New year more blog

Yikes! Where did January go? Just one day left to meet my new target of at least one post a month this year.

Obvious January entry: self-improvement round-up of the silent last 6 months. The main items were various job applications and interviews over the summer, followed by starting a new job in September. The bad news: no running since July, after I lost my momentum, no pun intended, due to a few weeks’ unwellness. But still cycling, even all through this month in spite of fearing a repeat of last January’s tumbles.

July: ‘Character Strengths’ workshop by Lightbox – the Happiness Project. Extremely valuable. My main character strengths are (in that order):

  1. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
  2. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  3. Fairness, equity, and justice
  4. Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
  5. Humour and playfulness

Take the test

August: Made a few extra pennies proofreading and teaching people to use WordPress.  Took a maths test at my local college to determine where I should start in order to become a well-oiled statistics-churning machine. I had decided this would be a good idea thanks to the character strengths reflection, my previous MBTI dabblings and the fact I enjoy working with data at work but feel stunted by my limited mathematical skills/knowledge.

September: Attended a work conference in Cork and took a few nice photos there. Started my new job – another part-time one on top of my existing one, bringing me back up to 33.5 hours. Exhibited as part of the St Werburghs Arts Trail. Started a maths course at my local college. Wrote an article for a local magazine.

October: Watched some wonderful Photoshop webinars, which were free at the time of broadcast from the US East coast, meaning 5pm to midnight my time. They not only taught me tons of things about Photoshop but also opened my eyes to the value of learning and using keyboard shortcuts beyond Ctrl+a/x/c/p and customised tool layouts in whatever application I use. Also worked out, thanks to my challenging new job, how crucial it is to me to feel competent and useful.

November: Kept giving my all to the new job’s raised-game requirements, including super-strict lifestyle discipline to keep my energy levels and alertness up – no gluten, no potatoes, no refined sugar, plenty of sleep etc. Fixed a puncture all by myself for the first time.

December: ‘Goals’ workshop by Lightbox – the Happiness Project. More reinforcement than new material, but did re-focus my mind on the importance of having goals in the first place, separating them out from aimless daydreams, breaking things down into smaller achievable components, and committing, even through something as simple as putting goals in writing. Started using Habits RPG as a result of this, tidying up bookmarks and recalling the success of a similar approach to dieting. Took test to get into fast-track maths GCSE class starting in January; only one in my class to pass. Became an official Twitterer as part of paid work for the first time. Finally got round to reading my book on speed-reading and Cordelia Fine’s ‘Delusions of Gender‘.

So that was the second half of 2014 – pretty busy. 2015 is starting out no different, not least as there are now not one but two evening  maths class a week, art group meetings once a fortnight and various new items on Habits RPG to keep up with!

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Music to my ears

Exercise

I didn’t get round to trying the Speed podcast last week after all. But I’m very pleased with myself for managing to get three runs in despite the week’s social busy-ness, several late nights and two and a half days of gorging on bad, bad (but so good) foods courtesy of VegFest. Actually, the gorging provided motivation (damage limitation). I did two more Stepping Stones runs and one to my own music. The latter was the fastest, in spite of a lot of faffing with my phone. This was due to a last minute decision to make it a Nine Inch Nails-themed event, in memory of the Cardiff gig on Wednesday, via a few songs ripped from old CDs and/or the Soundcloud app. Having now looked into this a bit more, it seems Deezer will be a better soluion.

Photo of D lock secured to pannier rack with bungee cord

Bun-Dee

Talking of apps, my counter one has stopped working, so I’m now relying on Sports Tracker’s voice feedback for my “You’re a third of/halfway/two-thirds of the way through” alerts. That, and using the same route most of the time.

Cycling-wise, I’ve been trialling a new D-lock carrying system, namely a bungee cord wrapped around my pannier rack, after seeing this on someone else’s bike at the Space for Cycling rally. It’s working a treat so far, though I did snap the lock onto my finger on Thursday and it’s still a little tender (hurt quite a bit at the time). Also slight complication to pannier(un)hooking, but the improvement to the (un)locking faff makes it worth it I think.

Education

Only one educational event this week: the Bristol Cable’s Journalism with Integrity workshop led by Mike Jempson, a long-time journalist and unionist who is also Director of MediaWise and a senior lecturer. A sobering look into moral and legal considerations of reporting.

Mike Jempson’s exhortations of transparency, objectivity and rigour were very appealing to this INTJ, yet a reminder that good journalism is hard work because it means that something that sound like a good story with no reliably-sourced facts to substantiate it requires either finding said facts and writing in a  way that is “relevant to your neighbours, not just your friends”, or a pass.

Or, I got to thinking, the right angle. I’ve been pondering what I could do for the Dignity March after they issued a call for bloggers, social networkers and photographers to help publicise their campaign. I think the lessons from John Henley’s talk are particularly important for such a story and in the current climate. His only answer to my question about how to make more people interested in an unpopular subject affecting a minority was to show the human, emotional side. And this, he had told us earlier, is best done via video, while data is more easily digestible as a graphic, and text is best used for discussion of ideas; and a mix of the three increases a digital visitor’s “dwell time”. So I have a method; but the clock is ticking if I am to employ it in any way useful to this cause. Day jobs have their drawbacks.

Going back to Sunday’s workshop, the most shocking thing for me was delving into defamation/libel/slander. It made me realise how suddenly my life could be turned upside down for blithely expressing an opinion or other statement that someone/an organisation could consider/claim to be a threat to their reputation. I don’t know how common it is for independent bloggers to be sued for such things but I will definitely bear the three essential criteria for defensible defamation in mind: truth (ie based on undeniable facts), honest opinion (one that any honest person might share), public interest.

This got me wondering how the hell critics and comedians do their jobs, as I made a mental note to delete a gratuitous line in my review of Wednesday night on another blog that was purely, as far as I can tell, a matter of taste. And how, if it was on a blog people read, I would have had to post an apology instead of deleting the dubious material.

Also, bloggers beware – if you pre-moderate comments (ie choose which you publish), you are liable for their content even if someone else wrote them.

There are some very complex considerations when covering court cases, some of which went hand in hand with special privileges card-carrying journalists have in relation to them, such as permission to tweet proceedings (which may be retweeted but not commented on).

Talking of Twitter and responsible journalism, here’s a great thread where Kerry McCarthy MP challenges a Bristol Post headline.

Finally, an interesting concept was briefly brought to our attention: the “right to be forgotten”.  Apparently the expectation is that after 9 months people forget the details of most news stories and most of the people in them, but the digital age has made this less linear if people’s past is only a google away.

Photography

Popped into the Greenbank to meet the member of its staff coordinating the exhibition and have a bit of a recce. This was really worth doing as I got to see that there are two different types of wall space available (all bricks, but with a choice of just red and a mix of red, yellow and brown). As most of my large pictures will have rusty hues on unframed canvas, I have requested one of the multi-coloured walls so they stand out more. I’m now wondering whether this was the right choice and may revisit it, especially since I’ve given up on artificially extending the photos to make them wrap (most will have black edges, one of them dark grey ones).

I have now ordered a first batch of these canvases, using photos that looked good in the test prints; fingers crossed they turn out all right too. I found that upon closer inspection, the test prints that were disappointing were different from the way the photos looked on any of my devices, not just my dodgy desktop PC’s monitors. When I pointed this out to Photobox, they promptly gave me credit to have them re-done. This is scary in terms of not knowing what to expect from the canvases, but good news in terms of using my existing computer equipment for photo editing. Certainly can’t fault Photobox for responsiveness. Almost everything I ordered yesterday has been despatched today; I expect the thicker canvases to be on their way tomorrow.

I took some photos of Boney M (who were great) on Friday night at VegFest, having scored a free ticket – quite a challenge what with dusk, dark skin tones, sparkly outfits and one silky white one, and the crowd. I haven’t quite reached the optimal levels of photographer rudeness needed to get to the best viewpoint if I’ve not camped there before anyone else has arrived, and I’m not sure I want to. But I got close enough that one of the superfans leaning against the fence took pity on me and let me have her place for a bit. None of the pictures were really good SOOC. I must practice more so I can take pictures in any condition that don’t need (much editing), not least because of lack of time.

Photo of three current members of Boney M on stage at Bristol VegFest

I also didn’t manage to get a good group shot with all of them in

30 Days of Biking #28

Yesterday was another day of not feeling like getting on the bike – more rain, still feeling rough, my brain started screaming this was just too dangerous. My Other Brain, however, reminded Ms Panic that a. I don’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it and b. I might actually feel better for doing it, thanks to the exercise in the fresh air as well as not breaking my Pledge c. all I had to do to make it safe was go as slow as I needed to. So what if I got a bit wetter a bit longer? Just a bit of water.

I actually felt better by the time I had to leave, largely thanks to a punch-packing first-smoothie-in-ages, having finally received my replacement blender jug in the morning.

And I was really glad I did get on my bike, as I enjoyed the delicious blossom smells exacerbated by the rain on the cycle path (perhaps I can recapture the love I used to have for rain, even now that in my old/cycling age I’ve learned to appreciate sunshine). And I was glad again as I enjoyed the evening’s edutainment (European election debate at the University’s Wills Memorial Building) and felt closest to the Green of all the candidates – glad of my suitably tribal gear and to not be getting into a car after the “show”.

30 days of biking #22 – Hairwin

Not exactly vitamin D weather yesterday, but I was out of raw sauerkraut (my tummy’s best friend along with fizzy water), and a trip to the better Food Company in St Werburgh meant some practice with those devilish downhill hairpins. Nailed both of them, even the one on my “bad” side with panniers full of shopping 🙂 Priming myself by mentally repeating “I can do it”, bringing up images of all the people I see do this apparently effortlessly and, at the time of turning, listing the essential steps (easy gears, slow, wide, look, pedal) may have helped.

April is fulfilling its objectives as cycling + grit month by changing my thinking from avoiding things I find difficult to seeing them as opportunities to progress and feel good about it. Even running has got easier, which at week 8 of the Couch to 5k plan I thought would never happen. This is good.

Soupa Doupa

No smoothie today – the Range didn’t have any smoothie makers and I ran out of time to search elsewhere. I may just wait until I get the replacement jug Tefal is sending me anyway – times are hard.

I did however make some soup with things that needed using up – green lentils, butternut squash, carrots, celery, apples, red onions, orange and yellow peppers, garlic, coconut cream, black olives, dates, plus some Vecon, herbs and spices. My first home-made soup ever, and it’s amazing!

Gazpacho Goop

Today’s smoothie: I went a bit crazy – sunstroke maybe, from the lovely walk to market via Arnos Vale cemetery in the midday sun. Or maybe I was just hungry and facing a delay in having a proper lunch.

Banana, papaya, pineapple, beetroot, avocado, dates, filtered water.

Unfortunately, this is the day the smoothie attachment on my food processor chose to die – not that it was completely unexpected as per yesterday’s hiccup and the fact it’s happened before. Turns out it hadn’t been the grapes – I could clearly see this time a slice of banana stuck in a blade. Fancy that, a smoothie maker that can’t handle banana!!

Not wanting to waste all that good stuff, but not fancying it in fruit salad form, I mushed it for 3 minutes in the soup bowl instead. It was OK but I might still buy myself an emergency smoothie maker today. Tefal have been very good so far with replacing, for free, the various bits that have failed since I bought the thing in July, but they do take a week or two to arrive.

Sickly pink

Today’s smoothie: banana, mango, pineapple, seedless grapes, soft dried apricots, filtered water. Learned my lesson the other day to counteract pineapple with lots of sweetness, but may have overdone it slightly. Also my blender didn’t seem to like the grapes.