recurring dream : the bookshop stairs

Sunflower head
I dreamt about the small black kitten again last night. He was there yesterday, too, fluffy and urchinish, in the same place on the stairs at the bookshop (would the world not be a better place if all bookshops had a bookshop cat?). This time I'd gone to the bookshop after I'd been spooked by a pale man in a trenchcoat and a fedora. He hadn't been obviously following me, but us humans are really good at spotting focussed attention and after I'd ducked out of one shop and into another and he was still there I was certain and quickened my pace. But there was the kitten, and I picked him up and as I was fussing him I stole a sneaky glance at the pale man. He had a kindly demeanour; he looked like he had been drawn by Dave Gibbons (who is on my mind since I discovered he has been declared Comics Laureate, to my delight, I cannot think of a better choice). His gestures were relaxed, and his face was lined, but not in a sinister way. The kitten, either irritated by my divided attention or begging for food, licked my mouth. I set him down (gently) and he bounded down the stairs and up to the pale man, for his next round of fuss, which seemed to be forthcoming.

The final flutter of snaptember

Sunflower head
Snaptember has drawn to its sensible close leaving me reflecting on whether it changed my behaviour much. Possibly a few more photographs taken; certainly a lot less shyness about posting them to LJ because, in some sense, allowed. But significantly more? Probably not. Surroundings and things make up the bulk of my online photos anyway, because a lot of the time I'm dissatisfied with the ones containing people. Or if I'm satisfied with them, I can't be sure the people in the photo will be, and all that.

So to finish off the month, I'm posting what I feel is a far more me sort of photo post - below, from top left; yellow lilac leaves, street merkin, mating pigeons and my favourite building site, where the building it being slotted together in big, brightly-coloured prefabulous panels:

And so to finish on a note about the warm autumn; below, I'm photographing petunias that have self-seeded from gone-over municipal planting. That's how warm it is this year. Pretty cosy for October. That said, I did just clear away the last of the tomatoes. And put on the heating. And pick out a favourite new autumn jumper. For the season, it is a-changing.

The War Monument Dream

Sunflower head
A dream I had on Wednesday morning started with us living in a house in a smaller town. It was built into a hill, and we had a short back garden full of mosses and ferns that abruptly finished on a cliff, taller than the house. There was a pick-your-way down path that lead up it to the grassy topfield, which was ours up to a tall spreading Oak tree. Beyond that it belonged to the school, a boarding school full of serious children who misbehaved, but quietly. We knew they snuck into the field and even sometimes down the cliff - I had in fact planted some good springy bushes along the base, to minimise the damage should somebody slip - but no damage was done, not even the cat scared. Read more...Collapse )

Snaptember week three - out & about

Sunflower head
The light coming through the upstairs window is the colour of peaches gone overripe. September is such a show-off of a month. Pretty though. Outside, Harley and the big black cat from two doors down are playing uncertain cat chess. I just gave them a round of co-treating, to see if they'll start relaxing together. Back when Teasel was likely to come out into the garden, and might need protecting, she gave him short shrift but now she's slightly confused around him. I think maybe she's missing the company of a tall handsome black cat. Term has just begun. There is a big slew of course reading just waiting for me to get started on it. And here I am, mumbling about DZ Deathrays and Tent/Superbrands and a visit from Mum-of-the-North, turquoise hair and all of the rest of Snaptember Week 3.

Monday 15th - Sunflower head sees DZ Deathrays

This DZ Deathrays, we got free tickets to see them upstairs at the Zodiac for a sort of pre-tour shakedown gig. They were the perfect counterpoint to Monday. This is their ballad kind of - it has a very Crystal World video. And there's the one that's famous on youtube. I also took my new userpic on Monday, after finding a sunflower floating in a swirl of autumn leaves in the Thames.Read more...Collapse )
Sunflower head
Second week got off to a shakey start when I failed to take a photograph. Some Mondays are like that, of course. You roll out of bed and spend a desperate hour watering the garden (which is grumpily withering in this awful September drought), jog down the tow-path into work while peevishly fielding emails on the pocket monster, don't stop all bloody day (and still fail to clear the job list), come home just in time to empty the roomba, feed the cat, check the moodle in case term began when you weren't looking, cook and then collapse into the chore list which today included, well...

September 8th - Winnowing the wardrobe

I keep a daily sketch diary. Only the occasional picture makes it onto the internet because as you can see I don't bother finishing the pictures (and often it's a bit, eh, personal). It's great for supporting my memory and identifying what happened when. It's going to end up needing its own shelf, though! Today I was clearing out the wardrobe. The dress I'm wearing is a little black sequinned number with pockets over the hips deep enough to conceal a bottle of wine. It's awesome, but it does my legs no favours, which I think came across in the picture.

willows, pie and a rant about a lizardCollapse )

If you're wondering about what happened to Friday, the answer is a bottle of wine.


I've been reading the various Snaptember stories, especially those from mockduck, jinty and pomma_penses with interest. The Snaptember concept, if I have it right, is that you simply record a snap from wherever you are that day, without any aim beyond showing what it around you that day. So far I've seen it recording workspaces, home environment, family members, trips, aspirations, projects and more. I've been thinking about joining in, but the way I use my camera (load it for a week, then review it, then upload) feels a bit off brief. But, on the other hand...

September 1st - Tim cuts the Krim

Black Krim is a popular home grow tomato which I've tried for the first time this year. Not the last! It looks very strange but the flavour is quite lovely - rich, sweet, and slightly meaty. Just visible: Bovril. I'm not a fan (except when ill) but timscience (wielding the knife) likes it.

September Snaptember week 1, below the cutCollapse )

Week two should feature fewer vegetables and more pie, as September progresses to its logical end.

Can we fix it? Yes we can!

This week found me thinking (as the term's reading started - I'm on a book about cyberbullying at the moment) and as I went to visit/wok with/help out various people with complicated lives (multiple children, responsibilities, complexities) about how important behaviour modification is in life. So that's what I'm putting in as the Friday poll -- what do you think? Is better living through habit (or habitat) modification a possibility? Or does it trigger the stress of resistance. Where is the true value coming from? Is it the actions you take, or the proof that you can boss someone around effectively - even if it's just yourself? Without further ado, to the poll. Argue with the questions and share the stories that are too long for the boxes in the comments below. I've kept the theory and philosophy out of the poll (mostly) but feel free to cut loose on all that stuff below. Enjoy!

Poll #1980985 Lazy neurological hacks

Do you attempt to modify your behaviour using techniques, behaviour, equipment or other tools?

No, and I don't think it works
No, and I think it's ethically dubious
No, but I have in the past/will in the future
Maybe, but not in a structured way
I think it's just a relabelling of normal behaviour
Yes, but work and annoying and aaargh
Yes, and it makes stuff better
I am hacking my neuros as I answer

Things that I do to myself:

Sticker charts and reward schemes
Mindfulness, meditation, time out, reflection
Food and drink nudges (small plates, portion control etc.)
Reminders for things other than appointments (e.g.
Nagging apps, lists and notes to self
Other things which I will say below
I would never manipulate myself I have too much respect for myself

This smart new habit has totally revolutionised my life!

Things I do with other people (staff, children, pupils, partners, parents)

Make changes to their environment to change their behaviour
Use check-lists, forms, and written instructions
Use an informal reward system like stickers or stars
Use a formal reward systems like bonuses or awards
Use distraction or diversion
Use threats or ultimatums
Other things which I will say below
I would never manipulate others I have too much respect for them

This crazy trick helps you CHANGE how other people behave - guaranteed!

I use other things to regulate or improve my behaviour, such as

Manipulating my appearance and self presentation to boost confidence etc.
Using food or drink to boost alertness, promote relaxation, reduce irritation
Using drugs to regulate or improve my emotions/effectiveness
Using exercise/physical activity to bleed off or boost energy levels, improve wellbeing, etc.
Kittens! (or other pets)
Guilt / internalised nagging
Another thing I will say below

Behaviour modification is:

Brilliant! Sign me up for a Skinner box and bring me all the drugs on the internet
Sometimes helpful, but not the answer to all things
Irrelevant. Fundamentally people do what they want and post-rationalise.
Risky! There's lots of very bad woo to avoid in this area
Best avoided, unless a professional is involved
Best avoided, especially if there's a professional involved
A constant struggle against an impossible mountain of ungovernable urges
Unacceptable! Kick back against the man/woman/teacher/cat/computer that is trying it on you
The backbone of civilized society
The elephant in the room
The room in the elephant
To be embraced not feared
Unnecessary in the future
The future

The most extraordinary/daft/strange attempt at behaviour modification ever tried on me is:

Reasonable Adjustments to the workplace

This week, following the big reveal of Google's new offices, an uptick in the working year caused by beginning of term/legislation/etc. and memories of how, when working from home, my cat used to cuff my mouse hand in a way that was simultaneously a purr-enabled wrist massage and a tummy tickle for him, I have been thinking about workplace adjustment. I need to think about this at work (yes I know, timscience, blah blah healthy and safety blah blah risk assessment) and the thought runs along these lines - what does this person need to work as well as they can? It's a useful exercise to do on yourself too, so today's poll is for the working bods among you. Those retired or out of the workplace for other reasons may wish to consider when they last were, respond as if their main activities were work or do what you will. Think out of the box, in the box, go to the comments below and enjoy!

Poll #1980233 Reasonable Adjustments

In order to acheive 110% productivity I need this adjustment to my workplace

Break out area containing cubby-holes, hidey holes, hammocks and nap zones
Soft play area so I can bang my head against the wall safely
An office cat (smaller offices may substitute a chinchilla)
An office honeyglider flock (I will happily write the guano risk assessment)
Roof garden/balcony garden/windowbox
Zip wire, ladder or chute access between floors
Punch bag you can gaffer tape photos to
Gym or exercise area (ideally with standing workstations)
Calming or chill-out area with lots of coloured lights and natural sounds
A zen room (empty white box)
I have a better idea and will say so below!

I already use this productvity aid at work:

Ergonomic adjustments like a chair, wrist rest, etc.
Temperature adjustments like a fan
Comfort adjustments like a cushion or cardigan
Computer programmes which help order tasks
Computer programmes which help force good workstation behaviour (enforced breaks etc.)
Tea, coffee or water breaks
Something else and it really helps my productivity
Something else and it really hinders my productivity
My productivity is already overclocked and needs reining in before it kills me

My working day is typically:

More hours than I spend sleeping
Fewer hours than I spend sleeping
About the same

I work at the weekends

Regularly because of flexi/work requirements with TOIL
Regularly because TOO MUCH WORK
Ehhh sometimes you need to that's life
Only when a rush is on/for special events/at certain times of the year
Never - they are sacrosanct!

Do you work out of work time?

Yes, I do my own projects - it keeps me fresh
Yes I volunteer - I like to be useful
Yes I run my own business in my spare time because I am a crazed workaholic
Yes I have children or other significant home commitments
No, downtime is precious
No, I am too tired/drained
No, I am too busy having fun
I wouldn't really call it work...

Do you wish there was more time to get everything done?


What gets you through the working day?

Productivity is:

A myth perpetrated by goverment to enable social control
A myth perpetrated by business to enable economic control
An inevitable outcome of our biosocial urges
Something which needs to slow down before habital destruction occurs
Damaging to our emotional/social/mental health
Supportive to our emotional/social/mental health
A philiosophical construct the world is outgrowing
Another thing I will say below

Today I am looking forward to:

Edited to add: I missed an answer on the "Do you work out of work time?" question which is WHAT IS OUT OF WORK TIME (thank you the academics in the room). Sorry - there's a comment below you can type YES at now. And I spotted the dreaded poll typo (they are sadly uncorrectable) - habital should be habitat. Also, there's a hint that people may feel that the poll is a bit office-y but I am also interested in other workplaces. Work outside? In a soft play area? In a pit full of kittens? Still interested. Go to the comments if the poll doesn't quite get to how your workplace/work/working practice supports or hinders your wellbeing. Thanks everybody your answers are great!

thanks all for your words about Teasel

I've not responded individually yet, but I will. Thanks all, those who knew him, looked after him and those who'd seen him as a little black furry shadow teaselling around in the background (or foreground) of my comics, or blog, thank you all. And oh, the tag-sorted databases. I've been searching under all the various misspellings of his name (I misspelled his name) and cursing Flickr's latest rounds of changes which mean that the route back to timeline context from a photo found by searching has been obliterated (...) but I did manage to find this video from when we were moving house and there were boxes everywhere and we were worried about him but he was fine with the move and all he wanted to do was play in his kingdom of boxes and remind us to FEAR THE PAW.

Also: this.

Yesterday I was out in the garden hacking things into shape while the raspberries sprounted a previously unknown pest (some sort of tiny beetle, which combines with rainwater to create mush and mould) and the slugs savaged the blueberries (still got a little bowl of blueberry goodness!) and the Passion Vine (doing very well in this tropical weather) attempted to engulf me whenever I brushed against it.

The vegetable kingdom is a savage place, sometimes. Friday's question is about that, and is a for-fun question - how do you relate to vegetables? As ever, go to comments with philosophical arguments with the poll, discussions of gardens of your past and future, amusing stories about vegetables, amusing pictures of vegetables and anything else that sparks your fancy.

Poll #1978784 The vegetable kingdom

Me and the veg when I was a kid (tick as many as you want)

Hated, feared, loathed and despised all vegetables because that is nature's way
Hated veg probably becaus of how they were cooked TBH
Hated veg because I am so old that none of the good vegetables were available when I was a kid
Was indifferent to vegetablekind/found them tolerable
Was indifferent to vegetablekind/found them tasty
Liked my vegetables for they were pretty colours
Liked my vegetables for the tasty taste
Thought vegetables were the best thing ever
Refused to eat anything but vegetables
Worshipped vegetables (or a particular vegetable)

My view of the vegetable kingdom now is:

A cornucopia of deliciousness waiting to be discovered
A minefield of the tasty and the terrible, waiting to be picked through
Out-of-control self-replicating nanotechnology that must be made safe by cooking
A useful way to control the water flow around my house
Like a stupid Facebook game, but you get tasty treats a the end!
A perpetual fight against mould, wilt, rust, black spot, slugs and other pests and diseases
Aaaaaaaaaa-tchoooo! (hayfever)
That green stuff that gets everywhere
That green stuff at the bottom of the fridge
Approach with caution; that stuff can kill you (or at least cause a nasty stomach ache)

If the opportunity were available, I would definitely

Grow/support the growth of genetically modified foods (subject to safety checks)
Live in a treehouse (if sufficiently awesome)
Have plants in my living space that performed active jobs like pest and dirt control
Wear growing plants on a semi-permenant basis
Get some chloropyll in me to reduce my food and fuel needs

Things I grow at the moment

Red Hot Chilli Peppers
There's some green stuff outside
There's some green stuff inside
There's some green stuff on my car
All the flowers in the world
Another thing which I will tell you about below

The most amazing/striking/confusing thing I have ever grown is:

I already have/would like to have in my garden/yard

A lawn
A pond
A hedge
A tree
A greenhouse
A summerhouse
More sun
A firepit
Exotic wildlife (please say what in comments)
Unexotic wildlife (say what if you want to)

On the whole, the green stuff:

Loves me and wants to be my friend
Sees me as potential useful organic fertiliser
Is all around my and within me, man
Is banished beyond the tidy wall of civolization
Will conquer our ruins

Pick one thing you will grow in your garden next year: