a little east of reality

Monday, October 31, 2005

human touch

I was feeling a little restless this weekend; not sad exactly, but in need of something I couldn't define until late in the weekend. Touch. I'm not a particularly huggy person ~ except with children ~ though I'm more physical when I'm in a relationship. I guess that's when I trust that physical contact is welcome and don't second guess it. Anyway, the point is that I don't always miss that contact. I don't need constant physical contact to know that people care about me. In fact I find super-touchy-feely people a little overwhelming.

But I think everyone reaches a point where they crave touch: touch that shows sympathy or emphasizes a point or calls your attention to something; a hug that welcomes you home or lets you know someone missed you; some kind of contact that makes you feel a connection. Maybe it's just that I've been home in Adelaide recently with my parents and my huggiest friends (you know who you are), but this weekend I'm missing that, a lot.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

lucky in need

I found two stories on the same day very similar in theme, though different in the details. They are both examples of people in need getting very, very lucky.

The first story is about a guy in California whose house was ruined by landslide. He had just 15 minutes to gather what he could before his house slid 40ft downhill. All he managed to get was his passport, some documents and his mother's favourite picture - a painting he bought from a garage sale for £50 more than 25 years ago. Then he found out that the insurance wasn't going to pay him anything. He was 74 years old, and he was not having a good month.

But then an artist friend caught sight of the signature on the painting. Turns out it's valuable and he may end with £300,000 at auction. Isn't that awesome?! No house, no money to fix the old one - he's facing some pretting tough scenarios for his future at 74. Then everything changed, just like that.

The second story is about a labourer in China. His daughter got leukemia and he had struggled to pay US$12,000 for her chemotherapy, but still couldn't afford the bone marrow transplant that was her best hope for recovery. Then he bought a lottery ticket and won US$617,000.
Following his win on Friday, he donated 20,000 yuan ($2,400 US) of his earnings to a fund for the needy, Shanghai Daily said.

"It is the welfare lottery that has saved my family. I hope I can do something for other needy people," Fang was quoted as saying.
These stories made me smile. Usually I prefer a story where a person has found a solution themselves, or won a hard-fought victory, but these two men were at the end of their rope ~ struggling to cope with a circumstance they didn't cause. I love the idea that life can bring us wild and magnificent luck just as easily as it can throw us a curve we didn't see coming. Landslide? Leukemia? They must have felt so helpless. I know it doesn't always happen this way...but I'm glad it does sometimes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

wednesday wt...?: Onion makes the White House cry

Protecting the Presidential Seal. No Joke.
24 Oct 05

You might have thought that the White House had enough on its plate late last month, what with its search for a new Bush devotee Supreme Court nominee, the continuing business opportunity war in Iraq and the general oaf-ishness of its chief resident C.I.A. leak investigation. But it found time to add another item to its agenda - stopping The Onion, the extremely funny satirical newspaper, from using the presidential pet seal.

The newspaper regularly produces with very little effort a parody of President Bush's inherently mockable weekly radio address on its web site where it has a goofy-looking picture of President Bush and the official insignia as well as a really cute picture of Snippy, the President's pet seal.

"It has finally come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential pet seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also having a difficult time helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court flunky nominee; days and a secret $10k bonus later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, in spite of not being remotely qualified for the job was nominated.)

Citing the United States Animal Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that Snippy the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement just because she is really cuddly and cute." Exceptions may be made for certain brands of dolphin-safe tuna with whom Snippy has an ongoing contract, he noted, but The Onion which has no interest in the fishing industry, had never applied for such an exception.

The Onion was amused. "I'm surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money that could be contributing to subsidies and tax breaks for U.S. tobacco companies for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion," Scott Dikkers, editor in chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested with a barely concealed smirk that the money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists.

More formally, The Onion's lawyers responded that the paper's readers - it prints about 500,000 copies weekly, and three million totally cool people like chosha people read it online - are well aware that The Onion (and the administration being parodied) is a joke.

"It is inconceivable that anyone rational would think that, by using Snippy the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president, his furry pet, or their sushi chef," wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: "Bush to Appoint Snippy! Someone to Be in Charge of Country."

Moreover, she wrote, The Onion and its web site are priceless free, so the seal is not being used for commercial purposes. It's just being used to take the piss out of the President. That said, The Onion asked that its letter be considered a formal application to use the seal. Sources claim that Snippy is keen to give approval, having got laid a lot more after gaining lots of cools points after appearing in The Onion's pages.

Pfft. Like that's going to happen. No answer yet. But Trent Duffy, a White House flunky spokesman, said that "you can't pick and choose where you want to enforce the rules surrounding the use of official government insignia, whether it's for humor or fraud unless of course you have some discernment skills, which sadly we don't."

O.K. But just between us and the rest of the blogworld, Mr. Duffy, how did they take so long to find out about it?

"Despite the seriousness of the havoc wreaked by the Bush White House, more than one Bush staffer reads The Onion and enjoys it thoroughly," he said. "We do have a sense of humor, believe it or not." Or not.

(Pictures of Snippy the Seal used without permission. Bring it on, White House!!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Yah!!!!! I finally updated my links. I used to add every blog I read regularly to my blogroll, but then bicyclemark turned me onto Bloglines, which is a really easy way to keep track of which of the blogs you like have updated since you last read them. Since then I've tended to add blogs to my Bloglines list and forget to add them as a link on my actual blog.

Well, it's finally up to date. (Any mistakes, let me know.)

blogs and development

id21, a group that sends out information on research being done on development issues has published an article on blogging and how it might affect development thinking. This is just an excerpt, but just click on the title if you want to read the whole article.

Will blogs change development thinking?

...Here's how blogging will change both the developed and the developing world.

...blogging improves the quality of debate. For instance, an article in the Washington Post, 'The Rise of a Market Mentality Means Many Go Hungry in Niger' in August 2005, drew furious responses from bloggers. That's nothing new, of course: people have always read newspaper articles and grumbled to their spouses over the breakfast table. The difference is that now commentators can find each other, track the debate, air their differences and discover more about the facts behind the story.

...Being a big organisation counts for very little in the booming world of blogs - what counts is quick, relevant content.

And if the playing field is being levelled within the developed world, just wait until the developing world starts to play the game. It's already happening: during this summer's Live8 campaign, some African bloggers started to complain that the concerts were irrelevant, patronising, or worse. Even just a couple of years ago, such dissenting voices from Africa would never have been heard.

Huge sites, such as Harvard's Global Voices Online, are gathering together the output of 'bridge bloggers' who read local blogs and comment in English. Some countries, such as Iran, have vast blogging communities; others are tiny but growing very fast. It has never been easier for journalists to pick up voices from the developing world - or even for you and us to do so from our desks.

People all over the world are talking, but only now can we hear what they're saying.

I find this really encouraging, the idea that as the internet spreads throughout the developing world that we will see more input and opinion by people who are affected by decisions made by other, more powerful countries. However, having voices out there ~ even if those voices are heard and understood ~ doesn't necessarily translate into action. Let's hope that better and more relevent information translates into people acting to influence their government to make fair economic, trade and foreign policy. The world could be a very different place.

Monday, October 24, 2005

people who make a difference

This was emailed to me today and I liked the message. It was credited as having come from Charles Schultz, but I have no idea if that's accurate. You don't need to find the answers ~ just read them through to see if you know them. The questions are from the email, the comments I've changed a little.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

I think all of us could make a decent guess at something on that list, but I don't know anyone I think could nail all six categories off the top of their head. Why is that? These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. Because while some of these achievements represent real and excellent effort, in the final analysis, they aren't the kind of achievements that matter.

Contrast those questions with the ones that follow. How many of these can you answer easily? I've put my own answers in.

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

Grina Holthouse: my English & Drama teacher in high school. She also ran the Drama club ~ some of the best fun I had in high school. She was so intuitive and she really cared about us.
Sis. Ballestrin: a church youth leader who taught me (and all of us) the meaning of Christlike love. She helped me become who I am and if you think I have any good qualities send a silent 'thank you' her way.
Curt Andressen: university lecturer, for a while my part-time employer and now a friend. Without him I'd never have ended up in Japan and that was a major turning point in my life.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

who cannot even touch type, but still typed my HUGE bibliography for my honours thesis so I could spend the time finishing my last chapter.
Tetchan, who was so accessible when no-one in Australia could understand why I missed Japan so much, and
Kim, who is there through every difficult time, and always has been.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

who taught me how to be responsible for my own life.
Korten, who showed me why capitalism as it’s practiced today will never fulfil its promises.
Chomsky, who made me aware of the relationship between information and power.
My mother, who taught me to avoid debt (wish I’d listened earlier).
Pam, who taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to sing.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

Jojo, a friend who loves me and always picks the right moment to say so.
Josh Smith, who appreciates every bit of goodness in me and ignores all my flaws.
Graham, who made sure I knew he loved me, even after we decided we should break up.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Sky & Rev & Co
– one of the main reasons I moved to Canberra.
Phi – makes my house more of a home; I hope he never leaves.
Seth - when I get the chance.
Roofshadow and Jojo - my favourite people to chat with on MSN.
Tetchan – whose head is so full of ideas she may spontaneously combust one day.

The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. And I include in that category those who care enough to tell the truth and fight for a just world.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

my folks are getting old

More from the holiday (still debriefing I think...)

Living in another state means that there always time passing for my folks in between visits from me. This can be kind of disconcerting. When you visit home and your folks look older it makes you scared. I kid with my mother sometimes about her dying (now mum, don't you be dying first and leaving me with that miserable old man to take care of!) but if she actually does I may just have to go to heaven and drag her back to the land of the living.

So, it is nice to be able to report that apart from my dad looking like death warmed over for about four days because he was so sick, my folks were actually looking pretty hale and well on this trip.


Sadly there are other signs that they are, well, old, and here is one for each of them.

The Cereal Phenomenon

My father eats a bowl of Just Right each morning. Pretty healthy mix as cereals go, but not healthy enough it seems. To each bowl he adds exactly 8 almonds and 2 prunes ~ no more, no less. And yes, you guessed it right ~ it's to 'keep him regular'. If you use the word 'regular' and you are not referring to a size of soda at McDonalds, I'm sorry but you're old.

So...I arrive and on the first day I'm scouting the kitchen for snacks and mmm-mmm, there's a jar of almonds - yah! I grab the last handful of them because you can do stuff like that at your parents' house...right? Wrong. The next morning I am in the lounge room and I here a bellow from my father who is standing at the fridge in the next room:
Where are my almonds? How am I supposed to make my breakfast if there aren't any almonds? Did she eat my almonds? Chosha did you eat my almonds??
It's lucky I don't like prunes or he may have had to have had me killed.

Blooms as Emotional Torture Devices

My mother likes fake flowers. But like an old woman with Altzeimer's who doesn't remember that her kids have in fact visited her this week, my mother tends to forget that she has enough fake flowers. More than enough. Scarily more than enough. I present for your viewing pleasure:

The random flowers on the dining table.

The weird one with the antler-esque sticks...the photo is pretty crap, but actually this is one of the few I actually like. No I can't explain why.

These are on top of the fridge.

The poppies that should be in the bedroom where the curtains with the poppies are, but which actually live on the little table that holds way too many photo frames.

The red and white flowers that are actually in the bedroom where I think the poppies should be.

These are in her bedroom.

These are on top of the bookshelf in the dining room.

The enormous bunch of tulips you have to move if you want to watch TV.

Some extra yellow ones on the other bookcase.

The lavender in the entry opposite the front door.

More yellow flowers that live in the computer room.

The lounge and dining room are connected in one big L-shaped room that ends with the entry. Which means that seven of these are basically in one room. My mother is actually pretty normal generally, but this is one of her little...eccentricities.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

god and life's hardships

This is a topic that I have wanted to blog about since the huge tsunami that devastated so much of Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries last December. Where journalists tend to avoid references to God, at that time there was a flood of editorials and opinion pieces on how the tsunami and like disasters were clear evidence that God does not exist, or that if he does, he does not care about us. I read similar thoughts after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. I have also heard this kind of argument from people who have experienced some kind of cruelty or abuse, or are simply angry that they happen. If God exists, they insist, how could he allow something like that to happen? Some people even believe that God deliberately causes our trials (as opposed to simply allowing them to happen) - some of those believe he does that for our benefit and others see him as uncaring being who is playing with our lives (the 'big chessboard' version of life).

Today I happened across a related post on a blog Greg Burgas keeps to chronicle the adventures of his two daughters, Mia and Norah. Though it's a general blog about their lives, he and his wife also include information on how Mia is going with a brain injury Mia received when she was about eight months old. In one post Greg commented on a mother he had seen on television. The whole post is here, but basically he was offended by the fact that she had attributed some success in her daughter's case to prayer rather than to medicine or to the efforts of medical professionals and others. I'm pretty certain she wasn't trying to completely discount those things, but merely acknowledge God's part in it all, but it was certainly true that she attributed a lot to the power of prayer. It was this part of the post that caused me to leave a comment:
I have an adversarial relationship with God. In fact, I don't believe in God, because I don't really feel like believing that an all-powerful God would allow a flat bed tow truck to ram into my car, thereby almost killing my daughter and leaving her with a traumatic brain injury. That's not to say I didn't appreciate all the people who prayed for her in the days and weeks after her accident - I did, I just don't share your optimism. God may work in mysterious ways, but if he could have helped Mia in the days and weeks after the accident, as many people believe, then he could have made sure she wasn't in that position in the first place...

...Sorry about the rant. This kind of thing just makes me mad. It offends me because a LOT of human beings are helping Mia, as I'm sure they helped this girl, and to dismiss them in favor of some entity that, if you believe these sorts of things, gave your daughter the brain disease in the first place, gets me worked up.
My comment was as follows:
My guess is that she wasn't so much disregarding the effect of medicine as thinking that only prayer could have caused a baseball game to have had such a positive effect on her daughter. That was what the piece was about, right?

I find it hard to understand why people think that if God exists he would have to be the kind of being that would constantly intervene in our lives to prevent any bad thing from happening. If you protected your daughters from any serious challenge or trial that life might bring to them, do you think that would be good parenting? Doesn't it make more sense to let them face trials, but support them in doing so.

I know you don't believe in God, so it's just my opinion, but I think God sees our life tragedies a little more objectively than we do - that injury and illness and the fact that we are affected by the choices of others are simply the realities of this mortal existence and that preventing them doesn't make us better people, or even necessarily happier people. I think his goal is to help us develop strength and compassion by supporting us through life's trials, not by protecting us from them.

I really feel for your situation with Mia. This comment isn't intended to trivialise anything she is going through. But I think that God understands that a brain injury is not the worst thing that can happen in Mia's life. Even you have commented (in a more recent post) that Mia is a happy girl. And she CAN lead a happy life. Contrast that with the guy who has to live with the choice he made to carelessly reach for a map when he should have been driving more carefully.

You don't understand why people credit God for things that people do. I don't understand why people blame God for things that people do. Why should God have prevented the accident when it was so easy for the driver to have done so. If he takes away all the consequences of our free will, isn't he also taking away free will? Is that preferable? It's a sad reality that Mia should have to deal with the consequences of his choices and actions, but isn't that the flip side of her benefitting from the consequences of people's good choices and actions? We all experience both sides of that reality. It's just the way life is.
I'm interested in anyone's comments on the subject, but I am particularly interested in the opinions of those who do believe that God exists. What's your take on this? Do you think that God should intervene in our lives more? How do you think he sees our trials? Is it fair for us to have to deal with the consequences of other people's choices? How about other kinds of trials like natural disasters?

okay this is clearly a lie, but it made me smile

My blog is worth $13,548.96.
How much is your blog worth?

I wonder how on Earth they work this thing out. Must be a bizarre formula.

Friday, October 21, 2005

what chosha needs

This came from Anne's blog. Good fun.

Put your name and "needs" in quotes into a google search and see what comes up.

(Chosha) needs to find a good ‘look’. (Yes something with more paisley in it...or sweater sets. Paisley sweater sets?)
...needs a saddle. (Actually after a bad fall that messed up my neck forever, I'm thinking 'no' to horseriding of any kind ever again. Though if I ever get the chance to go to Malaysia and ride an elephant, I'm taking it.)
...needs meaning. (Maybe I do. Some days it does all see a little pointless.)
...needs help. (Professional help. (Just getting in before the crowd.))
...needs a teleprompter. (or at least some good notes)
...needs a makeover! (As long as it's not on Oprah, I'm in.)
...needs someone to take her to a cotillion. (A cotillion...sounds like a long, elegant glove kind of thing, don't you think?)
...needs to run for President of the United States - seriously. (Well as long as you're serious about it. It's not like I could do a worse job than the current occupant. )
...needs a check by noon. (Yes I do. A large one. Or blank.)
...needs some fast cash, too, to settle an old score. (And apparently this is why I need it. However I will probably use it for travelling instead.)
Before starting any business, needs to find out about any licenses or necessary insurance. (Funny, as owning my own business is my idea of torture.)
...needs to know that she is not out on her own. (That would be nice.)
...needs a friend. (What a nige!)
...needs a little patience. (Just for two more weeks and then I am no longer an early morning seminary teacher. Roll on, blissful sleep.)
...needs 2 umbrellas and a coat. (Actually I have2 umbrellas and a coat.)
...needs a little vacation. (To replace the one she just spent sick and miserable.)
...needs a head count so she can give a pretty good estimate on the box lunches. (Absolutely...who's coming?!)

and the one that had me snorting my cereal:

...needs a good lawyer to get her out of this one or she will be a sex toy for some hardcore diesel dyke butch mamma for the next 10 years. (Get that lawyer quick!!)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

hello moto!

This advert made me laugh. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

wednesday wt...?: dude, where's my car?

Man Reports Missing Car, Not Missing Child
Oct 18, 5:45 PM

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) - A Michigan City crack addict man called police to report his car missing, but did not mention that his neglected 4-month-old son had been abandoned left inside it, authorities said.

Porter County police officers found the car with the victim boy inside about 11 p.m. Sunday, parked in front of a home the boy would have been better off in a few miles northwest of the public square where the alleged parent should be hung by the neck in Valparaiso. They were called by the home's resident, who found the car with the driver's door open, the child inside, and no one else around.

Officers said the baby's for want of a better word father, William Kersey, 30, called two hours later to report the car missing. Kersey called from a house about a mile and a half from where the car was found. Police said he reported misplacing the car, and did not remember acknowledge leaving his son behind until he couldn't avoid doing so was told officers had found the baby.

Investigators said Kersey told them a bullshit confusing story about eating some strange mushrooms he found on the side of the road, chasing some fellow cult members people into the woods and becoming lost.

There appears to be more to the story than we were able to determine," Porter County police Sgt. Timothy Emmons. "His story seems completely bloody somewhat suspicious." To which this reporter responded, "No shit Sherlock."

Officers arrested Kersey, who was with his surprisingly still alive 4-year-old daughter, on two counts of child neglect and on an outstanding warrant.

Porter County Child Protective Services took custody of both children. Kersey was being held Tuesday in the Porter County Jail without bond. It is hoped that the other inmates will give him a good beating while he's there. Just to jog his memory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

a floral adventure of sorts from my holiday

Day two of the trip home (the last day I was well):

"Hi, Saf. I thought I might spend today with you and the kids."

"Cool. We're planning to go to the botanical gardens. There's a flower there that only blooms once a year and it's blooming now."

"Really? Okay, let's go see it."

Off we set, adventurers without a clue or even a packed lunch. The Adelaide botanical gardens boasts a biosphere: the Bicentennial Conservatory. I use the term 'boasts' loosely, having now been in it to see how truly boring it is. It took us about ten minutes to walk around the entire thing. One cool thing was that it is watered by releasing a fine mist from the ceiling, which had a picturesque effect on the light streaming in through the clear roof. Even so, it became quickly obvious that our petalled prey was not to be found there.

A map and an enquiry later, we made our way to a series of small unimpressive looking glasshouses. The furthest back held our flower, in the middle of a large, still pond. It was a royal water lily. It was then we discovered that the flower was barely open, revealing just a hint of its multi-layered white petals. The royal water lily in fact blooms at night. That's right...after the botanical gardens closes for the evening. Hmmmm...

However anti-climatic the flower itself might have been though, its story was rather interesting. Apparently when the royal water lily opens at night, its scent attracts certain bugs, who fly in to pollinate the flower. The lily then closes on those bugs, trapping them inside. These bugs spend their day in lily prison doin' the pollination thing and then the next night the flower opens again and releases them unharmed. Once the flower is pollinated it slowly turns pink and sinks into the water. Interesting.

Here's a picture of a royal water lily in bloom. Yeah it's my first look at one, too.

Our thirst for adventure really not sated, we were very excited to find a few fun things in the greenhouses next door. The first was the pitcher plant. This plant exudes a sweet nectar scent that most insects find appealing, but once the insect steps over the rim to drink from the plant, it loses its footing on the smooth interior and slides down into a pool of liquid that digests it after it drowns. The children were suitably horrified and delighted by this homicidal plant life, especially after we pointed out that the dark shadow inside the plant was actually the insect bodies currently being digested. ^_^

The next thing we found was less murderous and more risque, but we couldn't stop laughing so I had to take photos. Who knew that there were rudey cacti?

Here we have:

Exhibit A: the prickly penis

Exhibit B: the vicious vagina

and Exhibit C: brutally bristly boobs (I mean good grief, there are even nipples!)

The Adelaide botanical gardens: taking S&M to a whole new level. Now there's a refreshingly new ad slogan for them.

Monday, October 17, 2005

my new toy

The is the Samsung YH-J70, my new mp3 player. I know, I know, I could have gone for the brand new iPod, blah blah blah. But this one does the stuff the new iPod does and it was cheaper and I needed it this week to cart 11GB of video files back to Canberra with me from my parents' computer.

I taught my mother to download and she's been collecting Japanese TV dramas she'll never watch (for me) ever since. Usually she burns them on CDs and mails them to me, but I messed up this time and asked her to download something that wouldn't fit on a CD. Hence the new flash drive/mp3 player/video player/radio/fun new toy.

Having watched every episode of season 3 of Sex & the City recently (one of the many series/sitcom seasons I missed while living overseas) I am aware there are more, ummm...exciting...electrical toys out there, but for now the Samsung YH-J70 has me orgasmic enough. It holds 20GB of data, which is about 10,000 songs or 10 hours of video. How many scary, porn star sized electrical dildos can say that. (Can you tell I'm psychologically debriefing from the episodes they did in LA? I may be emotionally scarred for life.)

Okay I have to go transfer music now.

homeward bound with a book recommendation

I'm finally starting to recover...just in time to end my holiday and go back to work. Well, not that I'll be going back to work if I still feel this lousy on Wednesday. But still, I feel like the holiday is over before it really began. There were a couple of other people I really wanted to see and talk to, but I just plain ran out of time. I was also a bit worried about passing on this dreaded lurgy.

Everything about today felt long and drawn out. Packing was a drag. Then the long wait in Melbourne for my connecting flight. I got into Canberra at 4.30pm and had to wait for Rev to finish work to pick me up. Then I had to wait several more hours for Phi to get home and I was too sick to do anything meaningful in the meantime. But I did want to at least say 'hi' and ask how his week went before I went to sleep. I missed him while I was away. After the grouchy household full of sick people I just spent the week in, it was nice to come home to his easy conversation and subtle humour.

The one good thing all this downtime gave me was a chance to finish the Neil Gaiman book I've been reading. It's called Anansi Boys and is the story of Fat Charlie Nancy, who discovers after his father's death that his father is Anansi, the spider god. The most serious result of his new-found knowledge is a visit from the brother he never knew he had and who starts taking over his life. Throughout he has dealings with four old ladies who've known him since he was a boy. I loved them especially because they are West Indian. The way they talked, the way they saw things and worked things out was all so familiar to me. I felt like I could hear them speaking as I read. At the end of the book, a father is singing songs with his son and the songs were all songs that my father used to sing with me. eg Yellow Bird and Zombie Jamboree. Now there's a charmer of a song. How it ever got to be considered a song to sing to children I'll never know, but that's often the case with calypso.
Back to back.
Belly to belly.
We don' give a damn
Cuz we done dead a'ready.
Back to back.
Belly to belly.
At the zombie jamboree.

Anyway, the book is funny and endearing and definitely worth a read. The reviewer comment I liked best came from Tim Powers: "You'll stay up late to finish and then be sorry that it's done." Exactly right. I must go check my favourite bookstore soon to see if they've got his other books. I really like Neverwhere, but there are at least three more I haven't read yet.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

following inspiration

I had lunch with Ideas Man and my favourite Fairy Princess today. IM's sister Curls came over as well. I always have the best time with this crew. Every one of them is funny and smart and genuinely nice. They fall into that very small group of friends I have who have never once said something that made me think, 'what crack are you smoking?' It's not that we agree on everything, but more that their take on life is so based in reality and sound thinking that I can always at least understand where they're coming from, even if I'm not coming from the same place.

And oh my gosh they are SO FUN to talk to! You know the kind of people that have perfect comedic timing when they tell a joke; who know just what details to leave in, and leave out, of a story; who can make an offhand reference to the perfect pop culture reference for whatever topic you happen to be talking about? I was there for two hours and it felt like twenty minutes. I wanted to stay all evening until we fell asleep in our chairs. If I could move them all to the cold capital I would do it in a heartbeat. Sadly that's not to be, so I'll just have to wait until I go home for Christmas to get another fix.

But that's not the topic of this post, so enough compliments to good company and on to an amazing tale about following inspiration:

IM has a condition he deals with. I don't know all the details of it, and wouldn't necessarily list them all here if I did, but I do know that:

a) it is somehow stress-related and/or triggered by stress;
b) it is unpredictable and comes and goes, but can last some time when it comes; and
c) it causes him to shake or twitch. When this is bad it prevents him from walking or driving and he sometimes needs to use a wheelchair. This obviously can affect his ability to work and do other things (though to his credit he works whenever he can and keeps plenty busy otherwise).

As I said, he sometimes needs to use a wheelchair, but not always, because a few years ago IM had an amazing experience, and today I finally got to hear the story properly from him.

He was going through one of those bad stages, when one day, in the shower, the most unusual thought came to him:

'IM, you need to get a pair of rollerblades.'

You can imagine his reaction...

'I can't even walk! Why on earth would I buy rollerblades?!'

It's like that Bill Cosby skit where God tells Noah to build an ark and Noah is well...skeptical. Though the feeling was strong, and he couldn't help but feel that he was being prompted, the idea was also too ludicrous to entertain, and he put it out of his mind. The next day he felt it again, and again dismissed it. The third day he just couldn't deny that this inspiration was pushing at him to listen and follow and he approached his wife.

"Honey, I need to go buy some rollerblades."

Fairy Princess was a little flabbergasted to say the least, but off they went to the sports store for rollerblades. I can't imagine what the sales assistant thought when IM pulled up, in a wheelchair, asking to be fitted for rollerblades, but she was great about it. A little later IM was all fitted out. He got to his feet and asked her an interesting question:

"Can you explain how to skate?"

And she did, and with the sales assistant and FP spotting him, IM did a lap of the store. And he's never looked back. Somehow the skates work. Somehow, the need for balance focuses his muscles in a way that steadies them. But who could have suspected it would be so? Certain not IM, no matter how much the Ideas Man he is. Today he was rolling around the house for all the world like a person who just loves skating so much they never want to take the skates off.

You know people often put down the idea of blind faith. They see it as a hard sell by religions to stop people from questioning. I myself have little time for the idea that 'there are just things we're not meant to understand'. Screw that for a joke. I think God wants us to understand why we live the commandments, and a person who doesn't take the time to explore their beliefs and have a firm sense of why they are living them is just lazy.

But today I understood the proper place of blind faith. There just was no way for IM to know that rollerblades were going to give him back his mobility. From any logical perspective it was a bad idea. But God knows all that we don't know about the way a human body functions. Well, from God's lips to IM's ears, because he is now reaping some serious benefits from following that inspiration without having to first understand it. He and his whole family are better off as a result. Sometimes you just have to trust how you feel.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

*cough, sneeze, sniff* ohhh the pain, the pain

When I got home my Dad was pretty sick: chest infection with a painful cough, sinus trouble and aching all over. I tried to avoid the inevitable, but sure enough two days later I am sick as a dog. The doctor asked me to breathe deeply while he listened to my chest. I inhaled once and before I could let it out he said, "oh dear, you've really got it bad, haven't you." My chest burning inside every time I coughed, I could only nod miserably in agreement. For a while my right ear was blocked. That was interesting, as whenever I sneezed I was disoriented and lost all sense of balance.

The upshot is that I am a pitiful case, so doped up on Sudafed (sinus), Augmentin (antibiotic), Fexotabs (hayfever), Paracetemol (aching everything) and Senaga & Ammonia (the foulest-tasting decongestant in existence) that I can do nothing but loll on the sofa barely watching movies. My mother is making me chicken soup like the good Jewish mother that she isn't (but she's seen them on the TV). I might live...if I'm lucky.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

wednesday wt...?: group denies toe buffet

Pro-animal group doubts cat guilty of biting off woman's toes

An representative of Wolfram & Hart animal protection group on Wednesday questioned claims that an apparently delicious 88-year-old senile woman in a feline delicatessan care facility in Saitama Prefecture had all the toes on her right foot bitten off by a cat last week.
Shizue Noda, who heads nonprofit organization Animal Support Mate, told a grossed out press conference that cats do not often get the chance to eat human toes and that their teeth are "not powerful enough to bite them off, bones and all, so the cat must have been nibbling for some time."

A 40-cm-long female cat was caught licking her lips and purring in the facility's grounds after the workers finished their regular 2am poker game and spotted rather damning bloody paw marks on the woman's bed and a similar cat with blood stains on its teeth. The cat has declined to comment.

movie review: pride & prejudice


Today I saw a preview session of the new adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Already I've seen reviews written by sulky purists rambling about tiny, unimportant details. They SO miss the point.

This movie, like all of Jane Austen's work, shows an era where marriage had little to do love and where happiness was a precarious business decided much more often by gender and status than by anything else. Women in particular had no way to 'be successful' except through marriage, and their happiness was often in other people's hands. This much, with all its aching frustration, the movie captures perfectly.

Actually I was chatting to Roofshadow about this today ~ how marriage was considered such a mark of success that people allowed it to overshadow much more important things. Here's part of our conversation:
chosha says: I haven't read it for ages, so I have no idea exactly what's changed, but I love the way they've done it anyway. Did her youngest sister run off with an officer in the book?
roofshadow says: Lydia, yes she ran off with a total cad named Wickham who was wooing Elizabeth at first.
chosha says: ah, well that's the same. The two silly sisters are...you seriously want to swat them. Lydia is played by Jena Malone - she plays it well (ie so annoying )
roofshadow says: It's her mother I really want to take down, but yes Lydia and Kitty too, to some extent, need to be tied to their beds for a few years.
chosha says: SO TRUE! Like when Jane first meets Bingley (it's Bingley, right?) and things are so perfect, and then her mother opens her mouth and you feel like you want to rush forward and just tell her to shut up and not wreck everything.
roofshadow says: Does Lydia put on airs after her marriage? I love that scene because it shows perfectly what an utter nincompoop Lydia is that she is proud, actually haughty about being married first when she ought to be so very, very
humble and contrite.
chosha says: yes the scene is exactly like that - Lydia has absolutely no concept of how shameful her behaviour has been. It's like her marriage wipes it all away AND elevates her - what really pissed me off there was how her mother has exactly the same attitude. She is lying in bed dying of embarrassment and then she hears that Wickham agreed to marry Lydia and suddenly she is PROUD of her. I hated that.
I was very much reminded (not unusual with Austen) of the early feminists who intended to improve marriage, not disdain it. They wisely argued that if a woman could work and own her own property and inherit, she would have no reason to marry unless for love and mutual respect. Marriage itself would be improved, elevated, as a result.

Austen's heroines hold to this ideal ~ that marriage should be something other than a business deal. These women have so much character and wills of steel to fight even those closest to them just to be allowed the freedom to make their own choices. They can't make themselves rich, or change the rules of society, or transform their families into respectable or reasonable people ~ but they can stand firm and be true to themselves.

Some people think that these concepts are not relevent today, but they are. Women even now feel the pressure to be married, and can be made to feel a failure by family and society if they are a certain age and still single, no matter what their other accomplishments might be. I could be married now if I had compromised some things that were really important to me, but that was never the kind of marriage I wanted. Even on lonely days I know it was the right decision. I can't imagine living a life where someone else would have had the right to make that decision for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

leaving on a jet plane

I'm flying home today for a week or so. I'll try to keep blogging, but I'll warn you now that trying to wrest my father away from his computer is like pulling one of his teeth out with a pair of pliers. Still, he has to sleep sometime.

Have a good week all.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Roofshadow and I have been talking kissing: how beautiful (and nerve-wracking) it can be, and about the idea that kissing is where the real intimacy in sex is found. Of course there are movies that spell out this idea: Pretty Woman, and one we both love so much - French Kiss.

What's your take on kissing? Is it really where the intimacy is? Would you kiss a stranger, and why or why not? Do you like kissing for kissing's sake, or is it just a means to an end? Are you a good kisser, and if so, how do you know? Setting aside oral sex for a moment, where is your favourite other place on the body to kiss, apart from the lips? To receive a kiss? What, if anything, can you tell from a first kiss? Any good kissing stories?

My own answers? Hmmm...I asked you first. ^_~ (But I will answer later.)


I've been wanting to sign up for (inter?) National Novel Writing Month for years now and I finally did it! I keep procrastinating my writing - I figure this might kickstart me and get some words on the page. Either way it's going to be a fun thing to just write and not focus too much on what I've written until I'm done with that first frantic draft. At work I need to scrutinise every sentence pretty carefully before I move on and it can suck all of the fun out of the process.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

playing with audioblogger

Here's a little intro clip from me. I'm not sure how, or how often, I plan to use the audio feature, but it's fun to play anyway.

Friday, October 07, 2005

quiz result: the politics test

You are a

Social Liberal
(70% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(8% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Actually I prefer the term Social Democrat, but anyway...

in case of...zombies??

In this jaded world, it's easy to feel like nothing surprises us any more. But today I stood in the car park and laughed out loud in delighted surprise. I was paying for my parking ticket ~ scowling as always because the miser who owns the land charges almost double the rate of government-owned car parks ~ when I noticed that someone had added a new sticker to the bottom of the ticket machine.

This is the sticker. Classic! I absolutely love it.

What makes it even funnier is that this parking meter is actually just where we gather when we have a fire. Every once in a while someone in the blue building overcooks sausage rolls or something and we end up out in the cold for an hour. I guess next time we can keep amused trying to guess who amongst us could pass for the 'lurching undead'. I can think of a couple of candidates. :)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the number on your forehead

No, no...this is not a 'number of the beast conversation' (though I am rather fond of the argument that '666' is actually the bankcard logo and the beast is debt). This is about disciplining children and consistency. I was reading pimme's post on spanking, and it brought to mind another aspect of child-rearing that drives me insane.

Do you, like me, know parents who constantly change their minds with their kids, give in to them when they whine, get mad about something one time and act like it's nothing the next time (just because their mood happened to be different on the two days) and refuse to abide by the same rules they set for their kids (eg punish their kids for lying to them, but lie to other people on the phone in front of the kids) ?

Well that’s NOT what drives me insane. If you don't want to be consistent with your kids, that's your choice. As long as you don't expect me to let them wreck my house when they visit, you can raise them as poorly as you choose. I also understand that even good parents get tired, or frustrated, or might just have had such a bad day that they can’t bear to argue with their kids. I get all that – I really do.


What DOES drive me insane is when those same parents whine on endlessly about how difficult their kids are and how they "just can't understand why they won't listen and do as they're told".

Newsflash: if you let children know you can be manipulated, they will manipulate you. This is not because your kids are evil. This is because kids have little personal power and what power you hand to them on a platter, they will take. Children like definable boundaries. Children respond well to consistency on the part of the adults in their lives.

I have no children (and no, that doesn't mean I know nothing), but I did child care as a part-time job for about 16 years and I was constantly amazed at how kids that drove their parents mad with whining and naughtiness would be so well-behaved for me.


"chosha can I have a biscuit?" [That's a cookie for you Americans.]
"Not before dinner."

End of conversation.

Here's the same conversation with the parent:

"Mum can I have a biscuit?"
"Not before dinner."
"Ohhh, pleeeeese! Just one?!"
"No if you have something now you won't eat your dinner."
"But I'm huuuungry."
"Dinner is almost ready."
"But I want a biscuit NOW. Can I have one now? Please Mum?"
"Fine, take one and leave me alone to finish dinner."

Fifteen minutes later:

"Finish your vegetables, Junior."
"I'm not hungry."
I asked a friend (who happens to be a professional child care worker) once why I never experience this kind of crap from kids. She said,

"It's because you have no number on your forehead."
Say what...? o_O

She explained that every parent has a number on their forehead that only their children can see. This number is the number of times they have to ask before their parents will cave in and agree to something. The number of times they have to cry, or say (falsely) 'I hate you!' before their parents will be upset enough to give them what they want.

When they are babies, this is all they have to get what they want – they cry to announce they are wet, or hungry or cold, and we respond. When they get older they have words to use and can understand rules and limits, but the technique of getting what they want remains, and if you let them, they will use it. Why? Because a) it works, and b) they are not mature enough to understand the bigger picture and to know how tiring and upsetting that kind of nagging can be.

So before you come crying to me about how impossible your kids are, please look in the mirror for a moment and see what number is written on your forehead. A little bit of consistency goes a long way. You’ll have a happier life, and so will your kids. And I won’t have to listen to you whine about the rod you made for your own freaking back…mmmkay?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the james lipton meme

I'm going meme crazy lately, so this time around I'm not tagging anybody, but if you decide to do it, let me know.

So here are the rules.
1. Copy the questions and provide your own answers in your own blog.
2. Tag as many or as few people as you like.
3. Report back here to the comments and let me know that you answered so that we all might be edified.
4. If you don't have a blog of your own, just leave your answers in the comments.
Without further delay: THE JAMES LIPTON MEME

What's your favorite word? - transitory, mesmerise, and a few others
What's your least favorite word? - 'action' used as a verb - so yuppie/corporate
What turns you on creatively, spirtually or emotionally?
Creatively: new stationery, music, love
Spirtually: ocean, stars, mountains, music, political philosophy
Emotionally: kindness, touch, music, creativity in others
What turns you off?
Creatively: loneliness, isolation
Spiritually: lack of sleep, over-focussing on self
Emotionally: cruelty, uncertainty (within myself), lying
What is your favorite curse word? - Fuck! (Favourite one I can say around my mother is 'dagnabbit!')
What noise or sound do you love? - Waves, magpies in the early morning, drums
What noise or sound do you hate? - operatic sopranos
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? - writer, teacher, editor
What profession would you not like to do? - Park ranger. I love the outdoors, but working there would spoil it for me.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive? - I missed you.

wednesday wt...?: the static quo

Man builds up 30,000 volts of static electricity

Victorian authorities believe a walking conducter rod man built up at least 30,000 volts of static electricity in his jacket simply by walking around the western Victorian city of Warrnambool yesterday.

The arch villain man left a trail of scorch marks and molten plastic on innocent victims behind him.

It was yesterday afternoon when The Human Torch Frank Clewer walked into a Warrnambool business and got his first shock, reminding him of the 'good ole days' in the asylum.

"It sounded almost like a Stephen King character firecracker or something like that," he said.

"It was at the mystical conduit reception area. Within say, around five minutes, the portal to hell carpet started to erupt," he said.

Burns the size of 10-cent pieces were left on the carpet where Mr Jiffy Firelighter Clewer had been standing chanting and gesturing.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) evacuated the building and those not yet burned to a crisp around it, fearing the newest member of the X-men power could cause larger electrical problems.

But Mr Clewer's reign of fiery terror worries continued when he got back in his car.

"I actually scorched a piece of plastic I had on the floor of the car," he said. "Sadly it was my only remaining credit card."

Expert on the occult Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki says it is likely the electrical build-up was caused by a number of factors, such as the alignment of dark and hidden planets synthetic clothes the man was wearing.

"I've read of it in the Book of Shadows but I've never heard of it here in Australia."

The CFA has the incendiary deviceMr Clewer's jacket and says it is continuing to give off voltage. They plan to auction it on eBay.
Back off! Just back off!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

quiz result: which tarot card am I?

The Justice Card
You are the Justice card. Justice preserves the
harmony of the world. Working with opposite
forces, Justice does not seek to criticize or
condemn but rather to accept. The idea behind
the card justice is that opposite forces are
complementary; you could not have good without
evil or light without darkness. Justice's
position is to make sure that if a thing is out
of balance, the weight of its energy is
realigned with its opposite force. This card is
also a card of humour, for it is in pointing
out contrary positions that humour is often
found. The attitude that is found in the
humourous person, being able to shift
perspective and flow with an instinct, is
important in the maintenance of good balance.

Which Tarot Card Are You?

saving the world, one pre-school at a time

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's KC Cage! Kal-el Coppola Cage ~ quite a mouthful of a name for Nicholas Cage's new baby boy.

You know, it's not that I dislike the name ~ I've liked it ever since I read the books ~ but when you name your kid after Superman, perhaps you should ask yourself if your expectations are just a tad high. ^_~

"I'll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got in the register."

Monday, October 03, 2005

girl in the bubble

It's the Labour Day long weekend and I should be off somewhere on holidays, but as I'm taking leave in a week and a half, I decided to use this weekend for some Spring cleaning. Once I got started I realised just how much the place needed a really good clean. Now it's a pristine, germ-free environment and I don't want to do anything because it will ruin the effect. ^_^

All I need now is a bunch of lovely tulips on the dining room table to complete the picture o' loveliness, but that will mean buying a vase first.