The S-Word

This month I am doing the #inktober challenge as I am an avid doodler. My doodles are not good but I enjoy doing them.

The other day it was Sword. Seeing as my brain is broken I interpreted that as s-word and it reminded me of a few things.

To start with it is what #1 son says when I say that word. Daddy said the s-word. 

Which ties in to a joke that Lee Mack tells. He asked his 8 year old kid what is Brown and Sticky. And his kid said ‘shit’.

I asked #1 son the same and he said ‘Poo’ as he knows that mum doesn’t like them using swear words.

At the same time there is the fascination both my kids have with the Poo emoticon. #1 son likes it because it is Poo and Poo is funny. #2 son has a non neuro-typical outlook and declared the cuddly emoticon Poo to be a Happy Chocolate Ice Cream. Personally I like #1 sons joy at the world and #2 sons way of seeing it.

tl:dr: this is what I doodled. 

The Happy S-word Ice Cream
The Happy S-word Ice Cream

Love Your Community Feedback

This is just a quick post to note down a thing that I like to do and that I would encourage others to do. We all have communities whether we realise it or not, we have peers, friends, online groups and like-minded followers.

Most of us post to social media, or to private forums, or just to closed groups, and at some point you are going to say something daft, or make an error like a bad C&P, or (as is frequently the case) technology betrays you.

At some point someone is going to correct you.(1) If you say something in public they are likely to respond in the same public way. You can do two things about this:

  1. Fix it but get all butt-hurt at them for mentioning it.
  2. Fix it and thank them properly in the same public forum.

I like to opt for Option 2.(2)

Now sometimes it is especially sensitive, or you get supremely embarrassed by being corrected, you basically prefer that people correct you in private. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do option 2. It means you need to reinforce your preferences with that person so they know for next time.

As mst is always saying to me: ‘don’t attribute to malice what can easily be explained away as ignorance’.

Sometimes you need to educate people as to your preferences, and sometimes you need to tell them more than once. Doesn’t mean you need to get butt-hurt when they try and help you. You thank that person, they took the time to engage.(1)

(1) Even if they did it to be mean, small-minded, or have a sense of superiority. You get to be the better person by having the decency to reward their efforts.(2)

(2) If I ever manage to do this consistently I will be amazed as I am nothing, if not, a hypocrite who has to write blog posts to remind himself to be a better person.

Proud of #1

This week I had a conversation in the car with my 7 year old #1 son. It broadly was about what he wanted to be when he was older and how he wasn’t sure. This is the paraphrased version:

Me:  You can be whatever you want to be
#1 Son: Like what?
Me: An astronaut, a doctor, a scientist, a Minecraft developer, anything
#1 Son: An Astronaut! How do I do that?
Me:  Well when someone wants to be an astronaut he has to train hard and be healthy, or he might have a special skill like a scientist or an engineer
#1 Son: He or She daddy
#Me: [Pause] Yes. Yes you’re right it can be he or she, thank you. Should we use they so that it doesn’t matter who they are?
#1 Son: Yes
#Me: So when they…

I couldn’t have been more proud to be corrected on equality by my own 7-year-old child. 🙂

 

Wonder Woman

It’s late at night so I am going to be random and even less cogent than usual…

I just watched the latest Wonder Woman movie from DC and its selected film partners and have a few random thoughts.

Outfit

Hated the way the new outfit looked in Batman vs Superman, okay not really hated as I thought it was pretty sexy but is that what we really wanted to display, is that the image we should associate with a female here?[1] I felt they used it to satisfy a desire and not a need. So hated it as it just was a pander (or a Panda).

So to set this straight I don’t mind good looking people and sexy clothing I just want the association to be appropriate.

In contrast the way the camera is used here, the manner in which we linger on the lead is not in a predatory manner. Diana was sexy, the outfit was good, the camera wasn’t a voyeur for once, so well done. Pay particular attention to where the focus lingers and compare it with say Suicide Squad or Batman Vs Superman.

Script

Would give it both a 5 out of 5 and a 3 out of 5. yup it had issues, so lets settle on a 4.372 out of 5. Where it was good it was really good and the rest of the time it ticked the boxes. Not sure what happened as there was nothing specific it just didn’t have the right impact which is a shame as some bits were stand out ace.

Direction

I would have done things differently and there were points where I wanted things to be shown in a different way. It took me until near the end of the movie to realise the issue I was having. The director was clearly learning the medium and wasn’t ticking the usual boxes, so they were not the problem, maybe I was. It was fine and nicely rounded. The director knew when to emphasise and when to hold back and let the story take control. Solid and very professional.

Actors

Some didn’t have enough to do.

Some were given less than the best lines – see script

Some needed more screen time and some just seemed ensemble cast for a single arc story  (the leads had all the work to do).

However the focus on the leads was great and both of them were good, very strong and reliable performances.

Overall

Deserves its praise.

Some people will hate it and I could have long discussions why.

Yes, if you want to discuss gender narratives I think this film has something to say but I am not going to discuss that much here or say whether it is a positive or a negative, and I doubt I care to be trolled into giving a long answer as I’d need to re-watch it and think about it and my time is limited.

It is worth watching.

It is worth thinking about.

Aside from the overt hype, it is very worthy of recognition on a number of fronts.

It pisses on the rest of the recent DC films (Superman, Batman Vs Superman, Suicide Squad) .[2]

[1] No this doesn’t mean that women can’t be smart and sexy. No I don’t think that women need to be ordinary and portrayed as less than any image they choose. No I am not indicating anything other than what we are generally fed. No I don’t care to discuss this any more than what I just said in a vague hand gesturing way.

[2] However I don’t think that is that hard as I don’t rate these movies much above popcorn and low brow analysis fodder. And in parts cringing fucking awfulness. But they are very stylised, expensively so.

So Very Busy

There is an old adage that if you want anything done then you should find a busy person and ask them to help…

So there are two parts to that. Either they are busy because they are always efficient and can handle a great deal of things, or they are the sort of happy moron who just cannot say no to helping people.

I am in the latter category.

Whih is why I am so very busy all the time and do not think that I at all organised about it.

Well enough of this, stuff to do.

Ere I am J.H.

[Last night, Monday 31st July, we scattered my friends ashes in a small ceremony near Friar’s Crag on Derwent Water in the Lake District. I naturally took the opportunity to write some more about her to share with the people who attended. It is reprinted here for everyone else.]

In Terry Gilliam’s seminal film Brazil we have an underlying narrative about existence, reality and the nature of understanding. How we can construct realities and not see the world around us. How we can live our life in a dream and be perfectly content despite the horrifying monotony of the industrialised world and corporate government bureaucracy that dominates and controls us.

The main protagonist in the film slowly has the perfect construct of his world stripped away. He is our dreamer and we get to watch his dreams, his flights of fantasy where he escapes and becomes a hero, an angel, a saviour.

He is a Walter Mitty who hides his feelings, and nature, and escapes to his fantasy world. As the film progresses, in its real world, our protagonist finds excitement and love before it is all torn from him.

The film ends with an escape from reality into a final dream world where a lost love is regained and happiness is ever after. A contrast between what is nightmare and dream, real and unreal, our dialogue on understanding.

Only we as an audience know that the dark reality continues.

“I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong”
(Linger, The Cranberries, Written by Noel Anthony Hogan, Dolores Mary O’riordan • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group)

It is strange that I would discuss that with you as it seems to have no relationship to Jane. I mentioned in my eulogies at the Funeral and Memorial Service that Jane and I had a shared passion in art, in literature, film and theatre. We would often discuss movies not just in how we liked them but looking for their deeper themes and relationships and comparing them to our own existence.

This is generally the manner in which we spoke, this is the discourse we would fall into within minutes of seeing each other. Barely had the pleasantries of trip and life passed before some theme, meme or fancy would fly out and we would tease and discuss it. We did this type of discussion about most things and so I decided to use the same rhetoric with you all today. I wanted to talk to you as if you were her.

This film Brazil, though, came to my mind specifically when I was deciding what to talk about today, and at the end I will let you know why.

But first I want to mention what I miss the most about Jane, what is still burning in my mind and ripping away at my heart.

You might have noticed that I am a bit of a talker. I waffle along, making loose associations and connections, letting my thoughts wander and my narrative runs with it. I said before that I am a weave talker and so was Jane. I like mixing things and repeating, like a musical from the mind of a maniac.

But I also love the thrust of good argument, and like heated passionate debate. That style of discussion means that hurt feelings can occur. So in my life I have probably had a shouting rant with almost everyone I have met or come to know as friends.

Except one.

To my recollection Jane and I never argued from mere emotions. We had heated debate and disagreement but not bad feeling. We never upset each other or shouted from a purely emotional stance.

It wasn’t that we were cold and calculated, far from it, I just said I was passionate and so was Jane. It was more that the other person usually had constructed a clever position so that you couldn’t get mad it was too much fun being taxed into thinking how to counter what they were saying.

Also Jane was phenomenally good at using a sarcastic swipe to end a discussion and change tactic. I think that Jane was one of the people in my life who knew me on a very deep level for so long that we almost wore each other’s skin. We knew how the other person would think and feel.

What tears at me is that I will never have those conversations, I will never learn from her again, and I did learn from her. I know that Jane was one of my great teachers. A person who was not only my friend, my confidant in many ways, but she also had a lot to show and I had a lot that I had to learn.

The last thing that Jane had to teach me she did so after she died. I have lost a lot of people I know, we all do. I lost my grandparents when I was young and although I know I was sad, I wasn’t that sad as I was too young.

I lost my father when I was in my twenties but that wasn’t that sad, he was estranged and I hardly knew him to understand if I cared that much about his passing, even now I feel ambivalent to his death. He wasn’t that good to my mother and he seemed to care very little for me.

I have seen friends die but no one this close. Jane is the first person that I have lost who was so close to me that we were close family, we were siblings. Jane gave me a final lesson, a study in grief.

Had I lost someone this close who I didn’t have such a conversive relationship with it would be different I think. I find myself talking to her, like now, as if she was still there. This whole narrative, like the two other eulogies I wrote is made for her to hear, for her to approve of, for her to discuss with. I can wear her skin and know which bits she will smile at, which bits will make her roll her eyes and when she will touch my arm with quiet understanding or hug me to let a feeling be shared.

I wish I had never learned this lesson, I cannot really thank her for it. I wish she was still here to tell me to cheer up and not be such a miserable old bugger. I miss my friend.

I do though thank her for all the things she did have time to teach me. Jane had the most profound effect on the way that I discussed and thought about things, she still has that effect as I am drastically changed from knowing her. Meeting her at University at a point where I was expanding my thinking and seeing someone who was so clever, incisive, kind, cutting and funny without being selfish or malicious changed the way I am.

Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good
(Lou Reed, Perfect Day)

Last week would have been Jane’s 9th wedding anniversary, and the great constructs that are Facebook and Google reminded me of this. Facebook showed me memories and asked me to reshare my day from nine years ago while Google did an On This Day collage of wonderful pictures of Jane.

Once again she haunted my whole day and every time I looked around I was sure I caught a glimpse of her. I could see her looking up at me eyes glinting from some secret thought, smile broadening as she was about to share some special insight. Again I was thinking about loss and I avoided songs.

I have been avoiding some songs. Some that we knew together, some that we didn’t really listen to with each other but they make me think of her. They bring her back to be an emotion colouring my day.

I was thinking that I would share another anecdote with you. I could talk about the time we drove Jane to London just before her Kidney operation. None of us wanted to talk as we had spoke all weekend and this was possibly a last goodbye. We had Sara Cox  on the radio and she had asked for stories of things that you had to do that were scary, she was facing a horse riding adventure and was worried about it.

Nathan, Leigh and I were with Jane and she sent the message about going for her operation and a song request. Neither Nathan or I can recall the requested song.[*] We spent all of that journey waiting without relief for the song to be played and just as we pulled up to stop the text was read out and Sara played the song. It was a good sign, a sign of hope.

I asked Nathan if he could recall which song it was as my memory was failing me but like me he had so many other thoughts from that day that the song escapes us both. A fragment of history whisked away by time and other feelings.

The differences between the organic and the inorganic, the people and the machine. One remembers and the other knows how to forget.

Our technology mirrors the construct of our minds, sometimes. Designed and built by humans the machines follow the same patterns and emulate the same abilities and affinities.

Even as machines and the software that controls them start to automate the construction and design of their own systems, it too is mirroring nature. The algorithms used to programmatically determine the outcome follow numerical values and are based around naturally deterministic systems. Machines will follow a society as much as we have for we are creating them to understand the meaning and not just the structure of reality. We create complex computer languages that underpins their relationships and understanding.

The dimension we can loosely call cyberspace is an exo-brain for the species, an extension of our shared, and maybe collective, consciousness. As a species our experience of the world is grounded in our interactions and shared definitions. So too is our relationship in the growing online world.

No Last Wishes

I see glimpses of you,
They drift across my mind,
Darkness closes in,
Smiles shift to tears.

Thinking of your words,
Phrases I thought I’d lost,
Memories left to haunt,
Emphasize, and punctuate, sorrow.

I’d trade all the time we shared,
Just to hear your voice,
Just to see your smile,
Just to hold you close.
(Mark Keating, 2017)

My memory already fades and moments of my friend seem to untether and slip away, when I think of her I see a lot of pictures and occasionally a shared experience. But the photos and electronic material are so much richer in colour and definition.

What they don’t have is her touch. If I focus hard I can feel her touch on my hand, the last gentle squeeze of friendship, the last hug where we kissed cheeks and she held the back of my neck.

I loved my friend. It was the love of a brother to a sister or a child to a parent. She was my family.

All that remains are the fragments inside my mind, the human machine, and the ephemera in cyberspace.

In Brazil the protagonist’s father is called Jeremiah, and that name is used as an anagram in an unlock code. In a direct quote from the film a character reveals the code when he tells the hero:

“‘Ere I am, J.H. …The ghost in the machine.”

Jane Haggerstone, who became Jane Harvey, my own JH. I came here to say goodbye one last time.

But I keep the spectres of her as electronic ephemera, shadows and reflections in my thoughts, and the lingering pain, a loss, in my heart.

Here you are Jane, a ghost in this machine.

[*] After reading this Leigh has made the point that we may not have requested a song but merely offered a text explaining what the thing was we feared. This would likely explain why we cannot recall what song was played. Nathan attempted to contact Sara Cox but had no reply by the time we had the service.

Granada On

About Granada, Spain: tips and tricks for the urban explorer, extended visitor or people simply living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

(This is a review I posted to Amazon Kindle about this book, I liked it enough that I thought it also belonged here – go buy the book)

A confession, I bought this particular book on Granada because I had visited the city previously and attended a conference hosted by the author to whom I struck up a relationship. Since I knew he had written a guide I purchased that when I returned here on a holiday. There is a natural bias towards someone we know as a friend which I feel is now mitigated by this confession.

Granada On is not a guidebook in the traditional sense of the word. There is no index of places to eat and no direct listing of places to visit with accompanying scaled down aged stock artwork. If you are looking for a book to tell you exactly what you should look at and where, then Lonely Planet et al. have a guidebook for you.

Granada On is so much more than that. It is a history, a passion, a conversation. Juan takes us on a journey flicking between the history of the city, region and country and his own experiences. We meet him as a child and share his early understandings and return with him as an adult to re-visit those memories.

We wander, we meander, we stroll around the city not as a tourist looking for the trappings of some common experience, but as friends, as lovers sharing a passion for this beautiful location.

In his fluid writing style Juan encourages us to meander as much through the book as we would the city. Jump in and around its sections as you prepare to visit and while you are here. This guidebook will help you appreciate the reasons for why the city is as we see it today.

Unlike other books Juan will also take you on a personal, and reflective, stroll along streets literally laced with art. He discusses the graffiti (of which he is a huge fan) and the mindset of the people who created the magnificent city you are in.

To an English ear the prose is clearly from someone whose first language is not English. In this book that is a genuine plus. The writing is clear and fluid, Juan is an accomplished writer in English, but its structure and word choices are not standard they come from a more musical tongue and the rhythm and metre of the sentences match a pseudo-romance tongue.

This lyrical use of English adds to the books genuine authenticity, its conversational tone from a local, you could be walking down a cobbled road awaiting the next reveal of architecture, or a personal anecdote, or a cultural trinket. Juan helped me to picture the places, to feel and experience them, without even being there.

But Granada On, it is a ridiculously low price, and read it, dip into it, and use it to guide you around Granada. It will prepare you for the attitude best taken on visiting this region, reveal trinkets and details only a local would know (and even some details that they are oblivious to). Then, when you return or move on, return to it again and relive being here.

(Visited Granada in 2015 and 2017)

Note Bene: While visiting Granada this year we had the luxury of spending some time with Juan and his wife (and if my memory wasn’t a sieve I would recall her name). It was then that we discovered the real source of Granada history as he was corrected about his local knowledge from a real expert :).*

  • He got one small fact about a fountain incorrect when talking to us and was swiftly corrected :).

Ranking up Achievements

If by now you are getting bored of me talking about hitting fitness goals and my achievements this year you might want to give up now. Though you’d miss all the pretty graphs…

For those of you still here this blog post is all about the recent achievements.

Yearly Goal

At the start of the year( well actually a few days into it but that’s just because I don’t do New Year resolutions at midnight on the 31st I think through and make sure I want to do them after a few days) I set a goal, I wanted to beat the last recent low weight I had in 2014 which was 3 stone less than the weight I was at the start of this year (I was 18 stone 1 lb at the start of the year and my previous best was 15 stone 1 lbs).

I did that about 2 months ago, so I set a new goal. I wanted to hit by the end of the year the healthy weight band that the NHS has for my age/height. By now you should have guessed it, I did it:

This is the first time that I know of (so my living memory) where I have achieved this. I am a Healthy Weight. So I have a new goal which is about 12-14lbs under this weight and that is a lifetime goal and one to keep and maintain. I reckon I should do it for the end of the year but earlier would be nice.

Challenges

I also wanted to get more active and a good benchmark for that is to be vigorously active for 25% of the time I move around. This would be either fast walking, cycling or other exercise. That was a big challenge as it a big percentage of the active part of a days movement.

However I thought this was a goal that can be achieved, the easy way to do it would just be to walk a lot more energetically, this will be recorded by Google Fit as jogging/running. Of course that energetic state is not just swift walking it is ‘fast’ walking which is a semi-jogging pace.

I passed this as well, in fact I passed it so much I am more vigorously active than just active – I run more than I walk.

It’s also nice to note that I pass 500,000 steps in a couple of months and come close on others, which puts my daily average at about 17,300 steps.

Another thing I have started to do is to accept fitness challenges from friends and on various apps. These work out well for me as I am fairly competitive so I can be pushed, it is also nice to win for a change (at school I was generally last and considered amongst the wets/weirdos/fatties – I pretty much was in all 3 of those categories judging by the nicknames and insults hurled).

This was the most recent challenge, a Mon-Fri event. It was helped by the fact that I ran 10K each morning and ran at 4 lunches with either Leigh or Tom (names and images are purposefully blurred and Leigh and Tom were not in this challenge 😉 ).

Heart Health

My family has a history of poor heart health. My maternal grandfather and father both died in their 50s from heart attacks and my mother has suffered with Angina, my sister has a congenital heart defect. So having 3 young kids and being very overweight and approaching 50 I was suddenly filled with a lot of concern.

My blood pressure was high (125-142/80-90) showing signs of hypertension starting and my resting heart rate was averaging 75-82. I couldn’t go upstairs without being slightly breathless from the weight and fast breathing.

When I started with a fitbit heart tracker I was ‘Average’ for the heart tracking, by that point I had been exercising for close to 3 months, I was likely at ‘Poor’ to ‘Fair’ when I started. This week I was happy to sneak into ‘Excellent’ though two days later I dropped .3 points and went back to 49.2 and just ‘Very Good’ – but at the top end of that.

As you can see my resting heart rate is now around 60, though it hovers between 56-63. My last blood pressure check I was at 110/65 and I average 107-122/63-81 dependent on the time of the day and what I am doing.

All in all I am feeling happy about my health. Since December I have lost 4 stone 9 lbs (65lbs/29.484Kg) and this year it is 4 stone 7 lbs (63lbs/28.576Kg) so my current weight is 13 stone 6lbs (188lbs/85.275Kg).

 

Running Socks (Review)

The History

If you have read this blog before you will know that this year I decided to change my lifestyle. Part of that change was to exercise regularly. These days I run every day, I go at least 8Km and sometimes I do 15-20Km in a day.

Not being the youngest person in the world I do suffer from small strains and injuries. Two that were particularly troubling were blisters caused by shoes (new trainers in one case) and a pain in the arch and ankle of my left foot.

In a bid to try and move away from an ankle support I decided to try a running sock. I chose the More Mile Mens London sock as it had good recommendations of Amazon. I would like to share some of my experience.

The Review

This review can be broken into 6 distinct parts:

  • Fit: The socks are snug and tight, they fit well and do not shrink as long as you keep the wash cool and use colour setting. They also are suited to left/right division and as such are labelled.
  • Support: As promised they support the arch and most of my pain has disappeared. The compression on the toes and ankle are also good.
  • Sweat: The sock works well at getting sweat away from the skin and my feet can be dry after running (or at least they feel dry).
  • Padding: Toes and ankle are nicely padded and as such they have eliminated blisters, another big plus is the padding on the ball of the foot which helps to cushion and protect the side of the foot.
  • Comfort: They feel great, like standing on clouds, snug clouds though.
  • Wear: I have had them for a few weeks and they are only just showing wear, I estimate a lifespan of 20-30 wears for each sock, which is about 10p a run. This might seem high but I think it is a bargain for the level of comfort I have noticed.

Overall I am going to give a thumbs up to these socks. Please note that I haven’t tried their other socks, nor have I tried many other brands that are similar so cannot give a side-by-side comparison.

However I think they are worth the cost and the comfort and reduction in strain and blisters alone is worth double the daily cost.

If you are going to purchase some of these socks please consider using my affiliate link below.

[Note: I was not asked, sponsored, or otherwise tempted to write this review. I made a purchase and this is a response to the usage (personal) of the product I bought. I was not offered any compensation or gain]