faith

I am not, in the traditional sense, a religious person. I do not believe in God. I do not believe in gods and goddesses. I do not believe in spirits and shades, or an over-arching Gaia.

I believe in people. I believe in their right to their beliefs, to their faith. But only if they respect the rights and beliefs of others.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t understand the beauty that can be brought about by faith. For all the atrocities, hatreds, deaths and debacles brought about by faith, it brings other more benign, beautiful things too. Acts of courage. Acts of faith and fealty. Acts of principle and kindness. Small acts. Great acts. Sacrifices minor and total. Sometimes it just brings lovely things, a smile, a gesture, laughter, the extension of what is good about people into the open.

I miss the surety of faith. I miss the boundaries, the expectations, the understanding it brings. I miss the lines drawn and the principles made. I miss them, because they simple things, although incredibly hard to live up to.

But it wasn’t for me. Mine is a more malleable world. Less defined, less black and white, mostly shades of grey. People can be defined and contained by their faith, limited by its strictures and structures. That isn’t for me. I miss the surety, but it is not me. I miss the purity of it, but it is not for me. I cannot live up to such ideals, so I must live up to those I can. My faith was ever lacking, because faith is total, and to believe totally, for me, is a terrible, total thing. It is all encompassing, a singularity of purpose and definition. And I am a fractured thing.

It is not for me.

But it does not mean I cannot appreciate the things it brings. Sometimes appreciation is all you need. Sometimes faith is a vehicle for what lies in all of us. Sometimes it is a word, a touch on the shoulder, a kindness and a comfort. Sometimes it is a song.

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As mentioned previously I have adopted the BulletJournal system for keeping myself organised and (relatively) on top of things, both personally and professionally. And it is working. More than a week on and I am finding myself a lot less stressed at home and at work.

I have been accused of having lots of plans and not achieving them. A while ago this stung. A lot. And I changed things because of it.

Today… I’m fine with that. I don’t mind entertaining the idea of having a hundred things I want to try or do. I might not do them all, or many of them, but as long as I am doing and achieving some of them then I don’t see what the problem is.

A little while ago I created this:

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I can ‘archer’ to that. I can ‘config chap’ to that. I can add ‘Cost Account Manager’ to that. I can add… all the things I enjoy and do and am. I don’t have a problem with that. I am more than one thing. I always will be.

One of the things that has been fascinating me has been the idea of goal/objective setting. It is that time of the year, when I have to (professionally) set goals for myself, and with their input, for my team.

And, like last year, and the year before that, and the one before that, those goals and and objectives will be somewhat irrelevant by the time half a year has passed. Ditto the majority of those New Year’s resolutions too. It is just the way of things. Life changes, things happen, new stuff stirs the mix and spanners the works. Shit happens.

So I have been investigating the idea of not goal setting, the creation of systems or the embodiment of direction over destination. And I am beginning to be a believer. Let me illustrate.

I aim to write a novel. I have failed. I have failed all the way up until I do eventually manage to do that. I want to run 26.2 miles. I have failed until I do it, actually do it. As an aside, part of the reason I fell out of love with running was because I was three days away from running a marathon, with just enough miles under my belt to do it… and I fell ill. I couldn’t run. And I felt abject. I still do.

However… if I intend to be more creative… then every little step of that is a win, psychologically. If I do something creative today it is something more than I have done before. The direction I go in isn’t necessarily towards the destination I had in mind, but it changes each step from a failure to an achievement. And each achievement makes each step easier and more likely to take place. And each step leads to habit, which leads, eventually, to whichever place you end up. Which isn’t the same place you were when you began the whole thing, and may not be the place you dreamed of, but is a place worth visiting. Because of the journey. Just because. And perhaps you never end up there, you just continue journeying, changing direction, doing things, on a whim or otherwise.

This piece of tribute art to Bill Watterson, utilising a speech of his, is still one of the most effective, illustrative and pertinent expressions of ‘just doing’ there is.

Invent your own labels. Dreams your dreams. Set off for destinations unknown. Invent your own life’s meaning.

In a world that continues to demand of us compliance and homogenisation, that forces singular labels and asks of us one dream… it is still allowed to be whatever you will be.

state of mind (law)

Today I sacrificed a walk in the hills with friends I haven't really seen in a while on the altar of fretting-about-study-stuff. Not an even trade but one I am, on balance, glad I made.

At the beginning of last week I was comfortably, well, comfortable. By the time a week in Scotland had gone by, with its associated work-related stresses, living in a hotel, and despite being insociable in order to study, I foud myself too tired to concentrate with any degree of success. Come yesterday and the study-related stress was in full flow, not to mention the absolute weariness coming from the week that was.

This morning I plowed on, and in a little over four hours manage to claw back the deficit and get back on track. Unfortunately this unit (8 – State of Mind) looks to be more complicated and involved than the previous one (7 – Unlawful Conduct). Brain to the fore this week then.

One of the pleasing things to come out of last week (well, two weeks previously, if I am being accurate about these things) was receipt of my score for my first assignment – a rather pleasing and somewhat terrifying-for-the-future-standard-setting 94 out of 100. Maintaining this level of competence (called the Jackson Standard after a friend who scores nothing but Distinctions on her course) is going to be quite the challenge.

The feedback was equally pleasing, and gave good pointers as to how I could improve in future assignments. I am very happy with the support so far – the feedback from this assignment feels at about the right level for me, and the tutorials themselves are interesting and varied, and very useful. On that note, I am somewhat surprised that, out of 22 Bristol based students, only 3 or 4 attend, with an additional person from another region. I think they may be missing out on something that could be quite beneficial.

One of the things I am realising is that whilst we may blather on about and have opinions on the law and decisions made in court, there are a number of rather complex systems, both mechanistic and philosophical, that determine the results and outcomes. Rather like electricity, I know there are systems for delivering it to my iPad or MacBook Air, but it is only on investigation that I begin to understand and appreciate the complexity that goes in to that happening.

The complexities that sit behind the law rest on simple principles that, in combination and conflict with each other, give rise to this interlocking system of, well, complexity. This is further complicated by social, economic and technological change. Laws and systems evolved to meet an era's needs have to continue to adapt to the growing complexity of society and its accoutrements, all without sacrificing the other core principles on which they stand; stability and predictability.

One of the assumptions that the course makes is that Parliament is the democratic and supreme legislator. This is correct, limited by the structures and flexibility of the system of democracy practised. Whilst another assumption is that law moves to keep pace with social change, it would be interesting to understand how much of legislation is enacted to slow down that change, although this may be a judgement coloured by political leanings. The balance between natural social change and politically led social change is probably unimportant, given that only so much law can be proposed, drafted, processed, enacted and enforced within a political term, and by the fact that Parliament itself cannot enact law that cannot be changed by following Parliaments.

I think that is what I find fascinating about law, and what drew me to studying it in the first place; that tension between social, economic, technological and political needs and how that is evidenced in a framework that both serves and defines society.

And as with everything, I wonder that I will look back in three, four or five years and wince at the shallowness of my understanding and the naivete of my thinking. A natural path for any student, I guess.

deserts

In Weaveworld Clive Barker tells of a desert so vast, so desolate, so utterly barren of anything of substance that to enter it was to expose oneself utterly. To enter was to reveal oneself to the void, and to emerge was to be forever changed.

The desert, whether of sand, sea, stone or snow, is a compelling vehicle for reductionism. It has a brutality that is both romantic and unrelenting all at once. Hermits, wizards and sages find their truths in the purity of such minimalism. Loneliness and solitude accentuated. Enlightenment on the cusp of death and in the midst of suffering.

The fight for survival is a purer one, singular in its threat. It afflicts the mind and the body both, a ravaging of the soul that strips away all illusions, all complications, all that is inessential, narrowing the delusive breadth and depth of existence to a more pointed, significant one.

Deserts forge heroes and heroines. They are a forge and a foundry in which time has little meaning, in which the will is tempered. Adversity of the most extreme, impersonal sort, lacking in anthropomorphic or otherworldly agency. They torture, tainting and marking flesh and mind alike. They crush and strip and grind down, by dint of existence and nature. What entered, what journeyed through, emerges wholly different, changed.

They are the ephemeral hint at the incomprehensibility of eternity.

Or so I imagine.

Deserts are as much a canvas for our emotions and whimsy as any other environment. We imagine in them an effect and agency beyond the natural, imbuing them with presence and mystique and an indifferent malice. They are the vehicle for the impersonal conflict made personal, a measure of suffering and progression. Within them is the yardstick of triumph and despair, of failure and pride.

The desert is the mountain is the ocean is the forest is the rolling, endless plain. It is the unwitting architect of the realisation of the profound. In the uncaring, the pococurante and indifferent we find our own lessons and unrealised truths.

The desert reveals to us the depths of our obstinacy and our whimsy. The desert is a metaphor for our aspirations, for dreams of purpose and purity and obsession. In the desert and the journey therein lies the conflict between the mundane and the wistful. It unburdens us of everything that is unnecessary, leaving only the essential. The hero, the heroine, forged, tempered, recast and reborn, leaving behind their former selves to toss and tumble and disappear amongst endlessly shifting sands.

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1908 days. not an anniversary.

If you hadn’t guessed I am supposed to be studying the end of Unit 6 (Legal Personality) and starting Unit 7 (Unlawful Conduct) but I am fucking around on here and Photoshop instead.

As I was messing around with the database issue I have just posted about and as I was doing some general maintenance on the site I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t really thought about fabergemonkey for a while. Sure, I have been blogging to it for a while but I haven’t really thought about what it means of late.

Perhaps nothing.

Some stats:

Started on the 10th of September, 2008 with this post.

It was my third attempt (the other two still exist, somewhere). That was 1908 days ago.

I have published, not including this one, 495 posts. I have not published 90 posts (in draft).

I have had 253 approved comments and about a billion spam ones (pre-filtered out), my favourite sender of the current crop being ‘erotic hypno videos’.

I have been extraordinarily mercurial in my posting habits. I have posted prolifically, a little bit and not at all. I have tagged, and not at all. I have categorised faithfully, and at times, not at all.

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But that is just statistics, or numbers. The whole point of the blog, for me, was to just write about stuff, to talk about stuff, to air stuff, to not talk about stuff but allude to it in a way that wasn’t obvious and wasn’t revealing but got the job done. It was a public place for my thoughts, ideas, angst, and  general chit-chat. Some of it was deep and meaningful, some of it raw, some of it allegorical, some of it mundane, some of it workman-like and some of it blather.

There is heartache in there, along with joy, worry, anger. Melancholy and sadness make their appearances too. There is wonder and mischief and thinky stuff. There are posts that I love and posts that I hate. There are…

This is a post I never thought I would write. This is a blog I never thought I would keep up (it has been touch and go a few times). It is a blog that, on reflection, charts my life, in a loose way, over the last five years and three months. Will it still be here in another 1908 days? I would be surprised if it was, just as I would have been surprised that I have been able to write this post today, all the way back there, on the 10th of September, 2008.

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So, not an anniversary as such. But probably worth a slice of cake and a cup of coffee, yes?

 

its the job, dummy

Yesterday I had to tell a colleague and member of my team that we wouldn’t be renewing her contract and she was understandably a little upset, even though she knew it would have to happen one day. It is never a pleasant thing to do, even if the person in question is a contractor, and especially if that person is highly respected, skilled and liked by her colleagues. It is certainly not one of my favourite things to do in this role and this is very much the low point of my week.

Projects and programmes have their life-cycles and phases, and team sizes and make-ups will always flex to meet them. It is just the way it is. It doesn’t mean I have to like it and it definitely doesn’t mean I can’t feel for the person involved, no matter what their contractual status.

This job sucks sometimes, but that is what I get paid for. I guess.

 

 

studying

One of the benefits of studying is that my brain is generally much more on the go. Whilst knackering (partly due to my schedule and partly due to having to be ‘on’ for study and a full-time job) I am finding it exhilarating and liberating to have my brain thinking about and assimilating something that isn’t work or relaxation related.

These first few weeks have been instructional in other ways. I have a better idea of when and how I best study, and that ambient noise is a necessary must (see previous post). I also now know that my note-taking needs improving somewhat, and my tagging of information in the reference books (via post-it tag things) could be much better. I also know I work much more quickly and intensely first thing in the morning and that the evenings are a real struggle.

I have much less time for gaming, reading and general goofing about, a greater need to go running, and am finding that writing with a purpose is immensely enjoyable, if a bit fraught with tension. I am also, rather unexpectedly, enjoying scrawling with a pen and my handwriting is actually improving, although you wouldn’t say so if you saw it at the end of my normal two hour morning stint.

One of the tools I am using for my assignments is Scrivener, which is a writing application available on the Mac, Windows and even Linux as beta-ware. It is a great piece of software that I use for fiction writing, allowing a large degree of flexibility in your approach to writing fiction, non-fiction, dissertations or assignments like mine. It is, as an aside, one of the primary reasons I bought a Mac.

It is early days yet but I have already put some thought on how to I am going to structure my folder system and how I will structure my files within Scrivener itself. The file structure will reflect the eventual structure of the assignment and answers. I will utilise the ability to split the assignment into distinct areas of work to my advantage, allowing me to work on each part, drafting, redrafting and finalising at will, without fear of messing up the whole file as I might with MS Word. I can segregate my draft sections from my final versions within the same document with ease and reorder them on the fly. I can also collect any reference materials (webpages, pdfs, scans, images, etc) within the research area and use Scapple (a mind-mapping application from the makers of Scrivener) to plan out my assignments. I can even import the Scapple files into Scrivener.

This will all become a lot more relevant once the complexity and size of the assignments increase, but it bears thinking about now so that I have a consistent approach as time marches on.

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On the subject of tools I did, rather sadly, do a lot of research into pens. I have a couple of lovely vintage fountain pens that I use sporadically and thought to find one for writing up my notes. Reality set in though and I turned to the modern day equivalent and the almost universal recommendation from pen aficionados everywhere was the Uniball Jetstream and, frankly, it is the dog’s dangly bits.

The art of summat-else

I have long been a doodling-during-meetings-escapist and used to draw many, many years ago but I have never been particularly good. Well, except at eyes and cartoon rockets taking off (revealing a deep-seated need to escape the meeting in question? Hell yes). An unexpected 40 minutes standing at the elbow of James Ledger during this year’s BristolCon, being wowed by his digital art demonstration, plus a number of the other exhibitors’ pieces of work, inspired me to have a serious tinker…

So this morning I arose, and instead of opening the law books (I finished Unit 5 yesterday, dammit!) I opened up Photoshop, plugged in the Wacom tablet, fired up some tutorials on youtube (there is something quite mellowing about listening to people talk about drawing as they draw) and did some doodling…

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Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 05.51.47 Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 05.52.46 Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 05.53.11Granted, it is all framework/skeletal/stick figure stuff, but it helps me gain a feel for how a body works, and how it works in drawings in particular. In general, I was quite pleased with the above efforts (there’s a whole bunch that, well, yes, less said the better).

 

 

asides

I am knackered, tired, weary and in need of sleep. I was grumpy today. Very. Grumpy.

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Aside from all the stuff I am scrawling in the recently launched and nigh-on never-ending pursuit of knowledge, I managed 600 words of the opening scene of a short story. Go me.

***

I broked my ipad. A little. Somehow (I think swinging my bag about) I managed to clunk the corner, dent it and crack the glass in that area. Luckily it doesn’t impinge on the touch screen area and a bit of sticky tape and one proper ipad case later and you can’t see that it is broken.

Otherwise it is £170 for a repair or a mere £400 or more for a replacement.

Sod. That.

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Whilst I am all grumbly about Apple related stuff – the new version of OS X, Mavericks, has seriously borked the battery life on my beloved MacBook Air. Apple were very much trumpeting the fact that it would lengthen battery life due to some clever softwarenology but I appear to be one of the lucky few whose battery life has been halved. This takes it from premium Apple laptop territory to slightly shitty Windows laptop territory. Which isn’t on.

I await a fix.

For the laptop. Not the other kind.

***

I bought an 11 year old Mini Cooper. It goes like shit off a shovel. It is like a little go-cart. It is pretty spartan inside but is pretty. It has slightly whiny power-steering, which apparently is the norm for this age of Mini, but worries me nonetheless. The Brompton doesn’t fit in the boot. Man, it is good fun to drive.

Oh yes, that is three years sans car down the drain. But needs and lifestyles change.

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The Flatmate is listening to Miley Cyrus. He has his headphones in, so he probably thinks I don’t know. I do.