Tag Archives: pretentious

Cheatingly over the line for NaBloPoMo

So yeah, I finally made it over the line of my modified slightly cheaty NaBloPoMo, I was aiming for 30 posts in 30 days, which I did … but kiiiinda only by breaking up my holiday memories :)

But still, did it!  Now to work out if I can keep it up and get over my worries about writing in front of people and writing stuff that may be disagreed with or is kind of drafts – maybe I need a “drafts” tag :)

Days of almost femme

So today I was very nearly fabulous … I sort of had a “oooh I should put a skirt on and some nice boots and swish” but basically I almost managed it then just couldn’t quite get things working.  I’ve got about 2 good skirts that go with everything, one I’d just thrown in the wash, the other I didn’t want to risk getting nuked by weather.  My two awesome patchwork skirts are a bit tight and I’m trying to make the elastic a bit less nuclear so I sort of had a last sort of older velvetty option and was like … nah, a bit too scruffy and not right for the office.

Almost, one day I’ll get better at this whole lark, I then sort of phased through thinking about trousers and boots and things and basically yeah, I need to get some comfy more knee or calf length things to wear with exciting and warm leggings and socks.  Working on it.

Still better I think to have thought about it and bailed calmly to my backup plan outfit than flap about it.  However reading this back I also feel like its being written by a 15 year old.  Oh well :)

On the upside wrote something supportive to a trans person of indeterminate gender and cheered their day up.  So yay!

Winter, Trees, and Rain

Feels like winter is really arriving, and on today of all days it kind of makes sense for personal symbolic reasons, and I think it contributed to  an ongoing resurgence in my reconnection to my … magical?  Pagan?  current, whatever it is.  I ate at my desk while working on a problem which struck just as I was about to go for my normal lunch and socialising, which created a window of time afterwards with no people, no time for eating needed, and I was nudged to go for a walk.

It was one of those odd little nudges and prompts and “maybe this?” sort of things that you get used too as an occultist I think, the sorts of sense for going and doing a thing and seeing what happens and what connections arise.  As it was I went briefly up to past the chap centre to a patch of woods upon a hill, and I stood upon the grass and saw autumn leaves falling almost like snow, in gently drifting patterns, and I looked out across town at all the green and living life, and felt the clouds and sky overhead and earth below.

On the way back to the office the clouds gathered overhead, dark and heavy, and the temperature dropped, and it really felt like it was going to snow.  In fact I think its just really icey cold rain coming down outside the building now.  Although the sun has come through it and created a double rainbow between me and Clougha Pike, which was glorious to see, although thats faded and we’re back to blue sky patches on one side of the building and clouds concealing the hills on the other.

But yes, interesting what a change of timing to food and amount of people will do for the day and ones mood.

Framing your day

I’m pretty sure I’ve written this exact same post before but eh, worth another go :)  So yeah sometimes I like playing about with how I frame my day which can make things more fun and change motivation towards other tasks.  I find it best to start early on, preferably soon after waking and before getting bogged down into other things, when the flavour of the day is still malleable.

One of the old ones I like to use is about framing the day as an adventure – to make everything have that edge of questing, to sort of make it feel like holiday.  So you get up, usually a little earlier than normal, you make sure to pack food, you concentrate on the travelling, and the things you may see, or work out maybe a slight deviation from the normal routine in the middle of the day, and hence you change the flavour of the day to be more about adventuring or questing, trying to see something new in the everyday

The other I’ve used quite a bit at the minute often involves my commute, which usually comes over the top of a hill high up over Lancaster, so I can look down across the town, across the bay, across the countryside out to the sea.  From there I can reconnect with the whole scale of the town, again searching to connect and make things less than routine and dull, to earth myself into the idea that here I am, working at a centre of learning and education the likes of which there isn’t for miles around, working to help scholars do cutting edge research.  All the while embedded in the glorious countryside of the bay, with its ancient hills overlooking at the edge of the lakes, with the roofs of the houses making the whole thing feel like a Ghibli film, with all the historic links of Lancaster – the commute is sometimes within sight of the Castle (and the whole area is a strange Dutchy of the Queen and strangely linked to the crown), built on a fort from Roman times, the ancient priory is there, the misty hills are all kinds of magical, yet at the same time there are people going about their day to day lives almost oblivious to all this strangeness.

So yeah, framing on commutes, it can make a difference.  Holding onto it in the office is something else however.

Visability and Graduations

As several of you know I get to go sit on the stage and wear a silly hat for other peoples graduations, and these are graduations I really quite like for various reasons.  I was never much of a fan of my own graduations, because during the first one I was just all bleh for public appearances in general for reasons that made no sense to me at that time, during the second I knew I was trans and was just filled with dislike for inhabiting my body or my social role at that point, however when you’re on the stage its quite fun as you’re not the centre of attention so much its not about focusing on you, also I’m way more comfortable in myself than I used to be I think, at least in some ways.

Interestingly I quite like going to graduations because it helps remind me why I’m where I am, and why I do what I do.  A lot of the time working for the Uni its easy to lose sight of the awesome good work we do, we educate students in all kinds of things, we do kick ass research, we improve the state of human knowledge at least in some ways – however in the day to day grind of projects and support its easy to get lost from this and instead just throw up your hands at all the politics that floods the place.  So graduations are nice for in some ways fulfilling the promise of the establishment, a time we can come together across departments and do our act as formal academics (processing in is nice, because everyone does their best formal and proper thing, we present a professional front, also you never know who you’ll be lined up next to so a nice point for a chat with new people in the queue) and present a united front to celebrate the achievements of the students.

Also it’s a more personal thing, in that not only does it give an institutional/group celebration but I tend to mostly come and sit on the stage for students I know through various societies, so its also a personal thing of celebrating the achievements of friends and giving them a grand sending off as yup – you are now officially recognised as more awesome in some specific manner, its nice to sit on the stage and try not to grin too much to be improper while applauding them :)

The final point, which is kind of what spurred me on to post this (being as I’ve just come back from watching the Manchester Pride Parade at the weekend) is the visibility aspect of it.  Whenever I go to graduations I make sure to flag with at least a small rainbow pin, if not a trans one as well, and also while I tend to blend into crowds in direct or focused interactions I get read as trans pretty easily – and this is one of those cases where I don’t mind.  By being there, being in a group of academics and walking formally with them as a colleague and academic doctor and making myself obviously visible I aim to get some subtle exposure – to help say to people that hey it’s okay to be trans or queer, I’m here, looking respectable and not hiding.  And hopefully I’m helping out closeted students, and I’m helping normalise various minorities as a thing that exists for visiting friends and family who are in the hall, and those who watch the remote streams or for times I’m caught in pictures (amusingly I was grabbed for pics out of the line with some students this year, I’m not sure what I was doing beyond featuring as an academic to pose with, I have no idea how they were even reading me, and I don’t really mind).

While it’s true this could be said to be in some ways being over obvious with my sinister dark agenda (okay I’m maybe being snarky), or “rubbing their faces in it” I like to think I’m striking a balance between being too obvious (on a day that’s about the students), and being too hidden.  All I’m doing is wearing a small rainbow badge in my outfit and just existing and being there which is the part I think is important, physically being there and in front of people and being comfortable – and I can do this because the University is an accepting place, I know that 99% of the staff and students wouldn’t give me shit, so based on the work of others (standing on the shoulders of giants) I can help continue that work by being there, by normalising things, by being visible and wearing small subtle symbols to help make it okay for others to come out and be themselves.

Revelatory?

There’s a project afoot to record the stories of my University as a place a community, and one of the parts is filming people holding up single words to describe the place, I was talking to Lee online about this and saying:

How do I sum up the place I came with no real clue why I was here, that’s given me an education and a job, friends, a house, where I’ve gone from asexual to heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual to bisexual queer, from aromantic to poly, from experiencing self as male to experiencing self as female, transitioning, falling in love with people, failed relationships, taking up new hobbies, dropping old ones, walking about in the early hours, learning magic, becoming a kind of pagan, running talks, reading books, the fog and mist and rain straight from the sea and lakes and mountains in the distance :)

And his suggestion was just “Revelatory” which I think kind of fits.  It’s not so much the University itself – as in many ways upper management are kind of lizard people at times and feel disconnected, but its the community that it fosters on its campus and in town, the friendly people I’ve basically grown up with (I think I avoided doing a lot of growing up pre-Uni, or at least it feels that way now) and who have been there for me and let me be there for them in adventurous too numerous and surreal to list them all.

Sure I may not live here forever, but I’ve really rather enjoyed a lot of the time I have lived here, so thanks to everyone who’s done that with me.

Liber 496: A secular banishing and eucharistic sacrament of breakfast

 

Liber 496
A secular banishing and eucharistic sacrament of breakfast
Designed for daily use
Version 1.2

“forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.” — Aleister Crowley, Liber XV : The Gnostic Mass

This is a short piece designed as a secular method to enhance breathing, posture, health, mood and memory. Why should those pesky occultists get all the fun! Its broken into this short summary, followed by a longer and more detailed commentary.

1. Prepare the room: tidy up, prepare a small table, a music player and a cushion/chair.
2. Prepare yourself: Get 8 hours sleep, wake up.
3. Cleanse yourself: Have a shower or bath.
4. Prepare breakfast: Cool water or juice, fruit, yogurt, tea. that kind of thing.
5. Warm up: neck rolls, stretching. Warm up the back, neck, limbs
5.1-5.6 Warm up your lungs and breathing, intone the vowels, each one a full exhalation I-E-A-O-U-O-A-E-I vibrating them to give the feeling of resonating from your head to the base of your spine and back up again (head, throat, chest, abdomen, perineum = I,E,A,O,U) it may be easier to do it in reverse instead (UOAEIEAOU) starting with the low sound.
6. Stretches: Walk in a gentle circle to each wall of the room. At each wall pause and take a breath. Inhale then exhale as you touch your toes. Inhale then exhale as you stretch upward and out, arms above your head to form a Y.
7. Sitting: Return to the centre, sit on your cushion/chair and make sure your spine is straight.
8. Breathing:
8.1 Slow breathing. 4 second chunks for breath in, hold, breath out
8.2 Mindfulness and breath counting (see commentary)
8.3 Fast breathing. Slightly forceful out breath, pumping the lungs with the abdominal muscles.
9. Enjoy breakfast: slowly, mindfully, quietly. Just eating.
10. Appreciate Beauty: relax and recline, listen to music, look out the window, look at a sleeping SO, contemplate the joy of the moon landings or look at great portraits.

Then go out and face the day, stop day dreaming and get stuff done.

Detailed commentary and references, please read if interested

I’m blaming Uncle Kenneth

[ Note I don’t agree with this neccessarily, and don’t really grok half of it, I’ve just had it going around and building up in my head for a few days so I felt the need to do a ]

The wheel turns to the Aeon of the personal god, not an external absolute like ABRASAX.

If communication is only possible among equals then those who would commune with them must become as gods.

The secret is out. The Universe will let you get away with nearly anything if you go for it. The Universe hates half measures.

Live your life like you’re in an important and crucial turning point in history (you are), live like the focus of the world is on you. Live like you would like to write in your biography.

Make magic in all your dreams and actions.

He enjoys sitting

Well recently suggested that in fact sitting was one of my hobbies, and while I realise it was in jest (and I did indeed giggle) the comment conceals one of the ways I’m currently interested in looking at the world. In that most of the time we just work out how to get something done basically and never really return to look at the area properly.

Since I’m not particularly great at anything I do (although I think I’m pretty good at many things) I’ve found solice in the materials written by those who are and am attempting to absorb their material for my benefit (i.e. learnin’). Now one of the threads that I keep coming back to is that of the fundamentals.

Now its not that I enjoy studying samey basic materials over and over again, its that a truly good treatment of a subject must start by addressing the very basic things from which that subject is built, and it takes a truly lucid and deep understanding of something before those fundamentals are truly absorbed in to the self and can be communicated clearly. Every time you read a description of something fundamental from another experienced and valid point of view you pick up at least a new way of thinking about it, which may help things click with you and help your own practice.

In my opinion truly mastering a subject or improving at it beyond a certain point requires at least cursory study of the fundamentals of what goes into building it.

For example (and I realise I’m banging a drum about this but it interests me) my iaido is especially fascinating to me because never really been physically fit, so to move through the first 11 training forms (which are the ones I can say I “know” in at least a rough way) I’ve had to start to learn all kinds of things from that groups point of view. Posture, sitting, standing, stepping, breathing, these are the basic things (you also get to do cutting, which in itself is an elegant system) but even these can be broken down. The fundamentals of shifting weight, of tensing and untensing certain muscles, of balance and body position. And this has come back to help the rest of my life. My posture has improved in other places, I’m fitter, I’d like to think my movements are a little more graceful and I’m less likely to trip over my shoes now.

The book that initially got me thinking about this is Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, a truly excellent text by Kageyama Toshiro, in this the very basic building blocks of a truly well played game are discussed and outlined, the connections between moves, the natural way things should flow into each other, basic strategies like nets and ladders and a number of other topics. Now I knew of most of these things before I picked up the book, but I didn’t really stop to think about it, and mostly played on instinct. My game has deteriorated through lack of practice but I’ve enjoyed starting to get it back on track with books like this, thinking about the very basic things and coming back to them again and again to ponder how they influence the more complex behaviours.

At an earlier point in my life I studied the work of Constantin Stanislavski, specifically briefly going through (most of, I was lazy) his excellent work An Actor Prepares, which is essentially Stanislavski going back to the fundamental building blocks of acting, how to construct the mental and physical notions of character within yourself, how to break up and study texts, searching for motives, how to stir yourself to various emotions, how to condition yourself to be able to use your imagination to tie it all together in a moving performance.

I feel this also plays a part in a number of interesting occult systems I’ve looked at (even so briefly) over recent year, I feel in some ways the enduring attractiveness of a lot of the Hermetic or Egyptian work is that it is essentially the fundamentals of the later more baroque schools of thought. But also the later stuff in a way holds similar goals, the GD (although in many ways very complex) I always get the impression sought a return to the fundamentals, by attempting to create a massive syncratic union of everything into Kabbalah and Tarot they sought to understand the fundamental things that were the building blocks of other systems and the world. Austin Osman Spare I always get the impression was motivated by this. While he’d go away and learn in other peoples systems he was truly looking at the fundamentals and constructing his own way (not always the best route, theres a lot to be said for really trying to grok a system of anything, but its true at some point you should try to do your own thing). In many ways the current final child of the old guard of Magic is the Chaos Magicians who are again I think looking into what the real fundamentals of humans and the world are and how you can tweak them for the most benefit.

In a similar vein are the Runes in a way, since they are at heart a mystery or a secret they describe the fundamental states of the world and inside that our lives and minds. I feel the study of Runes is again the study of fundamentals, in that although they can be represented as staves, sounds, numbers, letters, concepts, names, postures… but all some attempt to represent something truly underpinning the world.

I’ve also looked at this with roleplaying (and I believe and have recently been posting on this topic). What are the fundamentals of roleplaying? How to get people involved, to help them have fun, to explore characters motivations and actions, to play types of people they never get the chance to in real-life, to make them experience (at least in some way) a number of feelings they’d rarely get the chance too otherwise. My well known long running Kult campaign is in many ways a series of experiments on this front. Do we need dice? Character sheets? How can we generate an atmosphere? Do props help or distract? What kinds of lighting and music can help build atmosphere? What kills it? How best to pace a game? Can you run combat without getting bogged down? How to make players care for their characters? Is a “party” structure really necessary or just useful? How much direction does the game need, how much free reign do the players need? What kind of game do these players want to play? What kind of story do I want to help them tell?

In my own day-to-day profession I’ve also found that this sort of study is apparent. Again and again we see this outlined in many ways, the same building blocks are reused again and again. Breaking algorithms up into subroutines or functions, breaking code out into libraries, treating communication between programs as very simple streams (TCP sockets anyone?) and holding all of this up the concept of abstraction. We abstract to make things faster to develop, easier to modify and in many ways better to use and run, we abstract to make things simpler so we can make our computers do even more complex things, we abstract away from the fact that every current computer is at its heart a limited turing machine glued to a metronome.

Programmers relentlessly train themselves into the habits of efficiency, of doing things once and once only, and only then if really pushed. Always looking for ways make things cheaper and faster but always the idea that things must be robust hanging over us, if an algorithm has too many shortcuts, too many special cases, too many dodgy machine specific hacks it becomes brittle and unportable. In Perl culture its said that the three virtues of a programmer are Laziness, Impatience and Hubris and while I’m not sure I agree totally its interesting to ponder.

Even our user interfaces are built around these concepts, sooner or later every user has to get their hands dirty actually typing commands into a computer (although this is again abstraction), and those of us who enjoy this kind of thing get hooked on it, simple commands that can be held conceptually inside the mind join simply together with pipelines, and we again return to efficiency, abstraction and simplicity.

“When the Patriarch McIlroy invented the pipe, he knew that it would transform software, but did not know that it would transform mind.”
The Rootless Root

When programmers I know write code (and indeed write anything) they really have three choices. They do it in vim, they do it in Emacs or they use some piss poor tool that makes Baby RMS cry. They use concrete implementations of the platonic ideal of these two editors (okay originally they was ed and teco) because they were created, nay accreted over time in environments where people really really wanted to edit text. Vim is in many ways I feel the more simple, the more fundamental, the cleaner of the two ideals. Whats that? You want to move forward 2 paragraphs and three sentences? 2}3) and thats it. You remember typing some section title starting with the word “Good”? /^good and then hit ‘n’ until you find it. Emacs, whilst fun, is really more an entire environment in which the fundamentals of manipulating text are laid bare before your eyes, and hence you can do your own crazy thing should you wish.

Our Internet is also based on these principles, abstraction, efficiency and simplicity. It also looks towards that of independence, as given away by the name. Its an Inter-Network, a joining together of various independent autonomous systems to create a greater whole and pass information about, but at its heart its clearly very independent.

Just look at how email works for example (although those with a nervous disposition may wish to look away and pretend email isn’t foul) its a giant system for passing basically unformatted text files around, these days the text files are optionally formatted, but the actual mail transports don’t care. And look at the protocol, its simple (well it got more complex, the original is like 12 pages), so simple it can be typed by hand. Sure it would be more efficient to have it all squashed down and compressed into binary code but frankly its nice to be able to simply write or debug something with just telnet. Sure it would probably be more efficient in some ways to have some kind of big post-office like system and punt things around like that, but Email is built upon the idea that “When mails going between systems on the net we do SMTP, what you do to deliver it, read it or write it on your system is none of my business, just don’t expect me to do things your way.”

This is best summed up I feel by a wonderful checklist I’ve seen in a few places on Usenet and also sometimes on Slashdot about antispam ideas, essentially it includes things like “Your idea requires spammers to play nice”, “Why should I trust your system?” and other simple problems.

Efficiency, abstraction, simplicity, robustness, independence. These are just some of the fundamentals of computing, I’m sure in my rant I’ve missed a lot out.

Anyway the point of all of this was to attempt to discuss why I think the fundamental parts of activities require pondering and in some cases deep study before a subject will start to make real sense, so ask yourself:

How am I sitting, is it comfortable, is it good for my body?

How am I reading this text? Am I staring too long, will that be good for my eyes? How am I taking this information in? Can I recall it all? Should I take notes? How to take the notes? How to arrange them, format them, link them to the original text or other thoughts in my mind?

When I’m writing what are the fundamentals of that craft? The paragraph? The sentence? The word? How do I get my point across? How do I tell the story? What kind of structure should I use for my work? How to break things up? If its typed hows my typing? Should I take a course in touch typing? Is the light and desk the right height? How will it appear to the end reader? What control do I have on that formatting, should I use it? If its hand-written hows it organised? Can I correct mistakes? Is the actual motion of my pen making just text or is it writing as an art? Is that needed here? Is this a scribble or am I writing something important?

What about food, what are the fundamentals behind preparing food? Selecting ingredients, blending flavours, physically slicing or chopping items (and what about that? The best way to handle a knife, the best kind of blade for the kind of object), and what about eating food? Best place to be? (do you want a view? Do you want to sit? Stand? Sprawl?), methods of cutting food? Blending tastes from the meal on your palate? Drinks to go with it?

I recall a story of a zen master who looked particularly smug after eating something, and when asked about it said that this was because he was full. When it was pointed out everyone else had eaten as much as him he declared this to be false, his reasoning was that when he was eating that was all he was doing. Just eating, and savouring that. Everyone else was thinking about things, shifting themselves about in their seats, looking about and chatting.

What are the fundamentals of communication and polite conversation? When I was younger I watched a few small children interacting. One of them about 5 years old taught me the fundamentals of polite conversation (which I often forget to follow). In that: (a) You are not the centre of the world, (b) Conversation flows and forks naturally, don’t drag it too hard or it’ll jump the rails and crash and (c) Wait your turn to say something if you feel you have a valid point, if the conversation drifts away before you do then let it go, at some point in the future you may get a chance to say your bit, but does it really matter?

Now note that this is just about polite chatter and enjoyable social conversation, these rules don’t hold for meetings or any situation where it might be important that people know the information.

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use
a pile driver.”
— Anonymous.

Next time your climbing a tree think of this, what are the fundamentals of climbing? How does one lift ones self with the arms, or even with the legs? How many limbs should be on the tree at once, what kind of grips are needed? How do you judge the weight a branch will take? Where should your weight be positioned, resting on which limbs? If you fall how should you try and land? How best to try and catch yourself and stop the motion?

Everything from filing to swimming to walking and breathing have fundamentals, a lot of them overlap and most are useful to know, improving many parts of your life, just a matter of working out which to study then thinking and testing, fascinating work :)