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    Finding the focus for my blog (it’s more than just a niche)

    I’ve always loved the idea of having a blog.

    None of my reasons for wanting to blog are to do with the current thinking behind blogs. It seems everyone is starting a blog these days with the goal of monetisation right from the start.

    I wanted to start a blog because I like writing, I love being able to look back on what I’ve written in the past and I like the idea of having a space that is uniquely mine on the Internet.

    So you’d think, given those reasons, I’d find it easy to post to my blog now that I’ve created it but sadly that’s not the case.

    So if I’m struggling to write in my blog, perhaps a post about why I struggle to write in my blog would be a good place to start. 🙂

    My concerns about privacy

    I’m quite a private person and on the one hand, reaching an audience that are interested in what I write is kind of cool (I haven’t yet), I’m also concerned about sharing too much about my personal life with complete strangers on the Internet.

    In an age of social engineering and identity theft, revealing too much about myself isn’t safe anymore, for myself, or for my family.

    This leaves me in a state of anxiety about writing because I worry about revealing too much to the extent that I don’t write any blog posts for fear of saying too much. I’m pretty circumspect about what I post on Facebook and that’s a closed garden that’s technically limited to people I’ve accepted as ‘friends’.

    I really need to overcome this or I might as well delete the blog and write in a diary.

    My attempts to cope with executive dysfunction

    I really struggle with a disorder called executive dysfunction.

    For a large part of my life I thought I was just prone to procrastination but once I was diagnosed with autism about a year ago, I started to examine my behaviour in an attempt to identify how my condition has affected my life.

    It was very easy to identify that executive dysfunction was one of my biggest challenges and since doing so, I’ve been taking steps to target this area of my life.

    As I write this, it occurs to me that a post about executive dysfunction and the methods that I’ve used to live with it might be useful to some people.

    In a nutshell, for me, executive dysfunction means that I struggle to engage with things that need to be done, regardless of my level of interest in the task.

    This has become a real burden in my life which is why I’ve gone to great lengths to research the subject and find coping strategies that work for me.

    To many people it can appear that executive dysfunction is simply someone putting things off, being lazy, or as I suggested earlier, procrastinating but it’s much more complex than that.

    I might have something that I really, really want to do (like draw a portrait) but getting myself to actually sit down, get some paper, find a pen and just make that first mark on the paper seems like an insurmountable task.

    I find that breaking my tasks down into smaller tasks that are much easier to achieve can help with this but it can still feel like a colossal effort just to get started. Some days are definitely much worse than others.

    As with everything else in my life, writing in my blog is affected by this battle so I need to plan writing into my life if I’m going to start making this blog worth reading. 🙂

    Understanding the purpose of my blog

    I’ve read many articles on how successful blogs focus on a particular niche or even better, sub-niches but I’ve often struggled to understand how this might apply to a personal blog such as this.

    Aside from the annoyance about how some people pronounce ‘niche’, it’s a challenge to figure out what the focus of this blog should be. If I could nail that down, perhaps I’d find it easier to write.

    There’s a number of things that I’m interested in.

    I love photography, drawing in ink, science, nature, and to some degree, psychology and philosophy. More recently, as I’ve been worried about my sedentary lifestyle, I’ve gained an interest in health and nutrition too.

    I’ve also been trying to learn Chinese for the last few years so I guess I could add foreign languages to that list.

    I have little to no interest in politics as there are too many closed-minded bigots on the Internet that will immediately attack anyone with different views to theirs.

    I have no desire to write about religion either. Having been brought up in a religion that destroyed my self-esteem and happiness, I have no interest in religion unless it’s from an objective point of view.

    Like politics, religion is a bit of a hot-potato to write about because of the number of people that can’t see beyond their own beliefs.

    Although I now have a near atheist outlook, I don’t deny others the right to believe as they will or feel the need to attack their faith.

    Just because religion didn’t work for me doesn’t mean I can’t accept it gives others an essential degree of hope or meaning in their lives.

    My lack of time

    Unlike many people that claim that they have no time to do anything, in my case, for the last few years, it’s literally been true.

    I’ve been lucky enough to take care of my young children while my wife is studying away from home but I’ve been having to work full time at the same time (fortunately I work from home which helps with the logistics).

    Taking care of little people full time as well as working has left me with so little time that I often struggle to find time for myself (although I suspect the executive dysfunction has a part to play there).

    I have found it somewhat irritating when people have been furloughed from work with an 80% salary and then complained that they’re bored and don’t know what to do with themselves.

    I can’t remember a time that I’ve had enough free time to be bored. 😂

    In time, this will change but I’m sure that coming to terms with my task-management issues will help to some extent.

    So, what is the purpose of my blog?

    I’ve started to think, as I’ve write this, that the purpose of this blog should be to enable me to discuss topics that interest me.

    I’m not going to write about the tedious minutiae of my life as I don’t even put that stuff on social media and nobody would find it interesting anyway.

    I already have separate web-pages for my ink drawings and pens so I’m going to focus on those interests there but I might occasionally mention them here.

    With that in mind, it looks as if this blog is going to be about the following topics, from this point forward:

    • Photography
    • Philosophy (particularly Secular Buddhism)
    • Science & technology
    • Personal health & nutrition
    • Learning foreign languages
    • Autism

    It actually feels like a huge relief being able to discern what I’m going to write about moving forwards. I’m hoping this will help me to write her more regularly and perhaps find an audience that shares my interests.

    Warming Vegetable Potage

    Warming Vegetable Potage

    If you’re like me, you’ll have finally got the kids to bed and realised that you haven’t eaten in literally, hours.

    I used to just throw a pizza in the oven and gamble with the heartburn when I try to sleep but more recently I’ve been trying to take better care of myself.

    This recipe looks complicated but it’s really not. All you really need to do is prepare the veg, part-fry the onion and then throw it all in the pan to boil.

    If you want to, you can blend or mash it afterwards but that’s up to you.

    Warming vegetable potage

    Warming Vegetable Potage

    Phil
    A delicious, thick, spicy soup that's satisfying enough to serve as a main course.
    It's super-easy to make to it's ideal if you're a busy parent that often doesn't find time to eat.
    Prep Time 15 mins
    Cook Time 45 mins
    Course Main Course, Soup
    Servings 2 large bowls

    Equipment

    • Medium sauce pan with lid
    • Optional : Potato Masher (ricer), Hand Blender or Food Processor

    Ingredients
      

    • 25 g butter Vegan option : replace with oil.
    • 1 red onion roughly diced
    • 2 carrots sliced
    • 2 large potatoes
    • 1 stick celery sliced
    • 1 leek sliced thinly
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2 tsp mild curry powder heaped
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 handful parsley chopped finely
    • ½ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ cup red lentils
    • 500 ml vegetable stock Add more water for a thinner soup

    Instructions
     

    • Heat the butter in the pan and once melted, add the chopped onion, parsley and spices. Cook until soft but don't let it go brown.
    • Add all the vegetables to the pan
    • Pour the stock all over the vegetables
    • Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes (until the carrots are very soft).

    If you prefer it smooth

    • You don't have to do this but I like to blend my soup with a hand blender or food processor to make it nice and smooth. You might prefer a chunkier soup.
      Using a potato masher is ideal if it's late at night and you don't want to disturb anyone. This results in a nice thick soup with texture as shown in the photograph above.
    Keyword curry, spicy, vegetable, vegetarian

    Butterflies on the Buddleia

    Over the last few of weeks, the Buddleia bush in our small back garden has been attracting dozens of butterflies.

    The Small Tortoiseshells first appeared before being joined last week by Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, and even Small Whites (although they seem to prefer the lavender we planted at the front of the house).

    I just counted the butterflies on the bush right now. It’s a sunny day and the bush is alive with visitors:

    • 12 Painted Lady butterflies
    • 2 Peacock butterflies
    • 3 Red Admirals
    • 1 Small White
    • Numerous bees and hoverflies

    Here’s some photos of the visitors today.

    White fence next to woodland

    Why I’m on the fence about Boris

    You’d have to have been living under a rock in the UK for the last two months (or more) if you hadn’t heard somebody discussing Boris Johnson and his bid to become Britain’s new prime minister.

    Now that he has secured the necessary votes to secure his new position, there’s been a sudden outpouring of negativity across social media platform, ranging from prophecies of the UK’s future demise to personal slurs against the man himself.

    Personally, I don’t really understand what the point is.

    It’s not like we really can do anything about it.

    Continue reading…

    Where there’s an aspiration, there’s a way

    One of the aspects of language and communication that I find really interesting are idioms.

    We all have favourite phrases that we use to describe a situation, the same ones we probably heard our parents or friends use as we were growing up.

    I’m talking about the common phrases like, “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, and “better to be silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

    You’ll hear them everywhere – on television, on the radio and anywhere that people are talking because they’re a standard part of colloquial speech.

    The funny thing is that I never considered that the idioms I commonly used might have their own counterparts in other languages. But of course they do.

    I encountered one this evening while I was talking to my friend in Beijing.

    Continue reading…
    6 things I've learned by leaving Facebook

    6 things I’ve learned by leaving Facebook

    A week ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account.

    There were a number of reasons that I wanted to do this ranging from a suspicion that I’m addicted to Facebook to a fear that Facebook might be having a negative impact on how positively I enjoy life.

    Over the last seven days I’ve already discovered some interesting things and I’m going to talk about five of them in this post.

    Continue reading…

    Inktober 2018

    Every year, the month of October hosts the Inktober challenge for ink artists around the world.

    It’s unofficial – there’s no prizes or accolades but it’s a great motivator to get drawing again, when life has got in the way of creativity (which definitely includes me).

    Each year, the challenge offers a list of prompt tags to help provide inspiration. You don’t have to use them but I’ve chosen to do so this year.

    I’ll be posting each of my drawings here. Hopefully I’ll complete the challenge, even if some of them are a day or two late! 🙂