Thursday, 20 November 2014

Resurrection of Blog - Reason number 1 : Weather Forecasts

Three things have moved me to resurrect this blog today which has not been posted on since February this year. It's not that I have not been "moved" (insert as appropriate - shocked, angry, happy, joyful,thankful, grateful, upset, furious, insensed ) for the last 9 months because believe me, I have. But the rapidly diminishing brain cells have often prevented me writing it down. 
The other blogs / pages that I post are specific to a theme so that leaves me with Write-Place to, well, write other stuff. I have checked back to the original gumph of what I said in 2008 that I intended posting on it and am pleased to be reminded that I said almost anything was appropriate, so here we are. 

I was brought up in a family culture that listened to and discussed the weather forecasts on the radio and then television and "lighting up time" was noted faithfully. Not that we ever had a car but cycling was an important means of transport. By the time I was 5 years old I was well versed even in the shipping areas of Dogger, Forties, Fastnet and Fair Isle though I doubt I could place them accurately now. Living on the coast and my father being a draughtsman at the shipyard I suppose added to the relevance for us. 

Recently I've noticed that the weather reporters are talking a lot about what the weather "should be" for the time of year. I have to admit here that I have heard this often on the BBC weather forecasts, but also on ITV and Channel 4  (my admittance here is that yes, I do still watch the BBC even though I have stated a number of times that I am boycotting it. If I didn't watch then I would have less to complain about / discuss and that wouldn't be a good thing for blogging purposes)

I do like this smiley, friendly lady - Carol I think her name is - but I wish she would explain who it is that decides what the weather "should" be. In August it was colder than it should be for quite a few days and over the past couple of months we have been told that it has been much warmer than it should be for Autumn. It's not as if we can reasonably say when it's Spring or Summer with all the talk of climate change and global warming. I've heard people saying "we have four seasons in one day"and they are not far wrong. But what it should be like, surely isn't what can be said about weather, no matter what it is.

So I have got this matter openly aired. 
I started writing this post this morning then was sidetracked with other things. As I finish it at around 7pm, the news and forecasters are reporting on the snowdrifts and arctic temperatures in north east of United States. At least one newspaper is saying that these conditions will be with us in Britain by next week. 
Ice and snow in November. That's not what it should be like till next month, is it ? 

Monday, 10 February 2014

So, You Think You Remember Your Past ?

Is your memory bad ?  Well, it's actually worse than you think, it seems.
 A study by researchers at Northwestern University, Chicago shows that our memory is a poor way of recording events.

Maybe  a better way is to film and photograph every detail of every experience that we have over a lifetime so that we can check back that what we think happened, really did. 
Some of us are well on the way to that scenario already. There's hardly a holiday, birthday, day out with friends or visit to the supermarket that is not photographed, Instagramed and voice recorded to be then "shared" on social media sites to every corner of the globe, almost in real time. We have hardly had time to digest and internalise the event or our feelings about it before it's out there, a record in quite a lot of detail, for all time. Or for as long as we have the current equipment to watch and listen to it. I am as guilty as the next person for this of course and often wonder if there are some things that are better just remembered as best we can without the physical evidence to go with it.

But it seems not. The study has found that the mind rewrites the past with current information and updates recollections with new experiences. This editing happens in the hippocampus, working as the memory’s version of a film editor or special effects team. It does this to help us survive by adapting within constantly changing environments and to encourage us to focus on things that are important in the present.
I'm all for anything which helps me focus, so am pleased that this is apparently going on in my very own brain - without me even knowing. And in your's too.
The team also concluded from the results that this raises questions over the reliability of eyewitness court testimony.  I can see the importance here, but am beginning to wonder about the happy childhood I had in which it was either gloriously sunny and warm or thick snow in which it was a joy to roll about and get soaked in, with a perfectly controlled thermostat for comfort.

The researchers needed to look at the exact point in time when incorrectly recorded information was implanted into an existing memory 
Participants were asked to study objects located on a computer screen with different backgrounds, such as an underwater  scene or a view of countryside. They were then asked to place the object in the original location but on a new background screen. In each attempt it was noted they would always place it in an incorrect location. Then they were shown the same object but in three locations on the original screen and asked to choose the correct location from three options: the place they originally saw the object, the location they chose to place it in or a brand new location.
They always put the object in the location they choose during the second part of the task, which suggests that their memory had changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. 
(Are you still with me, here ?) 
Lead author of the report Donna Jo Bridge at Northwestern University explains it better -
"This shows their original memory of the location has changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. Their memory has updated the information by inserting the new information into the old memory.  Our memory is not like a video camera. Your memory reframes and edits events to create a story to fit your current world. It's built to be current.”
These findings have implications for the way we recall key events in our lives, she says.
"When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria. You call it  'love at first sight' but you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original encounter with this person."

Now this would account for a lot of  my 'recollections' that are, as it turns out, probably more extreme than the original memory. It puts a whole new perspective on the 'looking through rose tinted spectacles' idea, too. Presumably it works both ways and the bad things perhaps weren't as bad as I remember, as well as the good not being quite so.  I'm keeping my phone, tablet, camera and anything else that records sound and images fully charged and at the ready at all times though. 
I wouldn't want to have a whole stock of memories that are nothing more than embellishments of my over active imagination. 

Study published in The Journal of Neuroscience

Monday, 11 November 2013

Never Forgetting and Trying to Learn

11th November.
Commemorated as Armistice Day and marked with 2 minutes silence while people pay their respects to those who died during the First World War. Yesterday, Sunday, wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and at hundreds of others across the country. Today across the world, memorial services will be held and thousands will quietly reflect on the enormity and consequences of that war.

We also remember other wars and battles that have taken place where so many lives have been lost and so many families broken.
WW2, the Cold War, the Gulf War, the Korean War,Vietnam, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and many wars in the Middle East and Africa that continue to rage today and destroy people.

It is easy to be sanctimonious and say that all wars should stop now or naieve and believe that there will ever be world peace. Sometimes it seems that if there ever was peace on this earth, then we would go further afield and declare war on other planets.

I am not clever enough or educated enough to suggest a solution to war caused and perpetuated mankind. Nor am I able to explain to my grandchildren, why we persist in hurting each other. We have evolved enough to cure illnesses and disease, to make artificial limbs and  other body parts, that work as perfectly as the original. We have the technology to do things that are incomprehensible to the ordinary person, such as me. Yet, we do not have the ability it seems, to  curb our desire for power and domination of others in our world.

What I am saying here of course, is nothing new. It has been said  thousands of times by people who are very much more intelligent than me.
Which makes it all the more worrying that we continue with our destruction.
The terrible events in the Phillipines this week have shown again that natural forces are perfectly capable of destroying us and everything around us. Nature does not need mankind to fight amongst ourselves
to eliminate us completely.

I shall be remembering this as I reflect on the past and wonder about the future. Please feel free to join me.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Twelve Years On - When Will We Ever Learn ?

Today, 11th September 2013 is the 12th anniversary of the attacks on USA that killed almost 3,000.

I would not dream of making a comment on how the family and friends of those people felt then or feel now. No words could ever justifiably describe the horror and devastation. We remember that awful event swearing that we will never allow anything like that to happen again. Hundreds of  human beings obliterated forever and hundreds more injured and maimed.

We usually recall specific major terrible events by noting what we were doing at the time that we heard the announcement. For my generation that is often when President Kennedy was killed, when John Lennon was killed, when Diana (then Princess) was killed.  
My parents generation remember the announcement of the start of WW2 and also the ending. All these events involved the unnecessary deaths of ordinary people - yes of course, even the ending of a war, where we in Britain rejoiced, while others died in the most terrible circumstances.

And here we are in 2013.
Waiting and wondering whether United States will decide to drop bombs on Syria as 100,000 are killed in the army alone,100,000 civilians killed and no one really knows how many missing, in prison, kidnapped or dead. The death toll continues daily.

In the future, what will we remember we were doing on 11th September 2013 ? 

I will maybe remember that I was writing this blog and trying to come to terms with my inadequacies as an individual in a very big world of fear and hatred. Or maybe not.
In this global village that we supposedly inhabit our concerns for our neighbour are only really for our very close neighbour. 
And the rest of the world can get on with it themselves.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Writing - Yes, It's Work and Warrants Remuneration

Ok, so the article I thought I had shared to my Facebook, didn't actually share and the very intelligent comment that I'd posted to go with it looks less than intelligent without it. And yes, the smart comments of others are I suppose, deserved.
It was such a good article too, but the most annoying thing is that I can't find it again, and I don't remember who the author was. In my attempts to find it, however, though not finding the actual one I have found a number of others on a similar theme. If I ever find the one that I read in the first place, I promise to reference it and the author properly and thank him/her now for the thoughts.

It was about writer's not being thought of as doing a real "job" and so many times are expected to write, talk about their writing, give opinions and views on theirs and other people's writing ... for free, ie without proper payment.
The article writer in question cited a time when they were asked to speak about their 'work' at a venue that involved a journey of 250 miles. The 'payment' turned out to be 6 bottles of a supermarket's own brand red wine. On asking for an expenses form they were greeted with amazement and it was clear that it had never crossed anyone's mind that real payment and/or expenses would be required.

Perhaps the writer should have been grateful for the publicity and thankful that the opportunity to show and advertise his work was payment enough. Sadly, this seems to be a frequent event for writers unless an actual  commission has been agreed on.

How can this be and is a writer the only job where working for free is expected ? It's not as if we expect an electrician or a doctor or a window cleaner or a plumber to work and not get paid (although actually I know people who do expect that )

I have written many things that have been published, without payment. Years ago,seeing my work and my name in the Times Educational Supplement gave me as much if not more pleasure than the paid for stories in magazines. But that was when I had another real job to make my living from.
And more recently - and naievely-  persuading myself that the 'honour' of having my writing on someone who used to work for the BBC's blog was great and even asking what he would like for the next piece. (Can't believe I did that ... )
Pleasure or publicity doesn't pay the bills.

Since the advent of the internet, - and it's not that long ago that we didn't have it - we tend to believe that information is free and anyone can be a writer. It's not that difficult to press a few buttons and let the whole universe know your every thought, is it ? But not everyone can be a professional writer and it seems to me that the "media" and the big corporations are cashing in, literally, on the work and creativity of writers. It's a sign of the times and a result of the 'free market' but maybe the ones who are really to blame are us, the writers ourselves, by allowing it to happen.

So stand strong fellow writers. Don't allow your work to be given freely and challenge the perceptions  that writing is not a job but something that people do in their spare time, sitting on the bed in their pyjamas.

On that note, payment in cash or in kind is accepted for this blog, and suggestions for the future most welcome.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

There's Something About a "Real Book"

 There is something about a real book that is unique and gives such pleasure to reader and author alike.

By real book here, I mean one made of paper that you can hold in your hands, feel the pages, smell the newness of and watch grow older and change as you do.

Of course, the benefits - and drawbacks - of ebooks and digital technology is constantly discussed and the 'which is better' debate I think, will always be with us.
Most of us have our views on which is 'better' but also most of us these days appreciate that all formats of written words have their place and deciding which is appropriate for which occasion is a personal preference.

The One Word Anthology by Talkback Writers  was published as an ebook in  November 2012 by Alfie Dog Ltd  and is available there. It can also be purchased at Kobo Books and at Amazon
The authors, editors and publishers of the One Word Anthology are now very happy to announce the publishing of the real Paperback book version which is also available at Alfie Dog Ltd  and Amazon

INTRODUCTION by Jonothan Telfer, Editor, Writing Magazine and Writers Online

Article on the original idea and process of building the anthology, 
by Rosemary J Kind, Brenda Gunning and Marion Clarke in 
 January 2013 issue of  Writing Magazine

Photos of the authors in this article and biographies in the One Word Challenge Book

My contributions  - Heat, page 20   Torch, page 48   Fog, page78   Lightning, page 90

We are all very proud of the anthology, in ebook form and in paperback. For some of the authors this is their first time published. For others of us it is an extra to add to the writing CV and another achievement to congratulate ourselves on.

For some reason, many of us are extra specially pleased about this 'hard copy' version of One Word Anthology.

Hope you buy it. Sure you will enjoy it.