13 June 2021

Further experimentation with the field recording yesterday. Given I wake up early at this time of year I have been planning to try to get better recordings of the dawn chorus. With sunrise occurring around 5 am, the birds start singing at around 3:45. So, up at 3-ish, a snack and a coffee, and then the almighty trek round the corner to the churchyard.

All was silent bird-wise, which was what I had planned for. But literally as I set up the tripod, a robin started to sing. Quickly checking the levels I hit record and took a seat inside the church porch.

We are located a kilometre or so south of the A303 and as a consequence traffic noise, while not intrusive, is always there in the background. If the wind is coming from the northern half of the compass it is generally more noticeable. From the southern half it recedes considerably, so by positioning the recorder on the south side of the church, this has a further diminishing effect on traffic noise.

I knew the wind direction was due to be WNW, and although at that time in the morning it was the lightest of breezes, what traffic there was could be heard fairly clearly.

The recording I made is ok. I think I can clean it up a little. But it was a good learning process.

Wot I learned;

  • arrive in plenty of time so that set up can be done properly and you are ready to record with time to spare.
  • arriving early allows you to find the ideal location to record from. Had I moved the recorder even just a meter I could have further reduced the level of traffic noise.
  • be aware of the length of your headphones cable! In the near dark I didn’t realise that I had sat far enough from the recorder that the cable was not quite resting on the ground. Any movement of my head meant the cable would swing and and bump and the noise would travel along said cable right to the mic.
  • using headphones to monitor your recording greatly enhances your ability to ‘see’ the soundscape in an objective way, as the mic does. Shopping list: better headphones. There are always better ones….

I will post a link to the recording once I’ve edited it. As a side note, while I was recording a bat came in and out of the porch several times. I could only see its silhouette against the sky outside but I could hear its wings beat as it flew around above me.

10 June 2021

Mmmm, still can’t quite work out what is happening with block quotes not showing correctly on at least one post, but it seems that somewhere in my workflow the .md file is reverting to an earlier version.

All I can identify so far is that if I manually edit the .md file in question on the Raspberry, after a while it seems to have changed back to a pre-edit post. In theory a change should only occur there if I edit the file in Dropbox from where it is synced to the Pi. And the logs indicate that hasn’t happened and the file in Dropbox is the correct edit. *scratches head*

8 June 2021

I can’t work out why block quotes are not displaying correctly on the blog. The markdown is correct, so….

6 June 2021

Coming at Stoicism from the CBT and mental health angle, I quickly came up against some pretty startling ideas. Visualising negative outcomes (premeditatio malorum) and considering ones own death or that of a loved one. Ideas that, on the face of it, could send anyone prone to catastrophizing into the very existential crisis they would like to avoid.

However, dig a little deeper and I find that these ideas have a much more positive basis. In the context of the philosophy as a whole they make more sense and differ from the negative thoughts the anxious mind is prone to. For me, catastrophizing is ‘all these bad things could happen, probably will happen, are happening, oh shit, I am going to die or, at the very least, publicly make a complete arse of myself’.

I came across this in Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations; > it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or such as, perhaps, never may come: every evil is disagreeable enough when it does come; but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him is loading himself with a perpetual evil; and even should such evil never light on him, he voluntarily takes upon himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he actually suffers any evil, or only thinks of it.

I think that sums up catastrophizing perfectly, ‘ruminate’ and ‘constantly considering’ being the key to what makes it a destructive process. On the other hand, my understanding of negative visualisation is that it is the rational process of considering the possible adverse outcomes, with the emphasis firmly on rational, so that we can be mentally prepared should a bad thing happen. The idea then is one of ‘how do I respond should that scenario happen?’

This is in direct opposition to the avoidant behaviour of those of us with anxiety. The anxious habit of running over and over terrible scenarios is all about avoiding them, a negative feedback loop that you can never escape, that always ends in ‘but what if…?’ Negative visualisation is about facing reality head on, accepting possibilities and considering what the rational and ‘virtuous’ response is. It is about learning to value what we have in the here and now.

I still have questions about the apparent bias towards the negative. It is very easy to see it as pessimism. But this might be as much about how the idea is portrayed as the concept itself, given it is antithetic to modern positive thinking. To my mind, a life philosophy cannot be reduced to a quotable axiom or two, otherwise it is not worth the paper it’s written on; it is only within its context that I think a principal can be fully understood. I will continue to read and learn more, particularly around how premeditatio malorum fits within the wider Stoic philosophy.

2 June 2021

Liked: Your Autistic Year from Bix Frankonis.

In the rush to get back to “normal”, neurotypicals could do worse than to take stock of how the disruptions of the pandemic affected them, and consider the ways in which the day-to-day of what they consider normal itself can be a daily disruption to those of us burdened with very different brains.


Stephen James

Minding the gaps


© Stephen James 2021

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