Monday, July 23, 2007

Penguin Cafe 

I’d no idea Simon Jeffes, creator of the Penguin Café Orchestra, died 10 years ago - of an inoperable brain tumour. A timely reminder of his unique talent - creating music that is quirky, warm, friendly, fun, spontaneous, sociable, and much deeper than its deceptively simple form would have you believe – has popped up on YouTube recently.

Try these too:
Perpetuum Mobile

Music for a Found Harmonium

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How to make your fortune 

I wonder how many pigs I could not rear in my back garden?

Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

16 May 2007

Dear Secretary of State

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £ 3000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any. If I get £ 3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £ 6,000 for not rearing 100?

I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £ 240,000 for the first year.

As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £ 2.4 million from your department.
Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradeable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?

I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.

I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully

Nigel Johnson-Hill

Monday, July 16, 2007

Out of the Box 

Natalie has a new blog – Thinking Out of the Box – a place for sharing “original ideas, questions, observations or intuitions … a collection of individual cogitations about specific philosophical issues”

The current theme is Identity; Natalie invites anyone who has thoughts concerning the given subject to drop them into the comments box.

Got an idea on that theme? Go visit

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Therapy history 

Reviewing the last four years of this blog the other day, reminded me that, sitting on the desktop, I had a file of urls of those posts which related to the 18 months I spent in counselling. I'm listing them all here as a holding position; a convenient way to gather them all together and maybe put a link to them in the sidebar. Once upon a time I thought they might form the basis of a book, or a series of articles. Unlikely, I think. Perhaps though the person who would most benefit from reading them is myself...

Feb 04:
Session One

Mar 04:

Apr 04:
A Watershed

May 04:
An Unholy Trinity
Breaking the Links of False Logic

Jul 04:
Soul part 1
Soul part 2
Soul part 3

Sep 04:
Deconstruction - letting go
On Cliffs, Oceans and Horizons
Antidote to Exhaustion

Nov 04:
Exploring the inner landscape
My World as I see it now

Dec 04:
The Good Fight

Jan 05:
Soul part 4

Mar 05:
Good Hearts, Good Minds: Blogging as Therapy
Joy. Or not.

May 05:
Circuits and Bumps

Jun 05:
Trying on Ideas

Sep 05:
Inner Dialogue
Dialogue 2

Dec 05:
Mid Term Review

Friday, July 13, 2007

Andy who?? 

I've been Simpsonised!

(Hat tip to Pascale for the link).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

4th July 2003 

I almost didn’t notice. 4th July was the anniversary of this blog. I can remember sitting right here, wondering what I was going to call this creation; wondering even more what I was going to put in it. Amazingly, 1467 days, 686 posts and about 2580 comments later, it’s still going. I might almost say still going strong, in spite of my occasional threats to abandon it. But honestly, I don’t see myself following those threats through, so just ignore them when they come. I just couldn’t imagine life without blogging.

Visits here are currently running at about 50 a day, most of which are Google image searches. Maybe one in five come here as a result of the words, and half of those probably didn’t find what they were looking for – anyone who looks at their referrer logs will know the weird and wonderful searches that mysteriously throw up links to blogs in the results. So that leaves about 5 genuine readers a day. Sounds about right, given that not all readers visit every day. Mind, I’m not complaining. Averaging a post every other day and nearly four comments per post over that time ain’t bad at all.

Some things though don’t lend themselves so readily to statistics, or go way beyond mere numbers. How about friendships gained? Insights won? Laughter and tears shared? Hands and hearts extended in caring and support and love? Connections made with like-minded souls around the globe? None of those show up in the Sitemeter Statcounter stats.

There are a few changes in this blog, or rather in its author, which I can chart over these last four years.

For one thing, I’ve gone through a complete cycle of self-examination. To begin with, posts were short and simple, rarely more than one idea in a short paragraph. Then I began to discover the joys of self-expression through writing; yet that discovery led also to frustration as Andy-the-writer fought for time and attention with Andy-the-worker (and indeed all the other Andys). That was what initially caused me to go into counselling, trying to find a balance between all these different Andys. For 18 months or so, my exploration of self and the relationships of that self with the world and with others was the subject of quite a few posts here. At one time, I even considered writing a book – or perhaps a series of magazine articles - about counselling from the client’s perspective. But I ended the counselling rather abruptly, and probably prematurely, nearly two years ago. It was expensive, and forthcoming changes in my work patterns were going to make it hard to continue; moreover, I fell out with my counsellor over a relatively trivial matter. We made up, and learned from the experience, but somewhere some trust had been lost.

In the two years since then, I don’t think I’ve found the same degree of self-awareness as I experienced during that time, or indeed the same empathic awareness of others, and I think that’s reflected both in my posts here and in the comments I leave on others’ blogs. At that time, I tried to mirror the kind of support and encouragement which I was receiving myself; nowadays I know I’ve become more reticent I that respect, finding it harder to find the right words or indeed to identify the full nature of the feelings that want to drive the words.

I said I’d gone through a complete cycle. In some ways, this blog seems to be returning to the form with which it started, looking very like those first pre-counselling six months. Something certainly seems to have come full circle, but it hasn’t altogether returned to the starting point; there have been other changes too.

Haltingly, with advances and retreats, I’ve come to recognise that I both enjoy writing (when I’m sufficiently relaxed not to feel that the process has to be rushed – a rare occurrence at the moment!), and – on a good day – may even have some modest ability at it. Not that you’d think either of those on the basis of recent months’ postings. But looking back over the whole span of the last four years, overall something has gone up a notch. Something may have completed a circuit, but it’s a circuit of a spiral – the end point is higher than the starting point. There’s been progress.

But those two – the cycle of growing and diminishing self-awareness, and the growing recognition of the way in which writing has become (or always was?) part of me – aren’t the whole story.

When I began blogging, I had time on my hands. A job where I could easily fulfil all that was required of me – and often more - in not much more than half of my working hours. I had reading time, thinking time and writing time in relative abundance – and often available in my most part of the day, the first half of the morning. But that arrangement wasn’t doing my self-respect any good. I knew I was in effect cheating my employer, even though the cause of the situation was a boss who was unable to delegate; there was plenty I could be doing, but he refused to let go of it. So it was that two years ago, at the same time I quit counselling, I also deliberately made a greater commitment to work, coinciding with a major restructure and change in my responsibilities. The irony of course was that just as my acknowledgement of a desire to write was ramping up, the time and energy available to commit to it was ramping down.

Not a lot seems to have happened here in the two years since. The first circuit of the self-awareness spiral hasn’t been followed by a second, and those two opposing aspects of self – writer and worker – continue to be held in tension, in an uneasy balance. I have no idea how these might change going forwards, but I have an inkling that some sort of change is in the air, something ignited by a spark from that recent bloggers meeting. I make no promise about what or when – or even whether – but I sense a shift.

Feeling Smug 

This, I warn you now, is nothing more than a self-satisfied, self-administered, pat on the back.

Sitting on the corner of my desk here at work is a helmet. Not my usual plain white motorcycle helmet, but a rather snazzy greeny-silvery-goldy cyclist’s affair. Very appropriate for the time of year. I keep pointing it out, hoping to gain a respectful look of approval.

Yes, I’ve finally made it off of my two motorised wheels
back onto two wheels of the pedal-powered variety.

No, I have to admit this isn’t a result of Al Gore’s green evangelism; I’ve signed up for a charity cycle ride to Amsterdam in September and figured I really ought to think about doing some training. I’ll be saying more about that nearer the time, and yes there WILL be a chance for you to contribute to a very worthwhile charity, once the website for the 2007 event is up and running.

15 miles through the London rush hour in just over an hour. One hour, 3 minutes and 53 seconds to be precise. Not bad for an old ‘un, especially when that’s typical of the times I was putting in back when I was making this journey regularly (administers another pat on the back..)

I still have to get home though…

Monday, July 09, 2007

Breaking Through Again 

Another variant of yesterday afternoon's sky:

Long Way Down 

I’ve been following this story for a few weeks now – a journey by motorcycle from Scotland to Capetown. There are video diaries posted more or less daily; currently the team are in Kenya. Looks fun, but tough too…

Image courtesy of the BBC

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Breaking Through 


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Game of Life 

I'm gonna have to stop stumbling...

I have to say though, I'm seriously impressed by the quality of sites the turn up at a random click. A while back I was searching for examples of cellular automata, but couldn't find anything. Now, entirely by chance, I come across this.

Health warning: it's utterly addictive. Fascinating how some starting conditions rapidly lead to extinction, others to stasis, but a few generate an evolving "universe".


Pick any one of these images. Even in the abstract they're beautiful art; consider what they represent, and they're awesome.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Found this over at Parking Lot. As Chris says:
"A brilliantly rendered story of the four quadrants of integral theory. This map is just so helpful in looking at so many situations. This particular presentation is a lovely use of web technology as well."

(Don't let the word 'theory' put you off from clicking on the link: that's integral as in whole, i.e. holistic, not integral as in calculus...)

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This is cool!

(Just stumbled upon it...)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Wonderful news

It's going to be an emotional day throughout the Corporation...