Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Posts Tagged ‘Colchester

Writing 101 Day Two

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A room with a view.

Here’s what WordPress sent out:

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

The spaces we inhabit have an influence on our mood, our behavior, and even the way we move and interact with others. Enter a busy train station, and you immediately quicken your step. Step into a majestic cathedral, and you lower your voice and automatically look up. Return to your own room, and your body relaxes.

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image. – Joan Didion

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Giving your readers a clear sense of the space where your story unfolds will help them plunge deeper into your writing. Whether it’s a room, a house, a town, or something entirely different (a cave? a spaceship?), provide concrete details to set this place apart — and to create a more immersive reading experience.

You can go the hyperrealist route (think the opening four paragraphs of Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Soul, a masterclass of telling detail). Or focus on how a specific space makes the people in it feel and behave, like blogger Julie Riso did in this visceral recounting of her hike through an Estonian bog.

So here we go!

 The lonely sea and the sky.

The title of my story is taken from that famous poem Sea Fever by John Masefield. Here’s that first stanza of Masefield’s poem:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

There is a place in my mind to which I can so easily travel that resonates perfectly with my chosen title. A memory of a dark night out in the Atlantic ocean one time in the Autumn of 1969.

First let me set the scene of this place in my mind, a scene almost fifty years ago, written from that time.

The call of the open ocean

Those first few hours were utterly absorbing as I went through the whole business of clearing the yacht harbour at Gibraltar and heading out to the South-West hugging this unfamiliar coastline of Southern Spain. It was tempting to move out to deeper waters but the almost constant flow of large ships through the Straights of Gibraltar soon quashed that idea. Thankfully, the coastal winds were favourable for me and my single-masted sailing yacht.

After such a long time sailing in the relatively confined waters of the Mediterranean, it was difficult for me to imagine that in a few hours time the southern-most point of Spain would pass me by and the vastness of the Atlantic ocean would be my home for the next few weeks.

Soon the city of Tarifa was past my starboard beam and the Spanish coastline was rapidly disappearing away to the North-West. The horizon ahead of me was already approaching 180 degrees of raw, open ocean.  There was just a flicker of a thought that whispered across my mind: Oh Paul, what have you gone and done!

Where this crazy adventure had been born.

In 1986 I had the opportunity to take a few years off. Off from a working life, that is. I had started my own company in 1978 after eight years of being a salesman for the Office Products Division of IBM UK. In 1986, the successful sale of my company meant that for a while I could go and play. By chance, that summer I went on a vacation to Larnaca on the Island of Cyprus; Larnaca being on the Greek side of what was a divided island (and still is!) between Greece and Turkey.

Larnaca struck me as a lovely place on a lovely island in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Again, quite by chance, one day during my vacation, when strolling around Larnaca Marina, I noticed a yacht with a For Sale notice on the yacht’s pulpit. The yacht, named Songbird of Kent, was a Tradewind 33, a type that I had heard about previously from reading yachting magazines. I vaguely recalled that the type had been designed in the UK by John Rock, himself an experienced deep-water yachtsman, for the purpose of serious ocean sailing and that many Tradewinds had completed vast ocean crossings.

I was still looking at the yacht, lost in some dream about sailing the seas, when a call brought me back to ground, so to speak. It was a call from a man who had just come on deck from the cabin and had spotted me looking at Songbird.

Hi, my name is Ken and I’m the owner of Songbird. Did you want to come onboard and have a look around?” I couldn’t resist!

It transpired that Ken, and Betty his wife, an English couple, had been living on Songbird for some years, cruising the Mediterranean each Summer, and now wanted to return to England.

It was obvious that the yacht, a single-masted vessel with double head-sails known in the trade as a cutter rig, had been cared for in every possible way and that the yacht was offered for sale in a manner that meant she could become my permanent new home with little or no effort on my behalf. Thus so it was that three hours later Ken and Betty and yours truly had agreed terms for the sale of Songbird of Kent. One of those spur of the moment things that we do in our lives that, so often, make being alive such a reward.

I should explain that as a younger man (I was 42 when I agreed to buy Songbird) I had devoured the books written by such round-the-world solo sailors as Francis Chichester and Joshua Slocum and many others and harboured this silly, naive dream of one day doing a solo transatlantic crossing. Later on in life, when living in Wivenhoe in Essex, I bought my first yacht but never achieved anything more than local coastal sailing and a couple of overnight sailings to Holland; all with others I should hasten to add, never solo! However, I knew for sure that if there was one yacht that was perfect for open ocean sailing it was the Tradewind.

So it wasn’t long before my home in Great Horkesley, near Colchester, had been sold and I was adjusting to a new life as a ‘live aboard yachtie’ out in Cyprus.

I loved living in Larnaca for a whole bundle of reasons that I won’t go into here. Except one! That was that in my years of living and working near Colchester, which was where my business had been based, I had been introduced to gliding and eventually had ended up becoming a gliding instructor. So imagine my delight at finding that there was an active gliding club on a British ex-military airfield thirty minutes away from Larnaca. It was not long before I was fully back to gliding.

One day, I was doing gliding experience flights for some visitors. Early in the afternoon, up came a quietly spoken Englishman who wanted to get an idea of what it was like to fly in a glider. Les, for that was his name, settled himself in. I checked his straps were secure, pointed out the canopy release and jumped into the seat behind him, and within moments we were airborne.

Later on, when back on the ground and sitting to one side of the old runway, Les and I started chatting about our backgrounds and what had brought each of us to Larnaca. I learned that Les was not only Les Powles, the famous solo sailor, but that he was living on board his yacht, Solitaire, right here in Larnaca Marina.

Over the following days, often with a beer or two in hand, I heard Les’ tales about him having been in his 50s when he built Solitaire, with little prior knowledge of boatbuilding. That he had just eight hours of sailing experience when he decided to sail solo around the world. That remarkably, he had made it across the Atlantic, albeit discovering that his navigation skills didn’t quite match up to his boatbuilding abilities. This translating to his first landfall being the coast of Brazil, a 100 miles south of, and a different hemisphere, to the Barbados he had been aiming for!

I listened for hours, in utter rapture of what Les had achieved. This quiet, unpretentious man that had achieved so much. Including how after solo circumnavigation number one, Les ended up completing a further three solo circumnavigations, all of them full of incidents. Particularly, the last one, with Les being given up for dead when he hadn’t been heard of for over four months. When eventually he sailed up the Lymington River in Hampshire, in a skeletal state, his arrival caused a media frenzy. Lymington Marina subsequently gave him a free berth for life. Les’ boat had been damaged in a storm, he had lost all communications and had virtually run out of food by the time he made it back to England. Oh, and Les was 70 at the time!

At one point in me listening to Les he asked me about my own sailing ambitions. I remarked that I had this tired old idea of a solo sailing across the Atlantic.

Have you done any solo sailing before?”, Les asked me.

I replied, “At the start of most Summers, I sail alone from Larnaca across to the Turkish coast to meet up with family and friends who want to cruise along with me.

Continuing, “Generally I head for Alanya or a little further along the Turkish coast; to Antalya. It takes me two or three days to get there non-stop, most often with me going west-about Cyprus, and then straight up to Turkey. But I am embarrassed to admit that I hate both that trip, and the return solo trip at the end of the Summer. Detest would be a better word than hate.

Pausing before adding a moment later, “If I can’t stomach solo sailing for three days then there’s no chance, no chance at all, that I could sail solo across the Atlantic ocean.

It was then that Les said something both profound and deeply inspiring.

Paul, guess what! The first three days of being alone at sea are just as terrible for me, too. Indeed, I have never met a solo sailor who doesn’t say the same. Those early days of adjusting to your new world, your new world of being alone out on the ocean, are the worst. But never lose hope that from some point around the third or fourth day, you will have worked through that transition and found an unbelievable state of mind; a freedom of mind that has no equal.

Back to reality.

So here I was, Les’ words still ringing in my ears, as slowly but persistently the coastlines of Spain to the North and of Africa to the South became more and more distant and fuzzy.  It was at 15:30 that I made an entry in my yacht’s log: “No land in sight in any direction!

Now was the time to make sure that my bunk was made up, flashlights to hand, and my alarm clock ready and set. Alarm clock? Set to go off every twenty minutes; day and night! For this was the only way to protect me and my yacht from being hit by one of those gigantic container ships that seemed to be everywhere. It took at least twenty minutes from the moment a ship’s steaming lights appearing above the horizon to crossing one’s path!

It was in the early hours of my first morning alone at sea, when once again the alarm clock had woken me and I was looking around an ocean without a single ship’s light to be seen that more of Les’ words came to me. I remembered asking Les: “What’s the ­appeal of sailing?” Les replied without a moment’s hesitation: “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not ­responsible to anyone but yourself.

Yes, I could sense the solitude that was all around me but it was an intellectual sense not an emotional one. That would come later. Inside I was still afraid of what I had let myself in for.

Remarkably quickly however, the pattern of solo life aboard a thirty-three-foot yacht became my world. Frankly, it staggered me as to how busy were my days. Feeding myself, navigating, trying to forecast the winds, staying in touch with other yachties via the short-wave radio, keeping the boat tidy and a zillion other tasks meant the first few days and nights just slipped by.

But it was a sight on my fourth night at sea that created the memory that would turn out to remain with me for all my life. The memory that I can go to anytime in my mind.

That fourth night I was already well into the routine of waking to the alarm clock, clipping on my harness as I climbed up the three steps that took me from my cabin into the cockpit, scanning the horizon with my eyes, checking that the self-steering had the boat at the correct angle to the wind and then, if no ships’ lights had been seen slipping back down into my bunk and sleeping for another twenty minutes. Remarkably, I was not suffering from any long-term tiredness during the day.

It was a little after 3am that fourth night when the alarm clock had me back up in the cockpit once again. Then it struck me.

Songbird was sailing beautifully. There was a steady wind of around ten knots from the south-east, almost a swell-free ocean, and everything set perfectly.  Not a sign of any ship in any direction.

Then I lifted my eyes upwards. There was not a cloud in the night sky, not a single wisp of mist to dim a single one of the million or more stars that were above my head. For on this dark, moonless night, so far removed from any shore-based light pollution, the vastness, yet closeness of the heavens above was simply breath-taking. I was transfixed. Utterly unable to make any rational sense of this night splendour that glittered in every direction in which I gazed. This dome that represented a vastness beyond any meaning other than a reminder of the magic of the universe.

This magic of the heavens above me that came down to touch the horizon in all directions. Such a rare sight to see the twinkling of stars almost touching the starkness of the ocean’s horizon at night. A total marriage of this one planet with the vastness of outer space.

I heard the alarm clock go off again and again next to my bunk down below. But I remained transfixed until there was a very soft lightening of the skyline to the east that announced that another dawn was on its way.

I would never again look up at the stars in a night sky without being transported back to that wonderful night and the memory of a lonely sea and sky.

ooOOoo

As dear Les said, “… a freedom of mind that has no equal.

That place in my mind, that dark, stupendous night out in the Atlantic, still has the power to remind me of that freedom!

I know it will be one of my last thoughts when my time is up.

Written by Paul Handover

April 8, 2015 at 00:00

Wisdom, nature and philosophy.

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The hidden gifts of nature.

I have been a follower of Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way for many months; possibly much longer. Frequently, I republish one of Alex’s posts here.

Nearly six months ago, I read a lovely essay of his and made a mental note to republish that in the next few days.  Then the world overtook me and now April 30th, when Alex published this piece, has become September 8th!

Yet it hasn’t lost a heartbeat of meaning.

Read on and you will agree.

ooOOoo

The hidden gifts of nature.

The western education system ignores nature.

Nature is all around us with its gifts of philosophy, wisdom and creativity; qualities the West devalues at its loss.

Nature is all around us with its gifts of philosophy, wisdom and creativity; qualities the West devalues at its loss.

The holidays are over in the UK, the students return to school, some to their exams. I reflect upon the sad treatment of creativity, wisdom, nature and natural philosophy in education, and in Western society as a whole, treated as worthless and unworthy of consideration.

On most days I walk past the former home of William Gilbert, some consider the father of electricity and magnetism. Born to a wealthy merchant family in my town of Colchester, Gilbert invested his personal wealth in an extensive study of magnetism with view to assisting the explorers of the Elizabethan age when Britain was building an empire in a period of great prosperity and confidence. Gilbert invented the term electricity. Gilbert wrote De Magnete, considered possibly the first work using the scientific method. In addition to being a scientist, a doctor to Elizabeth I, Gilbert was also a natural philosopher who used the empirical method of observation, demonstration and experience of nature to form his theories.

Each day I watch and interact with nature, like Gilbert I am a natural philosopher, and this forms the basis of my business ideas, my scientific understanding and my personal philosophies. Rather than a worthless study nature opens the door to the philosophy of the understanding of self, the world, and the relationship of self to the world. Wisdom is born of action and experience, the interactions with nature gives birth to wisdom. Nature encourages people to do new things in new ways, so rerouting electric signals in the brain causing new connections to form of creativity. The philosophy emerges from nature by causing the mind to question, observe and experiment, the basis of science and success in any discipline.

ooOOoo

Colchester, in the English county of Essex, goes way back to Roman times when the town was called Camulodunon (which was latinised as Camulodunum). That name is believed to date back to the Celtic fortress of “Camulodunon”, meaning Stronghold of Camulos. It served as the first capital of Roman Britain making a claim to be the oldest town in Britain.

It is where Alex Jones lives, the author of The Liberated Way, and where during the 1980’s I ran a business under the name of Dataview Ltd.  In fact, the business was located in a very old, listed building known as The Portreeve’s House.  It was at the bottom of town near Hythe Quay on the River Colne and the name “Portreeve” is old English for harbour master, i.e. it was originally the harbour master’s house.

The timber-framed building at 1–2 East Bay, Colchester, known as the Portreeve’s House (TM00552525), is situated on the main eastern approach to the town centre. The building is on the junction of Brook Street and East Bay (FIG. 1) and is 375 metres east of the former position of East Gate and 150 metres west of East Bridge, the river Colne and East Mill.

The timber-framed building at 1–2 East Bay, Colchester, known as the Portreeve’s House is situated on the main eastern approach to the town centre. The building is on the junction of Brook Street and East Bay and is 375 metres east of the former position of East Gate and 150 metres west of East Bridge, the river Colne and East Mill.  The building is believed to date back to the 16th Century.

All seems a long way from Southern Oregon!

New communities.

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A highly pertinent post from Alex Jones.

I have written previously on Learning from Dogs about the future having to be local if we are to stand any chance of coping with what is ahead.  So it was a delight to read this post from Alex’s blog The Liberated Way.  In my opinion, Alex is spot on the mark.

ooOOoo

The rise of localism

Posted on August 6, 2014

Globalism and central control is coming to an end.

Bees are localised, sustainable and self-reliant, something humanity will learn the hard way.

Bees are localised, sustainable and self-reliant, something humanity will learn the hard way.

The first of a series of debates on Scottish independence from the UK took place yesterday, the vote for independence takes place next month. The campaign for Scottish independence is part of a larger paradigm shift away from globalism to localism around the world. Cornwall, Wales, Mercia, Yorkshire and Wessex are all campaigning for independence in the UK. Even in my town of Colchester we want to take back control of highways from external authorities.

The European elections this year resulted in a surge in anti-EU nationalistic parties doing well. UKIP which wants the UK to leave the EU was the clear winner in the UK in the European elections. The UN is increasingly seen as ineffective in the face of international crisis, often used by a few powerful nations, and ignored by practically everyone. Israel recently expressed the contempt nations now have for the UN by bombing UN schools in Gaza.

The USSR has broken up into small nations, as has Yugoslavia. Sudan split into two and Georgia into three nations. There is talk of California in the USA breaking into six states, and a growing but still small movements for other states breaking away from the Union altogether. The fighting in East Ukraine is as much about local Russians wanting to determine their own future as the international games of chess between the superpowers.

Flanders is seeking to break from Belgium; Catalonia and the Basque Country want to break from Spain; the city of Venice wants to break from Italy; Quebec is looking to break from Canada; Kurdistan and many other Peoples are seeking to form their own nation states out of the chaos of Iraq, Syria and Libya.

New forms of local currency such as the Totnes pound and electronic currencies such as Bitcoin challenge the bankers. Until recently my local council Essex Council was talking about creating its own bank for local people. Corporates such as Starbucks are considering creating their own currencies, in effect becoming their own banks. Multiple non-banking payment systems such as PayPal are now part of internet commerce. In the face of sanctions Russia has created their own version of VISA for citizens to pay their bills.

The internet has helped to break up the power of information monopolies where the citizen blogger is as effective as a journalist in the New York Times. The internet places greater power in the hands of the individual on the local level.

Water, energy, food and debt are the four great forces now driving the world politically, economically and socially. The many chasing a diminishing amount of resources drives people to fight or conserve their resources. Huge growing public and private debt is destroying nation states, driving the momentum to think local rather than global. The Greek economic crisis drove local people back to the land, to become self-sufficient, and create systems of trade outside of the global financial system.

I support localism, and I designed my business with localism in mind. The growing international crisis will force people to become local, sustainable and self-reliant. As the money runs out nations, communities and individuals will quickly learn that it is down to themselves to live or die.

ooOOoo

Couldn’t agree more.

The natural world.

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Hardly seems necessary to say this but natural forces are ‘top of the pyramid‘!

As is so often the case, a few outwardly disconnected events offered a deeper picture; well they did for me!

The first was a recently published post by Alex Jones over on his blog The Liberated Way.  Alex lives in Colchester, Essex, North-East of London, a place where I ran a business way back in the ’80’s’ and lived not far away in the village of Great Horkesley.  Many people, including many Brits are unaware that Colchester, or Camulodunon as the Celtics called it, meaning “the Fortress of Camulos” (Camulos was the Celtic god of war), was the Capitol city in Roman days and that evidence of man’s settlement goes back 3,000 years.

Anyway, back to the thread of today’s post.

That first post from Alex.  A post under the title of Catching a fox.  Alex has generously given me permission to republish it.

Catching a fox.

After two years of hunting I catch a fox with my camera.

fox_colchester

After two years of frustration I finally photograph a fox, which appeared out of nowhere in my garden.

Nature is a shifting tapestry of life, often catching me by surprise with magical manifestations of wildlife that abruptly vanish before I can catch a brief record of its passing through my life. It is a matter of chance that I get lucky with my camera, and I was in luck today.

This morning a fox manifested in my garden. The fox sat looking at me, it had a forlorn look about it, but the fox was content to sit and watch me as it sun bathed in the warmth of a tranquil garden. I had my camera with me, so I made up for two years of frustration by firing off dozens of photographs of my elusive wary model. The fox made my day.

The second event was a chance photograph of a vulture taken two days ago here at home.

Ah, that early morning sun feels good on my back feathers!

Ah, that early morning sun feels good on my back feathers!

 oooo

Ah, that sun feels good on my back feathers!

Damn! Thought it was too good to last!

Now I’m sure that readers so far will find these three photographs, of the fox and the vulture, are producing feelings of pleasure; feelings of wonderment about the natural world around us.

That world of nature ‘speaks’ to us.  If we are prepared to listen.

It spoke to South-West England in February earlier this year:

rail-emergency-workers-inspect-damaged-track-along-the-seafront-at-dawlish-in-south-west-england-

Dawlish – Rail emergency workers inspect damaged track along the seafront.

There are signs that Mother Nature will be speaking to us again; fairly soon. From EarthSky:

Warm water in Pacific could spark a monster El Nino in 2014

Scientists are watching a giant mass of sub-surface water in the Pacific. When this water reaches the sea surface, it could set off a powerful El Nino.

Scientists are watching a giant mass of sub-surface water in the Pacific. When this water reaches the sea surface, it could set off a powerful El Nino.

The giant red blob in this image is a huge, unusual mass of warm water that currently spans the tropical Pacific Ocean. Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate, says the volume of water is big enough to cover the United States 300 feet deep. And that’s a lot of warm water, he says. Holthaus also says that, as the sub-surface warm water in the Pacific moves eastward – propelled by anomalous trade winds – it’s getting closer to the ocean’s surface. Once the warm water hits the sea surface, it will begin to interact with the atmosphere. Why? Because Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are always interacting. In this case, the warm water will likely boost temperatures and change weather patterns … and possibly bring on a monster El Nino in 2014. There are signs this is already beginning to happen. Read more at Slate.

If one clicks on the link to that Slate article, one then reads:

By Eric Holthaus

The odds are increasing that an El Niño is in the works for 2014—and recent forecasts show it might be a big one.

As we learned from Chris Farley, El Niños can boost the odds of extreme weather (droughts, typhoons, heat waves) across much of the planet. But the most important thing about El Niño is that it is predictable, sometimes six months to a year in advance.

That’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are one of the billions who live where El Niño tends to hit hardest—Asia and the Americas. If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.

The most commonly accepted definition of an El Niño is a persistent warming of the so-called “Niño3.4” region of the tropical Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii, lasting for at least five consecutive three-month “seasons.” A recent reversal in the direction of the Pacific trade winds appears to have kicked off a warming trend during the last month or two. That was enough to prompt U.S. government forecasters to issue an El Niño watch last month.

Forecasters are increasingly confident in a particularly big El Niño this time around because, deep below the Pacific Ocean’s surface, off-the-charts warm water is lurking:

Now I’m not going to post the whole of that article so for that reason strongly recommend you read the rest here. However, I am going to offer a couple more extracts.

Like this:

The warm water just below the ocean’s surface is on par with that of the biggest El Niño ever recorded, in 1997-98. That event caused $35 billion in damages and was blamed for around 23,000 deaths worldwide, according to the University of New South Wales. The 1997-98 El Niño is also the only other time since records begin in 1980 that sub-surface Pacific Ocean water has been this warm in April.

Or like this:

One of the theories put forth by the mainstream scientific community to explain the slow-down since 1998 has been increased storage of warm water in the Pacific Ocean. If that theory is true, and if a major El Niño is indeed in the works, the previously rapid rate of global warming could resume, with dramatic consequences.

As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. The 1997-98 super El Niño was enough to boost global temperatures by nearly a quarter of a degree Celsius. If that scale of warming happens again, the world could approach a 1ºC departure from pre-industrial times as early as next year. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, that’s around the highest that temperatures have ever been since human civilization began.

Now I’m not trying to be a ‘drama queen’ but there are times when one does wonder what it will take for those who govern us to wake up to the fact that Mother Nature is getting more and more restless.

I shall return to this theme tomorrow.

The power of thinking

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It’s easy to underestimate just how powerful the brain can be.

Last Friday’s post was called Instinctive behaviours and explored the notion of instinct, coming to the conclusion that almost everything the brain does is a result of learning rather than genetics.  Yet acknowledging the vast amount of brain activity that runs in ‘background’ mode or subconsciously.

That was brought home to me in spades as a result of being introduced to the flying of gliders, or sailplanes in American speak.  The year was 1981 and working near to me in my offices in Colchester, Essex was a gentlemen running his own company, like yours truly.  His name was Roger Davis and we were sharing a beer one day when the subject of flying came up.  It piqued my interest so, as my logbook declares, on the 7th June, 1981 I had the first of two flights in a glider with Roger at the controls.  The place was Rattlesden Airfield, an old wartime airfield near Felsham, Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk.  The gliding club was Rattlesden Gliding Club.

RGC header

The glider we were in was known as a K-7, a high-wing, two-seater (naturally!) glider with the instructor sitting behind the student.
A K-7 typical of the glider I first flew in at Rattlesden GC.

A K-7 typical of the glider I first flew in at Rattlesden GC.

Anyway, some 43 flights later, I was signed off to conduct my first solo flight in the K-7.  The date was 5th September, 1981 and my flight time was just 4 minutes!  I was hooked.

In over 10 years of flying amounting to more than 1,400 flights I had the great fortune to experience much of the magic of flying relying on nothing more than the currents of air.

Ahh! Memories!  Over 10 years of glider flying, amounting to more than 200 hours of flight-time, 17 different types of glider.  Longest flight was 5 hours, 16 minutes including a climb to over 6000 feet above sea-level on the 7th July, 1985 in a single-seater LS4 glider type.

So what’s this got to do with subconscious thinking?  Simply this.

One quickly learnt that once the decision had been made to land, most frequently because one was unable to find further, or any, rising air currents the brain had a major computing task in hand.  As the aircraft descends, the air currents change and the direction and velocity of the wind changes.  There is no engine to allow one to abort the landing; to do a ‘go round’!

One of the key visual judgments was determining the point of touchdown: not too early that might risk a ground contact before the start of the runway, and not too late which might risk running out of landing space.

Thus the brain was operating clearly in two modes.  Consciously, computing second by second where the touch-down point was going to be and, subconsciously, the flying of the glider as in operating the joystick and rudder pedals in support of the touch-down ‘computations’.

Moving on.

In last Friday’s post, I also wrote this: “Plus something that could just possibly be the key to mankind having a long-term sustainable future on this planet: The Power of Thinking.

That ‘something’ was me reflecting on an article in the October 7th edition of FORTUNE magazine.  Not something I read on a normal basis but just happened to come across that edition – and glad I did.  Because there was an article about IBM’s new supercomputer Watson.  The link to the summary is here, from which I republish this:

Dr. Mark Kris is among the top lung cancer specialists in the world. As chief of thoracic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City, he has been diagnosing and treating patients for more than 30 years. But even he is overwhelmed by the massive amount of information that goes into figuring out which drugs to give his patients — and the relatively crude tools he has to decipher that data. “This is the standard for treatment today,” he says, passing me a well-worn printout of the 2013 treatment guidelines in his office. We choose a cancer type. A paragraph of instructions says to pair two drugs from a list of 16. “Do the math,” he says. It means more than 100 possible combinations. “How do you figure out which ones are the best?”

It’s a huge problem. More than 230,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Almost all of them will receive chemotherapy. As crude as the existing guidelines are, says Kris, they won’t be followed more than half the time. If we bumped up adherence by just 10% to 20%, he says, as many as 30,000 people might live longer. Never mind curing cancer — shouldn’t we be able to get the best available combinations of medications to sick people now?

That’s the question that led Kris to IBM. He saw that more information was not the answer. What doctors needed was a better brain — one that could instantly vacuum up facts, draw deeper connections between data points, and remember everything. They needed Watson.

Just read that last paragraph again.  That it’s not about information, it’s about offering humanity computing power that can see things that humans might not easily see.

Thus, I mused that when mankind gets to the point where there is total and complete commitment to finding a non-carbon-burning way ahead for every living thing on this planet we won’t have the luxury of countless years working out the new journey directions.  Maybe, just maybe, computing power a la Watson might just be our saving grace.

Curious to learn more about IBM Watson?  Then here’s the relevant website.

Life’s changes.

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Sometimes life has a way of offering a new path.

*** If you are not into introspection, then look away and come back tomorrow! ;-) ***

Regular readers will know that quite frequently I write under a topic heading that could be regarded as within the classification of key subjects of our time.  You know, such subjects as big government, big money, big power, and even climate change! ;-)

Why has this been the case?

Well, because, a) most of my life I’ve tried to stay abreast of ‘current affairs’ and, b) within the broad label of ‘integrity’ it’s relevant to this blog.  The sub-heading of the blog is after all: “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.”  (Yes, I do know ‘integrous’ isn’t grammatically accurate! – Any suggestions for an alternative word?)

Stay with that while I go elsewhere.

Yesterday (Tuesday) a number of events ended up having a profound effect on me. On the face of it, utterly disconnected events.

The first was a post from Alex Jones on his blog The Liberated Way.  The only common ground between Alex and me is that we both know Colchester in Essex, England.  Alex because he lives there today, me because I used to have a business in Colchester in previous times.  Other than that just a couple of bloggers separated by thousands of miles.

Anyway, the post was this one: Cycle of Life. Alex wrote:

Life seems like a cycle of birth, living and death.

I have the honour of following awesome bloggers on WordPress.  I learn inspirational teachings from their intimate life experiences that they share with their readers.  The cycle, for in my belief everything moves in cycles, of birth, life and death is if we are attentive to living life something we will often be reminded of in our interactions with others and nature.

Then later, adding:

Lijiun is a Buddhist who shares daily experiences from their own life with a Buddhist theme running through their blog.  Lijiun has a cat called Little White who often acts as a teacher to them about the meaning of life and a reminder of Buddhist teachings.  Little White two weeks ago brought home a stray kitten, which it adopted as like a surrogate parent.  Yesterday Adik the kitten died, and a beautiful blog post by Lijiun in memory of Adik reminds us life is impermanent.

Almost absent-mindedly, I clicked on the link about the death of Adik and …… was shaken to my core; shaken by the power of the truth.  I want to give you more than a link to the post – want to share some of the beautiful words.

IN MEMORY OF “ADIK”…

In memory of our little Kitten, “adik”….

In memory of our little Kitten, “adik”….

Every moment in life is full of changes, this is a law of nature.

However, sometimes we might assume that everything unchanged.

“Adik”- Our stray kitten, so far, she was not showing a sign of sickness. Yesterday, in the evening, I discovered she was laid down under my neighbor car, not moving at all and look severe sick. We checked through her little body, no physical injuries and we tried our best to feed her water and Cat food. She refuse to take.

We need to send her to Veterinarian immediately as her condition was critical, however during Sunday, especially evening time. Most of the Veterinarian clinic is closed. We did our best to check through internet, we were able to locate one of the Vet and we rushed over.

In the journey, we played Mantra Chanting to our little kitten, We reached to the vet clinic, “Adik” was alive but in agony…. she was struggling for life. The only thing we can help was to keep chanting mantra, our only aspiration are for her to relieve from suffering, not to reborn in 3 lower realm, able to follow spiritual practice and attain enlightenment in the coming life.

“Adik” passed away in peace even before the Veterinarian came to treat her.

Then Lijiun went on to write that “This incident gave me a very clear insight on “death”  and offered more of that insight: (These are extracts: Please read the full post.)

1. Impermanence Of life

Nothing is permanence , we need to live at now, not past or future.

When Death approached, no bargain time at all whether you are rich or poor, you are ready or not, you are healthy or sick, …

Do all good deeds when you are still alive, Follow spiritual path whenever you can, don’t give excuses that “I’ve plenty of time, I’ll do it when I am “FREE”? When You are Free, you might not able to do it…

2. Young or old…

Some of us, might assume that people died in old age. As such, we’ve a long journey in life.

Is It true???

I learned from “Adik” Sudden death – that death will happen in any age.

“Coffin is not meant for elderly people….” This is so profound.

Spend time with your family members, be filial piety to your parent, Pursuit your dream, Don’t wait until later day…. We are unsure we can survive until later day!

3. Breathing in & Out

Treasure every breath in & breath out…

Life is just in between Breath in & out.

Be Mindfulness in life!

4. What Can you bring???

What can you bring after death, “NOTHING”.

No matter, how much wealth, how much money, how many cars, how many bungalow, how high is your position, how lovely is your family… you can’t bring anything..

Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of life?”, “What do you want?”

5. Alone..

You, yourself need to face the death moment…

Nobody can help you… Don’t avoid the topic and say, “It’ll not happen to me so soon”..

Just get ready.

6. Love

“Adik” passed away at 8:30 pm.. according to my mom, Little White, Our lovely cat was “Meowing” loudly at home. He can sense that “Adik” was not longer around. Animals are just like us, they are loving. Please treat all beings well, no differentiation on form.

We are so touched that “Adik” came home before her death and spend her last moment with us.

Before we sent “Adik” to Vet, She “Meow” loudly to my mom as a good-bye & gratitude to my mom for taking care of her. It’s so touching!

Thank you to “Adik” for celebrating 16 happy day with us and leave behind a great lesson to us.

May “Adik” be relieved from suffering, not reborn in 3 lower realm and find the lasting happiness!

May all beings be Well and Happy!

Then also yesterday, I was chatting to someone who lives close to us; he and his partner-lady have become good friends.  He was bemoaning the corruption of so much of his fine country and went on to say that the only way that he could function was to turn away from the big stuff, have no TV, ignore the constant news of this and that, the endless trials and tribulations in this world of ours.  I listened in silence, only to find later that the words must have left a mark on me.

My dear friend, Dan Gomez, has known me for over 40 years.  He was my Best Man at my wedding to Jean in November, 2010.  He and I have been exchanging emails about the truth of the role of man in the raising of the temperature of the planet.  I sent Dan the link to the death of Adik, the kitten.  It seemed so much more important than the emails we had been exchanging about the ‘big’ subjects in life.

Then something happened overnight (Tuesday/Wednesday) because not long after I got to my PC this morning, I sent this email to Dan.

Dear Dan,

Yesterday was one of those days, one of those rare days I should have said, where my view of life was radically changed.

Partly because I’m still adjusting to Corinne’s death [my sister], partly because of something I read elsewhere, and other stuff best left for a phone call.

In essence, despite my anger at what is going on around us (big government, big money, big power, even climate change!) I want to retreat from these areas and focus on what is most valuable to me.

Aspects of my life such as love, friendship with ‘old’ travelers, the natural world, being in the present, community, our animals (especially Pharaoh who is over 10), my writings, my book, our small world here at 4000 Hugo; you get my drift!

I’m 70 in November, 2014. Corinne died in her 80th year. Time goes so quickly. No, life goes so quickly. Jean and I met 6 years ago this next December. I must turn away from the things over which I have little or no control and embrace the present. Just what dogs do so well. Live in the present.

It’s all about endeavouring to come to the end of one’s life hearing those immortal words of Edith Piaf, “Je regret rien.”

So dear reader of Learning from Dogs, if you are still ‘on frequency’ – Well done! You have stuck with my very long ramble!

Back to what gets written about in this place.  If integrity means anything, it means I’m going to drop all the ‘big’ topics and focus entirely on what man can learn, nay, has to learn from dogs.  Indeed, will close by republishing the full ‘home’ page below.

Pharaoh – just being a dog!

Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.  Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer.  Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming,  thence the long journey to modern man.  But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite.  Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better!  Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Welcome to Learning from Dogs

Trip down memory lane

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The amazing development of electronics over 50 years.

(A republication of a post first shown on the 13th August, 2009)

The calendar reliably informs me that this is my 65th year.  My brain, of course, lags somewhat in accepting this!

My step-father during my early teenage years worked for Elliott Brothers (the link goes to an interesting history of the firm that started in 1804) in Borehamwood, just north of London.  He encouraged me to fiddle with ‘steam’ radios and

try and understand how these basic circuits worked.  It was then a small step to deciding to become a radio amateur, popularly known as a radio ham!  In those days it was a case of some pretty intensive studying to pass a Theory exam as well as being able to pass an exam in sending and receiving Morse code.

So joining the local radio society seemed like a sensible idea.  That was (and still is!) called the Radio Society of Harrow.  That it is still in existence after all these years is truly delightful.  Those Friday night sessions at the Society and extra-curricular classes on Sunday morning at Ron Ray’s  (G2TA) house, an hour’s bicycle ride away from home, ensured that shortly after my 16th birthday I was granted a Licence, G3PUK.  It was a very proud moment.

Anyway, once granted a licence it was time to build my own radio transmitter.  Most of the details have been lost in the mists of time but what is recalled was that the final amplifier was a pair of 803s driving an 813 (These are radio valve numbers).  It sounds like something from the ark!  But again ploughing the inexhaustible files of the Web, it’s possible to see what these radio valves looked like.  Thanks to the National Valve Museum.

Here are pictures, courtesy of the National Valve Museum of those two radio valves:

803 – The substantial wide glass tube envelope is 58 mm in diameter (2 1/4 in) and, excluding the special five pin base pins, is 216 mm tall (8 1/2 in).

813 The classic envelope is substantial at 60 mm diameter (2 1/3 in) and 170 mm (6 2/3 in) long excluding the special base pins. The anode is 53 mm long and 48 mm wide. The metal is 1 mm thick.

803 radio valve

803 radio valve

813 radio valve

813 radio valve

It’s difficult, today, to imagine devices which are essentially diodes (well, technically the 803 was a pentode and the 813 a tetrode) being between 6 and 8 inches tall!

My own self-build transmitter had not really been successful emitting more heat than light, so to speak.  Literally, in the sense that these large radio valves kept me warm in my converted garden shed at the bottom of the garden.  They also completely wiped out TV reception for those households with a 1/4 mile range that had invested in early television sets!  It was time to move on to the R1155.

Around this era, less than 20 years after the end of the War in Europe in 1945, war-surplus equipment was widely available including ‘compact’ transmitter-receiver units.

One popular one was the RAF R1155 which had been fitted to RAF Lancaster bombers and RAF marine craft.  It was also fitted to the Sunderland flying boat.  This information plus the photos below is from this fascinating web site for those wishing to be ‘geeky’ about this.

RAF R1155B transreceiver

RAF R1155B transreceiver

Internal view of the R1155B

Internal view of the R1155B

Just compare the view on the right to the inside of your domestic radio or your cell phone.

A lot happens in 50 years!

My personal journey now leaps to 1978 and I have just left IBM UK having had 8 fabulous years with them as an Office Products salesman.  My fledging company, Dataview Ltd, has just become the 8th Commodore Computer (CBM) dealer in the UK, based in a small office in Colchester, Essex, about 50 miles north-east of London.

The CBM PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) released in 1977 initially with a calculator type keyboard was useless for any business application but soon came out with a typewriter sized keyboard, making it a more viable business

CBM computer, circa 1978

CBM computer, circa 1978

machine.  Today, as this is typed on an ‘old’ laptop with 2GB RAM, it seems unbelievable that these CBMs were sold with between 4k and 96k of RAM (memory) and no hard disk, although one could purchase an add-on that comprised dual 5 1/2 inch floppy disk drives.

YouTube obligingly finds  a short video on the Commodore PET for those really wishing to enjoy the nostalgia!

So to turn to the 21st century and to run out of understanding.  We appear to live in a world of multi-later printed circuit boards of unimaginable (to me) component density, assuming that the word ‘component’ is even relevant today.

Haven't a clue what this is but it's very modern.

Haven’t a clue what this is but it’s very modern.

What an amazing period it has been!

A long way from yesterday!

A long way from yesterday!

Now let me see was it Pin 920 to Pin 140, or Pin14 to Pin 860 connected to Pin 56 ………?

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