29 April 2008

Reflection in the Office Glass

Reflection in the Office Glass, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's self-portrait: 52 Weeks 10/52 (2008 week 18)

27 April 2008

One Word Meme

This meme has managed to insinuate its way into here, so I'd better respond to it.

There's only one rule: you get only one word.

Yourself: Depressed
Your Partner: Sexy
Your Hair: Greying
Your Mother: Ninety-Two
Your Father: Dead
Your Favorite Item: Camera
Your Dream Last Night: Anxiety
Your Favorite Drink: Beer
Your Dream Car: None
Your Dream Home: Tidy
The Room You Are In: Study
Your Fear: Poverty
Where Do You Want To Be In 10 Years: Retired
Who You Hung Out With Last: Friends
What You're Not: Fit
Muffins: Mules
One of Your Wish List Items: Japan
Time: Midday
Last Thing You Did: Email
What Are You Wearing: Nothing
Your Favorite Weather: Sunshine
Your Favorite Book: Dance
Last Thing You Ate: Tablets
Your Mood: Lazy
Your Best Friends: Local
What Are You Thinking About Right Now: Sleep
Your Car: None
Your Summer: Seaside
What's on your TV: Politics
What is your weather like: Raining
When Is the Last Time You Laughed: Yesterday
Your Relationship Status: Happy

Feel free to allow this to insinuate its way into your mind/weblog as well. :-)

26 April 2008

Department of Government Sniggering

According to an item earlier this week in The Register, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) – that's the bit of the Treasury "responsible for improving value for money by driving up standards and capability in procurement" – has been indulging in a little "Strategy Boutique Newspeak" and rebranding itself. Complete with a new logo which has allegedly cost half a salary. One small problem though: the logo has now been banned. Result: all the supporting mousemats and other office paraphernalia which were produced have been spirited away, no doubt to soon appear on eBay. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out why our Nanny Government was upset by it.

[fx: exits sniggering]

Hat tip to Nanny Know Best.

The Seven Deadly Sins of a Relationship

What follow appeared under this title on the Zen Habits weblog a couple of days ago. And as it is of fundamental importance, and Leo makes all this posts available for reuse without restriction, I am reproducing it here unedited. though you'll have to visit Zen Habits to read the comments which are also interesting. And if you like this, take a look at the rest of Zen Habits: there's wisdom in them there words.
While I can’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert on relationships, I do know that my wife and I have a very strong marriage, and have never been more in love.

I’ve failed at marriage before, but that’s helped me become better at it. I’ve learned the deadly sins of relationships, and how to recognize them and avoid them.

A reader, newly married, asked me to share my tips on how to make a marriage work. I wish I had a magic formula, but here’s a simple list of tips:

  • spend time alone together;
  • appreciate each other;
  • be intimate often;
  • talk and share and give.
But just as important as what you should do is what you shouldn’t do – and I’m sure many of you have stepped into these pitfalls yourselves. I know I have. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and have learned to recognize when I’m making a fatal error, and how to correct it.

If you can avoid these seven things, and focus instead on doing the four things above, you should have a strong relationship. I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I’d give you good odds. :)
  1. Resentment. This is a poison that starts as something small (“He didn’t get a new roll of toilet paper” or “She doesn’t wash her dishes after she eats”) and builds up into something big. Resentment is dangerous because it often flies under our radar, so that we don’t even notice we have the resentment, and our partner doesn’t realize that there’s anything wrong. If you ever notice yourself having resentment, you need to address this immediately, before it gets worse. Cut it off while it’s small. There are two good ways to deal with resentment: 1) breathe, and just let it go – accept your partner for who she/he is, faults and all; none of us is perfect; or 2) talk to your partner about it if you cannot accept it, and try to come up with a solution that works for both of you (not just for you); try to talk to them in a non-confrontational way, but in a way that expresses how you feel without being accusatory.
  2. Jealousy. It’s hard to control jealousy if you feel it, I know. It seems to happen by itself, out of our control, unbidden and unwanted. However, jealousy, like resentment, is relationship poison. A little jealousy is fine, but when it gets to a certain level it turns into a need to control your partner, and turns into unnecessary fights, and makes both parties unhappy. If you have problems with jealousy (like I once did), instead of trying to control them it’s important that you examine and deal with the root issue, which is usually insecurity. That insecurity might be tied to your childhood (abandonment by a parent, for example), in a past relationship where you got hurt, or in an incident or incidents in the past of your current relationship.
  3. Unrealistic expectations. Often we have an idea of what our partner should be like. We might expect them to clean up after themselves, to be considerate, to always think of us first, to surprise us, to support us, to always have a smile, to work hard and not be lazy. Not necessarily these expectations, but almost always we have expectations of our partner. Having some expectations is fine – we should expect our partner to be faithful, for example. But sometimes, without realizing it ourselves, we have expectations that are too high to meet. Our partner isn’t perfect – no one is. We can’t expect them to be cheerful and loving every minute of the day – everyone has their moods. We can’t expect them to always think of us, as they will obviously think of themselves or others sometimes too. We can’t expect them to be exactly as we are, as everyone is different. High expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, especially if we do not communicate these expectations. How can we expect our partner to meet these expectations if they don’t know about them? The remedy is to lower your expectations – allow your partner to be himself/herself, and accept and love them for that. What basic expectations we do have, we must communicate clearly.
  4. Not making time. This is a problem with couples who have kids, but also with other couples who get caught up in work or hobbies or friends and family or other passions. Couples who don’t spend time alone together will drift apart. And while spending time together when you’re with the kids or other friends and family is a good thing, it’s important that you have time alone together. Can’t find time with all the things you have going on – work and kids and all the other stuff? Make time. Seriously – make the time. It can be done. I do it – I just make sure that this time with my wife is a priority, and I’ll drop just about anything else to make the time. Get a babysitter, drop a couple commitments, put off work for a day, and go on a date. It doesn’t have to be an expensive date – some time in nature, or exercising together, or watching a DVD and having a home-cooked dinner, are all good options. And when you’re together, make an effort to connect, not just be together.
  5. Lack of communication. This sin affects all the others on this list – it’s been said many times before, but it’s true: good communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship. If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow. If you are jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities. If you have expectations of your partner, you must communicate them. If there are any problems whatsoever, you must communicate them and work them out. Communication doesn’t just mean talking or arguing – good communication is honest without being attacking or blaming. Communicate your feelings – being hurt, frustrated, sorry, scared, sad, happy – rather than criticizing. Communicate a desire to work out a solution that works for you both, a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change. And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too (see below for more).
  6. Not showing gratitude. Sometimes there are no real problems in a relationship, such as resentment or jealousy or unrealistic expectations – but there is also no expression of the good things about your partner either. This lack of gratitude and appreciation is just as bad as the problems, because without it your partner will feel like he or she is being taken for granted. Every person wants to be appreciated for all they do. And while you might have some problems with what your partner does (see above), you should also realize that your partner does good things too. Does she wash your dishes or cook you something you like? Does he clean up after you or support you in your job? Take the time to say thank you, and give a hug and kiss. This little expression can go a long way.
  7. Lack of affection. Similarly, everything else can be going right, including the expression of gratitude, but if there is no affection among partners then there is serious trouble. In effect, the relationship is drifting towards a platonic status. That might be better than many relationships that have serious problems, but it’s not a good thing. Affection is important – everyone needs some of it, especially from someone we love. Take the time, every single day, to give affection to your partner. Greet her when she comes home from work with a tight hug. Wake him up with a passionate kiss (who cares about morning breath!). Sneak up behind her and kiss her on the neck. Make out in the movie theater like teenagers. Caress his back and neck while watching TV. Smile at her often.
  8. Bonus sin: Stubbornness. This wasn’t on my original list but I just thought about it before publishing this post, and had to add it in. Every relationship will have problems and arguments – but it’s important that you learn to work out these problems after cooling down a bit. Unfortunately, many of us are too stubborn to even talk about things. Perhaps we always want to be right. Perhaps we never want to admit that we made a mistake. Perhaps we don’t like to say we’re sorry. Perhaps we don’t like to compromise. I’ve done all of these things – but I’ve learned over the years that this is just childish. When I find myself being stubborn these days, I try to get over this childishness and suck it up and put away my ego and say I’m sorry. Talk about the problem and work it out. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to apologize. Then move past it to better things.

Allow me to add a couple of observations from my own experience.

  1. If you have a row, and you will, we all do ... never go to sleep without having made up, even if that means respecting each other's position and agreeing to differ. Sleeping with an unresolved grievance is the first step on the road to resentment.
  2. Sleep together! It sounds daft but unless you have a very good reason (like a medical condition), share a bed. In my opinion it it much easier to maintain a good relationship if you share your sleeping. How much better to be able to snuggle up to each other on cold winter nights?! Sharing a bed breeds affection and hopefully much more. And a good, large bed, with a comfortable, new mattress every few years, is a sound investment!
  3. Lastly, and as Leo implies, the most critical thing of all: communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep talking! But maybe more importantly, keep listening to your partner. Relationships in which there is little or no communication go in only one direction: downwards! – exactly the opposite way to the way we want to go.

There's more on relationships on my Zen Mischief website.

25 April 2008

15 April 2008


Left-Man-Tit, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's self-portrait: 52 Weeks 8/52 (2008 week 16)

14 April 2008

Papal Carbon Offset

The BBC is running on BBC4 TV a short series of programmes about medieval times. It started this evening with a program in which the comic actor Stephen Frye looked at Gutenberg and the development of the printing press. It was a coffee table programme: long on visual imagery, Frye's idiosyncratic style and hammed-up wonderment; but despite the reconstruction of a Gutenberg press short on real academic detail. Certainly worth watching and much better than the average run of what these days passes for heavyweight programming; and mercifully devoid of dramatised reconstruction.

Frye made one interesting point, however. The Papal Indulgence was the medieval equivalent of our modern-day carbon off-set schemes: the payment of money to absolve us of our sins. Pure genius. Pure scams.

12 April 2008

On Parliament and the Executive

Head of Legal earlier in the week deals with the Law Lords' judgement in the case of R (Gentle) v Prime Minister and Others. It wasn't the judgement which caught my eye, but one of the comments in which Peter Hargreaves observes:
If we had a true Parliament instead of a House of Muppets controlled by the executive then we would have the inquiry. Under our constitution it is supposed to be Parliament which holds the executive to account but as Lord Denning once said – "Legal theory does not march hand in hand with political reality" – [Attorney-General v Blackburn 1971]. The reality is that the executive controls Parliament.

As usual the late lamented Lord Denning hit the nail on the head so many years ago; he should be living yet!


The BBC reports today that Zimbabwe's President (aka. dictator), Robert Mugabe, has described UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as 'a little tiny dot on this world'. Much as it pains me, for once I have to agree with Mugabe.

In the same report South African President Thabo Mbeki said there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe. Hmmm. I think that makes it fairly clear which mast his colours are nailed to. I've been saying for years that South Africa will degenerate into a blood bath; I suspect the only reason it hasn't yet done so is because Nelson Mandela still has a lot of influence behind the scenes. But once Mandela dies I have a horrid feeling South Africa will go much the same way as Zimbabwe, Uganda, and others. Let's hope I'm wrong.

11 April 2008

Shadow with Telegraph Pole

Shadow with Telegraph Pole, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's self-portrait: 52 Weeks 7/52 (2008 week 15).

06 April 2008

Zen Mischievous Moments #138

For the Brits amongst us ...

Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then while travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

And the most British thing of all? Suspicion of all things foreign!
  • Only in Britain can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
  • Only in Britain do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
  • Only in Britain do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET coke.
  • Only in Britain do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters.
  • Only in Britain do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive and lock our junk and cheap lawn mower in the garage.
  • Only in Britain do we use answering machines to screen calls – and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call – from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place!
  • Only in Britain are there disabled parking places in front of a skating rink.
  • 3 Brits die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.
  • 58 Brits are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.
  • 31 Brits have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.
  • 19 Brits have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.
  • British Hospitals reported 4 broken arms last year after Christmas cracker pulling accidents.
  • 18 Brits had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth.
  • A massive 543 Brits were admitted to A&E; in the last two years after trying to open bottles of beer with their teeth.
  • 5 Brits were injured last year in accidents involving out-of-control Scalextric cars.
And finally ...
  • In 2000 eight Brits were admitted to hospital with fractured skulls incurred whilst throwing up into the toilet.
Are you proud to be British?

[With thanks to Sue Frye]

04 April 2008

In the Barber's Shop

In the Barber's Shop, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's self-portrait: 52 Weeks 6/52 (2008 week 14).