Blog

EXIF

People share their location, by uploading images to the Internet, and in most cases do not know they are doing so.

For example, “I know where your cat lives”: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/i-know-where-your-cat-lives-feline-photo-mapping-website-exposes-how-easy-it-is-to-track-the-owners-a6743621.html

And:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/vvb7yx/this-guy-is-cyberstalking-the-worlds-cats-in-the-name-of-privacy.

Every image taken with a modern camera (or smartphone) has embedded in it the location where it was taken.

If you take a photograph in your garden – tools on the Internet can reveal where your house is:

https://www.pic2map.com/.

For other data that is embedded in photos read this:

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-ways-to-remove-exif-metadata-from-photos-and-why-you-might-want-to/.

Wherever possible I like to recommend tools that are free or low cost.

One of my favoured image editors is a tool called GIMP:

https://www.gimp.org/.

This is both free and open source (all the code used to write GIMP is freely available).

The Gimp interface currently looks like this:

Gimp Interface

If I take a screen shot (an image with no embedded metadata), paste this into GIMP and select File – Export:

Export

Give the file a name:

name-file

Click Export (the name of the file determines which options you see here – I will show the options for JPEG).

advanced options

Expand Advanced Options.

save EXIF data Gray

The “Save EXIF Data” option is greyed out (the screenshot contains no EXIF data).

However, if I open a photograph with GIMP and follow the above steps, the “Advanced Options” looks like this:

save EXIF Data normal

The “save EXIF data” option is available (this is because the image contains EXIF data).

To remove the EXIF data from an image before uploading it to the Internet, follow the above steps. (Ensure that you export the image with a different name to that which the camera gave it by default – to avoid overwriting that original image).

Take the tick out of the “Save EXIF data” box as pictured above and click the Export button.

Your image now contains no information that can be used to identify you or your camera. The image is therefore safe to upload to the Internet.

There are of course alternative methods of removing EXIF data. This article details some of those:

https://www.howtogeek.com/203592/what-is-exif-data-and-how-to-remove-it/

 

Fifty Special Things – Thanh Binh Restaurant Cambridge

When: 03-11-2016 and 10/01/2016

Where: Thanh Binh Vietnamese Restaurant, 17 Magdalene Street, Cambridge CB3 0AF, United Kingdom
Tel: 01223 362 456
Email: info@thanhbinh.co.uk/thanhbinhcambridge@gmail.com http://www.thanhbinh.co.uk/

Price: Free first time (50th birthday present), £20 second time

Review: Excellent Staff. A tiny place in which to treat yourself.

Tip: If you want to drink take your own wine – small corking charge applies.

Next in the task to have 50 great things happen in my 50th year.
See the previous account in this series:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2017/02/12/fifty-special-things-brampton-wood/.

A suggestion from a counsellor and a great suggestion. Why does the celebration end with the birthday – why can’t it carry on all year?

One reason is making enough time available to do the things in life that you always wished to do.

The next is that, having achieved this hoary old age, remembering all the dreams that you once had becomes a lot less easy.

However I have taken this up like a new religion and so I am trying to make fifty great things happen before I am fifty one.

I think of this restaurant as being on Bridge Street. On the first visit it was a treat from my sister and had that air of specialness that comes from being the focus of attention. My sister drove me to Cambridge and I walked with her to the restaurant with the normal Phil air of complete obliviousness to geography.

On the second visit I was with people from work and I told them to meet me on Bridge Street at the bridge. Only to find the restaurant is on Magdalene Street and the meeting place was a bit beyond the restaurant. (The restaurant is up near the traffic lights and St Giles Church more than down near the Cam).

Of course people have become used by now to my species of woolly-headedness and so after some leg pulling we set off back up the hill.

The restaurant has online booking and in contrast to some places I have tried in the past it is effective. I had confirmation within a few hours of registering interest in a table for four. It is also a relief that having entrusted the booking to mouse and keyboard when I attended they were expecting me.

I had attended with my sister and brother in law for an after-50th birthday meal at the beginning of November. (I was in Borneo for my actual Fiftieth birthday. Accounts of which will be in this blog in the not too distant future). We had a great time in November.

It was with this fond memory that I had recommended it to a couple of friends from work. I was confident in the place: in that it was enjoyable; I wouldn’t have to fight my way through hordes of eager eaters, and the staff were courteous and attentive.

Importantly I would be able to find stuff for me to eat. Given I have IBS (and have a diet slightly less restricted than a vegan) this can make for some entertainment.

Details of the IBS and how it developed will no doubt hit this blog at some point as well.

Of course anything in Cambridge is going to involve some parking negotiations.
When I had come in with my sister she had driven in and very kindly paid for the parking. On that occasion we used the Park Street car park:

https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/park-street-car-park

Not what you’d call cheap, not what you’d call fragrant but had the advantage of being close. I could not recommend much in the way of parking in Cambridge. Cambridge majors on the historic or even quaint but not much on the car city. Bicycle yes, car no.

On the second occasion (taking into account that I am a cheapskate) – after arrival I drove round for some on-street parking. This left a bit of a walk down Castle Hill.

On street parking is a bit of an endangered species in Cambridge. Resident’s parking bays are apparently procreating.

Very soon parking without fee will involve the kind of expedition that would bring a gleam to the eye of Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

It is pointless recommending anywhere because as soon as this blog item is out the parking will have disappeared.

Given the distance from the venue and my encroaching portliness I was late, again.

My two friends were waiting with that patient air of someone who’d dearly like to say “where the hell have you been”. They limited themselves to mentioning that they’d decided to wait at the appointed place.

The bridge is picturesque in that tiny “I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out” kind of way. But given the outside temperatures lingering on it was likely to have been diverting for all the wrong reasons.

Despite having attended in November, by the time I attended again in January I had forgotten where it was. A fact that caused some amusement to my companions.
Although not that exceptional for me I have to say.

If you’re as far as the bridge on Bridge Street you need to retrace your steps some way towards the traffic lights. A disconcertingly long way when you can’t remember where the place.

In fact if you are opposite Magdalene College you’re just about there.
Oh and if like me you forgot to look out for it on the way down the hill and walk past it then this is a cue for more ribbing behaviour.

It is tiny.

dsc02789

I felt like I was sitting in the comfort of someone’s front room the whole time I was there.

The staff are friendly and welcoming. In that fashion which does not involve them fussing round you whilst you’re trying to have a conversation.

On each occasion it has been quiet like the low murmur of somewhere refined.

Maybe the more restricted areas of some gentleman’s club but without the wing backed chairs (and the prostitutes).

The first time we took wine to celebrate (they don’t serve wine but allow you to take your own). This is a top tip if you want to drink – they are quite happy for you to bring some.

There’s a small charge for this but cheaper than getting wine in a restaurant I thought.

The drinks available are appealing even if the lack of alcoholic ingredient may deter many.

Although Vietnamese and therefore chopsticks provided as standard fortunately cutlery is available. This is useful considering that I am a Luddite and have the finger dexterity of two large lumps of concrete.

Although chopsticks make a very effective projectile. (As I discovered; I caught one with my sleeve and sent it down to the lower ground floor level – with a resounding clatter which caught everyone’s attention).

The toilet is on the lower ground floor beside the kitchen down a winding staircase. This means having too much to drink is not too great an idea in any case (you might arrive on your backside).

dsc02790

They have both chrysanthemum tea and jasmine tea so I was a bit torn opting for jasmine through habit.

For those who can drink tea which has camellia sinensis in it they have green tea but I saw no evidence of the fermented variety.

The food is to die for and semi IBS friendly. Although I tend to find no matter how careful I am after I go out – being close to some facilities (and away from people) for 24 hours afterwards is a good thing.

The fish I had a couple of times (once on each visit) because I liked it so much. (In a former life I must have been a marine creature given my love of all things seafood).

dsc02792

Mostly you go out for the company. This is a place where you can have a conversation and not have to compete with the hubbub. Neither will you find it necessary to shrink yourself down to a skinny person – to avoid elbows, back or bum intersecting with someone else’s’ eating space.

The first occasion with family was a very uplifting experience – helped by being made a fuss of.

I can’t speak on behalf of my friends but personal view was that the second visit was also a success.

I imagine that at intervals it must become busy and I can’t speak for the experience then. Both occasions where I have attended there hasn’t been need to elbow back the crowds or to join some tiresome queue whilst you “wait to be seated”.

They have some interesting desserts too. Although after my experiences in Malaysia I would not recommend anything containing durian.

They have durian ice cream but after the face shrivelling experience of trying some on an open market in Kuala Lumpur I can’t say I was tempted this time.

The first visit I opted for the standard ice cream which given November wasn’t too shabby temperature-wise just about made sense.

January it turned out was a bit stiffer in its resolve to bring draughty. Everyone agreed dessert was not what we were looking to do.

If you’re coming in and do not fancy car park negotiation one of my companions pointed out that Shire Hall is now pay and display at £1 per hour (at weekends). Compared to some multi storeys this is a disgraceful bargain. But if you’re a cheapskate could be considered ruinous. Consider it a contribution to the good works of the local authority…

I recommend this restaurant for a visit. I’m hoping that my recommendation will not ruin the special atmosphere through increased demand.
Perhaps the thing is to get in quick before the rush starts.

Fifty Special Things – Brampton Wood

When: 30-10-2016

Where: Brampton Wood http://www.visiteastofengland.com/Huntingdon-Brampton-Wood/details/?dms=3&venue=0211398

Price: Free

Review: Not at its best in October; go when it’s warmer

Tip: follow the satnav in this case it makes a better job of finding it.

Brampton wood and the start of many wood visits.

Communing with nature is restorative: http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/we-know-nature-makes-us-happier-now-science-says-it-makes-us-kinder-too-20160312.

So to start with this appeared to be a great choice.

The Wildlife Trusts’ guidebook states that they have managed the wood since 1992. They bought it from the Ministry of Defence.

Guidebook:  Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire Northamptonshire guide: “Where to See Wildlife in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire”.

I was attending the Bolnhurst Steam Fair http://www.bolnhurstrally.org.uk/ when someone came up and sold me membership. This is not an organisation I would have thought of but I am supportive of any group that puts trees before house building.

They have a good little guide to local woods and also a website worthy of a visit: http://www.wildlifebcn.org/.

Brampton Wood has been a site of Special Scientific Interest since 1954.

But it turns out that spotting wildlife is somewhat more difficult than on some of our trips abroad.

The wood is home to dormice (which were re-introduced in 1992) but so far all we seem to have seen in our woodland visits are species of canine on and off leads.

It is the second largest woodland in Cambridgeshire at 132 hectares (327 acres). The largest is Bedford Purlieus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedford_Purlieus_NNR.  (Which might be the subject of a future visit/blog item).

The Wildlife Trusts organisation have a good leaflet on Brampton Wood: http://data.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/Brampton%20Wood%20Leaflet%202015.pdf.

But the wood majored less on the picturesque and more on the damp and cold the day that I went.

The guidebook states there are more than two miles of wide mown pathways and some minor pathways and follows: “pathways maybe muddy” – read will be very muddy. Take wellies (and a small tractor to drag you out).

Brampton wood appears easy to find. But where it appeared to be on the map was not where the satnav wished us to go. We went with our own judgement, and got lost. (OS Ref is TL 184 698).

If you want to find it Google indicates that it is here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Brampton+Wood+Nature+Reserve/@52.3166644,-0.2744105,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x4877c3cb62522f8f:0x491c3106c976241c!8m2!3d52.3166644!4d-0.2722218.

Directions are: From A1, take A14 exit towards Huntingdon. Take the first exit off A14 to Brampton (B1514). Go straight at the first roundabout then right at the second roundabout. Turn right at the T-junction on to Grafham Road. Follow Grafham Road through the village and over the A1. The reserve is on the north side of the road – 1/2 mile out of Brampton. A brown sign indicates the entrance to the wood. Park in the small car park. (When they say small they are not kidding).

Following the satnav lead to a tiny left-hander off the A1. This looked to need the sort of deceleration which the Beagle Lander attempted on Mars.

As a result we took the circuitous route. This required navigation of a narrow road with enough oncoming traffic to provide diversion. After many wood-related trips we found this was typical.

Being a virgin of wood visits I anticipated a car park devoid of vehicles, our journey punctuated by some kindly gamekeeper (with a discussion of pheasant breeding practices or some such).

But turning into the most bijou of car parks I found it already well inhabited with vehicles which could have labelled modern, shiny, and family.

We squeezed in at the end of a row of these.

dsc01893

Vehicles distinguished by large rear load areas. Every one of those vehicles contained inhabitants which you could call “Rover”.(Second piece of education of the day).

All varieties of fur – caked in material which was going to need more than a small towel to remonstrate with.

Each one of the human car inhabitants turned out to have a species of cheeriness, this associated with bobble-hat, fleece, and large rangy hound.

We had snaffled the last space (or so we thought). Yet another shiny Tonka-toy-thing burbled in behind. The driver did not resort to shouting or fist-waving so I assume found somewhere to slot it.

The ground was that species of compliant which one will be familiar with if embarking-out barefoot on a wet evening and murdering a large slug in darkness with one’s toes as the offensive weapon.

Phil’s recommendation: go when it’s warmer. Although given how popular woods turn out to be with dog walkers you are always going to have a lot of company.

It is a top site for bluebells in the spring so that may well be worth a try. I wouldn’t bother with October. Unless you have a 4×4 and something large with waggy tail which doesn’t smell great when it’s wet.

Fortunately the ground was well furnished with leaves. Rainfall sufficiently far in the past that waders were not a necessity.

The Wildlife Trusts’ booklet informs me that the wood is at least 900 years old. And so had a mention in the Domesday Book.

I’m sure in the summer it is a goodly place. But the day we went it had the kind of sombre air usually reserved for death and religious buildings. (Or some combination of those).

img_4595

We decided to do a circuit (starting at the noticeboards).

img_4594

And so embarked on a journey around what one imagined to be the circumference – just inside the tree line.

Diverting at intervals to have privacy from the next bobble-hatted group.

In places there were stands of conifers – planted when the Government managed the wood.

These are being removed for the wood to re-establish.

img_4592

The circuit seemed too brief to me and convinced me that we must have taken the wrong route.

I’d only said good morning to 1/2 dozen people or so and I estimated the population at that time to be several times that. So where had they all gone?

After reviewing the map of the wood we realised that we had only circuited part of it. So there was a lot left to see on future visits.

A little of a good thing convinced me that more of this experience would prove more fulfilling. So decided that this wildlife idea was for me.

Gazing between the trees gave me brief memories of Borneo. It was with sadness I realised that we would see no macaque this trip. (Nor catch our clothes on any rattan).

Back to the car. The surrounding shiny and four wheel drive had swapped about a bit but not reduced in number. So lesson of wood exploration wood=popular=pooches began to form in my mind.

img_4593

Stately homes seem to be the places where frazzled adults take their small person. Woods however are where red cheeked outdoors people range about with carnivores.

Well there’s a learning point.

Brampton as we found out later was remarkable in its tidiness (i.e. no dog faeces).

Despite the car park it also proved to be unrepresentative in its lack of population. Subsequent woods were to prove much more popular.

Using Online Tools to Improve Your Writing

photo credit: Seth_Wilson Study via photopin (license)

I came across this article:

http://nybookeditors.com/2016/02/instantly-improve-your-writing-with-these-11-editing-tools/

Any tool which boosts my scrabbly prose is worth having.

Not the least in that some of these tools are free.

I’m going to test out each of the free ones (because I am a cheapskate). You can review how you feel about the results. i.e. if the tool made enough difference to make it worthwhile to use it in your own writing.

I thought I would use a piece I wrote on a writing course some years ago. (This as I recall attracted some acerbic feedback).

This is what it looks like before use of online editors:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of lose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

She was braced against a tree – back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness.

I thought that the best approach was to be logical. So I will adjust the above article using each of the tools as given in the article.

The first is “After the Deadline”:

It was hard to work out how to use this tool. Given this blog is WordPress based I thought a WordPress version would be the way to go. However I encountered this when going to that part of “After the Deadline”:

wordpress-version

This indicates that this is not the version to use.

I found that an OpenOffice version exists. I realised that I could install this so I went to this part of the site:

open-office-version

This does not seem to be the version to use either.

There is a command line version. In no sense could I find instructions on using it – I concluded it was for use in Linux (I am using Windows).

command line version.jpg

So I looked at the Firefox version:

firefox-version

Written by the kind of people who declare RTFM. (When the M involved is a thousand pages of inscrutable text).

It is a Firefox add in. It looks like you should be able to install it using the standard Firefox extensions search.

Sure enough that works:

firefox-extension

Install it and you get a prompt to restart Firefox (always a pain when you have as many windows open as I have):

firefox-extension-v1

Restart enables the extension:

firefox-extension-v2

The next challenge is how to use this extension now it is in Firefox. The best guess is that the text that you wish to edit should be inside a web page.

The easiest way I can consider of doing this is to set up a blog page with the above text in it.

This gave a context menu that looks like this:

firefox-extension-v3

This is where I get stuck, the add-in appears to do nothing.

I cannot find a way to make it do anything on the page.

I then found a site that purports to use “After the Deadline” as an engine:

http://www.polishmywriting.com/

This is much easier:

polishmywriting

Paste in the relevant text and click the “Check Writing” button, this produces:

polishmywriting-outputv1.jpg

It highlights handbrake as misspelled. I checked this out and discovered that our American chums refer to this as parking brake. The spelling in United Kingdom English is accurate.

It also underlines mycologist. This also turns out to be an accurate spelling for one who works with fungi. Spelled the same both sides of the Atlantic.

Lose pullovers is an accurate spot – it should be loose of course.

Next it highlights “was braced” in the sentence “She was braced against a tree”. This is because it is a passive voice.

I tried “Braced against a tree with her back to him” it does not remove the highlight for some reason. Deleting and retyping the sentence though seemed to have the desired effect. So it looks like a bug in the software.

It points out “indicate” in the sentence “She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus”. Stating that it is a complex expression. I tried “point out” here.

And that’s it. The resulting output is as below:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.

The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of loose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

Braced against a tree with her back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to point out a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness..

I must confess I am a bit disappointed with this one. OK it is free but after the somewhat negative feedback I had over this passage. (In a class about ten years ago now). I was expecting that it would pick up more.

No doubt those people who are reading this will agree!

This is enough text on an editing tool for one visit so I will pick up this editing tool journey in part 2:

Life Space Diagram

As a volunteer counsellor I am always on the lookout for techniques that may help my work with clients.

My supervisor suggested this technique.

I have used it with several clients. On each occasion I find out something new and/or interesting.

This technique enhances my awareness of the client. Frequently it enhances our relationship as well.

Discussing people (and tasks) and their relationship to the client can create insights. The life space diagram makes visible people and tasks in the client’s life.

It also teaches me a great deal about how they are thinking.

The process is as follows:

Encourage the client to draw a circle for their life – encourage them to make this as large as possible. Ensure that it uses as much of the paper as they are comfortable with (as there will likely be a lot to put in it).

Suggest the client put themselves somewhere in the circle. Where they put themselves might be important – it might not. (It is also a starting point for conversation.)

For example, many people seem to put themselves near to the centre of their own world. However I saw one client who put himself in the top left hand area of the circle.

It might be that this can be a discussion point – what made them choose there? Was there a reason?

Ask the client to put in anyone else who is important. The positioning is usually important – is their partner close to them in the circle? Is somebody else closer? What is the relationship like with those furthest away?

One client fenced himself in with people tight up against him as if he had no air to breathe. We discussed this and he did feel that he was responsible for everyone and everything. He also felt it was more than he could cope with.

Ask if there are other people. (This may include people who have died). Get them to include these extra people in the diagram. Observe where the client puts the new people. Is it close to them? What caused them to fail to include them in the first place?

Are there people that occur outside the circle? What is it about them that causes them to be outside the circle?

Review the diagram – how much space is there? Is life pretty full or pretty empty? How does the client feel about that? (This might be a starting point of future goals for example.)

Put in squares for work, hobbies and tasks – how does this look in comparison to the number of people? (In nearly-all life space diagrams I have seen these squares outnumber circles [people]). How does the client see these areas? Are there enough activities? Is there too much responsibility? How balanced is their life? Is there too much work/too little work?

Put in triangles for things that concern the client.

How many are here? Does the client have too many concerns? Are they weighed down by them? Is there enough challenge in their life? Are they bored?

Quite often aspects of the client that have not come up will appear after this activity. (Every time I have done this I have learned something beneficial).

Representing things in pictures makes the process more accessible to the client. They may never have considered their life in this way before.

It may increase their awareness of areas in which they would like to make changes.

diagram-2

 I hope that this is also a useful tool for you. Whether you are receiving counselling, performing counselling or curious about your life.

There is nothing to stop you completing a diagram for yourself. See if you learn something.

Restarting Your Life

This week I was sent an inspirational video.

It stood out because of the parallels between the way this method suggests you manage challenge, and counselling practices I have observed.

Sadly for me the whole thing falls down through its focus on people of greatest ability; I think this is a mistake.

These people are certainly the highest earners and therefore unsurprisingly the focus of an enterprise like Thrive Labs http://www.thrivelabs.co/ which Priya Parker is running.

Elitism over life-changing advice ensures that Priya’s business gets to pay the bills but the very brightest are only going to be a percentage in any population.

If we said for example only those with a PhD it turns out to be about 1 in 500 people (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-percentage-of-the-worlds-population-who-hold-doctorate-degrees).

That would leave 499 out of every 500 people who are not benefiting from this technique.

For every Einstein there are hundreds that made sure he had roads to drive on, bread for his sandwiches, and cotton for his shirts.

This needlessly restricts the audience for such advice. Given this is very like a standard CBT technique which is designed to work for everyone.

When I saw this video I thought about the aspects of its message that involved challenge.

Important and creative parts of the counselling process involve challenge.

Counselling homework involves facing your true self and your fictions.

Challenge is key to making positive change.

Priya indicates self-challenge is critical in leading a life you will be happy to look back on in later years. Her strap line is “quit your life and reboot”.

The video had no associated transcript: you may want the edited highlights rather than the entire talk.

These are the highlights that stood out for me:

  • People hate their jobs. They apply themselves and work hard but they stay because they are afraid to leave.
  • People would like to make better life choices.
  • The anxieties of the “brightest” is a public problem.

Everyone has fears I wonder what those who are not thought of as the “brightest” are to do about them?

There are various methods to address these anxieties. These methods also attempt to identify need in the world and recruit people to address that need.

There are different levels of need in the world: whilst one man’s challenge is to resolve drought in sub-Saharan Africa, another man may content himself with fixing the neighbour’s car.

1. The Obituary Test

Imagine that your death is being announced. Write your own obituary.

(Presumably you are not allowed to use latitude here. For example I would probably start out “Phil was a bang up chap who everyone loved…”)

The aim is to drive out how you would like to have lived

(I’m guessing this does not allow for: “like Ozzy Osbourne”).

2. The Passion Comic Strip

A number of people believe that they have no passions. This method will help you to identify your passion.

Interview five to ten people who know you well. Ask them when it was that they saw you look most alive. (Think Wallace meets Wensleydale.)

(I wonder if all such moments would be suitable for sharing?)

Draw a comic strip:

The reason you use drawing here is that:

  1. Drawing utilises a different part of the brain to writing. (This seems to assume that you have the capacity to draw.)
  2. Images are more powerful than words. (In what way images are more powerful is not described.)
  3. Most people’s drawing skill is rubbish so you will not be able to take yourself too seriously once you have seen the resulting comic strip. (Again a valid counselling technique.)

3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort

This strikes me as like CBT in terms of challenge which indicates that almost anyone could participate in this activity.

Quitting life is scary hence you need to develop “discomfort muscles”.

(You will still feel the fear but you also need to be able to manage it).

  1. In a queue (say at a supermarket checkout) start singing – keep singing even when you can feel your heart pounding.
  2. Take yourself to dinner alone AND take no reading material. Take no phone. Do not make any excuses. Book it; turn up; eat a full dinner alone with nothing to distract you from your discomfort.
  3. The backward elevator test. Walk in to an elevator, face the back. Keep facing the back even as everyone in the elevator gets uncomfortable.(What prevents people dragging you off to certain institutions, thumping you or reporting you to law enforcement agencies is not detailed in this video.)

4. Give Yourself a Life Sentence

Critical questions:

  1. What do I value?
  2. What is my purpose?
  3. What do I want to be?

There are three parts to a life sentence:

  1. What are the qualities or values I want to bring with me?
  2. What is it that I actually do?
    (Given you’re on The Procrastination Pen this might be a valid question).
  3. To what end? (Why do you do this)?

This is regarded as the hardest of the methods but it is the most effective. It needs a large commitment of time. Generally with someone who knows you well.

Once completed this is useful as a filter – everything in life will take you closer or further away from your life sentence.

If it is part of the life sentence you do more of it. If it falls outside the life sentence you do less or stop doing it altogether.

5. Dwindling Cash Experiment

How do you know how much is enough money for you?

Not merely how much do you need to live but how much do you need to feel comfortable?

The test is to understand what it is like to live on different incomes by experiencing those incomes.

Sit down and calculate how much money you spend in a month. Take out this sum. Hold it in an envelope (say under the mattress)
.
(Given I work in security this sounds needlessly scary why not store it in the safe instead.)

Week 1 – take out 40% of the amount you withdrew; spend it on what you like.

Week 2 – take out 30% of that original figure and spend it.

Week 3 – take out 20% of the original figure.

Week 4 – take out 10%. (This assumes a four week month).

So if the total amount is £5000 a month.

In week one you have £2000 to spend.

In week two £1500.

In week three £1000.

In week four £500.

The lack of knowledge about how much money is enough creates fear. This enables you to work out how much is enough for you.

(£1 ½ million monthly would do me nicely.)

6. Help Somebody Else

Work out which five of your friends do interesting work.

(Assuming that you have five friends).

Spend an hour with them problem solving their stickiest problem.

This assumes you are capable of solving this problem –perhaps for the purposes of this the attempt is sufficient.

This is beneficial because:

– It creates a habit of “how can I help” – a habit which is helpful to society. It has also been established that helping others is good for your well-being as well.

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_helping_others_help_you_find_meaning_in_life

– It helps you to find the problems that you care about – these are the ones for you to focus on.

– It shows what you are good at solving.

7. Set a Withdrawal Date

Send evites for a farewell party (this is a real thing; evites are electronic invites).

Personally this just sounds like “getting down with the kids” – I’m sure that paper invites, cards or telephone conversations would do as well.

Include seven of your closest friends.

(Assuming that you have seven friends).

This makes you accountable to a peer group – the assumption being it is much harder to back out once you have completed this stage.

Conclusion

Stepping back from your life allows you to see it clearly (a pretty key step in any counselling) and is also key in being able to change it.

Problems require talent to work on them and to solve them.

The part that doesn’t work for me is that only the brightest can benefit from this practice.

I would counter that you can skill up all kinds of people to resolve existing problems.

Thinking about meaning is scary. However fear should not deter you (another key counselling concept).

Change requires: time, space and risk (which is also why counselling can take time).

Thinking about what matters to you, what makes you come alive and then dive in.

This will make a difference to society, yes, but in my view, more importantly, it will make a difference to you.

Grafham Fireworks – Grafham Village – 2016

An Unofficial Review

Summary:

When: 05-11-2016
Where: Grafham Village Hall http://www.grafham.org.uk/villagehallhire
Price: £4 per adult, £2 children (free parking) – sparklers £1 for 5
Tip: take something to light sparklers with.

Amazing the number of places who believe that the gunpowder plot was on November 4th. Maybe my memory isn’t so hot but I thought it went “remember remember the 5th of November.”

I had high hopes of attending Kimbolton this year but it turns out the Catholic attempts at shrugging off Protestant repression occurred a whole day earlier than I thought.

Sadly coincidentally with my seeing a couple of counselling clients. (Who (I imagined) might think it a bit rich if I sloped off to catch a few fireworks).

Anyway so it was the 5th and fight my way into Cambridge (and choose between parking in a dinky car sized space or paying an Ivana Trump style fee for leaving my wheels somewhere).

Alternatively something a bit more local and risk fireworks – the impressiveness of which probably wouldn’t disturb the wildlife much.

And so I saw an advert for fireworks at Grafham (piggin’ close), ample on street parking (free) and £4 entry.

This appealed to every cheapskate aspect of my personality.

Of course it is dark around 11am now and this is profoundly disturbing to a large number of motorists I have discovered.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when turning off at Great Staughton that we managed a steady 50mph all the way to the Grafham village turn.

The event is surprisingly well subscribed and we joined a convoy on the access road which culminated in the inevitable car park when we reached the village.

However there was a left turn which had something to do with the church – I figured we had legs. The decision turned out to be a good one as we parked just inside the village limits and were followed by lots of other motorists looking for some gridlock respite.

The walk to the village hall had a frisson of excitement as I had no idea where it was. There was general milling around of tired taller people with excitable smaller ones.

Eventually tagging along with a reasonable sized group of smaller people (at a distance I judged appropriate to avoid Rolf Harris accusations) led us out into a well-lit area. Where people were extracting us from our silver and permitting us access in one motion.

It turned out that smaller persons were only £2 so something of a bargain if you have smaller persons that you intend to take.

The field was already looking like the early stages of a concert venue and one person was doing a swift trade in packets of sparklers – something I cannot remember playing with since I was myself a smaller person.

These were the ruinous amount of £1 for a packet of 5 (so we got two packets).
I hadn’t thought to bring lighting devices so sidled over to a man who seemed capable of turning multiple sausages at once on a barbecue that the US airforce would have envied.

We got the first sparkler lit but then instead of enjoying it I spent the remaining time anxiously lighting one after the other from it to ensure we had a means of lighting them.

Phil’s top tip take a cigarette lighter…

By this stage a healthy queue had developed and given the English love of queues I had to participate.

We were queuing beside the QE2 sized barbecue and heading into a village hall so I had strong hopes of tea.

The queue became porous as greater and greater numbers of people poured in and wanted intimate contact with the bonfire. Only accessible apparently by pushing past those queueing.

The night was perishing windy and I was grateful for the surrounding houses which kept the autumnal blast down to merely finger biting proportions.

After an interval – in which some members of the queue had evolved into other life forms – we got inside the door and saw the queue split in different directions.

No tea.

There was a sign saying mulled wine – tempting but no mulled wine was off. Later someone went in for mulled wine from the bonfire and I reflected that they really needed to up the volumes – a lot.

There was hotdog, there was soup, there were baked potatoes.

Hmm decisions decisions big stomach ache or really big stomach ache. (I have IBS so I’m not supposed to eat wheat or potatoes).

So we opted for hotdog, which on a cold autumn night was frankly delicious in fact I had two of them.

£1 each – another Grafham bargain. Volunteers were friendly and in frank amazement at the level of demand – food shifting at a rate of knots. I reassured them by telling them about the car parking demands and likely consequence for their ability to get out at the end. (I’m noted for my helpfulness).

We emerged at the self-same moment the fireworks began with an enormous clap that should have accompanied the London New Year’s celebrations (and not a small fireworks display in a local village).

It was so exciting that out came the iPhone:

limerelight1484476945894.png

 

After far too many pictures and fingers turning the shade of whitewash I had to put gloves on again – never thought iPhone gloves would be of any use till this.
It was spectacular so many bangs you could have made a convincing run at the 1812 overture. So many wees and squeals that a room full of piglets with a megaphone would not have outdone it.

Every time that I thought it was at an end another ffft-pow and a great hailstorm of light followed.

Truly the best £4 I’ve spent of late.

And then the silence of the expiry of a few thousand pounds of fireworks.
Followed by much whooping and cheering from the taller persons assembled.
(Smaller persons engaged with various highly-lit toys including some very impressive light-changing light sabres which I really wanted).

So the crowds headed for the exit like some AC/DC concert exodus.

Reason dictated that the tiny village exit road was now swamped with 4x4s and people carriers so we snuck over close to the dying fire.

Just enough heat to warm the face not quite enough for toasty to properly set in.

After a wait that just saw the worst of the crowds dissipate we headed out.
Every road was a trail of red tail lights – it appeared I was going to get to know the best of Radio 4’s evening entertainment.

However the choice of church lane turned out to have been an inadvertent masterstroke.

Somehow we had parked in an area that had quickly cleared of cars.

A quick turn into the village and it was out on the road we came in on. Not only that but 45mph was a reality – despite the obvious darkness. (There is no understanding the brazen guts of people is there).

So home in minutes – feet up with a glass of something – can’t say fairer than that. A top endorsement from me; if you’re in the area next November…

https://www.facebook.com/GrafhamVillageFireworks