better from now on :-))

Keep well...


Standing on the outside

I am an outsider, always have been and probably always will remain so for the rest of my life. This last weekend at the Elf Fantasy Fair, despite all the good moments and refreshing acquaintances, reminded me of the fact that I am still the lone wanderer I've always been in my life.

I've never felt particularly comfortable with groups. I can't remember more than a few moments in which I could say that the safety in numbers, of more than a few people together at the same time, was either a satisfying or relevant pasttime for myself. Although people are social creatures, needing to express each themselves within and between groups, I've felt groups to be limiting and intimidating.

As far as I can remember, this has been the case since childhood. At school I was much more in my element with the one-to-one encounters which arose, preferred solitary or pair-activities to the organised mayhem of group undertakings. Whilst seeing the need to cooperate and work toward common goals, having a clear focus on the result needed and the ways to effectuate it, I was unable to function sufficiently to get my standpoint across, to be assertive enough to be able to convince others that there were often easier, more efficient ways of achieving the results needed.

Perhaps I'm a little selfish, who knows? Perhaps I'm psychologically unable to compromise on matters I know work well and which deliver results, at the cost of estranging myself from a framework which seems hell-bent on delivering deadening mediocrity whilst reinforcing the necessary social bonds. In the end it doesn't really matter, that's just the way I am.

Perhaps that's also the reason why I prefer to creep behind a camera and do the photography, wherever, whenever... I suspect, for myself, that there's a safety in the concentration and the literal focus on my subjects whilst at the same time being effectively removed from the activities involved.

I usually don't mind being alone, finding peace outside the hustle and bustle of daily life. I enjoy a good conversation above the noise and activity of larger scale encounters and generally feel lonelier in a large crowd than I do when I'm alone or in a trusted face-to-face situation. I guess that's just me, the way I operate and the way in which I need to be able to function best in the world around me. In the end, that's the only way to go, to find my own place and be content with it.

So, I've got that out to a degree. Probably the tip of an iceberg but at least I've got something to occupy me for a while again. Today I need to get my photos of the Elf Fantasy Fair sorted out, weeding out the rejects and reworking the surviving shots for better composition and lighting.

Keep well...


Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Elf Fantasy Fair 2008 (part 2)

(the post which refused to be posted... in the rebound)


Despite the cold and a stiff breeze for the first few hours, yesterday was a thoroughly worthwhile happening.

The Fair was a lot busier than usual for the Saturday, today is probably going to be even busier since practically everybody has a day off and the temperatures expected to be higher.

A lot of photography has been done, more to do today and the results will be published on my website in the course of the next week.

Caught up with some acquaintances from previous years...

...and was impressed by some of the creativity.

Sunday is usually the day that the most innovative costumes are presented. I'm very curious what today has in store.

Keep well...