27 February 2011

Pussy Porn


The Sleep of the Just, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Another for all you pussy fans out there ...

Harry the cat sleeping the sleep of the just on my desk this afternoon, under my desk lamp - again! And who should blame him when it is throwing it down with rain outside. He was spark out; he didn't twitch a whisker at having the camera stuck 4 inches from his nose clicking away.

As Garfield once remarked: "Eat and sleep. Eat and sleep. There must be more to life but I do hope not."

What's in Your Drawers?

I blame Katyboo! She started this. And even a half answer as to what's in my drawers is too long for a comment to Katy's post. So here goes ... What is in my drawers?

Well first of all I interpret this as meaning "desk drawers". Drawers in dressing tables or the like are boring -- they contain sox and knickers. Well and detritus (like old spectacles) too, but not so much, at least in my case.

My "desk drawers" tough are numerous and full. To start with "desk" is a misnomer: I have a piece of kitchen worktop the length of one wall (8-9 feet of it!). On it is the usual desk stuff: pot of pens etc., phone, desk lamps, filing trays, jotter, Post-Its, monocular; plus my PC, screen, keyboard, printer etc. And literary society binders/work in progress. And currently a sleeping cat!

This is about half of my desktop (complete with cat) and showing one of the filing cabinets

The shelves over my "desk" have more desk and PC stuff (photo/label printers, speakers), a few teddy bears & friends, wifi router, postal scales and above that the most used reference books. Under the "desk" I have two "2-drawer" sized filing cabinets, each with one large drawer and three shallower ones. I also have a computer table (as a desk extension with another printer and scanner on it) and use the pull-out keyboard shelf as a desk drawer with A4 paper box lids as organisers. So ...

Keyboard shelf
Contains standard office stationery like various sizes of envelope, compliments slips, business cards, postcards, rubber stamps, airmail stickers.

Left-hand Filing cabinet
Large bottom Drawer: various PC bits, spare wifi routers, spare analog phone, photo printer paper, multiple boxes of label sheets (a label size for everything!), PC cables.
Bottom shallow Drawer: More of the same: mostly boxes of adapters for PC and phones. And other PC odds and sods.
Middle Shallow Drawer: This is Anthony Powell Society drawer 2. Various AP Soc spares (till rolls for credit card terminal, coin bags, other banking spares). And the society's "In Tray".
Top Shallow Drawer: AP Soc drawer 1. Office stationery including compliments slips of various types, receipt book, supply of bookmarks, membership leaflets, postcards, etc.

Right-hand Filing Cabinet
Large Bottom Drawer: Household filing: bank statements, utility bills, tax, insurance, blah, blah, blah. Postcards and a few greetings cards. A supply of Trebor Extra Strong Mints. It's so full that I can't get any more in so there is a large overflow "awaiting filing" pile on th study floor along with more boxes of PC stuff, videos awaiting transcription etc.
Bottom Shallow Drawer: Pads of A4 paper, ring binder bags, coloured plastic files, odds & sods reusable envelopes.
Middle Shallow Drawer: Crammed with miscellaneous techie toot. Mobile phone chargers, camera battery chargers, earphones, dictaphone. Spare rechargeable batteries, camera spares, memory cards, memory sticks. Spare stocks of pencils, pencil leads, biros, marker pens. Several unused HP iPAQ and Palm handhelds. Spares for this and that. Boxes of business cards. Rolls of Dymo printer labels. Boxes of old keys. Spare wallet. Blah, blah, blah.
Top Shallow Drawer: Everyday desk stuff: pens, rulers, stapler, scissors, ball of elastic bands, ball of recycled string, lanyards, roller ruler, small screwdrivers and Allen keys, glue, sellotape. Spare batteries and fuses. Bank books etc. Odds and sods of foreign coinage and keys. Glasses cloth. Calculators.

And all that is without four printer paper boxes of stationery/office spares, and a lot more spare PC stuff in crates under my desk; and the old spare hifi stack; and boxes of printer paper, AP books for disposal/sale, paper recycling bin, shredder. No room for feet under the desk!!

OMG.

Dare you tell us what's in your (desk) drawers?

25 February 2011

Mapping the Cat Brain

Oh, yes. Cat's certainly do have brains. They have very well developed, subtle and devious brains. In fact it has been shown recently that Cats Adore and Manipulate Women. They do it to men as well, but either they don't like men as much or we're more immune to it.
The bond between cats and their owners turns out to be far more intense than imagined, especially for cat aficionado women and their affection reciprocating felines, suggests a new study.
[...]
The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other's behaviors. Extroverted women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, with cats in these relationships only having to use subtle cues, such as a single upright tail move, to signal desire for friendly contact.
And then today I came across this mapping of the cat's brain at CatStuff.


In the light of this latest research the diagram clearly ought to contain a tiny gland for sniffing out male humans and a much larger gland for detecting females.

Oh come on lads, you already knew we stood no chance!

And the Managers are Still in Charge of the Loony Bin ...

This is a long quote and deserves a post all of it's own.
Sir Hartley Shawcross, after the Labour victory [1945], had announced: 'We are the masters at the moment.' But who were the 'we' in this sentence?

The most eloquent answer to this question in art is found in Anthony Powell's comic masterpiece
A Dance to the Music of Time, the first volume of which, A Question of Upbringing, was published in 1951. The story begins in the year 1911 at an unnamed boarding school, obviously Eton, as the hero, Nick Jenkins, ambles idly through the winter mist to have tea with his chums. As he makes his way back to the house he passes a very different sort of boy – it is Widmerpool, who forces himself to have a run each afternoon. Widmerpool appears to be no more than a figure of fun in the school section of the book, but even in this early glimpse of him, the narrator and his readers become aware that he is a figure who lives by the will, in some mysterious sense more in tune with his times than the languid, bohemian Nick, who wishes to live by the imagination.

Powell was a close friend of Malcolm Muggeridge at this date, and the two men would often walk round Regent's Park together discussing the fundamental clash on which the emergent novel was to feed, namely the war between the will and the imagination. Power mania had been an obsession of Muggeridge's since his Marxist days: what draws men and women to power, how they become addicted to it, how it takes over from other appetites. One of Muggeridge's beliefs was that power addicts were often dyspeptic, and he rather cruelly attributed Stafford Cripps's dyspepsia to power addiction. When Widmerpool grows up, he too is a dyspeptic. There is a memorably funny Sunday lunch when Widmerpool gives the narrator a meal in his club, washing down cold tongue with a glass of water. By the time the narrative has reached the postwar period, it is no surprise to find that Widmerpool, a fellow-traveller with the Communists, who has rather dubious associations in Eastern Europe, is an MP in the Labour interest. He has achieved what he wanted from the very beginning, on that run through the winter mists in the Thames Valley: the free exercise of power. Widmerpool is a manager, a wheeler-dealer. He judges people by how they have got on; he has no sense of England's past, no feeling for people (at quite a late stage of the sequence, he forgets the narrator's Christian name). Much of Powell's somewhat peppery Toryism goes into the creation, no doubt, but the novel contains a really acute perception of what had happened to England during the war. It had not been taken over by Bolsheviks or by the working class. Widmerpool is an efficient, ruthless staff officer, a paper pusher. He could easily have said, after the 1945 election: 'We are the masters.' He would have meant that the managerial class, previously all but non-existent, had taken over. The growth of bureaucracy in Britain in the postwar years, the filling up of political, Civil Service and professional posts with colourless, pushing people controlling others for the sake of control, was to be a feature of life from then onwards. Widmerpool was a man of his time, and a man of the future.


[AN Wilson, After the Victorians]

Well, no change there then!

As so often in his two books, The Victorians and After the Victorians, AN Wilson gets his rapier right to the heart of the matter. Although both books are chunky paperbacks (both weigh in at some 500 pages) they are well worth reading – and eminently readable. AN Wilson gives a rather more perceptive, and admittedly slightly jaundiced, view of the history of Britain between the 1830s and 1950s than one finds in the standard texts. He delves under the political and economic covers, especially around the underlying reasons for both world wars and (at least for me) puts a completely new spin on modern British history.

Quotes of the Week

OK, here's this week's selection of oddities encounter in the last few days ...
‘Look at the bird.’ It was perched on a branch by a fork in the tree, next to what looked like a birdhouse, and nibbling at a piece of roughly round wood it held in one claw.
‘Must be an old nest they’re repairing,’ said Lu-Tze. ‘Can’t have got that advanced this early in the season.’
‘Looks like some kind of old box to me,’ said Lobsang. He squinted to see better. ‘Is it an old … clock?’ he added.
‘Look at what the bird is nibbling,’ suggested Lu-Tze.
‘Well, it looks like … a crude gearwheel? But why —’
‘Well spotted. That, lad, is a clock cuckoo.’

[Terry Pratchett; Thief of Time]

Hindsight, the historians' parlour-game, can lead from false premise to false conclusion. Because we see the fateful consequences of our forebears' actions, we can wrongly suppose that, had they done differently, things would have been better.
[AN Wilson, After the Victorians]

The clergy were seldom rich, but they were treated as if they were gentlemen: very often they were. Nearly all of them had degrees. High Church, Low Church, Broad Church, they were disseminated throughout the land. If they were even half good at their jobs, they and their wives and families mixed with everyone in their parish. They were extraordinary agents of social communication. It meant that almost everyone in England was within five miles of a man who could read ancient Greek.
[AN Wilson, After the Victorians]

Snow fell, east winds blew, pipes froze, the water main (located next door in a house bombed out and long deserted) passed beyond insulation or control. The public supply of electricity broke down. Baths became a fabled luxury of the past. Humps and cavities of frozen snow, superimposed on the pavement, formed an almost impassable barrier of sooty heaps at the gutters of every crossing, in the network of arctic rails.
[Anthony Powell, Books Do Furnish a Room]

In the highbrow world you "get on", if you "get on" at all, not so much by your literary ability as by being the life and soul of cocktail parties and kissing the bums of verminous little lions.
[George Orwell]

In a mad world only the mad are sane.
[Akira Kurosawa]

24 February 2011

[8/52] I'm not really stopping you work am I?

Week 8 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

Harry the Cat having some tanning therapy today under my sunlamp. Yes, of course he was in the way - definition of cat that is! But at 13 and having had the medical problems he has over the last few months I reckon he's entitled to some R&R. :-)

23 February 2011

More Auction Oddities

Another small collection of oddities from the recent catalogue of another of our local auction houses ...

A collection of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ceramic figures including the "Lenox Treasure box collection" (that has gold plated charms within), also "Brooks & Bentley" salt and pepper collection.

A full size zebra skin rug, and an antelope rug.

A continental porcelain figure of a Grecian maiden holding aloft a twin-handled urn, together with a Coalport porcelain shouldered ovoid urn and cover, the cover having a pineapple finial raised on a socle supported plinth, the cream and midnight blue ground having gilt enrichments and gilt goat head masks, the cartouche painted with a ruined castle, signed: JH Plant

[I just cannot picture what sort of mess this is]

A Chinese porcelain garden seat formed as an elephant.

A miscellaneous selection of items, to include a pair of French First World War bayonets, a pair of African antelope horns and bison horns.

A large and interesting miscellaneous collection of tribal items to include various swords, an Eskimo arrow holder, a Burmese bird cage, a North African gunpowder flask, a Russian gilded sword and many more.

Two Zulu shields, an old African tribal paddle and various spears (bearing 'Spink & Son Ltd' labels).

[Why would Spinks be selling spears?]

A North West Persian tribal runner with a line of medallions alternating between hooked diamond and cruciform designs and contained within three borders.

[As well as having rather ornate body art I trust the runner comes with cleft stick.]

A boxed cherub table lamp.

[You mean there is a type of cherub I never knew about – the boxed cherub?]

In amongst this collection there is though the usual selection of really nice schmutter.

20 February 2011

Conspiracy Theories

Like many of you, I have a soft spot for conspiracy theories. Although I wouldn't claim to be an out-and-out believer in such theories I'm a natural skeptic, I've worked in business and I've been around long enough to know that there is more goes on under the surface than often meets the eye – and that sometimes, just occasionally, that may amount to a conspiracy. But I also know that all organisations, managers, politicians, governments spin (to use the current euphemism for "lie") everything to their (hoped for) advantage. Often they don't actually realise they're doing it – I know; I've done it myself. And seldom is there any attempt at conspiracy. But just sometimes there is.


It was interesting therefore to see, in the December 2010 edition of Scientific American, a short article by professional skeptic Michael Shermer under the title "The Conspiracy Theory Detector – How to tell the difference between true and false conspiracy theories". Shermer ends the article with the following "rules":
[W]e cannot just dismiss all such theories out of hand, because real conspiracies do sometimes happen. Instead we should look for signs that indicate a conspiracy theory is likely to be untrue. The more that it manifests the following characteristics, the less probable that the theory is grounded in reality:
  1. Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of "connecting the dots" between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections – or to randomness – the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.
  2. The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.
  3. The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.
  4. Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.
  5. The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.
  6. The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.
  7. The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
  8. The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.
  9. The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.
  10. The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.
The fact that politicians sometimes lie or that corporations occasionally cheat does not mean that every event is the result of a tortuous conspiracy. Most of the time stuff just happens, and our brains connect the dots into meaningful patterns.

Quote: Boredom

Boredom is important. Most of your life is dull, tasteless and boring.

[Brad Warner]

18 February 2011

Quotes of the Week

OK, guys & gals, here's this week's selection of wacky words ...
Come on, Milhouse, there's no such thing as a soul! It's just something they made up to scare kids, like the Boogie Man or Michael Jackson.
[Bart Simpson]

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
[Philip K Dick]

Never let your sense of morals keep you from doing what's right.
[Isaac Asimov]

I’ve come to believe quite strongly that monogamy is not at all the natural condition of human beings, despite what we’ve been told for so many years. For some people it comes effortlessly. For others it is absolutely impossible. I think for most of us it is possible, but extremely difficult. When I hear that someone has failed at it I am never shocked or surprised.
[Brad Warner; at http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/02/disrobing-genpo--brad-warner/]

Like childhood, old age is irresponsible, reckless, and foolhardy. Children and old people have everything to gain and nothing much to lose. It's middle-age which is cursed by the desperate need to cling to some finger-hold halfway up the mountain, to conform, not to cause trouble, to behave well.
[Sir John Mortimer, Murderers & Other Friends]

We will have to build … devices that will store and release time to where it is needed, because men cannot progress if they are carried like leaves on a stream. People need to be able to waste time, make time, lose time and buy time.
[Terry Pratchett; Thief Of Time]

Most people have some means of filling up the gap between perception and reality, and, after all, in those circumstances there are far worse things than gin.
[Terry Pratchett; Thief Of Time]

17 February 2011

More Crocuses


Crocuses, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Just to cheer everyone up on yet another dull day, here are some more crocuses from our garden. This is a particularly nice little clump which has been there quite a few years and which I've photographed several times before.

16 February 2011

[7/52] Crocuses


[7/52] Crocuses, originally uploaded by kcm76.
Week 7 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

Our lawn and fruit border are full of crocuses, mostly in shades of purple. I know we've planted some, but they must be spreading as I'm sure (like these in the fruit border) they're in places we wouldn't have planted them. And they seem to be doing well despite the waterlogged clay soil of the lawn.

15 February 2011

Squirrel

There's a Grey Squirrel sitting almost in the top of our Silver Birch tree. It has been there since about 1015 this morning. It is now 1545-ish and beginning to get dark. Apart from turning round two or three times it has been stock still, as if asleep. I find it hard to believe that a healthy squirrel would choose to sleep for this long in broad daylight, in the open, in the rain and in the top of a bare tree being blown hither and yon by a freezing wind. Maybe it is ill and dying. If so it can't be long before either it falls out of the tree or the carcass is taken away by the crows. This is (a crap photo of) the fellow at about 1030, soon after I first spotted him ...


... and he's still there!

Interesting times we live in. We'll have lions whelping in the streets next!

13 February 2011

Auction Oddities


Another in our occasional series highlighting the oddities which turn up at our local auction house. In reading this remember we are talking suburban London, not seaside.

A square of South African grass weaving in yellow, brown, black and orange, size 25″x25″ approximately.

A canteen of plated cutlery for not quite six.

A stuffed gull in a glass case.

A mixed lot including Wallace & Gromit teapot, a pair of large oriental vases, bejewelled scent bottles, wind-up tin-plate Mickey Mouse, a pair of china horses, mottled glass basket, figurine in Highland dress, etc.

A Black Forest gateau carved cuckoo clock, embellished with stag head, hare, game bird.

A fishing creel with leather straps and handle.

A vintage ear trumpet, with telescopic stem, of tortoiseshell appearance.

A vintage model of a goat, in goat fur and simulated horns.

An old wooden box containing old packaging, Fairy toilet soap, old matches, old tins, and a box of old bulbs and Aladdin 2″ wicks, Delsey toilet tissue, soap, etc.

A pair of moulded concrete garden flower pots and a pottery elephant stand.

A baby bath full of old saws, secateurs and similar, an old Ransomes hand push lawn mower and four boxes of old tools, mainly chisels, hammers and spanners.


I'll just leave your minds to boggle quietly. Although having said that they are also selling a lot of rather nice sounding 18th & 19th century silver and a few valuable Chinese vases. I guess that's the joy of a "provincial" auction house.

So They Think It's All Over, Do They?

As readers will know I rarely comment on politics and international affairs, but I have to be honest and say that the situation in Egypt (and indeed in Tunisia) is worrying.

The Egyptian people (the demonstrators anyway) seem to think that having got rid of Hosni Mubarak it's all downhill.

Well maybe not. As I read it, all they have done is manage to force Mubarak into an orchestrated military coup. Mubarak bought himself enough time to get his money to a safe haven and is now in the process of following it having handed power to the military. Let's not forget that the military senior officers are almost certainly all Mubarak's men; as such they have little interest in change even if their junior officers and men don't share their views.

What would you read into these headlines from BBC News today?
Egypt army tries to clear square. There is a stand-off in Cairo's Tahrir Square as protesters who have camped there for 20 days thwart army efforts to clear the area.

Egypt's army dissolves parliament. Egypt's military authorities say they are dissolving the country's parliament and suspending the constitution, two days after taking power.
Superficially this looks to me like the actions of the average military dictatorship:
We do not want any protesters to sit in the square.

Hundreds of policeman – who had become hugely unpopular for their violent attempts to suppress the uprising – had entered the square.

Military statement said the current government and regional governors would "act as caretakers".

The higher military council said it would stay in power six months, or until elections ... saying it would suspend the constitution and set up a committee to draft a new one.

Main priority was to restore the country's security ... if instability continued there could be "obstacles".
It is all the right noises, but they are the noises all newly installed military rulers make: "We'll stay in power until we can arrange elections". And so often those elections never come.

It all sounds to me like the beginning of a repressive military dictatorship. For everyone's sake I just desperately hope I'm wrong, and that this ...


... doesn't turn into this ...

Pubic Hair Removal – Why?


An interesting article in the Guardian on Friday (11 Feb) by Bidisha in which she asks why women are these days removing their pubic hair. Her contention is that it's a fashion (almost certainly) and that it is generally a bad idea, psychologically, for both men and women. I'm not sure I entirely agree with this, but it's an interesting argument:
Are women so ashamed of their bodies' natural beauty, so unaccepting of things as they are that they will do anything at all, even if it's degrading, to get some willy time? A man who withholds his attention and affection according to the follicle count of a lady's crotch doesn't deserve intimacy with a real-life woman. A man who likes a woman without pubic hair despises adult women so much that he wants us to resemble children [...]

I worry about these men too [...] They are now in danger of returning to a Victorian naivety. They may well believe that [...] women naturally do not have any body hair. Upon seeing some real hair on a real woman for the first time they may well vomit or faint, or both [...]

As for the women, don't you have anything more interesting to do than dutifully coif your cassoulet?
You can find the full article here.

11 February 2011

[6/52] Hospital Cruise?


[6/52] Hospital Cruise?, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Week 6 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

These sails are "decoration" in the atrium waiting area at our local BMI (private) hospital (Clementine Churchill Hospital, Harrow). I've been meaning to photograph them for years and remembered to take my camera today! I suspect they're a fancy way to try to provide some share for the reception desk which is underneath them and right below what is a huge "conservatory" roof. They must need some shade because it is over-heated in there at the best of times and unbearable in the summer.

Love in a Dish

Yesterday's Times reprinted an interesting essay written by one Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher under the title Love in a Dish. As the introductory blurb says: "Couples who delight in food will delight each other: it is as true now as it was when food writer MFK Fisher wrote this essay on cookery and intimacy in 1948". Although the article is now deeply un-PC (and American) the essential sentiment is indeed still relevant today.


As the article is hidden behind a paywall (so I can't link to it) here are a few key extracts.
Brillat-Savarin,who amused himself in his old age by writing The Physiology of Taste […] concerned himself mightily with the problem of married bliss. He wrote many paragraphs and pages on the importance of gastronomy in love, and told […] that happiness at table leads to happiness in bed.

A mutual enjoyment of the pleasures of the table […] has an enormous influence on the felicity that can and should be found in marriage. A couple […] who can share this enjoyment "have, at least once every day, a delightful reason for being together […] have an unfailing subject of conversation; they can talk not only of what they are eating, but also of what they have eaten before and will eat later, and of what they have noticed in other dining rooms, of fashionable new recipes and dishes, etc. […]

Brillat-Savarin felt […] that a man and woman who share any such basic need as the one for food will be eager to please and amuse each other in the satisfying of that need, and will do what they can to make the basically animal process enjoyable. "And the way in which mealtimes are passed […] is most important to what happiness we find in life."

[…]

It seems incredible that normal human beings not only tolerate the average American restaurant food, but actually prefer it to eating at home. The only possible explanation for such deliberate mass-poisoning, a kind of suicide of the spirit as well as the body, is that meals in the intimacy of a family dining-room or kitchen are unbearable.

[…]

At home, fatigue and boredom would sour the words they spoke and the food they ate, and the words would be hateful and the food would be dull as ditchwater and drearily served forth. […]

And having failed so completely to satisfy in harmony one of their three basic needs, it cannot be wondered that the other two, for love and shelter, are increasingly unfulfilled. There can be no warm, rich home-life anywhere else if it does not exist at table, and in the same way there can be no enduring family happiness, no real marriage, if a man and woman cannot open themselves generously and without suspicion one to the other over a shared bowl of soup as well as a shared caress.

[…]

A healthy interest in the pleasures of the table, the gastronomical art, can bring much happiness. […]

In Richardson Wright's Bed-Book of Eating and Drinking, he wrote in a discussion of the delights of supping in the kitchen, that more meals served on oilcloth by the stove might be one way to "stabilise our American marital status. I hold to the lowly belief," he went on, "that a man never knows the sureness of being happily married until he has... cooked a meal himself".

[…]

"The first sign of marital trouble is when a man or woman finds it distasteful to face each other at table. ... I am convinced that a man and wife with congenial appetites and a knowledge of foods and cooking have the basis for lasting happiness."

[…]

Even steak and potatoes, when they have been prepared with a shared interest and humour and intelligence, can be one great pleasure which leads to another, and perhaps — who knows — an even greater one.

In fact I would be tempted to go a step further and suggest that anyone who cannot enjoy food cannot truly enjoy life.

MFK Fisher's Love in a Dish and Other Pieces is due for publication by Penguin in April 2011; it can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

Ten Things – February

The second in a monthly series of "Ten Things" for 2011. Each month I list one thing from each of ten categories which will remain the same for each month of 2011. So at the end of the year you have ten lists of twelve things.
  1. Something I Like: Cats
  2. Something I Won't Do: Sailing
  3. Something I Want To Do: Take a Trip on Orient Express
  4. A Blog I Like: Emily Nagoski :: Sex Nerd
  5. A Book I Like: Brad Warner; Sex, Sin & Zen
  6. Some Music I Like: Beatles, Abbey Road
  7. A Food I Like: Pasta
  8. A Food or Drink I Dislike: Carrots
  9. A Word I Like: Crenellate
  10. A Quote I Like: When we talk about settling the world's problems, we're barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It's a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives. [Joseph Campbell]

10 February 2011

On Gender and Sexuality

I'm getting tired. Tired of the continual stream of references I see to people being not male or female, nor even gay or lesbian but a whole plethora of other weird sexual stereotypes: queer, cis, trans, genderqueer, and who knows what else.

With very few exceptions biological gender is binary: either male or female. (Yes I know there are aberrations caused by extra or missing chromosomes etc., but they are relatively unusual.)

Sexuality however is an analog scale which runs from "100% blokey male" to "100% girlie female", with every possible shade, tint and hue in between. That's why this is an analog scale and not a digitally quantised one.

What this means is that one's place on this analog scale of sexuality is not entirely fixed by biological gender, nor environment, nor any other variable you choose to look at. Nor is it necessarily fixed in time. Everyone is some (variable) mix of male and female sexuality; again hence the analog scale.

[I must write a post about how I see the different dimensions of maleness and femaleness.]

It seems to me that this can be summarised in the following model:


Yes, it is a simple view. But simple views are often the best way of understanding what's going on.

As you'll all understand from this I am far from denying that peoples' sexuality, and how they identify themselves through that sexuality, is (or should be) binary. It isn't binary; and there is no reason it should be. You can be, identify as and act any darn mix of sexuality you like; such is your right. I just don't care what arbitrary name you call it; it's irrelevant. (And of course I may or may not care to identify with that role myself.)

At the end of the day you are you and that's what I'm interested in. If your sexuality comes into whatever relationship (close or remote; another analog scale) we have – and it will, however peripherally – then so be it. It still doesn't matter what it's called.

If you find it (socially) useful to identify yourself as genderqueer or a green tricycle, that's fine. Just don't expect me to care. Either we will get along or we won't. The fact that you're a green tricycle and I'm a red fireplace isn't what it's about. At least in my world view.

OK?

Quotes of the Week

Quite a lot of quotes, and slightly early, this week as I missed last week's post. And lot's of zen type quotes too as I'm getting to the end of several zen books. So here goes ...
There is no optimal state of consciousness. Optimal is just an idea, another manifestation of the Great Somewhere Else. Consciousness is just an idea.
[Brad Warner; Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality]

What is true during dreamless sleep is true no matter whether you can recall the experience and write about it or not. What is true in a whorehouse in Bangkok is true whether you visit it and take Polaroids or not. What is true for six-legged aliens on the fifth planet circling Epsilon Centauri is true whether you go there and talk to them or not. You may never know the life your toothbrush leads when you're not around but it's certainly real.
[Brad Warner; Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality]

Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.
[Jane Wagner]

After all, it is no more surprising to be born twice than it is to be born once.
[Seagal Rinpoche; comment at http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/01/literal-rebirth.html]

Reincarnation is a fun subject. I do like the concept 'how can you return if you never leave?' I think that sums it up nicely. From the perspective of our experience, it's easy to find examples of how this might actually work. Consider this: when you were five, playing in your yard, you suddenly thought a strange thought – I wonder who I will be when I grow up? Will I still be me? And of course, you did grow up, and you are still you – but you are not the child who asked that question so long ago. Did the child 'die'? No,it didn't. But the child is not there any more – so how can that be? Maybe reincarnation is a little like that?
[Mr Reee; comment at http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/01/literal-rebirth.html]

The pen is mightier than the sword but a vagina beats anything you've ever seen.
[Bizarro Seagal; comment at http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/01/literal-rebirth.html]

'Bonsai?'
'The Japanese art of training little trees to resemble big ones. Wouldn't work unless there was a scale-independent structure.'
'I knew a bloke once did bonsai mountains,' said Olly. It took a few seconds for us to twig.
'You mean pet rocks?' enquired Deirdre.
'Suitably fragmented rocks do look a lot like mountains,' I said.
'He didn't just sit a rock in a bowl, you know,' said Olly. 'It's lots of work making proper bonsai mountains. He had all the gear – little hosepipes with spray-action nozzles and fans stuck on special stands to weather them with miniature rainstorms, spark generators for small-scale lightning, lots of tiny mirrors to focus the Sun's rays. Even a tiny snow machine.'
'Really?' Deirdre was interested in gardening and this just about counted.
'Yeah. But he had to stop.'
'Why?'
'The rocks got infested with greenfly. On skis.' Deirdre hit him.

[Ian Stewart; Cows in the Maze]

The tricky part about being human is that you have to be your own pack leader. You have to know that you can keep yourself safe, stand over your own emotional center of gravity and stay stable but responsive.
[Emily Nagoski; at http://enagoski.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/the-parable-of-the-man-magnet/]

Let me tell you, friends, this is an amazing book. Just reading it put me into an altered state of consciousness. I entered a realm where perceptions of form and matter vanished, to be replaced by an amorphous void beyond all thought and senses, a world of peace and quiet undisturbed by the anxieties and uncertainties of the material universe. In other words, I fell right to sleep.
[Brad Warner; Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye]

Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.
[Indira Gandhi]

What is religion but the distillation of an individual’s perception of the truth? By that definition, even atheists have religion.
[Amelia Nagoski]

Chinese medicine calls the gut the lower dan t’ien – guess where the upper dan t’ien is? Yep, the head. My gut is a brain just like the one in my skull.
[Amelia Nagoski]

There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to
new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.

[Seagal Rinpoche; comment at http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/02/reasons-to-be-cheerful.html]

09 February 2011

Thing-a-Day - FAIL!

Well to misquote Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.


I started with every intention of completing this year’s Thing-a-Day. Then everything went "castors up"!

Last Thursday I had a relatively routine medical procedure (trust me – you really don't want to know the details!) as a day-care patient at our local private hospital. Everything appeared to go OK and I was discharged early that evening feeling surprisingly good despite the sedation.

By Friday morning I was in quite some abdominal discomfort and had a raging fever. To cut a long and tedious story short I got back to see the consultant at 2pm on Friday and he immediately re-admitted me to hospital with instructions to get a CT scan on the way. The scan showed that I had one of those 1 in 1000 complications: peritonitis. Major Gerry Bummer!

The upshot was that I spent the weekend connected up to drips (IV fluids, antibiotics and insulin), on a diet of "clear fluids" only and being disturbed every 1 hour 27 minutes (well it certainly wasn't regular) round the clock to have everything measured. By Monday I was well on the way to recovery and was discharged, without a demob suit but with a box more antibiotics and an instruction to "take it easy for a few days". So I am. And I'm still getting better; the discomfort has almost entirely gone; and I go back to see the surgeon on Friday for a check-up.

With a couple of notable exceptions I have to say the care I received was brilliant. My GP was on the ball, helpful and sympathetic. So was my consultant who actually came in to see me at 0830 on Sunday morning! The nursing staff were great and mostly friendly and chatty and had time for you. I did like the way when I was with him the consultant picked up his phone, asked when the Imaging Department would scan me and then told them that no, he wanted a scan now and not in 3 hours time! No-one was in any doubt who was in charge.

What wasn't I impressed with? One of the night nurses didn't inspire a lot of confidence, but she was the only one of the many nurses I saw who didn't. But worse was the reception from the Endoscopy Department when I called them on the Friday morning, clearly unwell: the best they could do was "go to your GP". My GP nearly blew a gasket and I suspect someone got an Exocet suppository when I wasn't there.

Let's just hope things keep rolling downhill and there are no nasty surprises in the biopsy results.

Meanwhile having missed some days of Thing-a-Day I don’t have it in me to start over. This was not the intention. MAJOR FAIL.

Time to go and take the antibiotics!

03 February 2011

[3/28] Calendar Photo-Mosaic

Thing-a-Day Day 3.  Because I’m off to the hospital later and I don’t have a lot of time, today’s contribution is just an update to the calendar I started yesterday.  The hospital won’t be pleasant, so wish me luck … and God willing I’ll be back this evening.

02 February 2011

[2/28] Calendar Photo-Mosaic

Thing-a-Day Day 2.  Today I started making a photo-mosaic calendar using appropriate photos form Flickr.  I don’t intend to post this every day, although I will keep it up to date.  The intention is for it to provide a quick fallback for Thing-a-Day contribution on days when something more original is difficult (like maybe tomorrow when I’ll be at the hospital a lot of the day).

01 February 2011

[1/28] Stupidest Self Portrait in the History of Ever

OK, so here’s my first contribution for this year’s Thing-a-Day challenge.  Being day one I thought I should start with a photo self-portrait – actually I’ve not done a self-portrait in ages.  So I’ve made the Stupidest Self-Portrait in the History of Ever.

If this works correctly this should get posted to my Posterous, the TaD Posterous feed, my Zen Mischief weblog, my Flickr photostream and my Facebook stream.

Most of what I contribute to Thing-a-Day over the next month will be photographic, but hopefully I’ll manage a few other things as well.