Friday, 31 October 2008

Friday photo(s): Rhetoric and reality



Monday, 27 October 2008

Art or story?

Having waded through all of the photos that I took while in Boston, I've been asking myself - do they tell the story of our holiday? Is this my objective when taking photos or am I trying to create/ capture some form of art? What would I need to change to incorporate the element of narrative (I already know about the shortage of people photos!)?
And even as I ponder these questions That Hideous Man posts an entry on his blog that combines both aspects! I think his still life on a medical theme is particularly impressive, although a blood-stained action shot would have rounded off the tale.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Friday photo: Charles River

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Celebrating "fall"

It's been a wild and wonderful day here with the first autumnal gales. Wonderful in terms of the power of the wind, and as I sat in my car before going into a meeting today I watched the clouds racing across the sky, then I noticed a few spots of blue sky, and for a few seconds the sun broke right through in all its dazzling glory. It was also fantastic to see the trees on the way home tonight blazing with autumn colour in what is apparently one of the best displays for many years.
All of which leads me to another Boston reflection. It seems to me that they take their 'fall' celebrations very seriously - or rather energetically. I might have some misgivings about the Halloween associations, but there is a real feeling of entering into the spirit of the season as we wandered around - even the withces hats hanging in the beautiful courtyard of Boston Public Library.
No more words - the pictures will tell the story more eloquently.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Politics - U.S. style

While we were in Boston we saw the second presidential debate. Not “Joe the Plumber”, but the “THAT ONE” one. It was inevitably hard to avoid with TV news reports, commentaries and adverts providing some interest to the casual spectator (i.e. me).

This linked with one of my Boston highlights – visiting the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It’s really worth a visit if you’re in Boston (although I thought the stuff on the Cuban missile crisis was a wee bit short and lightweight – but I’m probably being picky!)

Two aspects of the museum triggered thoughts about the similarities and differences with the current campaign.

The stunning similarity for me was the exhibit that showed excerpts from the very first televised presidential debate – between JFK and Richard Nixon. One was eloquent, photogenic, energetic, calm, composed, thoughtful and talked a lot about vision and the need for change; the other was quite brusque, awkward, reactive, direct in responses and talked a lot about experience. Sound familiar?

The difference – for me – was the issue of religion. In his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination JFK emphasised that he did not want his religion to be an issue in the election, he wanted to be judged on his policies alone. This time around there has been much talk of religion – especially that of Barack Obama. The fact that religion is an issue still comes as a surprise to me, given that it’s not a big factor in elections over here.

I heard someone recently suggesting that the emergence of faith in U.S. elections was a reaction to Watergate (Nixon again!) and the need for the population to be re-assured about the moral integrity of their potential President. However, I am concerned (as an ill-informed onlooker) that the test of authenticity as a Christian is largely based on the issue of abortion and to some extent homosexuality. Why highlight these two? Why not use the attitude towards poverty and injustice, which would be more biblical?

Anyway, it’s intriguing that Obama has been keen to talk about and expand on his religious views. Of course, there are issues relating to his family background that mean he has to establish his own position – to some extent. But I admire the way that he has not chosen to give the ‘correct’ answers to the questions that he’s been asked. He seems to have remained true to his beliefs and principles, even when he knows that he will get a negative reaction (as at the Saddleback event).

I will watch with interest to see the outcome on November 4th.

It was twenty years ago today...

Not Sergeant Pepper... but me and the Fish Wife getting married. Only a fool would choose to get married in the second half of St Andrews in October - but we met there, got engaged there, so where else would we get married? Anyway we had a brilliant day. The weather was great and so was the ceremony, the meal and all the other stuff that goes with a wedding.

And since then we've had 20 years of (mostly) happiness together - how great is that? (By the way the question is rhetorical.)

Monday, 20 October 2008

The Freedom Trail

Before I begin properly, can I just say that I know how boring other people’s holiday snaps can be. So I’ve put them in a video thingy – you can choose to look at them or not. It’s entirely up to you and I won’t be offended if you choose not to.

One of the main features of the tourist-y side of Boston is the freedom trail – a red line that’s painted or embedded in the pavements leading from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill monument (or the USS Constitution, depending which route you follow at the last wee bit). Fortuitously our hotel was right on the trail towards the end – this was a handy navigational aid for us.

On our first full day we followed most of the trail – working backwards. This meant that we were going against the flow (aye, I know – nothing new in that for me), but also that we saw things from a slightly different perspective. Anyway wandering through the streets of the North End was really fascinating (although there did seem to be a lack of coffee shops open!)

By lunchtime we had arrived at Faneuil Hall where the ‘patriots’ plotted the Revolution. Anyway, right next to Faneuil Hall is Quincy Market, which is a great place to eat and be entertained. The central section of the Market is wall-to-wall food outlets serving almost every sort of cuisine – except haggis! Outside you’ll find street entertainers. Later on we discovered (or were misled if it’s not true!) that the performers have to audition to be allowed to do their stuff around the Market. They don’t get paid by the Market, they earn whatever passer-by ‘tip’ them. Some of them were really good. We saw a very good and funny juggler/clown, a group of kids doing breakdancing or hip hop or something (not sure about these sort of categories) and a very good singer/songwriter. I really liked her stuff – a bit of Suzanne Vega maybe? She’s called Cheryl B Engelhardt and if you look very closely you can see her in the bottom left corner of one of my photos. (What do you mean you didn’t look at them? I’m officially offended!) Cheryl has a website – it’s worth checking out and you can hear tracks from her second album on her myspace page.

Back to the Freedom Trail – it meanders on through the city centre past various sites of interest until it reaches Boston Common. If you’re ever in Boston it’s worth the walk, and you can get guided tours from the Park Rangers in period costume. However, I’d recommend taking one of the trolley tours, which will also let you see other parts of the city.

They may not have as much history as us, but they do it well – and probably know their history a lot better than we know ours.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Anticipate the consequences

As the father of a teenager, I find myself frequently advocating that Dolly D should "anticipate the consequences". This handy little catchphrase fits two scenarios - when something has gone horribly awry and when disaster looms due to lack of foresight and thinking. I probably use these words at least once a day and more frequently when we spend lots of time together – at weekends and holidays.

Well, I provided an opportunity for her to take revenge just before our trip to Boston - in fact, on the day before we flew out. For a few weeks I had been planning to harvest some of the chillis that we’ve grown in our greenhouse and preserve them. The method of preservation is to de-seed them, chop them ready for use and store each fruit in a little jar filled with olive oil. It’s a tried and tested method.

Now I know that chopping chillis can cause irritation to your hands and any part of your body that your hands come into contact with; so being smart and anticipating this consequence I used my trusty method of self-preservation. I rubbed my hands with oil before I started to chop, thus providing a barrier between the jaggy chemical stuff and my delicate hands.

I then set about chopping and storing chillis for about an hour, and a nice wee pile of jars were ready for future use. I wouldn’t usually chop chillis for this long, and there was a slight stinging effect, but nothing too serious. (Astute readers will probably be anticipating a twist in the tale coming up.)

Being in a helpful mood I cajoled Dolly D to help with some washing up – I washed, she dried. This is where things went a bit pear-shaped. By immersing my hands in hot water I removed any remaining barrier, opened the pores in my hands and let all the chilli juice in. The pain was intense, and it only got worse as I tried various remedies. I had planned an early night since we were leaving early to catch our flight. Instead I spent a sleepless night as my hands burned and stung.

Inevitably, Dolly D had some advice for the occasion – “Dad, you should’ve anticipated the consequences”. For once she was right!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Friday photo: Making an effort, leaving a trail

Thursday, 16 October 2008

First impressions of Boston

On arrival in Boston, our immediate impressions were of efficiency in processing us through security for "aliens" – which we had heard horror stories about – and in the taxi queue where the woman supervising the taxis chased away a driver who didn’t have a valid licence to operate as a taxi for the airport. Having been reassured by these small issues, we were subjected to a moderately terrifying taxi ride to our hotel – almost all of it underground as part of Boston’s ‘big dig’.

When we got to our hotel room, we were treated to a magnificent view of the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge at sunset. The bridge would feature in many of the photos that were taken in subsequent days. (Note to self – make space in my case for a tripod on future trips like this! Hand held at slow speeds is a bit tricky!)

Over the first couple of days our real first impressions were that the people were very polite and helpful (although the accent was a bit difficult to tune in to); the streets were incredibly clean – no litter at all, anywhere; we felt safe within the city (as long as we were sensible about where we went); and there was a sense of pride shown by people. Pride in their country (lots of flags flying); pride in their city; and pride in their sports team. I found this to be a positive attitude rather than any sort of jingoism.

There is definitely a lot that we in Scotland could learn from the citizens of Boston – at least in these areas.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Go Sox!

We've just come back from a holiday in Boston (USA). We had a great time and there's lots to think through and write about. Still catching up with laundry, mail, photos etc, so in-depth thought will have to wait!

I felt that I had to publish this photo today. The Boston Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays in the baseball play-offs, but are currently being pounded. They are trailing 3-1 in the best of seven series, losing the last two games at home (1-9 and 4-13 respectively). Now I'm not an expert on baseball, but that's not good... not good at all.

But as any Red Sox fan (and it seems that almost everyone in Boston is part of the 'Sox nation') will tell you, things were worse when they played the New York Yankees in 2004. Then they were 3-0 down, but went on to win the next 4 games, clinching the series and going on to win their first World Series since 1918. They qualified as wild cards in 2004, as they did this year - a good omen?.

They might win tomorrow night and take the series back to Florida for the last two matches. Hope springs eternal so you never know - GO SOX!!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Friday photos: Double blueberry delight

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Comfort zones... the saga continues

I stumbled across a scribbled note today from a podcast that I heard about Abraham Joshua Heschel, in which Krista Tippett talked about his “prophetic inclination to mistrust whatever the comfort zone is”. Given my endlessly restless nature, I like this!

But it also reminded me that I had some unfinished business with comfort zones (previous entries
here and here). When I wrote my last entries, I had been doodling on the whiteboard in my office at work. I’ve tidied the doodle up - a wee bit - and come up with this diagram (I don't know how to make it any bigger!).

Of course, our individual personalities and attitudes will determine how quickly we move from one zone to the next – and I guess that some people bypass discomfort and go straight to dysfunctional as soon as there is any change or stress. Additionally, if we are facing multiple stressors, the nature of our stress changes more rapidly, so that we can become distressed as soon as we are moved out of our comfort zone by the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.

By nature, I am suspicious of comfort zones – they’re not areas of growth or development – but I do realise that they play a vital role in establishing equilibrium after a change has occurred. This resonates with this quotation, which I came across recently:

“Any form of stress that prompts discomfort had the potential to expand our capacity – physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually – so long as it is followed by adequate recovery.”
Loehr and Schwartz from The Power of Full Engagement.

The problem, for me, is that many people and organisations like to stay in that ‘maintenance mode’ for the long-term, resisting change and shrinking defensively deeper into the comfort zone. Maybe I’m just too restless… but I’m delighted to be in some small way in the company of Heschel!!

Maybe the saga concludes here, but you never know...