Sunday, February 26, 2006

The end?

I have decided to put 'A Different Corner' on hold for the foreseeable future. I'm not a natural blogger and haven't really found a coherent modus operandi in this format. So I'll stick to the website where I have more control over layout. Perhaps one day I'll begin again, but until then...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 8 - Don't just walk on by

It's so easy to do: I've been guilty of this many times myself. When you see someone in the street with a petition to sign or asking for a charitable donation, take a moment to assess exactly where they're at (preferably without being ensnared!) If it's something you agree with, is it really so much effort to spend a minute signing up? Will a couple of quid (or local currency!) really break the bank? The people fronting the thing are volunteers who believe sufficiently to spend a couple of hours or a whole day of their lives - match their commitment with a little of your own!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Latest fractal: Creep

See Creep at deviantART

My entry for the Apophysis weekly theme - "black and white images".

An abstract piece, border/title by the GIMP.

Friday, February 17, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 7 - Use rechargeable batteries where feasible

Batteries are terrible things with respect to disposal and long-term environmental damage. Pretty much all applications requiring batteries can make use of the rechargeable variety. OK, they're expensive and you have to buy a charger, but just do a bit of pricing: how many uses will pay for for the extra cost? 5? 10? 20? (depends on the mAh) The NiMH types (most environmentally-friendly and powerful) claim up to 1000 charges! So they'll save you loads of money long-term as well as reducing environmental damage.

A word of caution, though - always buy the recommended charger with branded batteries!

Monday, February 06, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 6 - Perform a random act of kindness

A change: I lifted the following from a friend's journal entry at deviantART:

A story..........
a man was on a beach and in the distance he sees a another man doing something. As he gets closer he sees that the man is throwing something into the sea.
When he gets closer he asks the man " what are you doing?" the man points out thousands of starfish on the beach. " do you see these starfish? if they remain on the beach then they will die"
The first man then says "but there are so many, how can you make a difference?"
The second man picks up a starfish and flings it into the sea and says " I made a difference to that one"

A random act of kindness, no matter how small can make a difference. Be a starfish thrower.

Needs no further comment...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Going Underground

Click to visit original blog entry

Being keen on both maps and London, I was delighted to find this reworking of Simon Patterson's 'The Great Bear', Harry Beck's iconic Tube map used to chart various musical styles prevalent over the last century. Of course there are loads of omissions - it's not intended to be taken too seriously. The comments on the original blog entry demonstrate that there are still plenty of first-rate idiots out there. Class!

See/download the whole map here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Latest fractal: Early one morning

See Early one morning at deviantART

I vacillate between seeing this as a derelict docklands warehouse structure and a tropical jungle. But the light is most certainly of the early portion of the day: I rather fancy a term used by John Foxx in the song 'Touch and go' (from waaay back in the late '70s) - "shatter light".

Heavy use of my beloved 'fan' variation in Apophysis.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 5 - Get creative!

Most people have some preferred activities/hobbies that occupy their spare time, but what proportion of these are actually creative? Some activities cannot be creative (watching sport), others may be creative (DIY, photography) and some must be (anything artsy/crafty). It's the creative activities that foster a more complete engagement with life and that may help to bring about an enhanced sense of wellbeing. And of course, what's good for the individual is good for those around them, and thus spread the ripples...

Monday, January 23, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 4 - Use television properly

Too many people have been raised on television as 'wallpaper' - a constant backdrop to all domestic activity. This contributes a double-edged problem: on one hand, it reduces the likelihood of proper concentration when you actually want to watch something; and on the other, it takes away any chance of mental, and indeed actual quietude. Like any technology, television has a proven record of good and bad points, but everything depends on the user - a rock may be used to pound grain to make flour or beat another to death. So don't just turn on the TV when getting in from work - have some quiet time and consult a TV guide to see whether there actually is something you want to watch. You should feel more in control and not just the plaything of the program controllers' caprice!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Latest fractal: Winter bouquet

See Winter bouquet at deviantART

My entry for melonlogic's own contest , Apophysis images inspired by, or tying in with, the lyrics of a song, in this case The Cure's 'Trust'.

The interpretation: this is a song of despair, lamenting the inability to trust. I always think that a bouquet of flowers sometimes betrays a breach of trust (traditionally the guilty husband returning home from the mistress, bearing this symbol of his own guilt). However, no flowers here, the bare twigs signify winter, itself symbolising the icy impasse in the relationship. And the whole is shot with blue...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Generation Game

The other day, minding my own business at the bus stop, awaiting the arrival of my charge, I was singled out by one of those unrelenting old dears, special products of their generation, for her quotidian ruminations. The following provides the flavour, if not a transcript, of our exchange:

"Ooh, it's hard with all this shopping", she began. "Still, it's cheap at Jack's - do you go there?"
"No, there's nothing there I tend to buy."
First pause, brief but troubled, the beginnings of old machinery long-rusted being hauled ungratefully into action once agian. "But they sell all sorts there: meat, fish, sweets..."
Ah, she thought this list a sufficient clincher, and the dangling ellipsis seemed to invite agreement with its universal applicability.
"I don't eat any of those."
Now the troubled look darkened further, the pause was fully five seconds duration, and the machinery began to grind almost audibly. "No meat?"
"No fish?"
Another lengthy pause. "What do you eat then..." - a slight pause - "health foods?"
My turn for a considered pause. "Healthy foods", I countered.
"Well I suppose I should, having diabetes..."
"I have that too", I ventured,
"Ooh, it's hard isn't it, having diabetes."
"Well, I've not really found it too bad so far, I'm only in the early stages..."
The darkened look had turned to almost complete panic by now. Thankfully, the bus arrived, and, each differently relieved, bade the other farewell.

We may as well have been speaking in different tongues, so far removed from each other were our worlds. Perhaps next time, she'll think twice. Then again...

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 3 - Give up your 'News' addiction!

Doubly appropriate as I'm reading Thoreau right now. But how can this improve the world? Well, it's worth either trying, or at least trying to imagine, not knowing 'what's going on in the world'. How does this make you feel? What's missing? From my own observations, news seems chiefly to provide source for, at best pointless gossip, at worst gloom and hatred. And this is how you spend your day, fretting over a global dose of human folly over which you have no control? Think of it: just endless instances of the same broad subject, human folly. If it means you lose popularity, either become more independent or make new friends whose conversation is less dull. You'll feel much lighter and happier in the long run!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fractal catch-up

Well, I've been neglecting to blog my art for a while! Here's a recent selection, all Apophysis + GIMP.

String theory

See String theory at deviantART

Not the latest subatomic model of the physical world, but rather cosmic strings, postulated remnants of the early universe - see here for more details.


See Spiritual at deviantART

The path to the light is inviting, soft and inevitable...

Julia's chronograph

See Julia's chronograph at deviantART

My submission for the weekly themed challenge 'Dense fractals' - almost total coverage, but if it doesn't qualify...

Title relates to the use of the Julia variation, and the appearance of the workings of some ancient timepiece. Flam3 with density estimation (sadly, this no longer works for me, so it's back to native rendering soon).

Seeing through...

See Seeing through... at deviantART

...the worn and tatty fabrick of material existence to a glimpse of the unity underlying all is one of Art's many important functions.

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 2 - Learn to say "No" constructively

When I was younger, saying "No" was a relatively normal part of life, something that everyone did. Over the years, I've noticed its erosion to the point now that a firm refusal to comply really jolts the recipient out of their complacent torpor. But this doesn't mean that everyone does as they've agreed - quite the reverse. Now, people agree to things without any intention of following through, and this is usually left unremarked. I sometimes wonder how anything actually does get done. Saying "No" at the appropriate moment encourages honesty and empowerment in the user, removes niggling traces of guilt and may actually free up precious time!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 1 - Be happy!

It seems fitting to begin a new year with a definitive statement about where to start, and what could be more clear? If you cannot change yourself, how can you change the world? So seek happiness, but beware the impostors. Pleasure in itself is not happiness, yet there is a place for it in a happy life. Is there a formula for happiness? No. but there are a few general rules and considerations. Happy people are comfortable in themselves and therefore don't require endless occupation. De-cluttering, simplification, call it what you will is a useful step, but if having spare time scares you, then there is something fundamentally wrong that must first be dealt with: personal demons; fears; an untutored mind. Develop a personal philosophy, work on self-empowerment, place less importance on material things and more on the spiritual dimension (meditation on the question "Who am I?" is an excellent starting point).

A happy person is a general wellspring of goodness, so spread warmth, brush aside doom-and-gloom and begin to change the world around you!

Monday, December 19, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 52 - Expand your mind

In view of my previous post, the title may take on a rather different meaning to that intended. Fear not, and read on. The suggestion is to read books! Not newspapers (at best depressing, at worst a pack of lies designed to manipulate the idiot minds of fools), nor magazines (practically all general interest magazines are now so dumbed-down that one wonders what happened to the lower end of the market - until one tentatively turns the pages...), but books. And good books, too. Not pointless page-turners whose plots a child could predict, nor dry old tomes that could anaesthetise even the dustiest dons, but stories of vitality whose words shine with possibility, poetry anthologies that drip with tear-inducing beauty or inspiring explications on some of the more wonderful aspects of world. Clothes maketh the man? Books maketh the mind!

Substance, setting, set...

Yesterday, I experienced the most profound alteration of consciousness ever. Despite a predilection for mind-altering substances, I'd never had access to any of the full-on hallucinogens before. But it was something I felt compelled to pursue as much of my recent thinking and research has been pointing in this direction.


The chosen substance was the psilocybin-containing mushroom stropharia cubensis, much beloved of the brothers McKenna. Available to purchase via spore-laden dried compost bricks, this effectively circumnavigates the grey legal area surrounding these innocent/potent fungi. I had decided to take them raw and fresh for the best effect. Research on Erowid indicated that anything from 2 - 20 mushrooms was considered normal. A fortuitous blind spot prevented me from noting the word 'small' or remembering the recommended weight dosage of 5 - 50g. So I consumed four fair-sized specimens plus one attached baby. My guess, from weighing the remaining specimens, is that I was around 35 - 45g in dosage! I'd wanted a medium dose as I generally have a high tolerance to substances, but probably would have aimed lower if I'd been more careful. Oh, well... Difficult to eat raw, I tried one then chose to chop the remainder, mix with chopped kalamata olives and a little vinaigrette and the mini-salad was quite delicious!


Perhaps the morning after a large pub-crawl was not theoretically ideal, but everything else was right so I just went for it. Eschewed the customary fry-up for a small bowl of porridge, the coffee for green tea. Read a little of 'The Invisible Landscape'. The weather was ice-cold, but bright. Waited till my partner had completed her morning tasks and set a fire. Lit an incense stick geared towards meditation and played a CD of whale sounds set in gentle ambient electronic music.


In a way, this could be traced back to the whole gradual orientation towards a spiritual quest, but I shall start with what I consider the first real signal. One afternoon walk, we passed a couple of recently trampled fly agaric mushrooms. I was tempted to pick the caps for drying, but my partner expressed misgivings so I left them. Shortly after, I developed a headache, something I very rarely suffer from. So I set out to locate a source of psilocybin mushrooms. When they eventually arrived, I had an unexpected bonus of a second spore brick! The first flush was sporadic, but they shot up quickly. I captured them on camera. On an impulse, I loaded a filter set and applied the first one - the result is shown, clearly giving the 'green light'. So all this gave confidence that the experience would be good, and this 'set' - mindset - is so vital to any such experience. Finally, just before consumption, I set the mood by a small act of generosity.

The green light

The experience

After feeling a kind of odd light-headedness immediately after consumption, little happened for about 20 minutes. Then the smoke from the incense seemed particularly beautiful, like watching the birth and growth of a universe. Mushroom motifs appeared in the smoke. Then purples and blues became almost unbearably intense, and the fireplace tiles seemed to bulge. Looking at the large spiral design above the fireplace introduced the next round of visuals - the texture of the paint became pronounced then seemed to resolve into a kind of alphabet, which began dancing around the spiral. The whole then began to look very odd indeed, alien. A shift of perspective towards the window and I had the phrase 'candy store' float through my thoughts. It was like being a child let loose in a sweet shop, and there was a kind of '60s feeling. There was also a feeling of having been here before, either in substance or dreams. The first trip to the bathroom was very strange, it was a kingdom of ice, not actively hostile but indifferent. The walls bulged and the tiles began resolving into geometric vistas. My partner suggested a turn round the garden to see what the outside world was like. The sky was huge, and the relationship between objects strange, like old black and white 3D films made for viewing with red/green glasses. It was Alice in Wonderland, but it was cold and there was a hint of incipient danger, so I chose to return inside. Once more by the fire, the logs were silvery with beautiful patterns, and glowed around fractal arabesques. Behind, there was a kind of corridor of a wonderful sumptuous regency green, and the addition of new logs hardly seemed to disturb the view. Different music was essayed - classical remained rather aloof from the proceedings, dance seemed to provoke a visible unease, so it was back to the whales which had really begun to orchestrate the whole experience. Whilst the open-eye visuals were obviously attractive, there came a time when it seemed necessary to shut the eyes to go deeper. Here were more geometric vistas of white embossed tiles, stretching to infinity, pure white admitting cycles of colour slowly. I began to try to grasp at concepts but everything became slippery. Past and future were without meaning, here there was no time. Scenes from what would once have been described the recent past appeared as snapshots on paper, and lazily spiralled away. I was nothing, and I was everything at once. I was without identity, pure experience, experiencing itself, captured by the refrain which kept returning - "Who is it who is doing the experiencing?" I was witnessing the act of creation, the Implicate Order explicating itself in a kaleidoscopic living 3-way fractal basin boundary. I tried to grasp the concepts of 'before the trip' and 'after the trip', but they meant nothing, there was only the trip, this was the universe finally becoming self-aware, it had already happened and this was it, 2012 would never come, this was all there was now, I, who was having the trip, was no more, I was somewhere beyond time with everyone who has ever tripped, an image of Lennon floated past, how would I ever get out? I uttered the words "seamless reintegration" or some such, but I still couldn't believe it, I contained all possible futures, so nothing mattered, I understood truly the meaning of the word 'entheogen'. Reality became possible by surprising it before it slipped away, then it felt like an incoming tide, gently lapping at the shores of the trip, and then it reversed, the trip was a receding tide, leaving behind warm waves of unreality. Finally, I was able by an act of will to fully re-ground myself. I was ready - it had been the most profound experience of my life, but very demanding.


I seemed to exit fairly suddenly from such intensity, so I tried a little cannabis to extend the effects - mild, but nothing special. Alcohol, on the other hand, had a surprisingly large effect, causing ghost recurrences of the feeling of coming down, a kind of see-sawing of consciousness. I was left with a curious token of the trip - on removing my loosened neckwear and placing it on some books on a table, my hand encountered a small hard object. It was a strange dried dark-coloured bean, too small for red kidney, too large for aduki, and slightly mouldy-looking. This also seemed oddly familiar.


I had wanted to experience a decent trip, not just a few strange visuals, but this most definitely exceeded expectations. I have a feeling that something had guided me to this and ensured that I got just the right dose. It may be argued that all my experiences were just wish-fulfilment as they confirmed what I was already thinking. All I can say is that nothing prepares one for the actual experience of timelessness, or of actual universal unity, or of, effectively, being God. Nothing. Thoughts and words are a child's pencil-sketch of the great oil painting. Did my wish for experience provide that experience, or is it something independent? Does it matter? I'm not entirely sure, but what I am sure of is that, in the words of the Bard, "there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio."

Monday, December 12, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 51 - Avoiding Christmas hell IV: quality, not quantity

The last in the 'Christmas hell' series:

So, you like giving presents and it's not a burden: probably, then, you already know this, but consider quality over quantity. I don't mean spend a fortune, rather one or two well-chosen gifts will hit the spot more than trying to fulfill some kind of numerical quota you've inadvertently set yourself. It's the old "less is more" thing - sometimes, a creative gift (i.e. home-made) can say a great deal more about how much you care than just splashing out. What counts, though, is really knowing the recipient, and their interests and preferences. So make your gift really count rather than it being a knee-jerk to the accepted imperatives - you never know, it might really make a difference!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 50 - Avoiding Christmas hell III: stay in tune with the season's spirit and keep death off the menu

Christmas means different things to different people. Whatever your particular take on it is, be it religious or secular, one common thread that should run through is that it is a time to put aside differences and celebrate peace and love. Ironic, then, that at the centre of this is the mass slaughter of countless creatures whose whole short lives have been hell. Anyone who clings to the romantic notion of that classic oxymoron "humane slaughter" should try facing a firing squad. During this season above all others, we should try to turn our actions towards the abolition of suffering. So opt for a cruelty-free celebration and try one of the many alternatives available.

My Christmas dinner
Alternative suggestions from my website
December Recipe of the Month
Recipezaar - vegan Christmas dishes
Recipezaar - vegan Christmas main courses
Recipezaar - another suitable Christmas main course
Vegetarian - Christmas dishes

Sunday, November 27, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 49 - Avoiding Christmas hell II: spend it only with those you really want to!

One of the other great Christmas myths is that it's 'a time for the family'. Well, that's fine if you all get on well and like the same things, but what if you don't? If spending time with some in-laws' loathsome and noisy brats is not your idea of fun, if grimly chomping your way through someone else's appalling cooking just doesn't appeal, then make a stand: honesty is the best policy, but even lying about 'going away for a change' is perfectly acceptable if at least someone's going to feel happier as a result. Don't let them railroad you into routine submission, break the chains and enjoy a peaceful festive season!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's all happening...

Thursday saw my annual jaunt to the BBC Good Food Show - as many free samples of booze, ranging from the mundane to the excitingly exotic, as one can usefully imbibe in a day. And the long lug home laden with full bottles thereof. Then yesterday, the 'Sacred Children' (stropharia cubensis) arrived at the door, unexpectedly bearing a free gift! I look forward to their fruition. And now two days of sheer indulgence, our annual Brideshead Revisited weekend, eleven hours of the finest television ever made, languidly spun out over the whole time-frame, and enhanced with gastronomic treats. Breakfast is just the best time for a nip of Calvados, and the Champagne, Henriot '96, possibly the best I've ever tasted, to inaugurate the viewing shortly. Ah, life can be sweet!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Latest fractal: Bloodbath

See Bloodbath at deviantART

My entry for the Apophysis weekly theme challenge (non-black backgrounds). I cannot produce art to order, but as I have a suitable candidate waiting in the wings, then I'm delighted to submit this one.

White background, 2 transforms, 3 variations (linear, spherical and fan). Rendered with flam3 2.7b1 using default density estimation settings - this is the reason for the 'selective focus' look, it is NOT the application of any post-effects. Had to leave the picture full size as too much detail was lost on reduction.

I see the aftermath of some terrible carnage in a sewer-like tunnel - what do YOU see?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 48 - Avoiding Christmas hell I: beating the consumerist trap

It's only just after mid-November, but we're already bombarded with "ideas for the festive season", so here's mine: it seems everyone expects more and more from this season, yet speaking to them afterwards reveals that more often than not, it turns into disappointment. So try this: just inform family and friends (and whoever else) that you're NOT buying presents for anyone, neither do you expect to receive any (OK, different if you've got children, this is really aimed at adults only). If the idea fills you with shock, then you're beginning to learn about the kinds of things that actually rule your life. If you can make the break, you'll feel a huge weight lifted: no worry about spending money you don't have, about choosing the right presents, about when you're going to fit it all in... As well as making you feel happier and more empowered, and by association those around you, it saves on all the unnecessary 'gifts' and packaging. And only send cards to people you won't actually SEE over Christmas. And choose charity or hand-made cards. I could probably go on, but you get the picture!

As an alternative, some non-commercial gift ideas from

Monday, November 14, 2005

Latest fractal: Insomnia

See Insomnia at deviantART

What scenes of terror taunt the consciousness behind the lidded eyes of the would-be sleeper?

Apophysis and the GIMP.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 47 - Get in touch with Nature

Too many people these days are totally cut off from Nature, by 'virtue' of living in their little technological bubbles - house, car, work, shopping centre, theme park... I'm certainly no Luddite, yet I see this technology barrier as inherently unhealthy - for individuals, the species and the planet. Setting aside a little regular time to 'commune' with Nature should be sufficient to largely redress this imbalance: country walks, a little off the beaten track, are wonderful at this time of year; ditto cycling (but leave off the stupid kit!); or even wildlife-spotting. It's very easy to spend the whole day at the PC, but a little fresh air will clear the mind and provide a wholesome rush of energy that will more than make up for lost time. So, why wait, get out there and re-connect with the Earth!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Latest fractal: Sunset

See Sunset at deviantART

Complete with high atmospherics, courtesy of Apophysis and the GIMP.

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 46 - Recycling: the other R-words

Recycling is probably the first R-word that springs to mind in conjunction with a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but it should be the last resort - it has two precedents, repair and re-use. If I didn't wear repaired (i.e. darned) socks, my clothing bill would resemble the GNP of a small principality, due to the questing nature of my toenails. Repairing also keeps one more in touch with the manual skills that are in danger of becoming products of history: I'll wager that some cyclists now carry spare inner-tubes rather than puncture repair kits! And re-using - what does that mean then? Well, simply using something for a purpose not originally intended, beyond its normal lifespan. For instance, margarine tubs as first-sow seed trays, 'single-use' carrier bags for household waste (I have known people who got all their shopping in these, and promptly chucked them into their specially-purchased bin-liners, along with all their other rubbish - despair!).

Atmospheric Optics

For those who seek the sublime in nature, this is well worth a look.

Light playing on water drops, dust or ice crystals in the atmosphere produces a host of visual spectacles - rainbows, halos, glories, coronas and many more. Some can be seen almost every day or so, some are once in a lifetime sights. Find out where to see them and how they form. Then seek and enjoy them outdoors.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 45 - Don't be a fashion victim

Buying new clothing or objets d'art can be a pleasant experience, but, leaving aside the now serious problem of 'retail therapy', ask yourself whether your purchases are essential, nice-to-haves or just plain keeping up with trends. It's that last category that's so wasteful of resource and most likely to indicate that the purchaser has been sucked into a mindless spiral of 'keeping up appearances' just for its own sake. Standing against this behaviour empowers the individual and reduces waste. Worried about losing those friends? Do you really want that kind of 'friend' anyway?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

So you want to be an Apophysisist?

Especially for chloe (but of course, it's useful for any wannabe Apophysisist) a definitive starter list of Apophysis resources:

Apophysis official site
Apophysis latest beta version
Apophysis resources at deviantART
FracFan forum
Arcane Fractals
The Fractal Farm

Suggeted workflow:

  • Go to the official site and download version 2.02.

  • Study the (incomplete) help file and get to know the layout of the software.

  • Play about in the Editor window, manipulating the triangles manually.

  • Run through some of the tutorials - those at the Fractal Farm and Arcane Fractals are pretty good to start.

  • Use the resources at deviantART to go further.

  • Check out the FracFan forum.

  • Join the mailing list (from the official site). Warning: traffic can get heavy, up to 100 per day!

  • Become a beta tester by downloading the latest beta.

  • Get to know the alternative (external) rendering engine (comes packaged with the official release as hqi.exe, now called flam3). Allows for .png transparency, useful for custom backgrounds.

  • Obtain some decent image processing software for adding final touches. The GIMP has a bit of a learning curve, but it's FREE!
  • Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Latest fractal: Music of three

    See Music of three at deviantART

    A complete change from my recent more 'organic' work, this time a graphical symphony.

    Apophysis and GIMP.

    52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 44 - Take up a new interest/hobby/project

    Life seem stale and in a run? Miserable and lacking in energy all the time? Think of something you'd really like to do, be it a subject you'd like to know more about, or a personal project you'd like to undertake, whether practical or intellectual. Then make a plan to do it and get in there - you'll feel more fulfilled and that will have a positive effect on those around you, as ripples spread on a pond. Improving the world as a whole can often begin with improving your own!

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Latest fractal: Frost bites

    See Frost bites at deviantART

    Straight Apophysis flame, border and lettering by the GIMP.

    First render using the new density estimation algorithm in flam3 - I think the native focal contrast is a rather good feature.

    Full view absolutely essential! Click on the pic!

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Future sense and the search for the soul

    I've been ruminating on the manner in which we experience the world at large, and the manner in which we experience the world in our heads, what the philosophers would label 'phenomenal' and 'noumenal' - sensory input versus mental states. But first, a digression.

    If we consider our 5 basic modes of sensory input, they hardly constitute comprehensive coverage of the myriad possibilities of experiencing phenomena, yet they have evolved to fulfil our basic requirements and provide us with a means to 'get by' in the physical world.

    To further digress, I'm interested in the possibility of using some of our current senses in the manner in which we use others. As an example, I've tried what might be termed 'light music', not undemanding tunes but music composed only of light. I conjecture that as virtual reality technology further develops, it will be possible to experience a kind of touch-music, via controlled use of an all-over body-suit designed to stimulate the nerves in our skin. This could even be extended to symphonies of smell and taste with the correct technology, certainly once nanotechnology is more fully realised. I'm imagining an unobtrusive nasal insertion that releases controlled waves of molecules in sufficient concentration to be detected by our crude olfactory sense.

    But I wonder whether we will ever be able to interface with instruments capable of sensing, say, electrical fields and experience them in some way? Perhaps to integrate with sight data so that we can turn on the option of 'seeing' electrical fields present around objects. Again, this is only another form of sense data, and therefore belongs to the phenomenal world.

    So finally, we return to what can be our only experience of the noumenal world, that of the, for want of a more precise term, psychical landscape. Experience of the noumenal can only occur when the experiencer directly undergoes the experience, with no mediation which inevitably leads to the problem of interpretation. This now calls to discussion what is meant by the 'I', the self, that experiences. In everyday life, 'I' refers to the biological entity/thought process/self-awareness combo. Here, 'I' can only be the self-awareness part of this trinity of what constitutes a person. Perhaps this, stripped of the layers of intellect and body, is the soul?

    I believe that certain psychoactive compounds are able to, at least partially, unshackle what our senses and intellect have constrained, to open, in Huxley's phrase (borrowed from Blake), the "doors of perception" and allow us to 'see' so much more of the psychic landscape such that both sense data and 'otherworldly' perceptions can sit comfortably side-by-side in a new 'panception' of so much more than what we now see.

    Perhaps one day, or so I'd like to think, such experimentation with consciousness will be a routine aspect of a more enlightened lifestyle, freed forever from the slavery of work. But until then, it's left to the few brave psychonauts to risk the disapprobation of the establishment in order to research the very tools that threaten to undermine it. Go to it, and keep alive the hope of a better way!

    52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 43 - Don't take the kids to McDonald's

    Coaching a young life through its formative years must be a daunting task to anyone who allows themselves to actually think about it. Some of the most difficult decisions must surely concern what values should be instilled. Unless your household runs a complete media blackout, chances are that the kids will demand to visit an establishment such as McDonald's (and I single it out merely for illustration). With peer pressure looming, it's difficult to say no, but no must be said if the meme of bland consumerist values is in any way to be kerbed. Taking such a stand will obviously have repercussions, but to dredge up a particularly threadbare adage, "no pain, no gain".

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 42 - Install long-life light-bulbs

    OK, they cost somewhat more than the average budget (or even full-priced) light-bulb, but think for a moment: everyone these days is keen to 'invest', no doubt to prove what worthwhile citizens they are. A long-life light-bulb is just a small investment, but with added hidden benefits. Consideration of cost versus lifetime suggests that there's not much in it. But the energy use is around one-fifth of that of a normal light-bulb, plus it saves on the materials and manufacture of roughly a further nine such objects. Now that's got to be a bargain!

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Website update

    Books: new Poem of the Month.

    Drink: Drink of the Month has a seasonal touch with Sourz Apple Liqueur.

    Food: new Recipe of the Month - Ful medames, a staple of the Middle East.

    Fractals: new Fractal of the Month.

    Garden: new Garden Tip and a further chapter in the major project of the year, 'A Year at Padley Wood' - this month, it's Early Autumn.

    Links: this month, Spotlight on (usually a site new to me, but could be an old favourite):

    The true spirit of the Internet: an online encyclopoedia that remains an ongoing project, forged by collaboration of many (thousands of?) individuals, and completely free. For those unfamiliar, a 'wiki' (derived from the Hawaiian 'wiki wiki' meaning 'quick') is an editable (in situ) website.

    52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 41 - Invest in a 'Bag for Life'

    A very bad habit of vehicular supermarket shoppers (and that's an awful lot of people) is to pack the weekly shop into single-use free 'carrier bags' numbering into double figures. Some supermarkets offer a one-payment 'Bag for Life' that's somewhat stronger for multi-use purposes, and is replaced free of charge when it wears out. But if it doesn't, buy a sturdy canvas bag or three. Plastic carrier bags are becoming a particularly nasty source of environmental pollution, so a small outlay can make a big difference.

    Latest fractal: Supplication

    See Supplication at deviantART

    An older piece, dusted down and re-packaged.

    A very abstract representation of the symbolism of the act of supplication: a downward movement, as of kneeling; downcast attitude; and finally prostration before the superior.

    Made with Apophysis and the GIMP.

    52 Weeks to Make the World a Better Place: Week 40 - Reduce food air miles: cook seasonally

    As we approach a change of season, we should look forward with some relish to its particular associations, not least of which is what we eat. As domestically-grown summer crops (those Mediterranean vegetables, for instance) exhaust their glut, they are sourced from further afield and begin to add air miles. By eating domestically-grown food seasonally, this problem is reduced somewhat. You needn't give up international cooking, just build it around a core of more seasonal habits.

    More information

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    A Journey

    Time to get lyrical.

    Last night, as I returned home after shopping after work, the light was beginning to change and I forbore my customary read to observe the way from the bus. It had been a wonderful cusp-of-the-season evening that had even suffused the quotidian and guilt-ridden act of supermarket shopping with the apricot luminance of the westering sun.

    Now, as we headed into open countryside, the eastern sky had turned that full and limpid shade of thick grey-blue that only occurs on such evenings. The farm buildings captured the remains of the salmon-grey light and coruscated almost painfully to the eye. Thoughts and feelings seemed to float, easily juxtaposed without conflict. We passed the lay-by where, early on a perfect May morning last year, returning from a disastrous night's clubbing, I had sadly observed my friend needing his next fix of crack, unable to drive the remaining four miles without, and where, in a pointless gesture of solidarity, I grimly took my own.

    But the bus had moved on: a village pub, so welcoming with its outside coloured lights, and further yet, a young man of ordinary appearance caught the bus and sat down gratefully. Something within me seemed to try to reach out and get into his head, to be him and understand his current hopes and fears. Another running for the bus, between stops, and parting from his girl at the same time. The driver, mock-angry, "Come on, I haven't got all night", but he stopped anyway. The blue light in the bus echoed more brightly the intensifying colour of the sky outside.

    By the time I alighted, the darkness was beginning to assert itself, but the walk down the lane continued the magick. My soul was brim-full-to-bursting, and if correctly struck would have, as Douglas Adams so aptly described, "chimed". The final words of Umberto Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum', as the narrator sits at the window of a Piemontese farmhouse watching the dawn light, awaiting his fate, recurred with a particular resonance: "It's so beautiful."

    Then the comfort of reaching home on such an evening, the welcoming light of inside.

    * * * * * * *

    It was amazing too, this morning: the sky a ridge-and-furrow of pink and pale turquoise, the feeling of magick, never quite absent since last night, returning in a glorious refrain.

    Proust would have made a long and exquisite vintage of all this; I have attempted an alchemical distillation of the experiential to a shot of verbose eau-de-vie. We should all treasure such moments, such journeys of our consciousness guided by the phenomenal, the merely contingent: there are few enough in a lifetime.