Sunday, 30 September 2007

Too much information.

I have been tagged by Bee. Or should it be stung?

It is a fancy sort of tag, a Swiss Army knife affair with questions for almost all occasions.

The first one is based on my middle name. Using each letter of my middle name, I have to find a word that describes me.

I don’t have a middle name. What does that say about me? Indescribable, presumably.

The next one is a series of questions.

1. If you could have superpowers, what would they be? There is no obligation to be unselfish, save the world etc.

Well, I think I would like to be able to understand how people think. Not read their minds, but to understand what drives them. That's the psychologist in me.

If not that, the ability to turn water into wine so I could be both useful and entertaining at dinner parties.

2. Stranded on a desert island with a CD player and 10 CDs, what would they be?

Oh, bloody hell! This will be telling.

1. Mozart’s Horn Concertos
2. Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto
3. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
4. Carmen with Maria Callas.
5. Gregorian Chants (Monks of Silos, Spain).
6. A Night Wasted with Tom Lehrer.
7. Cat Stevens
8. Edith Piaf
9. Cabaret with Liza Minnelli
10. The Red Dwarf theme.

3. If you were a smell, what would you be?
Fresh basil.

4. If you were a bird, what kind would you like to be?

5. If you were a bird, whose head would you poo on?
No-one. I am a civilised bird.

6. Are there any foods your body craves?
A good steak. Crisp chips. (NOT fries.) A cold beer on a hot day.

7. Favourite time of year?

Summer because it is warm.
Autumn for the colours.
Winter for the bulbs and sparse beauty.
Spring for the lovely blossoms and acid green new growth.

8. Favourite time of day?
Mornings, after a warm, balmy night.

9. If a change is as good as a rest, which would you choose?

Change. There will be plenty of time to rest, soon enough.

10. If you could invite five people living or dead, past or present to a dinner party, who would they be?

My immediate five male ancestors. And their wives. Love to hear them comparing their lives.


Now, the rules of this game is that I have to pass this on to four other people. I’m a rebel. I do these things but I have never tagged. What does that say about me?

Send your answer on the back of a stamped, addressed envelope to anyone but me.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Picking a fight?

This photo is one that is doing the rounds of the internet/email circuit demonstrating the perils of upsetting your wife.

I have some doubts about it. There are the six picks, all new, all 'placed' fairly symmetrically around the car. Maybe, but it seems a little contrived.

But the thing that has me puzzled is the number plate. Why bother to cover it with newspaper?

Am I being unreasonable? Or am I just being picky?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Just awful!

There is a habit, and it is a habit, on rainy days, for people to say:
"Isn't it an awful day?"

This irritates me. Why should it be an awful day, just because it is raining?
Especially now, when we need rain so desperately. But that is another post.

But I am undecided as to how to best answer them.

Plan A: My normal response.
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"Ah ... my garden is loving it!"

Plan B: A bit aggressive.
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"For who?"

Plan C: Also a bit in your face:
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"OH NO! What has happened?" (Even more effective if you can drop whatever you are holding.)

Plan D: Gentler (the counsellor in me... )
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"That's interesting, why do you say that?"

Plan E: The optimist:
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"I'm sorry to hear that. Personally I'm having a great day!"

Plan F: The pessimist:
"Isn't it an awful day?"
"'What makes you think it wont get any worse?"

Plan G: The nihilist:
"Isn't it an awful day?"
Smile wryly and say nothing.

People. Funny critturs.
(Yes, I'm a people too, I admit it.)

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Not Bright. Bright.

Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence?
There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work.

- Gallagher

A minor leakage problem.

A UFO, Unidentified Foaming Object
Captured in a deserted country paddock. (Aren't they always?)

[Scene One] A laboratory lunch room, late at night.

One of the signs of a scientist is curiosity.

Back in my early days of chemistry I was also interested in photography. My lab technician was a amiable lad called Tony; such was my interest in photography that I did the photographs at his wedding.

One of Tony's interests in life was shooting.

It is only a matter of time before a scientist with an interest with photography and an off-sider with an interest in shooting start wondering about how they may combine their interests. Especially when we were sitting around during the long and exceedingly dull night shifts.
What, we wondered (as one does), would happen if a can of shaving cream was hit by a shotgun? And could we capture a picture of it?

[Scene Two] A paddock.

A can of Palmolive Rapidshave is tied to a fence post. In one direction is Tony with his 12 gauge shot gun; the cartridges filled with large (BB) pellets. In another direction, at right angles to the first, is our curiosity filled scientist-photographer clutching his SLR camera.
In a third direction, roughly bisecting the first two and out of harms way, were a small group of cows, possibly puzzled but it is never easy to tell with a cow.

On the count of three ...

Bang! Snap! Moo!

For the technically minded: the shot gun had BB pellets (.22in diam) so that a small number of holes were made. Finer pellets would probably just demolished the can.

For those with a good memory: this post is resurrected from the wreckage of A Curate's Egg v1.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The monster.

This is a Monsteria on my back veranda. I inherited it from the foyer of our company many years ago and it seems to enjoy being under the Jacarandah tree. It spreads out about 10 feet wide and about 5 feet deep and, on reflection, probably needs re-potting.

It gives the veranda a lovely tropical feel - I think it originates from Mexico or thereabouts.

Many moons ago (390 or so, I think) I bought a Kodak book on photography and the dopey people who wrote it had used a photo of a Monsteria leaf for some demonstration and described it as 'moth-eaten' or something similar. Memo to Kodak: the leaves are supposed to look like that! It must have annoyed me, thirty years later I am still bitching about it.

Below is a photo from deep withing the leaf mass. Yes, I am about to be a father! The thing has tried to fruit a few times in the past, only to wither away in cold weather. This time, so far before summer, there is a fair chance the fruit will ripen. I am told they taste like fruit salad.


Friday, 21 September 2007


There is a primitive beauty in candles.

They have long been associated with the occult, and other such religions, despite the advent of all manner of fancy technological alternatives. They captivate the soul, showing both its brightness and it frailty.

Candle lit dinners are still the romantic benchmark.

Birthdays would be dull without them.

And it is the symbol of Amnesty International, an organisation needed more and more in this world.

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared."
- Buddha, 563-483 B.C.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Put your right leg in...

1. While sitting down, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it.

2. Get a bit of rhythm happening. Got a smooth clockwise motion happening? OK.

3. Now......while doing this, draw the number '6' in the air with your right hand.

What did your foot do?

I'm sure there is a good reason for this but I am yet to find it.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Moving Pictures.

The art-deco staircase of my local cinema, the Rivoli, Camberwell.

In a comment to the last post, Crafty was skeptical about my stated choice in movies: "Non-violent, social issues, chick-flicks".

Now, my psychology training says I should not get defensive but should challenge her stereotype of men and why she thinks I should fit into it. But I wont. For the exercise I will get defensive.

First of all, I get no thrill from the testosterone genre, the Tom Cruise, Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger style of “good guy takes on incredible odds using unlimited supply of bullets and wins” movie. They give me the irrits. Especially when they try to stereotype the enemies – notably Russians and, more recently Muslims – while pretending that they themselves are the purest of the pure.

I do not like the science fiction type that, to someone with a science back ground, are clearly wacky. When people head off to explode asteroids, re-rotate the earth, feed firelighters to the sun, my brain just goes into a shut down that even one of these well intentioned missions could not restart. I do enjoy the more plausible ones, such as Jurassic Park, or the totally farcical ones that are not trying to present reality, such as Star Wars. I loved the first Star Wars but rapidly lost interest in the sequels. An 8 year old boy can fly a fighter? Give me a break. I end up stewing over the logical inconsistencies in these movies.

My preference in humour leans to the clever rather than the slapstick. To give you a feel, while TV shows, not movies, I loved M*A*S*H and Red Dwarf. I do not like humour that is built on insulting and putting down others in a hurtful way or just plain weird. Consequently I never watch any Adam Sandler movies. Nor could I warm to Borat. I did, however, like the Simpsons.

I quite enjoy the various cartoon movies that have been about, such as Cars.

I cry at movies. I don’t mind admitting that. I take the view that if the producer has gone to a lot of effort to make something funny I will laugh, if he has gone to a lot of trouble to make things sad, I will cry. It is part of immersing into a film, to feel the emotion. I like moving pictures.

So what do I like to watch? Recently I liked Marie Antoinette, The Italian, Copying Beethoven, The Lives of Others, No Reservations and Amazing Grace.

Maybe not chick-flicks, but certainly from the low testosterone end of the scale.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Playing favourites.

In a comment to my "Five cent's worth" post below, Jujee asked for the following things:

1. My favourite past-time
Cooking a meal for appreciative guests.

2. My favourite item of clothing

A navy blue, naval jumper. Warm, well made, souvenir of working for the Navy.

3. My favourite jewellery piece

A nipple ring.

4. My favourite month

No preference at all.

5. My favourite number


6. My favourite year at school

This year - honours in Psychology.

7. My favourite season

All of them.
They all have their good points, I can't choose. I have to? OK, spring.

8. My favourite hair length

On my head? Neat, medium-short.

9. My favourite expression on self


10. My favourite expression on others

11. My favourite chips flavour

Plain, salted.

12. My favourite ice-cream flavour


13. My favourite time of day

Early morning.

14. My favourite day of the week

I'm a student, they are all the same.

15. My favourite movie genre

Non-violent, social issues, chick-flicks.

Time: 1:14pm
Date: September
Setting: My study (37°50'48.38" S, 145°05'58.87" E)

Maybe not.

I have a very good friend used to bring rum balls in to work at Christmas. "Look out" she would warn us, "Just one will put you on your ear."

The average rum ball is 10-15% rum. (Except for Aunty Vera's which were 0.001%)

The average shot of rum is 30ml, one standard drink.

It takes 5 standard drinks to get you to the legal maximum blood alcohol level, 0.05%.

That means you need to eat two kilograms, or nearly four and a half pounds, of rum balls to reach the the point where you are considered unsafe to drive.

Maybe not.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Snow Job

It has been a popular belief that Eskimos have 200 words for snow.

Well, let's have a look...

In 1911, Franz Boas recorded that Eskimos had four words for snow: Aput 'snow on the ground', qana 'falling snow', piqsirpoq 'drifting snow', and qimuqsuq 'a snow drift'.

In a popular 1940 article on the subject, Whorf referred to Eskimo languages having seven distinct words for snow. Later writers inflated the figure: by 1978, the number quoted had reached 50, on February 9, 1984 an editorial in The New York Times gave the number as 100, and, also in 1984, television station WEWS Cleveland quoted 200.

The idea that Eskimos had hundreds of words for snow has given rise to the idea that Eskimos viewed snow very differently from people of other cultures.

Certainly Eskimo languages have more than one word to describe snow. For example, Yupik has been estimated to have around 24 — but English has at least 40 words that describe frozen water, including "berg", "frost", "glacier", "hail", "ice", "slush", "flurry", and "sleet".

But not 200.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Five cents worth.

This has been a relational psychology test. The answers given to the questions have been shown to have a relevance to values and ideals that we hold in our personal lives.

The analysis is as follows:

1. The person who you are walking with is the most important person in your life.
2. The size of the animal is representative of your perception of the size of your problems.
3. The severity of the interaction you have with the animal is representative of how you deal with your problems (passive, aggressive).
4. The size of your dream home is representative of the size of your ambition to resolve your problems.
5. No fence is indicative of an open personality. People are welcome at all times. The presence of a fence is more indicative of a closed personality. You'd prefer people to not drop by unannounced.
6. If your answer did not include food, people, or flowers then your are generally unhappy.
7. The durability of the material with which the cup is made is representative of the perceived durability of your relationship with the person from number 1. For example, styrofoam, plastic, and paper are disposable; Styrofoam, paper, and glass (ceramics) are not durable; and metal and plastic are durable.
8. Your disposition of the cup is representative of your attitude toward the person in number 1.
9. The size of the body of water is representative of the size of your sexual desire.
10. How wet you get in crossing the water is indicative of the relative importance of your sex life.

I should hop in immediately and say I don't believe a word of it. It flows from the Freudian school, psychoanalysis, that I strongly disagree with. They, of course, would say that I am in denial.

It is a fun thing to do but belongs beyond the recipe page of the Woman's Weekly.

A strange confounding factor was that a number of people in the class brought in images of Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel and Goldilocks. Showing how easy it is for cultural background issues to influence thoughts. Nothing more.

I promise I wont look up what people put down for their answers for questions 9 & 10.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Psychological Testing

Read the following questions, imagine the scenes in your mind, and write down the FIRST thing that you visualize. Do not think about the questions excessively.

1. You are walking in the woods. Who are you walking with?
2. You are walking in the woods. You see an animal. What kind of animal is it?
3. What interaction takes place between you and the animal?
4. You walk deeper into the woods. You enter a clearing and before you is your dream house. Describe its size.
5. Is your dream house surrounded by a fence?
6. You enter the house. You walk to the dining area and see the dining room table. Describe what you see on and around the table.
7. You exit the house through the back door. Lying in the grass is a cup. What material is the cup made of (ceramic, glass, paper, etc.)?
8. What do you do with the cup?
9. You walk to the edge of the property, where you find yourself standing at the edge of a body of water. What type of body of water is it (creek, river, ocean, etc...)
10. How will you cross the water?

You can (but don't have to) post your answers in the comments.
I will give the 'official' interpretation tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 September 2007


I'm curious how many of my overseas readers heard that the APEC forum was held in Australia this week? My cursory look at various overseas news sites didn't seem to find much.

It was a meeting of 21 leaders from countries that border on the Pacific Ocean.

So we had the Presidents of America, China and Russia; the Prime Ministers of Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Plus sundry other leaders from Peru to the Philippines.

I'm not too sure at what other venues such a body of leaders are brought together. The UN tends to attract foreign ministers and such diplomatic bods. Certainly the opportunity to get them to discuss matters of substance face-to-face is one that should be made the most of. I'm not sure it was.

It has become something of a tradition that there is a 'dress-up' group photo. This is the one for this APEC, with all the leaders in Australian stockmen's coats. A bit drab.


Friday, 7 September 2007

Meanwhile, in the front garden...

A white-backed Magpie.

Poor, mistreated thing. That's 'bread and dripping' he has in his beak.

The doves watch from the house gutters, waiting for their turn.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The neighbourhood's gone to the birds.

The news of a free feed is spreading.

For the last few weeks we have had Rainbow Lorikeets visiting us.

This morning we had a couple of King Parrots.

When they are mature, the male has a red head. I think the one on the right is an unripe male.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The Nose Fairy

Unless you are a sheep, apparently:


Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Nice to meat you, Professor Grayling!

A blast from the past last week.

Last year I 'found' A. C. Grayling; found in the sense of found myself reading one of his books and, found I liked what I read and found myself reading some more. He is a professor of Philosophy in the UK.

I did, however, find one article on meat, indeed entitled "Meat", to be not to my liking. While I have no bones to pick with a vegetarian (can I say that?), as a food chemist I was less than happy with the technical aspects of his article which pivoted around the 'bad' things that meat contains or does to you. This resulted in a spirited correspondence. I was quite impressed that I could approach someone in his position and that he had the generosity to engage in discussion.

Last week the good Professor was in Melbourne for the Melbourne Writer's Festival.

I couldn't resist going along to one of his talks; he gave a very interesting summary on his latest book, "Towards the Light", on the history of liberty, and then I duly stood in line to get a copy of the book signed.

When I reached the front of the queue, he saw my name (it had been put on a post-it note by an assistant further up the queue) and paused. I didn't leave him wondering why the name was vaguely familiar but introduced myself and had a few words with him before letting the queue continue moving.

Nothing earth shattering but nice to meet someone you respect.

In the flesh, so to speak.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Snowparkle's Question

Snowsparkle asked if I could do a poll where I asked whether things happen for a reason, or just happen.

Always wanting to please, that is the poll for this week.

I will comment further on it at the end of the week.

Father's Day - Australian version.

Unlike the majority of the world which celebrates Father's Day on the third Sunday in June, Australia celebrates Father's Day on the first Sunday in September.

So, it was bacon and eggs in bed with the paper. Side orders of grapefruit and coffee.

I am off doing a LifeLine shift tonight (yes, I know, poor planning) so the official dinner was last night with my parents over as well. The meal was done by Martin and Richard, Simon's in Beijing and so was given the year off. Martin's girlfriend, Roni, was in the thick of things as well. The menu was a prawn and avocado starter, coq au vin with ratatouille, finished off with creme caramels.

Suitably spoiled, it is now time to return to studies...


Freudian footnote: when I first typed the last line, I wrote "it is not time to return to studies".

Greedy footnote: I went to Wikipedia to check up on when the rest of the world celebrated Father's Day and found that their are 21 different dates around the world. Hey guys! There must be a way to cash in on this!!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Spring has sprung...

The view from the front door, through an archway and into the front yard.

We Australians do do anything conventional like base our seasons on equinox or solstice. (I have no idea about how to decently make them plurals, so leave them singular). No, we go for the start of the month, much less thinking required. Spring is September-October-November.

And it is just as well that we do that, because if we waited another three weeks, as the druids would insist, the season would be over.

The blood plum is in full blossom, that's the white flower. The magnolia is not fully out but close. Back left is a camelia but they are irregular and irrational anyway. The splotch of red in the middle is an azalea. All this and sundry things are starting to shoot - grapes, roses - and the bulb season is in full flight.

And, and, it has been warm enoough to sit outside with a coffee and enjoy it. (Well, okay, I sat out with a coffee, a draft essay and a red pen for editing but I still enjoyed it.)