Sunday, 21 December 2014

whats missing from (psychologists) understanding grief

we all know the phrase "well it depends on where you stand" .. its one of those classic cliches which we utter to explain when we disagree and we feel vaguely that the other person doesn't see our perspective.

At first glance the shot below (which I took near Franz Joseph glacier)  looks like a shot up a mountain pass.

but it becomes quickly apparent that there is something wrong, its framed above with grasses. Its when you make the connection that I've photographed the reflection in a lake and turned it upside down that you see it for what it is. Indeed it becomes clear if you view it upside down.

So what's this got to do with grief?

Well it seems to me that almost nothing written in the 'academic' realm about grief seems to go past the concepts of loss. ... Oh ... loss ... well I'd never thought of it like I'd lost something.

Wow, thanks for clearing that up, iI thought my nose was blocked by a flu...

Seriously I'm in the wrong game if people can get paid hundreds per hour to write rubbish and dispense rubbish.

To me I feel now that what's missing from the psychobabble on grief is comprehension of love and the enduring ties that love has. Perhaps this failure in identification stems from the possibility that most of these writers have never felt love.

what is love?

Love is probably the most misused word in the English language. Its brought to bear on everything from how much you like an ice-cream on a hot day to feelings of lust. Even having sex is called "making love" when (if literature and the visual arts are much to go by) it really means "getting your rocks off". In contrast I feel that Love is something which grows. Like growing living things it is not always going to grow and it may indeed die. Some people have a great capacity for love, others have none.

I think that the love parents feel for their children is an excellent example. Some parents deeply love their children while others simply exploit their children or see them as an extension of their own lives and choose to live vicariously through them.

I reckon that an important and neglected aspect of grief is dealing with something which is still existing - the love you have for your spouse.

run away ...

one of the pieces of advice given to those suffering from grief is to "move on" ... what stupidity is that? Grief over the loss of the one you love is something you can't ignore, runaway from or escape.

If you want to see a bad reaction, take a baby from a woman and tell her to "move on". Would you expect her to just say "oh, yes, its gone now I see that ... well then" or would you expect her to do everything in her power to get her baby back.

The problem with the advice of of distance is that it only works for problems. For the same reasons you loved the one you lost you can't ignore that they are gone. The very nature of our fight or flight response is to put distance between us and the problem.

However in the case of grief the problem is distance. We are suddenly distanced from the one we love and it is not in the hearts of good and moral humans to simply forget love and walk away from it.

So as I see it, a key failing in the realm of grief counseling is to fail to address this issue. Some groups try to address it by appealing to the view that the separation of you from your loved one is simply a matter of time. That in the future you will be re-united. I can see the benefit of this approach, but feel that its dependent on faith. It does however provide nothing to help you here and now. It offers nothing to help you with waking up alone every morning, doing things that you did together alone, having no comfort provided by the one who you were mutually in love with being there to talk to and provide support.


To those of you reading this who are in grief I am sorry that I don't have anything to offer you (or me even) to help with the pain. What I have instead come to see is that like other sufferers of chronic pain all we can do is manage it. So despite the pain there is no choice, no other alternative plan, but to face the loss and work out how to deal with it; because you can never be as you were. "We all started out as something different", life takes us on a journey which (in truth) we only play a minor role in. Part of the shock to the system in grief is seeing this truth.

"Moving On" becomes an act of learning to do things as does a paraplegic need to re-learn. It is not about attempting to forget the one you loved, indeed you should cherish that love and hold it dear to your heart. Eventually the pain becomes something to which you are able to endure, like learning to run a marathon. You can't do it at first but with training you become strong enough to do it.

Why bother? - well I have no answer for that, I wash in and out of that daily myself. But to me if you don't choose to kill yourself then one reason is to try to make your life better. I will never regain the love that I had or be able to live again what we lived, be able to share the adventures we shared and everything that went into our marriage.

Our love lives in this world only in me now. I am the custodian of that (perhaps) ephemeral beauty. Its a hard lesson to learn. Its a lesson because I believe that its something we have to learn. Unlike almost everything else in life, there is no one to show you the way or how it is done.

A start to learning it is to understand perspectives.

Life Sucks and then you Die...

Seeing the truth of this requires an altered perspective: everything we eat comes from a living thing (sorry to say Vegans but you're still killing something). Something dies so that we can live. Mostly in our lives, its us sucking life. Seeing this and accepting that the world (solar system, galaxy and universe) does not revolve around you (or me) is perhaps the next lesson that can be learned from our grief.

Turning the perspective around, a baby sucks milk from an nipple. The mother is giving willingly but the baby is still sucking life and nourishment from her. The time perspectives are longer than we consider normally, but indeed at that moment while she is nourishing her infant she is also on the path to death. She (unlike the child she is feeding) is not growing, only growing older.

Recently I had the opportunity to be a nipple for someone. I provided advice and suggestions to someone who with that advice was able to avoid having another open heart surgery and instead undergo a treatment which solved the problem for her valve. As one who has had 3 open heart surgeries , I felt very grateful to be able to use what I know to help another person avoid that particular road.

If I do no more than this from time to time then I'm doing something good. I'm helping life go on (even if its not my life) by being a supply of something for someone else.

Perhaps that can help you to feel better about living with grief, living with the loss and remaining in love with the one you lost.

Best Wishes

Friday, 19 December 2014

One Man Sawmill

The other weekend I was up visiting a mate, and visited this amazing sawmill made by one guy from scrounged bits. Simply stunning stuff.

Since words are just not enough (and I didn't video it) I'll leave you with this slideshow

fantastic stuff.

All shot with my GF-1 and the 14mm + GWC-1 wide adapter (and boy did I need wide)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

brief follow up on the GWC-1 wide adapter (checking to see if its the same as my earlier one)

I have already reviewed and compared my last 14mm and GWC-1 wide adapter here, however as I sold both those (the 14mm and the GWC .. don't ask) I thought while I was out walking around that a quick snap of a landscape with them would be in order.

I find them unchanged (suggesting that inter-copy variation is low). So just briefly:


+ GWC-1

note: obviously the details are smaller because being wider it squeezes more into the same frame (obviously).

right hand edge

right hand edge (GWC-1)

left hand edge

left hand edge (GWC-1)

As usual, the images were converted from RAW using dcraw so as to avoid any "in camera" corrections performed on the 14mm (which will be invalid as the camera does not know of the existence of the GWC). Presented at 100% crops with no sharpening.

Hand held at about 3000th of a sec @ f4 (f2.5 was a bit of a washout)

not bad if you ask me ... you'd really need to print these at 68.0 x 45.5 cm (that's 27 x 18 inches) and have a close look  at the edges to be seeing this ... and really ... is that what you do to a print?

Value for money and compact light weight not withstanding this is a good result if you ask me ...

Sound recorders - Zoom H1 vs Sony PCM M10 (a brief review)

One of my hobbies (apart from photography) is to record the sounds in nature. The advent of high quality compact personal recorders has really enabled me to do more with this in the last few years than in the years previously (where such things were prohibitively expensive)

Just the Facts M'am

I started using a Zoom H1 recorder in about 2010 and really liked it. Its a low cost high quality device that is
  • light
  • simple to use
  • low power drain (read long on battery life)
hard to go wrong really. However there exists on the Web much discussion as to the benefits of the Sony PCM-M10 , and so not really knowing if the grass was greener over on the other side of the fence I didn't know what to think. I've read some reviews and found few which were good at comparing the two. This will NOT be a typical internet review, as in my view many of them just regurgitate the specs and brochures. What I'll present here is the core facts which determine its suitablity for my (and maybe your) use.

While they are both small, as you can see the Zoom is significantly smaller than the Sony. It uses a single AA battery while the Sony requires two.

The Sony has a button fest for operation which helps those who have a need for that to emotionally connect with the machine being somehow more powerful. It has peak levels for each channel and a -12dB notification indicator too ... the Zoom in contrast just has a simple twin VU scale on the screen and a red peak indicator (blinks when clipping occurs) which also doubles as a "recording is happening" indicator light.

The assortment of buttons, lights and menu features on the Sony is a little of what I call "King Wang", because if you have a digital recorder then you most certainly will be processing your captures on a computer later.  As it happens I frequently find I've moved the recording levels dial on the side of the Sony, but have never bumped the recording levels on the Zoom (press buttons on the RHS). Essentially what I believe you really need on the recorder are:
  • start / stop the recording
  • set levels (perhaps even consistently)
  • removable media (and or USB mass storage compatibility)
  • ability to adjust the fundamentals such as
    • recording format
    • low frequency cut (handy to filter out wind)
    • auto leveling (if you wanted it)

Both have this set, although on the Sony some are annoyingly dug into multiple nested menu and the Zoom has simple switches for the basics on the back.

Having said that, things like changing the MP3 bitrate is annoying dug into "button dancing" on the Zoom (press this while you power up stuff).  However I don't usually change any of that once its set (the exception being the clock). This photo also shows that the Zoom also has a tripod mount (I use a gorilla-pod) and the Sony has one too.

One of the things which first shat me about the Sony was that when you press record it fucking doesn't! It just sits there blinking at you till you hit pause to "un pause" it ... great if you were using tape and wanted to avoid that ramp up in tape speed as the tape transport mechanism sped up to the right RPM ... but this is a digital recorder FFS.

Next off the Sony shat me by needing me to decide if I wanted to use internal memory or the SD card (yes, I know I should have read the fukcing manual) and so I hit limits there (wondering why it was reporting full when the card was empty).

Having used the Sony for about a year now what I can say is this:
The Sony feels better built, solid in the hand and the many physical adjustments are reasonably laid out. The Zoom feels like a cheap light plastic toy and its looks will not pull chicks or scream out "Sound Engineer".

So if look and feel are your criteria go grab the Sony its a bargain at the current prices. Although for under $100 the Zoom is a bargain at about half the price of the Sony ...


However if your audio quality is of any concern to you then perhaps you need to stop looking at it and start listening to it ... after all who cares what it looks like when you are listening to the recordings?

The microphone sensitivity is good on both, and being able to set levels far up enough to get good captures of subtle creatures in the rain forest is neck and neck if you ask me. What isn't neck and neck is the codec used by each machine in producing an MP3 recording.

You see, I like to record to MP3 so that I can set up the recorder in the forest and get some hours worth on a card. To me 320Kbps is quite adequate and when importing into Audacity for processing seems to allow simple cleanups (removals of things like cars, reduction in wind, compression to reduce dynamic range...) without any observable artifacts (and I'm confident that I'm good enough at identifying them).

To my ears (on Bose headphones) I can't really tell them apart. Both sound good when recording to MP3, but its when you examine the recordings in a spectral analysis you see which one is which. The Zoom has a reasonable attenuation of the spectrum, while the Sony has a nasty cliff that belies a scruffy MP3 encoder was used. To demonstrate I recorded this tinkly little bell at close range and got the following results:



which shows a cliff type roll off at about 17KHz while the Zoom shows recording data all the way to about  19KHz .... interesting.

Setting both onto PCM 44.1Khz 24bit we see this


Which suggests that (at the higher frequencies at least) the mic responses of both are ballpark with the Sony Mic leading ... but if you are recording to MP3 then the Sony knobbles your data and essentially removes the possible advantages the mics have.

Sony seems to have a habit of shitty signal processing ideas, with similar experiences continuing today with their data formats in the Alpha range of cameras.

To make it worse for a field recorder, battery life drops off on both recorders when recording to PCM rather than recording to MP3 - which makes  for a two strikes hit against the Sony if you value either of these aspects.


I said this was going to be brief and so it is. To me the bottom line is that I have totally no beef with a light plastic case that the Zoom has, indeed its been stuffed into backpacks and rolled around on the floor of the 4WD with only its windsock on (I bought one of those fuzzy hairy covers for both my recorders, these are essential if there will be even the slightest air movement {remember I'm using these in the field}). In 4 years of use it still works like the day I bought even if there are some marks on the plastic screen.

I'm not totally convinced yet (more trials are needed) but so far I'm thinking that I'll sell the Sony PCM M-10 to someone who is into look and feel rather than just audio quality.