Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, Reluctant Landlord

Dented and Daunted

Personal diary extract: Sunday 28 April 2019

Will need to pay out for new kitchen and appliances, dining chairs, redecoration, blinds, window fittings, new beds and bedding. Bin’s lid was broken — should report to council. Old kitchen worktop scarred — tenants weren’t using chopping board. Stainless steel pans grimy and burned on their bases. The biggest has a small dent near the bottom… maybe someone used it as a hammer to bash in a nail?

There are council taxes and power bills, and the agent keeps going on holiday.

By the time we went home today, I was depressed. Hoped I’d feel better if I wrote in my diary, but am in the process of becoming someone else and have temporarily lost my speech. Gradually finding my voice again in another way, if that makes any sense.

At night I finished reading The Abolition of Sanity by Dr Steve Turley. Makes me want to read C.S. Lewis! I don’t entirely understand the concept discussed — men with chests, Gaius and Titius, sublime waterfalls. Too many pieces are missing from the picture, at least for me. Why is the Tao important in ways that inner morality isn’t? Is the Tao a kind of universal constitution?

Perhaps combined security and morality is important — even while we take care of others, we need to be secure. You must buckle your own seatbelt before helping anyone else, and I doubt if that rule has changed. That might be one way the head and stomach meet to become the ‘chest’. Rationality takes precedence and balance must be found… we’re in a world where intellect has taken over and is trying to deny human nature, so there’s no ‘chest’ any more.

The above are just my garbled thoughts! An attempt to shine a light in a corner that’s still dark to me. I will obtain C.S. Lewis’s books and see if I can understand this thing better.

I’m less hooked on Facebook than I was a week ago, which is brilliant. Can’t blame the political groups for being open’ rather than ‘closed’… my favourite has the specific aim of sharing discussions and information as widely as possible. Fortunately I’ve found a closed group with similarities — not as good, but it offers a useful safety valve.

There’s not much being talked about that’s new just now. It’s recently been about the launch of The Brexit Party under Nigel Farage. Voting intentions for the European Elections. We got our poll cards a couple of days ago. Bill Cash has a court case against the government. Ann Widdecombe joined The Brexit Party and was expelled from the Conservative Party. (That suddenly made me think of my dream about Donald Trump firing me from one job because I was better suited to another!) JRM’s sister joined The Brexit Party — one of the first candidates to be unveiled.

It’s a little samey at the moment, and my focus has shifted. I’m excited about getting a new kitchen, though I’ll never have the fun of using it myself. The cost scares me, as well as the logistics of getting the house ready to rent out again. Will the next tenants be better… or worse?

Mixed feelings, but we’ll muddle through… we always do.

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Posted in Life and Family, Music I Like

Musing About Facebook and Other Things

A Message to You Rudy by The Specials:

I love this song. I challenge you to hear it and not dance, nod, tap your feet or fingers. It’s been in my head a lot over the past few days, and today I found myself dancing in the kitchen, even though it was only playing in my head and I was waiting for the kettle to boil! I felt happy and summery, which is strange at this time of year. But that’s this genre of music — I can’t think of many (if any) that make you sad.

Gosh, that new kettle’s a slow boiler. EU regulations, or just cheap?

Am fed up with cooking and in the mood to mess around a bit more. I found the old blog draft I was looking for; the one about internet reading. It was written three years ago exactly! Will publish it soon, though held back by the plaster on my index finger… clicking the mouse doesn’t work well, but the keyboard isn’t happy either.

As a Brexiteer, I thought I’d lost a cousin on Facebook… possibly a Remainer? I sighed and plodded onwards, then a couple of nights ago received a friend request and realized he had set up a new account. The old one is gone or inactive, and all his friends and family had to sign up to the new one. He ‘liked’ a couple of my posts, and I scratched my head and thought “a few days ago I was convinced I was persona non grata! And now I’m getting likes.” It’s good when we are slow to jump to conclusions, and it also feels good when friends and family put up with you even if they don’t agree with your views or understand your interests. Mind you, I haven’t told them about the dancing! 😝

I checked it wasn’t a fake page I was being invited to, and found myself talking to his sister after years of silence. She’s the nearest to me in age. Turns out life has been Heap Big Stress for her lately; you don’t get a full picture from the dribbets you read on Facebook. She sent a photo of their family Christmas so I’ll need to look out a return photo. Maybe the one of the Christmas tree… or the other one of the Christmas tree. Or one of another 500 pictures of the Christmas tree? I can’t decide!

Do you think one day they might have a giant library of all our photos? They’ll look at mine and decide they don’t need to keep hundreds of photos of the same Christmas tree when just one will do. Will they keep thousands of photos taken by every person who has lived? I don’t see it. Our pictures and words will die with our hard drives, along with our family Christmases.

Finishing up with a haunting song…

Pipe Dreams by Travis.

I’d pray to God if there was Heaven
but Heaven seems so very far from here
and it all boils down to the same thing
just a yin and a yang or a couple of pipe dreams
and it all boils down to the same old pain
whether you win or you lose isn’t gonna change a single thing

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Rants, Weekend Coffee Share

Sticker Trouble

If you were having coffee with me, I would probably talk your ear off. It’s nice strong coffee, though, and we’re having it black (unless you insist on milk).

It’s bin day tomorrow so I took the trash out. Washed things sitting around, emptied and filled dishwasher, took care of houseplants. They have greenfly again, so I took them out and gave them a good blasting with the hose. I will blast them a few more times during the day, but not too often. I asked Mum why *her* plants never got greenfly, and she wrinkled her nose and pointed at her begonias. I noticed the little lavender spriglet was drying out again, so I shot it outside after a dousing, and told Mum I’d try leaving it outside because it keeps drying out too much in the house. It will certainly die inside. Outside is its best chance.

The coriander was completely dead, so I emptied it outside and stored the pig-shaped pot in the shed. The soil was all pretty wet… it was probably over-watered.

One of the things Mum bought when she was out with a friend this morning was over-packaged pears. There were four, and I immediately pulled them out of the packaging to place them in the fruit bowl, and realized two weren’t just bruised, they had cuts in the flesh and the juice was running. You couldn’t see the damage because of all the stuff they were cocooned in. I showed them to Mum, and she frowned.

“It says ‘from Italy’,” I said, reading the front of the covering film.

I was thinking about it while emptying the coriander skeleton onto the flowerbed, and remembered how sometimes you’d buy a pumpkin or a squash, and remove a big supermarket sticker only to find a considerable dent or other blemish under the sticker. When pumpkins are intended to be the decorative centre of somebody’s festive display, it’s an mean-spirited thing to do (oowoowoowoo), but I don’t know who puts the stickers on in the first place. The supermarket or the producers?

Probably it’s not something we should formally complain about… pick your battles, as they say. Presumably most squashes and pumpkins have flaws and blemishes, and it would be like moving to the country and complaining about farmyard noises at crack of dawn. The fact that somebody has deliberately hidden flaws with carefully-placed stickers does leave a bad taste in the mouth, though. The daft thing is, if they put a blemished pumpkin in the wonky veg section and discounted it by 10p, we would rush to buy it. At least we would know about it beforehand and be pleased with our bargain!

Stickers must cost money, and ultimately the customer and the environment both pay; the real issue is probably why they put stickers on loose produce anyway.

Having mused over this during the funeral of my poor coriander, I stored the pot and headed back into the warm.

Posted in Political and Social Issues, Rants, Technology and Software

Lost in Gmail

Me in Gmail:

“Where’s the ‘reply’ button? Not this. Not that one either. Daren’t press the other one ‘cos I’m worried it will open the garbage chute or share everything far and wide.” (Looks helplessly around). “What are these promising dots in the corner? Oh, got it.”

(Starts replying to long-lost buddy in the U.S).

The next Gmail-related quandary was, “How do I save this as a draft?” On an iPad you can’t hover over things to check them out before committing, as there’s no mouse.

“What’s that symbol?… Nope, no drafts in there. That? Don’t touch it… it looks suspiciously like SEND, and I’m not ready. So what’s that arrow in the other corner? What if that’s SEND as well?”

(Considers doubtfully for a minute).

“On the other hand, the arrow could be the back button. I might as well risk it, but I’ll copy the entire post first in case I need to paste it back in.”

Fortunately, hitting the back button does save it as a draft, but once upon a time you would never have had to make such a leap of faith. Is it just that I’ve come from an environment where you had to save every document manually before you left it, and now we’re supposed to trust in our devices to do it automatically? I used to save every five minutes or less. It wasn’t an annoyance; it was reflex self-assurance, like touching worry beads round my neck and finding safety.

I was watching something a day ago in which a guy was complaining how Google turned Gmail into something unpleasant and confusing to use. His main subject was Google’s leaked briefing ‘The Good Censor‘. By voting for Trump, Brexit and the AfD, it seems we proved to Big Tech that we can’t be trusted to roam the internet on our own. Google said the briefing was internal research only, not company policy, but it’s suspicious they should see it as a ‘problem’ that’s theirs to solve.

That long-lost buddy is a fellow Facebook-hater, and mentioned something called MeWe. I hadn’t heard of it till then, but as I don’t like Facebook-type sites anyway, I’m not sure it’s for me. I was reading about it, and it looks as though you can keep groups of people separate from each other and not have all your friends, family and colleagues jostling elbows in one big viewable list.

That’s what Facebook should have been from the start. I wonder, will we be hearing more about MeWe from now on?

Posted in Life and Family

Blaming the Ghost

After her lunchtime siesta, Mum stumped into the room with a bit of a frown.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Somebody threw my bottle down the stairs.”

I felt slightly guilty as I remembered an empty plastic water bottle falling off the bottom few steps where it was sitting. It was accidental, but I didn’t pick it up, feeling rushed, sleepy and out of energy. I figured I’d get it later and throw it out.

I didn’t admit to anything but said, “Maybe it was the ghost!” I can’t remember her response, but then I asked why the bottle was on the stairs, and M said she was intending it to go upstairs to water her plants.

Later my sister emailed. “Should you find a fridge magnet through the door — it is a present for me.”

“If it disappears, it will be because of the ghost.”

“I’m sure the ghost would love a fridge magnet.”

Owoo woo woo.

Posted in Lost in Thought, Quizzes and Memes

Processing Skills and Moods

22 September? Don’t tell me the month is already nearly over… feels like it only just started.

What was the most astonishing thing that happened to you within the past 352 days?

I imagine a lot of surprising things have happened over the year, but the most powerful happened in the past three days… our household was briefly joined by a pigeon. It was a very quiet little bird, but I still feel I’ve been hit by a wrecking ball.

Do you have a skill you know you couldn’t get much better at than you already are?

Skills? I feel reluctant to think about this, partly because I’d end up writing a list. I seem to write lists for everything. It would get longer and longer, and I’d add every little thing I could possibly class as a skill, even natural (breathing) or something I’m terrible at (singing). Then I’d rate them out of ten, and re-sort the list so my best skills were at the top, after which I would look outside at the darkness and wonder what had happened to my day.

Since I would have gone to such a lot of trouble to work out my best and worst skills, the list couldn’t possibly be deleted, but must be stored in multiple back-ups along with everything else I’ve ever written down. After all, I might feel the need to refer to it again… some unwary idiot might ask the same question five years from now.

No, I don’t think I will do it, having thought it through!

What was your question again…?

What time of day or night best suits your most frequent mood?

This is a really tough question!

‘Now’ is often a good time, provided I don’t have something stressful to do like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the time of day; it’s more the content of it. The worst time of day tends to be very very early in the morning when you wake up fretting and can’t go back to sleep. Strangely, the best time can be bedtime, because you feel (hope) you’ll be safe from the rest of the world for a while. It’s a time to celebrate your own personal bubble by pulling close all the things that make you most comfortable. Book, drink, cosy blanket, long-suffering bear. Something to write in or watch (your journal and a YouTube video). Maybe a little iPad game that doesn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes for a couple of levels. I don’t mind the fact that I’ve played these same games over and over for years… it’s nice knowing what I’m doing, and you can’t be more than mildly addicted because you’re not paying for anything, interacting with anybody or striving to gain a new level or badge. You’re just enjoying the flow of the game, and you know you can pause it then pick it up again, or restart if you’ve made a bish of it this time round, and it doesn’t really matter.

My favourite games for this purpose are Trolls vs Vikings, Roads of Rome and Northern Tale. I also have Adelantado, but each level can take about 40 minutes, and some are pretty tricky… so I only play that if I have time and energy.

Having rambled on, I’m not sure I answered the question correctly, because you sneaked in something about mood. My most frequent mood. What’s my most frequent mood? Do I have to write one of those lists I described above?

As it happens, I don’t have to, as I’ve been keeping a mood spreadsheet for the past couple of months! It’s not very good and I keep meaning to design a better one. It’s the best I’ve got, though, so I’ll have a look once I’ve climbed the stairs and retreated into my personal bubble for the night. Perhaps while I’m doing that, the person asking all these questions should answer this one himself. Either that, or explain his thinking behind the question… was there a reason to wonder?

For what it’s worth, the ‘moods’ that seem to score highest over the past two months are:

strength
full of plans
creative
pretty worried
angry

It’s annoying to feel ‘creative’ or ‘full of plans’ last thing at night, especially as both impulses have usually been wiped out completely by morning. I hate to be worried last thing at night, especially ‘pretty worried’, which is mid-range intensity.

That’s probably why I play short iPad games over and over — it’s my way of temporarily switching off. I didn’t think anger would feature so highly, as I’ve been pretty easy-going and haven’t had shouting matches with anyone other than the ex-friend. That’s not a measure, though. I’ve sometimes felt angry at individuals for reasons I won’t reveal here, and at things said or done in politics and science. It’s better not to be angry last thing at night, as pacing back and forth can sometimes take the edge off, and you can’t pace back and forward in bed. You can kick the blanket off, I guess, and I’ve done that too.

‘Strength’ was the biggest scorer, though, which was a shocker! A lot of times I felt I had to just get on with things, carry on with chores even when distracted (cleaning kitchen and taking trash out when panicking about a baby pigeon!) and not be an attention-sucking drama queen even when upset. I don’t know if you’d call strength a mood, but it’s a mood-regulator, so why not make a note of it? If I’m playing Trolls vs Vikings a bit too much, I realize there’s something I’m not wanting to get to grips with, which means strength is low. If I’m drafting difficult emails and getting on with routine chores in the middle of life dramas, strength is high.

Strength is of little practical use at bedtime, when I’m probably going to wrap myself in my cocoon anyway.

OK, final answer! When I’m feeling strong, mid-morning is the best time. That’s when I’m more likely to deal with things, especially if geed on by worry, plans and creativity.

Today’s ramble is now at an end. 😛

Questions by Paul Sunstone.

Posted in Lost in Thought, Poetry and Verse, Quizzes and Memes

Brief Thoughts on Mind and Society

About how many hours a day do you typically sleep?

Under eight hours. I never seem to manage exactly 8 hours or over.

Which food most tempts you to overeat?

Chocolate peanuts… I like Tesco’s. Even better, flapjacks! Or, if we’re not talking about sweets and cakes, I like Christmas dinner (I know that’s rather an obvious response!) I also hate waste, so have a bad habit of eating things just so they are not ‘wasted’. Perhaps I need to change the way I look at that!

If you were to retire, what would you do to keep your mind from losing its edge?

I’m not sure I would even think in that way… “I must do crossword puzzles every day to keep my mind sharp.” No no. It would probably be writing things down and reorganizing my pictures and data. I have already tried writing a haiku a day, but that becomes annoying and I just dash something random down to get it out of the way.

An example from the past:

have to get up now
am writing this the next day
morning flutters by

There’s also a casually-written one about one of Gretchen Rubin’s books:

happiness project
connect to deepen your bonds
never demanding

Can you see yourself planting all your flowerbeds with the same species and same color of flower — assuming you had a few flowerbeds?

The most I’m likely to do is have all the same bedding plants as edging, and even then they’d be in different colours.

The smell of a newborn, the smell of leather, or the smell of your best friend?

Leather…

What is the single best thing about society today?

The internet. I realize things are changing because of it, but there are good things as well as bad. Not only that, but I think the good things outweigh the bad. Take this as an example… we no longer rely on a limited selection of newspapers and TV channels for our news, or on local libraries for information — the selection of books in our town library is sparse.

Thanks for the queries, Paul. 🙂

Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, Music I Like, Quizzes and Memes

Headaches, Hate, and Self-Improvement

What anniversaries do you mark on your calendar and keep?

Birthdays. Halloween. Christmas. Passing reference to Easter. That’s it.

What is your favorite genre of painting: abstract, impressionism, cubist, surrealism, etc?

I don’t think I have a favourite — I like a variety. My mother likes Klimt, and I have a huge Escher book in the house — it’s beautiful.

How do you deal with a headache?

Drink water, open windows for fresh air… lie down if it’s bad enough. Occasionally I take a paracetamol. Usually, after a little sleep, the edge of it has gone. Also don’t eat too many nuts at once, as an excess of those can bring on headaches!

Is there anyone in your personal life that you profoundly hate?

Hate seems a pretty strong emotion — I don’t have that consistent a feeling about anyone, though there are those I dislike.

About how often does a catchy song get stuck in your head?

It’s a permanent setting! There’s always something playing in Radio Me. The two songs bothering me the most tonight are Why Does It Always Rain On Me (Travis) and Every River (Runrig).

If you were going to read just one self-improvement book, what would the specific subject be? That is, in what way would you most want to improve?

I don’t know about the term ‘self-improvement’. I’m more inclined to think “perhaps my life will be better if…”, which is not the same. Or I look at a self-improvement book and feel annoyed, and think “why do you think I need to change?? I’m not changing for other people!” It depends. I feel more of a need to understand human nature, most of the time, so, anyway… rambling aside… if there was a very new, important and life-changing book about anxiety that was taking the world by storm, that would be the one. Otherwise, it would have to be one about … wait, have just looked on Amazon for a range of choices. I could read books on mindfulness, happiness, self-esteem, fitness, assertiveness, ‘not giving an eff’, kindness, freedom from various addictions, self-care, self-discipline, anger management, positive thinking, wisdom, time management, dealing with stress, success, effective communication…

You know… I think it would be Gretchen Rubin’s next book that I’d read, whatever it may be. Although her main focus is on happiness, it’s a subject that covers a lot of ground and there’s so much in there that I find interesting.

The questions were from Café Philos. I could get used to these. 🙂

 

Posted in Lost in Thought

Question Hour in Café Philos

Answering some questions posed by Paul Sunstone at Café Philos. 😀

What is the most impressive invention in history?

The bridge? You’d need a lot of knowledge and skill to design and build these things. They save people miles of travel and last for years (at least some of them do). I think they must be terrifying to build. I suffered just walking across wide, safe town bridges when going through the aftermath of bad agoraphobia. 🙂

What has been humanity’s most audacious hope?

Simply facing down the odds, even when they are against us. The more they try to beat us down, the more we fight back. In particular, living out our lives surrounded by vast and unknown dangers, knowing full well we will lose everything and everyone before we reach our murky ends.

What’s more influential: Love or money?

I think both have their moments, but love (whether of a person, a community, a place, a way of life or a pursuit) is the healthiest reason to do anything.

Three words that describe your current mood?

Blank; content; filled with suppressed foreboding. I know that’s not three words, but I didn’t know if ‘forebodious’ was a word or not. 🙂

Which is more important: A long marriage or a passionate one?

I can see ways that both could be bad, as well as ways that both could be good. Ultimately, a long marriage sounds better — more stable, and possibly more outward-looking?

Name two favorite bloggers and link to their blogs!

Abbie’s Tree House

Unusual quotations, occasional anecdotes and a peaceful vibe. 🙂

Country Squire Magazine

Long, thoughtful articles which I always take the time to read — also recipes! I still mean to try that sausage hotpot from a while back.

Both blogs post regularly, and I would miss them if they disappeared.

Time to sleep…

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Political and Social Issues

Everything Falls Short This Summer

2 July 2018

Went shopping for clothes, but most were really ugly. Big floral designs, material too skimpy. I said to M they were all more like the kind of garments you wear over swimsuits. She said maybe they were. My question is, why should everything in the shop be like that?

3 July 2018

Watched a Ted Talk: Useful Journaling

What he says about the uses of journalling is very true and I’ve experienced it myself. It’s why I still write, though, as he says, there are times you give up for a while… yet always pick it up again.

That Ted Talk was immediately followed by: Want to learn better? Start mind-mapping

It got me thinking at the end about how it could be used to tease through something that’s confusing to understand or discuss adequately. I get so confused about what people mean, what they say, what they want, what they know, and whether all of this fits together or not, that eventually I give up trying to figure it out. Perhaps this would be a tool that helps us find our way through the brain fog!

8 July 2018

I came across this in the Apple News app:

May’s Brexit plans ‘unworkable’ and a ‘fudge’, Sir Keir Starmer says. The shadow Brexit secretary said: “I’m afraid it’s got fudge written all over it.”

“Ah,” I said in surprise, “Finally we AGREE on something!”

This Chris Riddell political caricature in The Guardian was amusing, though I wondered why it was a swivelly unicorn instead of a cowardly lion.

13 July 2018

For three or four days I had hot chocolate with the 100% cacao I got from M&S, and some whipped cream to put on the top. I’m not very good at making real hot chocolate, even when I make a better fist of not allowing the chocolate to curdle in the milk. My current method is to melt a square of the chocolate directly in the mug, sitting in a pan of recently boiled water. It melts well, and I leave it sitting in the hot water when I put the heated milk in gradually, stirring it to mix with the melted chocolate. Then I put a dollop of whipped cream on top. It seems to work well, and tastes OK, then I reach clumps of resolidified chocolate at the bottom, and that spoils the drink. I don’t know how to get over that hurdle.

Was stressed this morning because internet wasn’t working and yet the router’s light was still green. I gave it time and it still refused to work. Eventually I unplugged the router, left it a few minutes, plugged it in again, and at last it worked! I hate it when it blocks me; it makes me wonder what I did to offend the gods of the internet.

Quite liked this video in YouTube:

President Trump Arrives at Blenheim Palace as He Visits the UK, the PM and the Queen

Was awestruck by the quiet, purring power of the Americans. There was something so strange about seeing a little bit of America here in Britain, as though they had driven over the hill from a neighbouring castle! I watched with the sound off (as usual) so our own pomp and circumstance passed me by somewhat.