Look Through My Kaleidoscope

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Before I get started showing you the ten rather odd images for today, I’ll tell you what prompted my thinking about looking through things. Since I returned from Australia, I’ve been suffering from a variety of physical and mental ailments, most of which have never been problems before. One of them is paranoia. I’m not feeling weirded out by this, considering the number of very bad things which have happened recently in my life. It seems obvious that one might rightly feel a bit of paranoia under such circumstances.

For example:  I can see well enough to navigate around the house without my glasses, but I would not dare to drive and reading is impossible. I was certain that I had my last pair of glasses tucked safely away somewhere as a backup in case I lost my current pair. “Somewhere” is the catch word. I suppose that whether one might consider this to be a “very bad thing” depends on one’s personal evaluation, but all that I can say is that I simply could not stop thinking about it. After ever more frantic searches, I cannot find them. At least a hundred times the thought popped into my head, “Just ask Eunie.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. It makes my heart pound whenever my mind slips like that. It feels like running full tilt into a brick wall.

Anyway, I pictured losing my glasses and having to ask someone to fly with me to Australia for a new pair of prescription specs. It did not occur to me that there might be a simpler solution. Then I met Dr. John up at Blueblood last week. I discovered that he is an Optometrist with the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand here in Madang. He told me that they could fit me with standard, ready-made glasses which should work well. I got an eye exam at the Fred Hollows Clinic yesterday. I walked out with three pairs of nice glasses. One pair is for distance, driving, boating, and so forth. A second pair is for computer work. It works best at arm’s length. The third pair is for close-up work or reading.

So, I now no longer need to fear losing my glasses. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back and get two additional sets of specs. I’ll leave one at the office and stash the other in a safe (and remembered) place in the house. My total investment will be about K180 (roughly US$60.00). Now I have one less fear on the list. It was small, but it was nagging. I was forever laying my glasses down and forgetting where they were. Eunie would always find them for me.

This episode left me thinking, “Just how stupid am I?”

Okay, having disposed of that item and reminding myself that other difficulties may also have simple solutions, if I can only discover them, let’s proceed with the gaggle of weird images for today.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I could spend an unreasonable amount of time staring through my grandmother’s very fancy dream maker. It sent my mind on mini-trips to strange and wonderful places. I’ve seen many computer generated multi-mirror images. Most of them do not please me much. I did get a little inspired by the work of Kathleen Farago May in her guest shot on MPBM, though the images lacked real-world components. I Googled for Photoshop plugins designed to create kaleidoscope images and got lucky on the first try with the Mehdi Kaleidoscope Plugin, which is free. I was immediately hooked. Here is a very amusing view of a Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips:

The presence of recognisable real-world images makes the kaleidoscope idea work for me.

Here is another featuring a Butterflyfish:

I wanted more.

Okay, it’s getting even better with this Yellowmargin Triggerfish:

I really like the background pattern in this one. It makes the Triggerfish leap off the screen.

From the same post as the one above, we have Jo Noble free diving:

The centre is quite abstract. As the eye moves out it suddenly encounters the lovely, graceful form of the diver.

A little more abstract, but still realistic is the Green Coral image from just a few days ago:

I have to admit that not much was gained from kaleidoscoping this one. I like the original image better.

This one is maybe my favourite of the bunch. The starfish pops out from the seemingly abstract background:

That one if from Saturday at the Office.

I call this one Hands Across the Water. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a cartoon treatment of my friend, Carol Dover:

This effect is a little strange. It makes me a bit dizzy.

Here is another one which can make your head spin. When doing human forms you have to watch out for “creepy” artefacts:

The face effects in this one are interesting, but the strange blobs which came along for the ride are a little disturbing.

This one of Ush playing with a shell is less creepy, but even more head-spin inducing:

Kaleidoscoping faces is obviously a little tricky.

What about whole people? My initial experiments didn’t yield much that was pretty, except for the one of Jo Noble. I decided to keep trying. Reducing the number of mirrors seems to be the trick. Here is a much modified image of Jenn Miller floating languidly in the sea at Pig Island:

All of these were surprisingly easy to create and the process doesn’t take much time. I did discover that not every image makes a good kaleidoscope pattern. It seems to work best if the subject is clearly defined against the background. Otherwise, it gets all jumbled up.

You can take it a step further and create purely abstract patterns very easily, but the original image is lost in the multiple reflections very quickly, if you are not careful.

It’s fun to have a new toy. Especially if it was free.

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Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m still wrapping my mind around the idea of getting back to the roots of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  We are up to nearly one thousand posts. That seems impossible to me. If the average post runs 1,000 words* then, if that guess is close to reality, that works out to be about 1,000,000 words of pure drivel which I have produced in a little over three years. The average length of a novel is 60,000 – 100,000 words. In sheer volume, I’ve produced roughly 12.5 novels during that period of time. Just think what I could have accomplished if I had put my mind to it.

I would have joined the sweaty masses who have written “The Next Great Novel” which absolutely nobody wants read, much less publish. In fact, I would have produced a dozen of them. How fortunate it is that I did not waste my time pursuing such a ridiculous dream. I would love to write fiction. The problem with writing is that a great many people do it rather well.

It is the same with acting. All of my life I have had dreams of being an actor. I’ve been in many amateur productions. A few scatterbrains even said that I might posses a smidgeon of talent. And therein lies the rub. A gozillion people can act or write reasonably well, well enough that one can stand to watch them play roles or read with some amusement what they write. However, even those with prodigious talents find success elusive. It requires intricate and complicated connections, fortuitous circumstances, and great magnificent piles of good luck to get a break.

Faithful reader ZydecoDoug commented yesterday that my Green Coral Imperfection shot “belongs on a magazine cover”. Well, I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is how to attract the attention of those holding the purse strings.

Hey, I’m beginning to bore myself. Let’s get on with Miscellanea.

A rather strange definition might be in order. I ripped this from some site at Princeton University:

  • S: (adj) assorted, miscellaneous, mixed, motley, sundry (consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds) “an arrangement of assorted spring flowers”; “assorted sizes”; “miscellaneous accessories”; “a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music”; “a motley crew”; “sundry sciences commonly known as social”- I.A.Richards
  • S: (adj) many-sided, multifaceted, miscellaneous, multifarious (having many aspects) “a many-sided subject”; “a multifaceted undertaking”; “multifarious interests”; “the multifarious noise of a great city”; “a miscellaneous crowd”

So, now that we know what it means . . .

I have gotten more and more interested in shooting faces recently. I’m found here and there attempting to get candid shots. It’s very annoying. I caught George up at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago:

I was really going for the lighting here. George has a rather dramatic face. The light here seemed about right to me. When you can’t control anything, you take what you can get and make the best of it. I’d like to do more shooting under controlled conditions, but then you lose the spontaneity and you’re into poses. The little bit of carved post at the far right is a nice touch. I now wish that I’d left more of it in the shot. After a few days you can always pick out the things which you did wrong with an image. It never fails.

Here is a cute little Calcinus minutus,  more commonly known as the  Hermit Crab:

I tried flash in this shot and it ruined it. The light was very dim, but kind to me, nevertheless. The image has a soft, pleasant appeal. Though I wasn’t intentionally composing (that’s difficult when dealing with nature), I ended up with a couple of very important rules being satisfied. One is The Rule of Thirds and the other is Angled Lines. Also, the regularity of the radiating lines in the coral contrasts nicely with the more or less randomness of the patterns in the Hermit Crab.

Here is a shot that I like because it looks as if it is an expensive aquarium in a high-class hotel lobby:

There’s not much to say about it otherwise. It’s just a pretty picture of a swarm of Anthea and a couple of Feather Stars.

Here’s something a little more to the point. It’s a fairly large sponge, about a half-metre across. I am far to lazy to look up the species:

Sponges generally take in water at the bottom, from which they extract food and oxygen, and “exhale” it through the top from an opening called an osculum. Here you can see two of those openings.

They are much more interesting when you get a close look:

Here you can see the intricate, uh, . . . sponginess of the inside of the beastie. Well, it is  a sponge. What else might we expect.

I’ll finish up with another face. This mug belongs to my good friend Trevor Hattersley. It’s a familiar expression for Trev. I call it, Who, me?

Trev looks a lot different these days, compared to a couple of years ago. He let his hair and beard grow. I’ve known him for a long time. I gotta say that this is the first time since I met him that I think that his appearance matches his demeanour.

He’s a natural-born pirate.

* I note now that this post runs 883 words, so my guess may be a little high.

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Crazy Colours

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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I need to redecorate this place, refurbish it. It’s in danger of getting boring. I’m getting tired of theme posts and the same ol’ same ol’. We need more variety and humour, like in the old days. A breath of fresh air will be . . . uh, . . . refreshing. I haven’t yet thought about how I might get some variety back into Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  I’ll have to cogitate on that for a while.

Still, I do know what triggered my thinking about change. It’s not what you might suspect. It has to do with moving my wallet from my back pocket to my front pocket.

Yesterday, at the town market, I was the victim of an attempted robbery. It’s not as dramatic as is sounds. It is, however, becoming a far too common event in Madang. No matter how much we love the place, we have to accept that even Paradise is not immune to any and every kind of decay. The decay of security, feeling safe in one’s living space, has been shocking.

As I was leaving the gate of the market, I felt a disturbance in my personal aura space. Then I experienced an abrupt violation of my very personal physical space as clumsy fingers attempted to sneak into the back pocket of my ancient Levi Strauss 501 cut-offs. Fortunately, there were plenty of people around (not that that helps much). So, when the first try failed, there was no violent second go at the wallet. That’s when things get nasty. The clumsy thief beat a hasty retreat back into the market followed by my nasty comments regarding his personal hygiene.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I returned to my car and sat there for a minute of quiet gratitude that I did not have to replace my various driver’s licenses, identification and credit cards. As I sat there I decided it was time, disregarding comfort, to move my wallet permanently from my back pocket to the front.

Reading back over that, I realise two things. First, I realise how little sense it makes. Then, I realise how difficult it is to connect an attempted mugging to my sudden need to spice up MPBM. As you may have gathered, I’m making this up as I go.

Now that I have wasted this much of your time, you may as well stick around a little longer for the main course of blather.

As I was looking for some amusing images from about forty that I have lined up for posts, I was struggling to find some that fit together in any interesting way – some way that I haven’t already worked to death. A few stuck out like sore thumbs. Some greens, reds and magenta hues began shouting in unison, me, me, me, me. Well, how can you ignore that? So, mixing them up a little (shaken, not stirred), I begin with Green Coral Imperfection:

There is some interesting detail in this shot. You might want to click to enlarge it. I particularly like the one structure which sticks up above all of the rest. It becomes that place which the eyes simply can’t stay away from. The rest becomes a negative space which all the more directs the eyes back to that single difference, that imperfection.

Switching from green to red, here is an image of the embers left from lunch at Blueblood last Sunday afternoon:

I confess to a childish fascination with fire. Given some spare time and an opportunity, I can sit by a fire much the same as a ten-year-old boy, poking sticks and throwing objects into the flames just to see what happens. These visceral reactions to fire seem primordial. As a natural phenomenon, I imagine that fire is at once the most useful and the most dangerous of the processes that humans have been able to harness. Possibly that is why it holds such sway over our emotions. Fire is possibly the most comforting and the most terrifying force of nature.

When I saw this fern at Blueblood, standing alone on its dead tree fern pedestal, the afternoon sun was lighting it up like a neon sign:

It looks to me like a huge green flower.

Mixing the colours up a little, we have here a Magnificent Anemone hosting two Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion):

It’s a delicious combination.

Finally, let me show you this lovely magenta-stained Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites).  These are also known as Mushroom Coral:

I wish that I knew what causes this colour. I’ve not been able to find a reference for it. Behind it and in front are three other species of coral. The white and green blobs to the left and below are a species of sea squirt.

The muse seems strangely mute this night. I have promised myself that I am going to try to avoid laying down on the bed this evening until I’m ready to go to sleep. I’ve been reading about bad sleep habits lately, in hopes of finding something which will help me. Lounging in the evening in the bed in which you sleep is reckoned to be a very bad habit. That’s a tough one for me to fix. I’ll have to think about moving some things around. I hate that. I like for things to stay the way they are. I’m going to have to get used to change.

So, it seems that what I ended up with here is yet another theme post.

Oh, well.

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Of Turbans and Alien Writing

Posted in Under the Sea on October 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s high time that I got back to being a little silly. I miss it. I’ve been far to serious lately. It’s easy to point out to people who are having problems that they might feel better if they would lighten up a little. It’s a bit harder to take the advice if the roles are reversed. Anyway, I know that I need to get some whimsy back into my thinking. Maybe it will leave less room for the too serious stuff to rumbling around in my skull.

Although another Saturday has now passed, these shots are from Planet Rock a week ago yesterday. I haven’t gotten around to looking at the shots at Magic Passage from yesterday’s dive.

The water was very greenish from the layer of brackish water washed out into Astrolabe Bay from the Golgol River. In this “dark reef” style image, I left the green uncorrected, so that you can see what it looked like to me:

It’s a colour that most people don’t expect to see in a marine underwater image. The greenish glow of the light also subdues many of the warmer colours and gives the reef a sickly look.

I’m always raving about spirals in the undersea environment and in nature in general. It seems to be a very useful growth pattern:

Here you can see the very prominent spiral shape in this rapidly growing hard coral. This is an exceptionally nice crop. The image was taken from about five metres shooting straight down. The area you see is about six metres wide.

I enjoy shooting gimpy starfish. It is amazing how many starfish are missing legs, or even more:

Most species of starfish can easily regenerate a severed leg. In fact, if the severed leg is spat out by a fish, as is often the case, the leg will grow new legs and create an entrie new starfish from only the leg. You can see an example of that here.

Getting back to spirals for a moment, Here is an empty house. The critter who lived in it has expired:

I think that it is very likely that a hermit crab which has outgrown it’s apartment will move into this more spacious accommodation soon.

We see the spiral again in this Cat’s Eye Turban Shell (Turbo petholatus). This poor creature was the victim of break and enter. There are a variety of marine creatures which possess the capability of breaking open tough shells such as this to get to the tasty meal inside:

If you try to break a Turban Shell, you can appreciate the power it takes to do so. They are very hard. It would take a few hammer blows to do this kind of damage.

The Turbans are marine snails, so it’s not surprising that the shells look exactly like land snails. However, the marine environment requires heavy-duty protection against predators. To block the most obvious route of entry, the snail produces a door or operculum,  to protect itself.

Opercula are very common in marine snails. The are less often found in species of freshwater snails and only a few land snails have them. The shot above shows some Cat’s Eye Turban Shells and the associated opercula. You can see where the name “Cat’s Eye” came from. The spiral shape is present not only in the shell, but also the opercula. As you can see, there are many different colours and surface textures. These are from my collection.

Okay, I suppose that you are wondering when the silliness would make its entrance into the scene. Well, I am forever on the look-out for aliens. I confess that I have never seen one, but that means nothing. Perhaps they do not wish to be seen.  However, to the astute and careful, dare I say enthusiastic observer, evidence of them is everywhere. One simply has to have the proper perspective.You may care to scoff. Do so if you wish. Nevertheless, I’ll use the favourite argument of UFOlogists, quacks, conspiracy theorists, Discovery Channel pseudo-science and all others who wish to convince others of their ideas despite the lack of genuine evidence. No reputable authority has yet proven that this is not alien writing.

Therefore, it must be true, eh?

By the way, it says, “Live long and prosper.” In Vulcan it would be, “Dif-tor heh smusma”.

UPDATE: Reader Pvaldes points out that if you tilt your head very hard to the left so it is nearly horizontal and examine the Alien Writing image you will be able to read the message. It clearly says, “Hi” (or maybe “Hy”). You can read his remarks in the comments section.

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Bush Pétanque

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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It would be fair to say that Madang is the home of one of the world’s more peculiar sports. The game of Pétanque is played around the world. The rules and regulations are established by a couple of governing bodies, one of which is F. I. P. J. P. (or Fipjip, as it is fondly known). Here in Madang we dispense with most of that and keep it simple. Our speciality is Bush Pétanque.

The rules are fairly simple. You have to stand in the circle, which is drawn by the first player wherever seems to be the most fun. That player throws the “jack” (a special little white ball or a golf ball, in a pinch) wherever whim dictates, except in the water or down a crab hole. Each player in turn tosses the heavy steel boule at the jack, trying to get as close as possible. The score is determined for each round (until no players have any boules remaining) by counting the number of boules of one team which are closest to the jack. One starts at the jack with the closest boule and counts each boule further from the jack until a boule of the other team is found. It’s that simple.

I may have forgotten a couple of rules, but they probably don’t matter. What does matter is form.

Here we see “Master Mike” Cassell demonstrating the epitome of Bush Pétanque style and elegance:

The shot shows Mike in mid-toss.

And this is the “release”, or the “toss-off” as we call it. Note the position of the fingers which allow the boule to glide smoothly from the hand (the underhand toss is the most elegant and effective) and impart the ever so necessary back-spin to prevent the boule from rolling upon impact with the sand, mud or tree stump or whatever it lands on:

Executed to impart sufficient back-spin, the toss should result in the boule landing ker-plunk and not rolling so much as a centimetre. This is, of course, supposing flat ground, of which there is none. This complicates matters considerably.

Nevertheless, Mike’s form is superb. His pièce de résistance  is the amazing “levitating release” during which both of his feet leave the surface planet momentarily. Though he demonstrated it several times on Saturday, I was not able to capture it digitally:

The shot above is as close as I got.

Michaela was in excellent form also. Here she approaches the circle with a knowing smile:

Mental preparation is the key.

In the Chinese practice of Pétanque this stance and release is called “The twittering bird of joy lofting from the firm foundation of reality”. It’s characterised by the open-handed release and the firm planting of both feet flat in the circle:

Leaning at a seemingly impossible angle without actually falling down is impressive but hazardous. Some people are just fun to watch when they are having fun.

My approach to Pétanque is very straightforward. A brief prayer of thanksgiving for the game and a fervent request that I not appear too foolish prepares me for my turn:

Really, it only takes a couple of seconds. Geneviève toasts my sincerity while Trevor stifles a giggle.

Now spiritually prepared, my back-swing is relaxed and confident:

My slightly bent knees act as shock absorbers and aid balance. Falling down during the back-swing is very poor form.

My release is casual and sans souci:

And my boule goes straight down a crab hole.

Fortunately, nobody cares who wins.

Note the Orang Utan like length of my ridiculous arms. Really, they are positively simian. Curious about that this morning, I got out a tape measure. Sure enough, my arms are nearly five centimetres longer than my legs. This is not mormal. What’s going on here?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m happy to report that my “run” at the Country Club with Geneviève and Michaela and some other nice, young ladies seems to have done me no damage. I could not find my running shoes, which was no surprise, since I have not seen them for years. I had to make do with some funky old sandals. That was my excuse for poor performance. I knew that I had zero chance of keeping up with these very fit and well toned women, who quite frankly appear to be children to me.

I propelled myself possibly four or five kilometres in total, maybe one kilometre running (okay, okay, jogging) and the rest walking as fast as my stubby legs could carry me. I kept thinking to myself that I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning to feed Sheba. “What am I doing to my dog? I have to stop this right now!”

I’m amazed and profoundly touched by the kindnesses, warmth and caring which has been lavished upon me by these ladies. I think there is some kind of “be nice to your kindly grandfather” thing going on here.

All I know is that I’m not asking any questions.

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A Self-Portrait

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s been quite a while since I posted daily. I don’t have any immediate plans to get back to that, despite the continuing tag line of “A Daily Journal of a Permanent Resident of Paradise”. However, I found myself at loose ends for an hour or so this afternoon before I go over to the Country Club (where I am not a member, but I sneak in) for some much needed exercise. Yes, MadDog is going running this afternoon. The sky is falling.

This will be a short one. It’s been a long time since I did a self-portrait. It’s good practice for a photographer to work with a subject which he sees every day. I like to do one every few years, just to remember how to do it right and to record what has happened to my mug. Well, it’s shocking!

How did I get so old? I still entertained wild notions of some lingering attractiveness. Sadly, there is no evidence of that. I had no intention of looking so glum. I was going for pensive. I ended up with “prisoner of war”:

I’m not feeling nearly as bad as I look. The last few days may have marked a minor turn-around for me.

I’m optimistic, but it’s still to early to tell.

Now, if I could only get some sleep.


Salty Fun

Posted in Under the Sea on October 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Last Saturday, my friends and I motored out to Planet Rock  in Astrolabe Bay  for a morning dive. Going out to the rock is always a gamble. It can be a great dive, world class, really, or it can be miserable. Poor visibility caused by runoff from the Golgol River,  strong currents and bumpy water can make the fifteen minute trip out a waste of time. This time, the water was flat and there was no current. A thick layer of very turbid water from the river lay on top, making conditions below dark and greenish. The images required quite a lot of colour correction.

The top of the rock is quite flat, laying about eight metres below mean tide. Here you can see some of us, led by Richard Jones, just slipping down over the side to explore the slope around the edge:You can see Faded Glory’s  anchor resting in the jumble of wave-damaged coral. The life on top of the rock is constantly assaulted by wave action, but regrows very rapidly.

Soon after getting wet, I saw this lovely Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata)  tightly nestled into a crevice:

The light was very dim and greenish. I vacillated between flash and no flash. I much prefer the natural “that’s the way I saw it” colours. I used no flash in the shot above. The colours are natural. However, if the light is too dim, camera settings become a problem. The shutter speed will be so slow that the image will be blurred. In that case, you have to flash.

The result, while being pretty and colourful, does not represent the colours of nature. The spectrum of light from the flash is completely different from light at depths more than a very few metres, because of the absorption and scattering of certain wavelengths by sea water:

I enjoyed the dive much more than any I have done since returning from Australia. I attribute that to my plan to help my brain to rewire itself and find a new normality which allows me to find satisfaction and joy in the everyday activities which formerly spiced my life and gave me a measure of happiness. More about that later.

Because the peculiar lighting seemed to be giving me some opportunities to try some effects that I’ve been thinking about, I jumped in with both feet and produced some high contrast “dark reef” shots:

These are just a couple of the series which I shot. I’ll be showing some more of them later. I do like the effect. I didn’t try to hide the green cast in the shot above. On most of the rest of the images, I subdued it.

Here is another “dark reef” image. This one works nicely for me. I particularly like the way it brings out the globular shape of the coral in the centre:

I got about thirty usable images from Saturday’s dive, so you’ll be staying wet for a while. I also got some very nice shots when I went up at Blueblood on Sunday. I’ll be mixing those in over the next few days.

Which brings me back to “how did it go”? Excuse me while I take a Tuesday dive back into my diary mode.

Dear diary,

Well, this weekend I decided, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” I either need to be proactive to toss off these blankets of depression, self-pity and misery or continue in the current state, which is quite unacceptable. If I stop to examine the situation objectively, I can see that there is no reason for such a pitiful state of mind.

So, my attitude should be that if nothing is hindering me from enjoying the moment, then I should reject negative chatter in my head, which distracts me, pay attention to what is happening, and allow myself to react “normally” – as I once would have.

It’s a little tricky to get it right. I had some false starts which felt like faking. Then, during the dive I forced myself to concentrate on the photography and not let my mind wander. Back on the boat, I paid attention to what was being said and let myself be captured by the pleasant mood of my friends.

Up at Blueblood on Sunday, I engaged in a ruthless game of Pétanque. Late in the afternoon, for the first time in ages, I got into the water with friends and tossed a Frisbee – badly. I laughed out loud. I leapt, I splashed.

I think this might work.

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