Friday, March 30, 2012

Ever so slightly offensive


Pardon me.  Just trying to get my groove back (and mix up some pop culture references to keep 'em fresh). 

Okey dokey.  DW and I have been watching Stephen Fry's Planet Word, not to be confused with the Futurama episode "Planet Fry? Word.". The most recent episode focused on swearing and how it is used in languages. The thing I found fascinating was that swearing actually serves a purpose in language. Surprisingly, it is the very taboo nature of offensive words that makes them useful. Our brain learns these words and then learns to inhibit them, so as to meet the accepted norms of society. However, when we step beyond this inhibition, these words can be used to great comedic effect, but also to actually increase the amount of pain we can tolerate.  This makes swearing during child birth or hitting yourself with a hammer quite acceptable. It also recognizes the humorous or dramatic effect of swearing in entertainment. 

However, the program also pointed out that it is the inhibited nature of these words that makes them useful, and when they become commonplace, they lose this effect.  For example, someone who swears all the time doesn't receive the same benefit when experiencing pain. Fuck no. And it's benefit as an entertainment device comes from its unexpected use, where our brain is surprised by the breach of protocol.

So the moral of the story is this.  We will never stamp out swearing, but it is well worth the effort to personally avoid it.  The more you do so, the more effective it will be when you really need it.  And we shouldn't be ashamed of actually using it in those cases. No more "pardon my French", but rather "whew! I needed that!". 


Thought for the Day: The far king can't 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Anniversary,DW!

We made it. 14 years today!

Well, I finally gave DW the present I have been holding on to for many months now. I've been building it up so much that I panicked and apologized for it before I gave it to her. I was worried that she wouldn't like it as much as I did but she would be too polite to tell me. That still may be true.

So what was this brilliant idea, you may ask? I scanned one of the better photos from our wedding (our photographer was terrible) and had it reproduced in 3D form inside one of those glass block displays. I think it looks cool, but my reason for giving it to DW goes a little deeper than that. Photos are great because they record a moment of some importance, and in the case of a wedding, that can be of great importance. But I guess in the back of my mind, I know how easy it is to manipulate those images. What once represented a form of some permanence seems a little less so now. Not that it necessarily matters, as I know that the photos of our wedding are accurate and a true representation of the day. But to me, the very nature of the glass block display means it cannot be undone. I suppose it could be added to, and as it is the product of an easily modified photo, it is just as subject to manipulation, but in my mind, it feels more permanent. It feels like it has captured the moment in a way that goes beyond the photo that was used to generate it.

Why does this matter? For the same reason that we bother taking photos in the first place. The journey that DW and I started 14 years ago was one of hope. We each believed we had found the right person for us, but how could we be sure? If I had been completely sure, then I wouldn't have been taking a risk. Committing to someone for the rest of your life is most definitely taking a risk. If I had been completely sure, then the is no way I could have become more sure with every passing year. If our relationship had been perfect at the start, then it would never have improved, but it has done, and in so many ways.

So the two people represented in the glass block display are a reminder of the chance we both took on each other. That is a fixed point at the start of our marriage and it cannot be changed (let's not be too literal with the metaphor, ok). The fact that the glass block display carries so much meaning therefore, is a testament to the courage and determination we have shown to each other. Love is the seed from which the relationship grows, but it is the effort we make that keeps it alive, that keeps it from breaking under the pressures of external forces.

It may not be easy and it's not always fun, but I have never doubted its worth and I'm pretty sure DW agrees with me. It's one of the few things we agree on.

So, happy anniversary my love. Be careful with the glass block. It's fragile (I mean that literally, not figuratively - if you do break it I can always order another one - our marriage is like a rock, but that doesn't look as pretty in the display cabinet).


Thought for the Day: Blackberry jam is the best!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's the thought that counts...

Here we go again.

This morning a dragged my butt out of bed at 6am and went for a run. I haven't been for a run for years. Why this morning? No idea. Why run? Still no idea. I hate exercise. People say you can develop a habit in 21 days, but I have tested this theory and found it is either wrong or doesn't apply to me. I tried exercising for 30 days in a row but it still wasn't a habit. Two days of sleeping in and I was hooked. I tried studying on the train rather than sleeping, every day for a month. The habit I formed was falling asleep with my head dangling over my iPad. 

But I still need to live a long and healthy life if I want to celebrate 100 years of marriage to DW so whether it becomes a habit or not, I still have to exercise. 

On Sunday DW, Princess, Little Man and I went to the local food and wine festival. It's an event that I look forward to every year, and I was excited that two of my sisters also decided to come along. I'm not sure if they enjoyed themselves or not but I did for the most part. Princess and Little Man made things quite difficult, constantly asking to buy food or pointless little toys. It does make for a long day, and both DW and I were absolutely exhausted by the end. Still, I'll look forward to the one next year and hope that the kids can behave a bit better. Maybe next year I'll get my butt into gear and submit a photo for the comp. 

Tomorrow marks the 14year anniversary for DW and I. I bought a present for her three months ago and it's been so hard to keep from giving it to her early. I'm quite proud of it, not because I made it but because I thought of it. I have no doubt she thinks she knows what it is, but she doesn't like to guess what presents I get for her. She hates it when I try to guess what she gets me.  In fact, it took lots of control to avoid trying to guess what she bought for my birthday - I have spoiled many a surprise it the past that way. To be fair to her, the presents she bought for my birthday were quite a surprise and even if I had been guessing, I doubt I would have come up with meteorites and a star!  

I don't have a great track record of buying presents for DW. I have tried to surprise her many times in the past, and most of those times she was very surprised, but not in a good way.  Apparently a really dumb present can be just as surprising as getting her something she actually wants. So I have developed a new system. I now ask her what she wants. Or she goes out and buys something before I can and then thanks me for it. It's really a system we have co-developed. You may think the surprise element would be lost, but it hasn't been, just transferred to me.  I'm often surprised by what I have bought for her. The new system, which we have dubbed "a better idea", does reduce re-gifting and embarrassed apologies on my part, and disappointed looks on DW's part.

Anyway, tomorrow I step out on a limb again with a present that DW has no idea about, and she is scared, I can tell you. I'll let you know how it goes.


Thought for the Day: I wonder if social networking and the Internet might one day result in humanity becoming a super organism like ant colonies. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

No pain! No pain!

Good morning, World.  

I'm not a big fan of breakfast radio but my wife loves waking up to the chatter of Red Simons (not sure of the spelling there). I like waking up to quiet. I'd prefer not to have an alarm, but there's not much choice in that. But as soon as my alarm has woken me, I turn it off.  Then it is quiet again. I like the quiet. But I like DW more so I put up with the radio. At least when I start back into my exercise regime, I will be getting up before her again, so I can enjoy the quiet for a little while at least.

Speaking of exercise, this morning Red was chatting to someone in his 60s who is taking part in a triathlon. Now I can see the appeal of being able to say, "yeah, I'm a triathlete, I do triathlons".  However, I cannot see the appeal of actually doing a triathlon.  We specifically built cars so we didn't have to run 42 kilometers or cycle 180 kilometers. Its no coincidence that Henry Ford lived precisely 42 kilometers from his favorite bar and after being told he'd better run home or his wife would kill him, he was heard to say, "You know what we need..."

A triathlon also involves swimming some equally ridiculous distance. This is what boats are for people.  Even ancient cultures had boats.  And before they had boats, they had preboats.  And before they had preboats, all the land was joined together so they could walk everywhere.  One of the earliest recorded writings of mankind is scratched on a cave wall depicting a saber-toothed tiger chasing villagers, and one of them saying to another, "You know what we need..?". 

It is unclear whether he meant a boat or a car, but we are confident he didn't mean sneakers. 

Anyway, Red pointed out the absurdity of a 60+ doing a triathlon, though I'm not sure the caller agreed. I pointed out to DW that I'm only 40 and even I know better. After laughing at me for saying "only 40", DW made the comment that I had better not take up triathlon, because she wasn't putting up with another obsession. I guess I'm lucky she is letting me keep the ones I have. 

Having said that, I will probably get back into my regular exercise soon.  I just don't wanna.

Photography continues to be a passion of mine, and I have even shot another wedding, this time for my cousin. The shoot itself went surprisingly well, partly because I had a new lens, called a super zoom.  It's a Tamron 18-270mm, for those interested.  The best thing about it is the fact that I didn't have to use two cameras with different lens to cover the range of shots I want to do. Just zooming in and out as I liked made the whole process almost painless, but nothing is ever perfect.  Still, it's now my go-to lens.  The problem with shooting a wedding is that afterward you have to wade through 3000+ photos to find what worked and what didn't. Fortunately a fair number worked, but now I have to process the images, which is slow and tedious and I just don't wanna.

Anyway, I have another meeting tomorrow to see about shooting another wedding for another cousin. As I have for the previous weddings, I usually charge the price of a new lens, and there is a pretty Tamron 10-24mm that I like the look of...

Anyway, time to go.


Thought for the Day: Small things come in small packages.  Big things come in big packages. Deal with it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Again, seriously?

A blog, a blog! My kingdom for a blog!

I haven't read Richard the Third, but I'm sure he would have said something similar. Or not.

I bet you all thought I had abandoned this blog for good.  As you can see, I have not.  In fact, I have been remarkably busy this last year, just not writing blogs.  However, I have begun to think that I need this outlet almost as much as you (ok, maybe not).  You see, I have been focussing on technical writing for work and research writing for study.  I have been neglecting my artistic writing (don't laugh) and I think I need it more than I realized. 

I have recently turned 40 and I think any change in the first digit of your age should prompt one to consider where they are in their lives. That seemed like such an effort I decided to see where everyone else is in their lives. I'm nothing if not judgmental. It turns out that most people around me are pretty settled with their lot, and for the most part, quite happy.  And those that aren't probably don't want me talking about them here so stop being nosy.

Ok, so evaluating my own life seems like such a mid-life crisis sort of thing to do, and I can't afford a Ferrari yet, so it seems clear to me that at least from a maturity perspective, I haven't reached the middle of my life.  Some have said I haven't reached my teens, you know, based on my maturity.  If I were a monkey, I could throw poo at them, which is frowned on if you are not a monkey.

Anyway, DW and I have decided to celebrate our 100th wedding anniversary, which is some way off still, but these things need lots of planning.  Where to have it, who to invite, what sort of foods, and of course, the necessity to actually live that long.  Fortunately, by my calculation, I will hit middle age when I'm around 70. Those of you who are quick with math will have worked out that I expect to live until I'm 140, but the centenary wedding anniversary will happen when I am 126, however I should point out that it will be a big party, and there will be lots of slow moving old people, so I am expecting it to run for around 10 years, with an extra few years to actually get my siblings to stop talking and leave.

On an entirely separate note, writing this blog is keeping me awake on the train, and after several embarrassing incidents recently, I have decided I should probably stay awake on the train, and indeed, in all public places, especially small, important meetings. You see, turning 40 has made me realize something - at some point, people are going to expect me to grow up. Boy, are they going to be disappointed.


Thought for the Day: When all is lost, you needn't worry because presumably that has also been lost,

Sunday, May 08, 2011

It's moment like these...

Greetings and Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there, especially the inimitable DW.

Easter was a couple of weeks ago and the usual build up of excitement permeated the house. Little Man was much more into it this year, egged on (so to speak) by Princess. I am quite certain that neither of them really appreciate the actual reason we celebrate Easter but at least Princess can recite some stuff she learned during CRE at school. I'd like to share one thing that happened during this Easter period with the two kids.

We visited DW's parents for Easter, as we usually do. After the Easter Egg hunt and the consumption of too many of the discovered chocolate eggs, we headed off to mass at the local church. Princess has been doing religion classes for a while now and has a bit of an idea of what goes on during mass, but Little Man can be a bit of a terror. Because of this DW and I tag team to try to alternatively entertain him and minimize the disruption he is causing during the service. Anyway, this particular Easter Mass, they ceremony involved giving each and every person a lighted candle (more like a taper but you get the idea). To make matters even more frightening, the kids were to go up to the alter to light their candle from the big Pascal candle, and then share their flame with the rest of the congregation.

To say I was apprehensive is to understate the panic I was feeling. I felt like someone on the deck of the Titanic being told that a little bit of water never hurt anyone. But against my better judgment, I sent the little guy forth with his candle like a monkey holding Harry Potter's wand. And boy, was he keen. Church no longer seemed boring - someone was actually going to let him play with fire! He didn't need asking twice.

Well, he was gone and my only hope as Princess stepped past me was to whisper, "look after Little Man." She nodded and disappeared into the throng of bustling children. Neither of our kids are particularly tall so they were out of sight in seconds.

Kids started emerging from the throng with their little candles lit, carefully trying to keep that flame alight, most often having to return for a second attempt. I still couldn't see Princess or Little Man yet but there wasn't any screaming or sudden burst of flames, so that was something. After what seemed like nearly two minutes but was actually only a bit over a minute and a half, the crowd of children dispersed and there, like something on one of those ridiculously cute Christmas cards, were Princess and Little Man, standing together in front of the Pascal Candle with their little candles lit, holding hands.

Little Man was both excited and scared, but he was clearly happy to have his big sister there to look after him. Princess was confident and careful, and also proud as punch to be looking after her little brother. Its very hard to describe just how that moment made me feel. I didn't have a camera with me and I wouldn't have had time to catch the shot unless I had the camera up and ready. But in this case, I don't need a camera. The image of my two beautiful children sharing a moment together, both supporting each other without an ounce of self-serving, is something that has etched itself in my mind. Even if that image fades, the knowledge that it existed, even if only for that moment...

When I say I can't describe how it made, and still makes, me feel, I mean it. All the words I could use would be like describing the most beautiful place on Earth with only map coordinates. All I can say is that I hope every person gets to experience a moment like that once in their life. I am extremely fortunate. I get moments like that, perhaps not always as perfect, more than just occasionally. No matter how crazy the kids make me, its moments like these that make me feel like the luckiest person on the planet.


Thought for the Day: The future may be inevitable, but don't worry, it doesn't start until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Not sure what to call this one

Good morning!

My recent lack of blogging has nothing to do with me not having anything to blog about. The fact is I have simply been too busy to spend much time in front of the computer for anything other than work or study. So, a quick catch up is in order.

Well, not long after my birthday, DW and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary, which I'll have you know is the "lace" anniversary, or "lingerie" in more modern times. Unfortunately, DW was quite sick for the few days leading up to the big day (I took leave and everything) and just as sick after. In fact, she said to me on the morning of our anniversary, "Happy Annibleeaaugh!" but I knew what she meant.

Anyway, because both kids are at school now, I figured we could have a nice quite day, just the two of us enjoying each others company as we have for much of the last 13 years. After I got both the kids dressed, fed, packed and delivered to school, it turned out to be much quieter than I expected, the child-free silence punctuated only by the occasional "*cough* *sneeze* *sniff* *blow* *hhhhuuuurrrrraaaakkkkk*".

Anywho, I still cooked a beautiful dinner and DW told me she believed it probably tasted wonderful, but she couldn't really taste or smell anything, other than mucus. Who doesn't want to hear that about a meal they cooked? In case you are wondering, I am aware that the anniversary was harder on DW than it was on me.

Still, celebrating an anniversary is far less important than having a marriage that is worth celebrating, and after 13 years it would seem that DW and I still find ourselves very much in love and thoroughly enjoying married life. In fact, the weekend just past saw my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and DW's parents recently celebrated their 40th, so I guess it runs in the family.

Obviously marriage is not going to work out in every case. While it is important to try to find the right person, it is also important to be prepared to admit your mistakes. In my (what's the opposite of humble?) opinion, marriage takes effort, but if it works, it can be a truly wonderful experience. As I've heard somewhere, "It is not only finding the right person, it is being the right person." Well, I've always been confident that I am the right person, and it looks like I was bang on the money about DW too.

So here's to the next 87 years (our marriage certificate expires after 100 years, with an option to renew for another 100 - its in the fine print). Here's to not getting sick of each other and DW still laughing at my jokes (if dementia sets in for her before me, we should be ok). And as long as DW doesn't find my other blog, here's to a continuing happy marriage.


Thought for the Day: Always read the fine print. Or not.