Interpreting our Dreams

By recalling and interpreting our dreams we become consciously aware of our subconscious. We are both conscious and ‘unconscious’ beings after all – we have the ability to act rationally, that is, take a moment to consider our automatic responses which stem from the subconscious and control how we act and react. Perhaps this is generally what separates us from animals.

Perhaps the act of recalling (becoming conscious of) and interpreting our dreams is largely superficial or irrelevant. I suppose that for those that don’t consciously recall and deal with their dreams, the dreams still have their effect – guiding the subconscious mind, training the automatic responses, and controlling the reactions to things.

I think dreams are lessons, and it doesn’t matter if we remember having that lesson or not because the brain still gains the experience – the neural pathways for things that reoccur or have a strong mental effect on us become the norm. My example here would be dreams where I’m having an important conversation with someone, then in my waking life if I do have such a conversation with that person I feel more confident or better prepared. Or, I can even feel confused about if the dream conversation really occurred! Either way, my brain has been trained. However, consider if I didn’t remember that dream and then I met that person in waking life to have such a conversation with them – perhaps a similar level of confidence would be felt, even though I’m not consciously aware of where that confidence stemmed from, or I may not even self-observe my confidence level (since there will be no point of reference) and I just feel like “I am being me”.

Of course, the prospect of constantly considering our subconscious mind and what dreams we may have had regarding a certain type of scenario may be tiresome, like when we receive differing opinions and advice from too wide a range of sources, such as from friends, family members, work colleagues, or self help books, tea leaves and the stars. Sometimes the rational mind itself can inflict a burden on us through being too aware of the many possible permutations and possibilities – recalling what has gone before and what may or may not be in the future. Sometimes we have to just live, in the present, subconsciously, letting our automatic responses guide us, but surely this can only come naturally, without thought or decision, unless we can consciously call our subconscious to step forward and take the reins for a while.

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Posted by on 20 May, 2015 in Psychology


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Music in my life – singing

As I mentioned in my previous post about music in my life, on the topic of playing instruments, I had music in my life from a young age. All children sing, right? We had school assemblies where we’d sing, probably hymns I think, but then I was also in a school choir for some time until age 12. I had a lovely voice and I was once called to sing a solo piece, which actually didn’t go so well.

While I was in the choir, I recall being positioned over on the left side, maybe at the back. I can remember some of the warm-up exercises we did, and I can remember how our music teacher would conduct us, just like in the orchestra – learning to follow the music while at the same time following her commands for more softly softly, or louder, and keeping us in time. I wonder if she could pick out my voice above the others (there must have been 20-30 of us), or perhaps she did hear me that time on the school trip to France.

Yes, the school trip to France. I took my walkman with me (it was still cassettes back then). Some of my friends had walkmans too, but they had cool albums to play with the latest chart hits. Me, I had my Michael Jackson Off The Wall album to play – the first ever album I bought. I’m not really that old but when I was old enough to take myself off into town on my own and I had saved up enough pocket money, that’s what I bought – I liked Michael Jackson and I didn’t recognise any chart stuff. So that’s what I had with me on the school trip to France.

I didn’t really have any friends amongst my classmates, my best friend being in the class below and not on the trip, so I was grouped with classmates in a dormitory I hardly spoke to. They were listening to one lot of music and talking amongst themselves and I had my headphones on and listing to my music… and lying on my bed I remember just singing along. I could sing that stuff, I could sing anything.

It must have been loud, I don’t know what it sounded like, I must have been doing it to be noticed, I think I felt quite alone in the group, but who else could hear? I think I did do it to draw attention to myself, even from the teachers, to get into trouble, just for attention’s sake, but that didn’t happen. No one came in to tell me off, but maybe it was heard – our French teacher on the trip with us was also the music teacher.

So perhaps she had heard me that time and heard that I could sing (solo) and that’s why I was called to sing a piece at a school play. The play was Fantastic Mr Fox I think. I was given a sheet of music for a song I didn’t know and I had to take it home and learn it on my own. This was something I’d never done before – I don’t know how we learned choir pieces but any other songs I sang I at least had the actual song to listen to, to sing along to, like my Michael Jackson album. I muddled through and then I think we had one dress-rehearsal where I practices with the pianist (perhaps the music teacher herself – I don’t remember).

Then on the day, it all went wrong.

What I recall is, I was to stand on one side of the school hall and the piano was on the other, in front of all the students, teachers and parents that were there. I was probably nervous but I had been put in that position and I just got on with it. As we began, the problem was that I couldn’t hear the piano, and the pianist couldn’t hear me. I sang quieter and the pianist played quieter and I think it just all went out of time and the music teacher/conductor stepped in and called it off and I sat back down. I think people felt embarrassed for me, maybe I was embarrassed to, but talking about it with classmates they agreed with me that the pianist played too quietly. In hind sight, and honestly, I think I didn’t know the piece that well, and if I could have heard the music playing well enough then I would have been better able to sing along. I don’t think this experience posed a lasting confidence issue for me, although I clearly remember it well, but I think the point about needing to hear the music is a key point which I will come back to.

Now moving on to high school, here there was no singing, my voice broke, and my singing came to an end. There was no more formal singing and singing for fun was no longer possible. I remember my grandad mocking me when my voice started to break, I think because when it first starts to happen boys at the stage start speaking very deeply, or certainly their voices in that way are not what they and others are used to hearing. I think it then takes some time for the voice to settle down, yes through puberty, and I wonder if I had still been taking part in formal singing through this phase of my life how that may have better prepared me. But I didn’t have that, so I was left no longer knowing my voice, no longer able to sing what I was used to singing, and how I was used to singing it. I could be silly at times and still break out into a mock-choir boy voice and sing a line of a Christmas song, but that was hardly helpful, but funny nonetheless!

I do wonder if I ever had the confidence to sing solo at all, either in front of people or on my own in my bedroom (where I was always aware other people could hear me). Years later when I learned to drive I found my mojo again a little when I would sing in my car. The advantage here was that you can just crank the music up and sing your heart out – it somehow sounds good enough to yourself enough of the time, and you are safe in the belief no one else can hear you (providing you quieten things down when coming to a stop or driving through a residential area with the windows down!)

Skip ahead some some more years to this year, and in addition to having bought myself a keyboard to play piano on (as I mentioned in my previous post), I’m making more of an effort with my singing. Just like the piano, I’ve found myself delving into more of the theory-side of things, a lot of this through the beneficial means of Youtube, something I never had to do with singing when I was a school boy – I never had to understand that there were different voice types, I just thought there were girl singers and boy singers (and boys who sang like girls if they hadn’t yet reached puberty!) and opera singers like Pavarotti.

I started to learn what my voice was capable of, where in the music range my voice worked and didn’t work, switching from low man singing as I’ve always thought of it, and switching up to silly choirboy/girl singing.

I did some voice exercises and warm ups and doing these along with a tutor on Youtube was a way for me to break me out of my shell and provide me with a little confidence to sing at home, where even though I live alone I’m still conscious of the fact/possibility that other people can hear.

I have the songs that I like, the ones that hit a nerve or get me fired up and want to break out and sing along. Sadly, ever since my voice broke there became songs that I could (physically) sing along to how I wanted to, and songs that I couldn’t, with many songs seemingly falling into the latter camp. I tried finding songs that I could sing and sticking to only those, but that felt restrictive and even depressing, because I was trying to accept “no, you can’t sing that”. Voice exercises seemed to be pushed as the way to improve your voice, increase one’s range, and improve confidence. I do have some long-term motivational issues, so I stuck at these exercises for a while, and sure, they pushed my voice a little, but what really fixed my voice in an instant, allowing me to sing what I wanted, was singing in my car!

Now I just need to get the confidence to sing at home, especially since I don’t go out in my car all that often!


Posted by on 20 May, 2015 in Music


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Music in my life – instruments

Some people say how music is their life… but what they often mean is they have their earphones in a lot of the time just listening. For me, I’ve always had an instrument to play whether it be the recorder at school age 7, a few lessons on the piano, or reaching grade 3 on the trumpet at age 12, along with singing in the school choir. More on singing in my next post.

These aren’t exactly stellar achievements but having a musical instrument to tinkle on has been a must-have in my life, similar to the need to ride a bicycle.

My dad played guitar (he died too young for me to remember hearing him), one uncle makes guitars and the other plays them too, so naturally I had the urge to play also. The lessons (I think I was around 14 years old) were rubbish though – just a bunch of youngsters sitting around chatting to the teacher and no one learning much. It was on acoustic guitars too and that didn’t appeal so much either, so I jacked it in.

Then when I got my first part time job whilst at college I saved up and kitted myself out with my first electric guitar – just what I wanted to be playing, so I could be cool like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. I subscribed to a “teach yourself guitar” magazine which had CDs too, and stuck with those lessons for a few issues, but I got bored with learning – I just wanted to pick up my guitar and play, so that’s what I ended up doing, just playing, never teaching myself properly or really perfecting any song. This attitude haunts me to this day, mainly because my fingers are lazy and usually only two on the left hand do anything – it’s embarrassing to see this whenever I’ve videoed myself playing guitar.

This recent clip is okay, and I still make myself laugh by watching this (you can see how not so serious I am!):

keyboardTake a step back now to keyboards. As a child in the 80s I had a Casio, little keys, couple of octaves – my mum still has it somewhere. Well at aged 15 (I think) I wanted to play more keyboard so I had lessons for a while, but here I ended up being bored of the learning as I just wanted to play, and I did, I found my fun in playing by ear. So again, the lessons didn’t last long.

Playing by ear, I have come to learn, is a good party trick (for me at least, not that I’ve ever playing at a party, but a trick nonetheless), some people can pull it off a lot better, for me it only ever got me so far.

Anyway, jump forward now some 15 years later and I had the urge at the beginning of this year to be playing some piano pieces, so I found myself a second-hand keyboard on ebay at a nice price and I’ve been happily tinkling along since. In the beginning I knew I would have to knuckle-down and learn stuff properly – mainly because the pieces I was interested in were quite advanced and playing the simple tune by ear would not cut it. I found myself delving into some music theory (something I was thrust into as a child during my trumpet lessons, but I wasn’t smart enough, or enthusiastic enough to learn much of it) but then gradually, I found myself playing by ear again too. Actually I think I have a better balance now – I am printing off sheet music and studying it, and using my play-by-ear approach to help me study it, so I’m happy enough.

Here’s the next post, the one about singing:

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Posted by on 14 May, 2015 in Music


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Simple TV

Back in November (but yeah, only finishing the blog post now) I stumbled across Brian Cox’s latest TV series, Human Universe, on the BBC iPlayer website, but I chose to skip straight to the second episode, Why Are We Here.

I have increasingly found many of these types of science documentaries (if not many documentaries in general) to be a re-hash of something that has already aired. Indeed, even Professor Cox seems to repackage stuff he’s already talked about on TV. Generally such shows might bring something new to the table of knowledge, but this always seems very slight to me – I guess having watched such shows for a couple of decades, and read books on such topics, this is to be expected. This is why I skipped to episode 2.

Having such knowledge shared in this way, via a 60 minute TV documentary may well be easy to digest, but sometimes the content can seem to be “dumbed-down for the masses”, and filled out with bumph (such as trips to various countries and glossed up computer animations) – I have wondered at times how many pages the transcript of such an episode would actually take up. Indeed, I was going to say that I think it’s a shame when such knowledgeable people don’t publish a worthy book to compliment a series such as this, as it seemed to be a common thing the BBC would do some years back, but having just looked on Amazon, I see that there is actually a book to accompany this particular series.

A quote from the Independent says of Cox, “He bridges the gap between our childish sense of wonder and a rather more professional grasp of the scale of things.” I suppose this sums up my point well and perhaps I’m criticising the simple presentation, which at the same time expecting a more comprehensive approach, and being somewhat lazy-minded by not actively seeking out that further insight I seem to crave.

Simple TV is all well and good, but I’m sure I don’t say this for my own benefit: we have to keep our minds active, and inquisitive and search for more than what the basic information pretty pictures show us.

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Posted by on 14 May, 2015 in Books, TV & Video


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Beep beep boop – Create a New Post

We have all now been pretty much badgered into using WordPress’ ‘new’ New Post page. I like some others resisted for a while, while they got it polished. I have talked before how WordPress have these two ways for us to do things, the old ‘classic way, or the new ‘tablet-friendly’ way, and that my main gripes were that the tablet-friendly way was too restrictive for those of us that are using a proper computer and like all the options we’re used to to still be at our finger-tips.

WordPress gradually made it more and more difficult to get to the Classic page, and even the Classic Dashboard which I still prefer to use it increasingly hard to get to – the best way is to plonk http://%5Byour blog] in your browser’s address bar.

Two key things I still have particular issues with regards to the New Post page alone is 1# the lack of ‘amend the URL/get short URL option’ and 2# the scroll bar bug, oh and 3# the edit image bug, that’s three things, sorry.

The scroll bar bug:

This issue has been posted on the “help” forums but has been ignored, or perhaps has been seen and is just on someone’s To Do list, so I’m writing it up here to get it off my chest – who knows, other’s of you may be sharing my frustration!

The issue is that sometimes the content I’m putting together which is at the bottom of my post ends up further down than the scroll bar allows me to get to. When it occurs, the only solution is to either publish the post and then edit it (which pleasingly lands me on the Classic post creating/editing page), or save the post as a Draft and then find it (ideally via the Classic Dashboard, and click to Edit it from there.

The Edit Image bug:

Part of the new New Post screen’s arsenal of features includes a menu that appears over a picture you have inserted when you click on it. From here you can alter the alignment or delve in further and change things like borders. Occasionally a bug prevents this menu from displaying, and just like the Scroll Bar bug mentioned above, the only solution I have found is to either publish the post and then edit it (which pleasingly lands me on the Classic post creating/editing page), or save the post as a Draft and then find it (ideally via the Classic Dashboard, and click to Edit it from there, and the bug (initially at least) has usually vanished again.


Ironically, this bug occurred while I was first creating this post and prevented me from screen capturing the menu!


Posted by on 11 May, 2015 in Blogging


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WordPress Categories – overhauling

I’ve had my blog for over three years and I suppose the categories gradually formed naturally within the first year as I created varying posts and chose suitable category titles to assign to them, or assign them to. I also had the advantage of having content on a website prior to having my blog and having categories there, but the WordPress ones aren’t so rigid.

Once all the categories sort of created themselves (but not literally because WordPress isn’t that clever/helpful) it has been a case of simply choosing from the list of already defined categories and assigning new posts to them by clicking the ones I think the post fits into.

Once created, the Categories form a list, or “category cloud” on your blog which provide your visitors with a means to browse around the blog posts they might find interesting, which is especially helpful when, if like me, you have a blog that has a variety of topics.

What seems to happen now though is I avoid creating a new category for a new post, or I avoid considering a new a radically different category, and simply accept that “that post pretty much suits that category” when perhaps a new and more carefully chosen category title would better suit it… but then if I make a new category now, I feel like I would have to re-assess all my previous posts to consider others that might fit that category too.

So what am I to do?

How does anyone else deal with WordPress blog categories?

My previous words on WordPress Categories: (13Jan2014)
– considerations from a blog-reader’s perspective

I find a lot of blogs are hard to digest – take this typical scenario: You arrive at someone’s blog, they’ve been blogging for a while and have a lot of posts, perhaps covering a variety of (seemingly unrelated) topics, and in addition to reading the first post you come across you want to read a little more, but what next? You might read their previous post, if the post you read was their latest, or you might read their first post if the first post you read wasn’t their latest. After reading the first post I come to I usually find myself looking for that blogger’s About page, to gain a little more insight into who they are and what their blog is about – not everyone has an About page but I think it is important. Another way to find out what someone’s blog is about is to see which categories they have formed for the posts they have made. The categories can be in a list or ‘cloud’ format and can give you a handy glimpse into what the whole blog is about and what makes this person tick – something reading or scrolling through one blog post doesn’t (or isn’t likely to) achieve.

Different themes mean that the layout of each blog varies. Variety is good because bloggers can choose a theme that better represents them, but bloggers should not just think about the colours and style, but they should think also about the navigation from their visitor’s perspective – sometimes About page links aren’t easy to spot with a particular theme for example. Sometimes lists of Recent Posts or Categories aren’t there or aren’t easy to spot either.

The way we surf the web can often be seen as impatient, with surfers following links and buttons like a trail of breadcrumbs, nourishing our curiosity as we click onward, but if the next breadcrumb on a blog isn’t within sniffing distance then something else is likely to grab our attention instead. This is an opportunity missed for the blogger.

I think it’s fair to say that us bloggers like people reading our posts, but not only that, we like readers (especially new ones that haven’t seen our blog before) to stick around a little longer, go on to find other posts of interest, like posts, comment on posts, and then perhaps, once they have found they like what we and our blog is about, to follow our blog. An easy to find About page helps with this, but Categories do too.

If a visitor comes to our blog, reads the first post they find and then asks themselves “what next”, that “what next” should be close at hand.

A final tip is to include a link at the end of each post to where you recommend your reader goes next. Links to our sources is helpful to them, but also links to our own similar posts are helpful to us to keep our readers interested.

You can read more about how we surf the internet and the concept of brain nourishment in the book The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr.

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Posted by on 11 May, 2015 in Blogging


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Dreams – theft


I like it when I remember my dreams, and I like to search Google for what the different elements mean. Occasionally there isn’t a defining word or words I can pick out that I can plague Google with, and last night there was one such dream, although as I type this, the defining word was theft (which I have now interpreted, but anyway…)

I should also acknowledge that often my dreams feature something from the day before – something I didn’t consciously think of as significant, but then my subconscious decides otherwise. This, I also find fascinating.

Yesterday I read a fellow cyclist’s blog posts about how his bike had been stolen from outside his house – it was quite a new bike and had been locked up and covered over, but in hindsight an easy target for someone that knew it was there: a quiet bit of lock cutting in the night and away they went.

I’ve never had a bike stolen but I have had close friends and family members have theirs pinched. I suppose I am mindful of these instances and since I do leave my bike in various public locations during the day I am considerate about how I park it. I don’t always lock it, such as if I’m expecting to be in and out of the library, bank or shop within a minute or two, but I am also aware that a bike can be whisked away within that short period of time. In fact, if I park it unlocked then I drop it down some gears so should a thief decide to hop on it I have a hope of running after them and catching up before they’ve had a chance to figure out how the shifters work, or I strap my helmet round the wheel to momentarily delay or detract from an attempt. Really though, if I do park it unlocked for a minute or more then I’m constantly looking out through the window to make sure it’s still there. On Friday I left my bike outside the library, and because I was expecting my mum to be in there already I thought I would be in and out within a minute – it was also chucking it down with rain and there was virtually no one around, but still, when it turned out my mum wasn’t in there yet and I had found myself a book to read while I waiting, my brain was screaming at me the whole time to go and lock my bike (since I couldn’t see it from inside), telling me how I will seriously kick myself if I return to its parking spot and find it’s been snatched – it took a lot of self restraint not to just go and lock it. My mum turned up some thirty minutes later, but my bike was still there though (perhaps I’m pushing my luck and will one day regret it) – had it been a busy time of day with nice weather and the wrong crowd outside then things could have been different, but then I would have naturally locked it as soon as I parked it.

Anyway, back to the dreams, and theft, which wasn’t about my bike being stolen (but that’s where the link came from), but some CDs of mine. I have a CD rack that holds 50 CDs, and I dreamed that I was staying in a dorm room and I had foolishly left my stack of CDs by my open door and when I looked, some 5 CDs were missing (the rack is full, so the missing CDs were obvious) – numbers can be significant in dreams, so perhaps 5/50 are relevant. I saw a hand reach round the door and swipe another and I went after the guy and took it from his hand, I then approached the guys he was sharing his room with, one of which was a sort of team leader (an authority figure) and politely asked for my CD back. For some reason things were a bit muddled here because I thought I had already got the CD back, and the one that I held out in my own hand and asked for back sort of morphed into one that wasn’t mine (and I was stuck in one of those situations where you realise you are a little mistaken in what you are saying), which the team leader guy recognised… so I politely asked if it would be okay if I looked through their CDs to find any that I believed were mine and they would agree weren’t theirs. I should also add that the guy I had caught taking the CD was a friend of mine, at least a past one since we moved apart (in the dream I couldn’t remember his name but as soon as I woke I knew – this can, I believe, be cause that part of the brain is more asleep and not accessible to the dream/subconscious state), although I thought anybody could have taken the other CDs, and also the guys in the group seemed decent enough and I wasn’t of the mind to go in there all guns blazing.

Anyway, that was the dream and I have now looked up the dream meaning of “theft”, although I’m not sure what the music CDs represents in all of this, but I have an idea of what the theft was about… but I shall keep that to myself ;)

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Posted by on 11 May, 2015 in Psychology


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