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Monday, November 17, 2008

The straightest line in the world

This photo is impossible

I think it had to be the straightest line I'd ever seen painted on a road. I found it in Shin Kiba, on one of the man-made islands in Tokyo Bay. Here's a satellite image of the place it was taken, as I know you are desperate to see my squatting pose. See how it made me turn blue?

It's been a rough week. Quite exhausting, with my body being quite ill with a cold, and a complete loss of interest in life.

When in the trough I found it quite interesting to debate with myself what the merits of being in the trough were. Would I be more comfy if I climbed out? I decided that no, I was comfortable being down, and perhaps it was important that I follow it through. I needed the down in order to come back up.

I'm grateful for the fact that my downs are pretty infrequent, and short-lived when they do occur.

*Twinkle* copes wonderfully with me when I'm down. She's just patient. Doesn't buy into it, but doesn't deny it either.

Will write more tomorrow.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The ups and downs

I've been playing with my zoom lens. 1 second exposure, zoom out whilst the shutter is open.

This was yesterday...

Strange feeling of finality today. It could be due to my having taken part in my last ever SEAS open day, an event I always enjoy a great deal.

As with every time, it was interesting watching everyone file in. I saw myself, 4 years ago, doing just the same. Seems like 5 minutes ago, and yet, a lifetime too.

With that over, and everyone away on their Easter holidays, I feel like the rug has been pulled from beneath my feet. It strikes me how much I depend upon familiarity and routine for a sense of peace.  Perhaps what is disturbing me is not simply the fact that with the holidays my routine has been changed, but rather, it's the fact that although I remain in a very familiar place, somehow, everything is different

Hotplate

Despite being very fond of them all, I don't socialise with my classmates much. But now I'm not seeing them every day, I'm missing them.


Hokkaido

It's important that I have times like this, when suddenly life seems to have no meaning and nothing really matters, as without these experiences, I wouldn't be able to relate to others when they were having hard times. I can understand how people can feel that there is no meaning to life...

This is Today

I stopped writing at that point, as I felt too crappy. I think it was partly tiredness, partly the isolation, partly unhappiness with not getting things done that I'd wanted to get done. 

Oh, then the car got another puncture, had to change the wheel for the second time this week. I finally sorted out my parking tickets this afternoon. It was a bit of battle with the staff (who are in desperate need of customer service training), but eventually my appeal was referred to the department manager.  Comparing his reply to the correspondence I'd had with the clerical staff beforehand, I was struck by the differences between the two. Here he was telling me that my appeal was being rejected, but doing so in a way that actually made me want to pay, and feel good about it. The manner in which the clerical staff had dealt with me though made me feel like a piece of shit, and made it very hard for me to want to co-operate with them. What a graphic example that was of what the difference is between an inspiring leader and, er, someone who is unaware of how others are feeling.

After the ticket extravaganza had been dealt with I sent the manager the letter I'd written detailing the appalling customer service I'd received. I explicitly pointed out that this wasn't being sent in anger or pettiness, but rather, it was being sent in the hope that it would mean that others would not have to go what I had gone through (in the past week I've spoken to several university staff members who have had similar experiences to my own, so I know it's not a personal thing!).

Returning home I couldn't help but laugh when I opened my post: a payslip from the University of Sheffield for £123 - the EXACT amount that the two parking tickets had come to!

I love working for free...!

Anyway, my friend is home now, and the car is gone. Phew. More work than a baby.

Finished the audio version of Michael Palin's 1969-1979 diaries today, wonderful stuff. You know, I'd never truly appreciated just how popular Monty Python had been in the 1970s. With that book finished I couldn't resist but sign back up to Audible.co.uk; got £80 worth of audiobooks for £14.99 which I'm happy with. They'll keep me going for a while (I'll tell you about them in due course).

Went to the cinema last night to see The Bank Job. The acting wasn't superb and the story was pretty simple, but I enjoyed it as it was based on the true story of one of the UK's most successful bank robberies - the details of which are still protected under the Official Secrets Act. Why? Apparently such information could do a lot of to the damage to our royal family and government. We only have to wait another 50 years to find out the truth!

Tomorrow morning I should be receiving a phone call from somewhere in Indonesia. Or maybe it was Bangkok. I think an Anthony Robbins wannabe is going to try to sell me a $1000 self-development package. Eyes Wide Open Joseph, Eyes Wide Open.

I'm starting to regain a sense of clarity now my list of things to do is shrinking. It's good. It's all good.

love joseph

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rivers of money ...and parking tickets

This past year I have adopted a policy of not holding on to money.

The idea is not just to spend willy-nilly. As you know, I've done that in the past, with spectacular results.

Rather, the idea (simply put) is to not take ownership of money in the first place. Instead of thinking that I 'have' a finite amount of money that has to last me until my next student loan payment, I picture money as a river that flows through my life. I trust that I will have enough to meet my needs (I've not yet gone hungry in 30 years): as some leaves my custody so more will arrive, from somewhere.

[n.b. This approach requires that one believes that we live in a world of abundance, not a world of limited resources. I'm talking a general mindset here, not stuff like oil or water reserves. For example, a world where we are not jealous of others' success ...because actually there is plenty of recognition for everyone.]

It is important though that I use the money in accordance with what feels right. Thus, for example, I can't just go out and buy a MacBook Pro in the belief that the money will show up from somewhere, as it would simply be my own greed motivating that action, and thus the chances are that I'd end up in a pile of horse plop.

However, when it comes to giving to worthy causes, the river technique really works. I don't know how, but it does. It's simply amazing. The more you give to others, you more you find money flowing back to yourself in even greater quantities.

The result of my scientific survey in which I have been deliberately far more generous than has been the case historically, is that all sorts of money-generating opportunities start to present themselves. It's happened time and time again this year, and I even find myself able to put some money aside for our wedding, despite the fact that according to my budget forecast I cannot even meet my basic expenses this academic year.

I encourage everyone to give money away. It's liberating.

Sometimes though, one is presented with difficult situations that send one straight back to the land of limited resources. Today, that happened to me, as the university's parking services gave me my second £60 parking fine in two days. There has clearly been an unofficial change in policy, or perhaps the regular traffic warden is off sick and some jobsworth has taken over.

Yesterday I wasn't overly upset as I only got the ticket after following instructions from a member of staff whom I incorrectly assumed has some insider knowledge of the university's parking system (he told me to park in a registered bay). I have appealed that, and have no intention of paying. Today's though was a little more complex. I was parked outside my house, as I have done on many previous occasions, in an area that whilst not an official parking area is often used by residents who have temporary need of somewhere to put their car.

I think the attendant must have seen the car and recognised it, and thus thought that he'd teach me a lesson by ticketing it. Again.

Technically, I'm in the wrong. But I strongly object to being made to pay £60 for something which didn't cause anyone any harm, something that caused absolutely no obstruction and which many people do almost every day without penalty. It's our courtyard, and we don't mind sharing it.

I visited the university's parking office to see what could be done. Unfortunately, whilst one member of staff was polite, kind and helpful (and I was grateful for her understanding my feelings), the other was not. She kept on butting in, gleefully telling me that there was no way that I'd get out of it.

This really upset me as she seemed to be getting a great kick out of deliberately trying to make me feel bad. It was only the second time in 4 years that I'd met someone like that on the university payroll...

I was pretty surprised by how upset I was - I actually had to leave the room very suddenly as I felt myself about to burst into tears. (What's happening to me? What's all this emotional stuff about?!)

After leaving the parking bunker (now armed with a temporary permit which the nice lady had given me), I wandered home in the rain, and thought about how I could deal with these feelings. I realised that one reason I was feeling so upset was that I had attached meaning to that money, that meaning being £120 less for my wedding.

...so how about if I let go? How about, if I just paid the second fine, and accepted it as part of the natural flow? Trust that the pot would be replenished. This sounded like a good idea, and thus a few minutes later I'd contacted the 3rd party parking company and given them my card details. I also realised that by doing so I was demonstrating that I was willing to pay a 'just' fine - perhaps this would give me a little more leverage as I attempted to get the first fine cancelled.

I felt a lot better then, and went on to eat free pizza in Bart House.



Case Study - "Making Students Matter: The Family of East Asian Studies" - now online!

I'll blog about this next week. By then, I'd like you to have read this text :-p

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