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Friday, January 23, 2009

A new study set-up



My old study-setup

I'm very much an advocate of taking action to change one's surroundings should they not be conducive to feeling at ease. For example, a friend of mine has been having issues at work involving smoke from an adjoining (smoking) room filling her office, but rather than just complain about it she went out and bought some plastic sheets and a couple of heaters, in order to seal the gap between above the partition wall and deal with the resulting lack of hot air that was blow through by the air conditioner. She is now going to be happier in the short term, and live longer too.

My new getting-up-at-6am routine is going really well - I love it, and manage to get a tonne of stuff done in the 90 minutes extra that I have each day. Studying Japanese is the main activity. This involves me going through my electronic dictionary's history to review words I'd looked up the previous day, and transferring them to Anki and paper flash cards (sometimes an iPhone interface is just too distracting). I've also got a couple of text books to work through, oh, and I've restarted my Japanese blog.

It's appalling how much I've forgotten since I stopped studying, so the entries you'll find on there are more reminiscent of the stuff I was writing at the end of my first year at uni than what you might expect from a graduate. I'm not embarrassed about this. I know I can do better, and I know that given frequent practice I will do better.

I've decided to use my photos as the theme, writing about where / why they were taken. Simple, yet very personal to me. I like that.

It also prevents me from using the excuse that "I have nothing to write about".



Another thing I've done to encourage study is buy myself a proper desk. The Japanese-style coffee table was doing my knees / legs no good at all, and left me in quite a bit of pain if I sat there too long. Thus, I popped down to the local department store and bought a fairly cheap table, and two metres of cloth for a table cloth. I love it!

The storage shelf thing that was in this room has been moved next door, although the two sets of stationary drawers remain close at hand under the two tables.

I've also decided to stop using my MacBook as a laptop at home. By plugging in an external monitor and keyboard it's possible to use Mac laptops when they're closed - I keep it under the desk out of the way.

There are a few reasons I've done this:
  1. It gives me more space on the desk for study materials;
  2. I don't have to look at all the trailing wires emerging from my Macbook;
  3. My mind associates this monitor / keyboard with study / 'work' and not all the stuff I associate my Macbook with.


It really makes a big difference. I'm far more productive now I have a space designed for what I need to do. Kind of no-brainer really.

Anyway, it's bath-time now, then muesli, then off to the office to continue work on the new website for students. I'm using Joomla in order to ensure that the site can be updated for many years to come by people other than myself. As with Wordpress, I am staggered by the improvements Joomla has seen in recent years. A world away from the thing I dabbled with a while back!

Have a productive day!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Magical Jiggery Pokery



The random image thing on the right of this page is supposedly, er, random - so how can one account for things like the above happening? Here, I blogged about my mum's painting, and hey presto! It randomly appears on the right too! It's not as if it's unusual either, I've seen matches like that in the past, but the odds should be 14,762 to 1 (the number of images I have on Flickr).

Also, I know of friends who have reported random pictures of themselves showing up when they've checked the mumble, the chances of which are almost as slim as the above!

Is there magical jiggery pokery going on around here?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

My Life Purpose


One benefit of committing the story of one’s life to a blog powered by Google, hosted by some other company and then sent to you by email (and then burnt to DVD) is that when one turns 90, the chances are there will still be a copy of it somewhere. Why should that be important? I’d like to be able to look back on my life at the age of 90 and see if I can draw lines between developments in my thoughts, feelings and decisions early on in life (now) and later occurrences.

For many years, I kept *real* diaries. I have about 49 of them in a big box that will soon be sailing to Japan. They span some 15 years of my life from the age of about 12. There’s only one copy of them, and should the boat go down, they will go down too.

I pretty much stopped writing my *real* diary when I met *Twinkle*, who became the one I talked to about things that mattered. As time has passed, so I’ve grown more confident about writing about my feelings here on the Internet, which has been especially useful this past year with those friends who are happy to talk about such things being some distance away. It took me a while to develop the confidence to open up, and I know that without the inner work, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only though learning to trust my heart / spirit that I can feel confident in what I write. Confident in that I am being honest with myself (as opposed to confident in my being ‘right’, a view I don’t subscribe to. How can I be ‘right’ when things have no intrinsic ‘rightness’? Don’t they only have the rightness or wrongness we as individuals choose to assign to them?).
So there’s my long-winded preamble about why I’m writing this.

Things have been happening in my life this week. Well, actually, it’s more a case of things have always been happening all my life, but I feel that now is a critical period, like some kind of climax. There’s all these things that are happening. I feel like there’s some role being shaped for me, but I have no idea what it is. I’m getting this message that I have some kind of responsibility to do something. But not just an everyday something, but a something that is going to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is.

You know there’s that quote of Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t say I can recall ever hearing it before this week, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. It was on a website I stumbled across the other day in bold letters. Then, it popped up on an audiobook I was listening too (quite the highlight actually - if you’re after self-development books give Brian Tracy a miss!), then the other night I was suddenly moved to pick a book off my shelf that had been there since January, untouched. It’s called “Be the change”, and is a product of the organisation of the same name, based in my second home town of Bristol. There on the front page is the quote by Gandhi.

Then there was the person I met in the pub the other night. Well, I say ‘met’. All I actually did was shake his hand and then talk to someone else on the other side of the table for 20 minutes, but the following day I received an email from his partner (my good friend) passing on a message for me, talking about my future. It was a reflection of the feelings I am writing about here.

Then there was that person who warned me, “Don’t hide behind *Twinkle’s* success”. Now that was a well-placed kick up the backside, and a very timely one at that. Likewise, I can’t hide behind the name of any company or government I might work for in the short term. I might want to, and no doubt I will do so at times due to my ego demanding a stroke, but it will be fatal if I subscribe to such a practice long term.

It’s not these superficial happenings that are overwhelming me though, it’s this feeling that growing inside me that I have a responsibility to use the immense fortune that I have to make a difference. I’m not talking any financial fortune, I’m talking being born in the UK in the late 20th century to loving parents who sent me to a Steiner School, and have always supported me emotionally in all that I have ever chosen to do. In having loving siblings and friends who share my positive outlook upon life and also believe that we can do great things.

Sometimes, the feeling is positively palpable. Like tonight. I had to lie down on my bed and hide under my duvet, hugging my teddy as I felt all these things happening, all this energy surrounding me (if only I could channel it into pressing the appropriate keys on my Macbook to write a dissertation on NGOs in Japan!). I’ve been reading these incredibly inspiring stories in the Be The Change book about individuals who have done the most amazing things and are changing lives. In some cases, just a few lives, and in other cases, many. There’s no fundamental difference between these people and anyone else, except that they have made a decision to make things happen, and then acted. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but that is not important when one first embarks upon a project.

So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t think the time is right to act yet as I need more clarity, and it may be a case of waiting some years before I do know. That’s not to say that I have to “wait until everything is in place” - the biggest excuse in the book that, things will never be ‘just right’! But I do know that it’s vital that I continue to study, study my passions, study others, study those things in life that present themselves to me with a label on saying “study me” (sometimes need an ultraviolet light to see the writing though).

I also know that living in accordance with what my heart tells me is right, is working. It must be almost a year now since I started that ‘experiment’, and the results in terms of being at ease with decisions made, not attaching importance to the subjective opinions of others who are acting out of a perceived necessity for defensiveness, and my ability to love others for who they, are wonderful to experience.

It’s pretty difficult for me to tell even a white lie now. Although I did the other day, first time in a very long time. I can’t remember exactly where I was. It was somewhere on campus, I remember that, and it was someone who I didn’t know too well, and they asked me an awkward question. I told them the answer they wanted to hear, and boy oh boy did I feel bad. I almost burst out laughing I was so amused by my inability to lie. If the person had known me they’d have spotted it right away, but they didn’t.

In a way I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the publishing company we are establishing is essentially a social enterprise, helping others to help themselves without heavy emphasis on profit. If my energy is directed into that, I can feel happy knowing that I am doing a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get the Jet job. If I do I know I’m going to have to use every opportunity within that to make myself a better person, in order that I can make things happen in an area where my true passions lie in the future.

If I don't get it, that’s great too as it means that there’s some other exciting path waiting for me.


So, 90-year-old Joseph, do the lines join up?

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Saving lives ...and broadcasting to the world

Jade Stoner, 1999 - 2006

Woah, what a day! Quite a bumpy ride.

This afternoon, I had a presentation in Japanese on organ donation. That went well. We told the story of Jade, a 7-year-old-girl who was tragically killed in 2006 when hit by a car whilst riding her bicycle. However, Jade did not die in vain - her parents agreed for Jade to be an organ donor - with the result that Jade saved 4 people's lives: those of an including an 11-month-old baby, a 17-month-old baby, a 27-year-old man and a 42-year-old man.

What an amazing thing that little girl did.

Organ donation is still in its infancy in Japan - did you know that in the ten years between 1997 and 2007 Japan only 62 people in Japan donated organs following death? In the UK the figure for last year alone was 1500. It's not that Japanese people don't agree with it - when interviewed for a large-scale survey, over 70% of respondents said they were for with organ donation.

It seems to be more a case of not appreciating that they could actually give the most precious gift of all - the gift of life - simply by carrying a donor card with them and informing their families of the consequences.

It would be wrong to single out the Japanese here. Until last week, I, just like almost 3/4 of the UK population, wasn't registered as a willing organ donor.

Then I clicked on this link, and 30 seconds later I was on the register.


Another topic that we could have chosen to present on was Giving Blood. This year sees the first time ever that I've been able to give blood (my anti-epilepsy drugs having been replaced with organic multivitamins), but once again, until we started looking into the subjectfor these classes, I'd not thought about it.

That's all set to change: next Tuesday (11th March) the National Blood Service is coming to our university. Perfect timing. This afternoon I gave them a call on 08457 711 711, and registered. I'll be giving blood at 2.35pm, after our literature class.

I'm terribly squeamish, and can't bear the sight of blood, but if I can help someone, even perhaps play a samll part in saving someone's life, well, isn't that something worth taking time for? yes Joseph, it is. I'll just look the other way.



WWW means World Wide Web


Something quite bizarre happened this morning. I won't go into details as I've inadvertently caused enough grief as it is, just to say that a recent post on the Mumble (which I have since decided to remove so as to help relieve the stress burden of the individuals concerned) caused quite a reaction within management circles of a Europe-based organisation. They had picked up on it through what I guess would be a Google Alert (you receive an email whenever your pre-defined search terms appear online).

What I found interesting was how my post (which admittedly, was poorly thought out and inaccurate, being the result of a combination of my strong feelings on the topic under discussion, and tiredness), could, to someone looking from a very different viewpoint, mean something so far removed from what had been my intention.

Of course, had someone told me that members of this Dutch organisation's management team would be checking the Mumble I would have laughed - surely they have better things to do with their time than pay attention to the likes of me?! However, today has taught me that actually, I almost have to think as if my blogs are being sent as emails to everyone whom I refer to in them.

Does this then limit my freedom of speech? I don't think so. If I were the kind of blogger who frequently criticized others then yes, of course I'd have to reconsider my style - or face being the recipient of envelopes containing poisoned bananas, labelled "eat me I taste good". But as it is, I won't blog anything that I wouldn't say to someone's face, it's just not right (in the recent post I refer to I was actually defending the individual who became upset upon reading it, my being unaware of their particular political circumstances. Since the storm, I've checked out that individual's profile on the corporate web site. They come across as being tall, and funny).

hmm.

It's been a learning experience.

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