Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Halloween Dinner

The annual Kennedy Halloween dinner was, as normal, highly doubtful in the quality of the course names but met with high acclaim from those lucky enough to get a position around the table.

Other courses were:

Primeval sludge of the netherworld

Eye of newt, gall of goat,
fillet of a fenny snake,
does this little nibble make.

Delicately poached portion of a witch’s inner thigh,
served with pate of the gonads of felix niger.

Aren't you sorry you missed it?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Monday, 29 October 2007

Oh no, not another one...

Meggie has tagged me with one of those dreaded memes. Funny, I always though she was my friend. No, I'm joking, Meggie. She also awarded me a distressingly pink, but appreciated nonetheless, prize:

So how could I not do her meme? OK, here goes Meggie.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night?
Arnold Schwarzenegger claiming that marijuana was a leaf, not a drug.

2. What were you doing at 0800?
Sitting in bed, drinking coffee, reading the paper. I'm a student. We do that sort of thing.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Watching the news.

4. What happened to you in 2006?
The cat died, finished Graduate Diploma of Psychology, went to New Caledonia, 25th wedding anniversary, had a nipple pierced, went to Scotland for my niece’s funeral, audited a chocolate factory.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
“Thank you.”

6. How many beverages did you have today?
Coffee, decaf, water, soup (does that count?), beer, more decaf.

7. What colour is your hairbrush?
Yellow. Do you have a problem with that?

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Coffee – tall latte.

9.Where were you last night?

10. What colour is your front door?
Brunswick green with stained glass inserts.

11. Where do you keep your change?
I drop it in local playgrounds to give the children a cheap thrill.

12. What’s the weather like today?
Sunny, mild, windy.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavour?

14. What excites you?
What sort of excitement? Are you talking about getting me agitated? Then it would include lying politicians (tautology?), climate change deniers, slick salesmen and door-to-door purveyors of fine religion. Are you talking about jumping up and down cheering? Nothing really. Are you talking excited, as in aroused? The feel of skin on skin.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
No. Had a haircut on Tuesday. Actually, I had them all cut on Tuesday.

16. Are you over the age of 25?

17. Do you talk a lot?

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
I have no idea what the O.C. is.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
Yes. A few.

20. Do you make up your own words?

21. Are you a jealous person?
I don’t think so. A little envious, at times.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
Alan. I also know an Aïda.

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’.

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
Beats me. What’s a received call list? (Who's writing this list?)

25. What does the last text message you received say?
“Excellent. I’ll see if she’s free. A plus tard!”

26. Do you chew on your straw?
No. Don’t use straws.

7. Do you have curly hair?

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
I assume you don’t mean bed or the shops. Thailand.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
The Liberal Party, en masse. No, sorry, the Liberal Party, excluding Petro Georgio.

30. What was the last thing you ate?
Hot corned beef and mustard sandwich. With a beer.

31. Will you get married in the future?
No plans to.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
The best because it is also the only one. “Sleeping with the Enemy”. DVD. My wife was doing a family violence assignment.

33. Is there anyone you like right now?
Yes. (Shhhh!)

34. When was the last time you did the dishes?

35. Are you currently depressed?

36. Did you cry today?

37. Why did you answer and post this?
I’m starting to wonder that myself. Is there anyone still awake out there?

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey…

OK Meggie, that's the best I can do.

The Cultivator

This is Cannabis sativa, commonly called marijuana. And a wide assortment of other names.

This is Arnold Schwarzenegger, commonly called the Governator. And a wide assortment of other names.

Now it has been reported that the Governator has decreed that marijuana is not a drug.

It is a leaf.

A fine distinction, Arnie.

Does that mean that opium is not a drug, it is just a seed pod?

That cocaine is also just a leaf?

That mescaline is just a cactus?

That psilocybin is just a mushroom?

That nicotine is also just a leaf?

Arnie, I suspect that you have been standing down wind of some pretty dodgy fires of late.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Light at the end...

One exam to go and the course is finished!

Well, this stage of it, anyway.


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Good news!

We have just been told that, after his chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Margaret's brother has been declared cancer free.


On a related note, the standard procedure is to say that the patient is in 'remission'.

From the psychology point of view, I don't like the term

It implies that you are on borrowed time, that it (IT!) may return, like some marauding creature from the swamp. If you do get cancer again, the temptation to feel that you have 'lost' because it has returned will be very strong and very depressing. With 'remission' it is just one on-going fight and you are never declared the winner.

On the other hand if you say "OK, I beat it! Move on!", you will be in a much better position if you do get cancer again. The thought in your mind will be "I beat the last one, I will beat this one". A totally new fight with no baggage.


Tuesday, 23 October 2007

As ye sow...

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

I had a very interesting lunch yesterday. J Cosmo Newbery and I went to the city and had lunch with Brazilian pilot, Gustavo, his wife Helena and their young daughter, Karen.

So why was this so special? Well, we had never met these people before, you see.

But many years ago, a seed had been planted...

Cosmo had a period in his life, prior to his poetry efforts, where he spent his idle moments teasing Nigerian conmen. On his site, Sweetchillisauce, he records an amazing string of correspondences he had with these guys. Most people on the internet have met up with the Nigerian Scams; you get an email that offers you amazing amounts of money if you help in a rather dodgy financial deal. Sadly people do fall for the story and it is a multimillion dollar business. For more information see Cosmo's Nigerian Scams FAQ and his Scam Test.

So, how did this lead us to be having lunch with Gustavo and his family?

Gustavo had visited Cosmo's site, read the letters, and decided to try his hand at teasing these guys too. With considerable success, it appears. As he happened to be in Melbourne on holiday he contacted Cosmo, hoping to have a chat.

Now, anyone who deals with lots of money, the way the Nigerians do, is likely to be dangerous. Think Mafia. Think mobs. Think danger. I think Cosmo took me along as protection! Certainly Gustavo knew that danger may have crossed Cosmo's mind - he offered to meet him in a police station! As it was, we opted for a Chinese restaurant.

My point in all this? It's over 10 years since Cosmo first got up the courage to write to a Nigerian scammer. Nothing crossed his mind at the time to suggest that it may result in striking up a friendship so many years later.

Robert Louis Stevenson said not to judge your days by what you harvest but by what you plant.

But it is truly amazing where things take root sometimes.

Photo courtesy J Cosmo Newbery.

Murphy's Law

Today, Tuesday, I am required to submit the empirical half of my thesis for marking.

By midday.

Last night, I got the above message on my printer. It seems it decided that it needed a service and it needed it NOW and no way would it print anything until it felt the warm and comforting hands of a service engineer. That was at about 10:30pm.

Through the wonders of Skype and 3¢/min world wide phone calls, I called Epson US to see if there was a way around it. I am still not sure whether I got a person or a computer as the-voice-was-ver-ry-e-ven-ly-mod-u-la-ted but the only advice they could offer was to ring Epson Australian service.


So I went to Simon's room and dusted off his old printer and brought it through to use.

It ran out of colour ink.

Then it ran out of black ink.

But eventually I got the thing printed.

Murphy's Law, "If something can go wrong it will" is quoted often enough but what people fail to realise is that Murphy was an optimist.

Mind you, I haven't walked down to the University to submit the report yet.

Who knkows what still might happen?


Saturday, 20 October 2007

What's 38 years between friends?

Exhibit A:

Two school boys in a 1969 photo at Healesville High School.

Exhibit B:

The same two boys, 38 years later.

Damien and his wife, Fran, came to dinner tonight. First time I had seen Damien since year 10 at high school.

Neither of us had changed a bit.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Last requests...

Top eight most common requests to funeral directors:

1. To be cremated with their pet's ashes;
(I hope Fluffy was dead too.)

2. To have a mobile phone in the coffin;
(What message would they have on it? "Sorry, I can't take your call at the moment...")

3. To ensure they are dead;
([bang!] "OK, now what?")

4. For a mirror to be held over the face to check for signs of breathing;
(OK, I'll accept that.)

5. To be cremated naked;
(You are always naked, underneath all your clothes.)

6. To be buried in their own garden;
(I hope they don't have a dog. "Mum, Mutsy's dug up Granny again!".)

7. To be buried with their teeth in;
(In what?)

8. To be buried with all their savings.
(Will they accept a cheque?)


Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Four stages of life

Someone, Meggie?, sent me the above picture of liquids that are supposed to represent the four stages of life.

On reflection I suspect they have missed some:


Sunday, 14 October 2007

Against the spin...


The blurb about the dancing lady suggests that most people see her spinning anti-clockwise and yet nearly everyone who commented on my last post saw her spinning clockwise.

Obviously I have a lot of very individual, right-brained readers!

Friday, 12 October 2007

The Dancer and the Brain.

It's the great Right Brain vs Left Brain Test ...

Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

uses logic uses feeling
detail oriented "big picture" oriented
facts rule imagination rules
words and language symbols and images
present and past present and future
maths and science philosophy & religion
can comprehend can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
knowing believes
acknowledges appreciates
order/pattern perception spatial perception
knows object name knows object function
reality based fantasy based
forms strategies presents possibilities
practical impetuous
safe risk taking

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Ig Nobel Prizes - 2007

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Winners
For achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK

MEDICINE: Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects."

PHYSICS: L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

BIOLOGY: Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night.

CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.

LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.

LITERATURE: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.

PEACE: The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon -- the so-called "gay bomb" -- that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.

ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

AVIATION: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.

The Death Penalty

Today, Wednesday 10 October, is World Day Against the Death Penalty.

A bit of a mouthful but I agree with the sentiment.
Should you wish to sign a petition, you can do so here .

This topic is a bit too polarising for A Curate's Egg so, if you are interested, it is continued on my 'political' blog here.

Trivia: When I went to the site to sign the petition, it was in French (you can change it to English) but it was apparent from the context that the French phrase "la peine de mort" means "Death penalty".

Presumably it is the origin of the English phrase "to do something under the pain of death".

Reflections on the universe.

Photo: Hubble telescope

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip and have pitched their tent under the stars.

Some time during the night, Holmes wakes up and looks up at the stars. He nudges Watson awake and asks him what he observes.

Watson replies "Why, Holmes, I see millions of stars, glittering in the night sky".

"And", asks Holmes, "what do you deduce from that?"

Watson replies “Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Horologically, it tells me that it's about 3 AM. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes?”

Sherlock responds “Watson, it tells me that somebody has stolen our tent!”

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Is it something in the water?

Over this year...

◊ My brother in law has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
◊ A friend of the family has been diagnosed with leukemia
◊ My neighbour has been diagnosed with some sort of tumours in his prostate

...and I just had a call from a good friend to say that he has brain cancer.

I'm not enjoying this.

◊◊ Postscript ◊◊

Thanks to Gracie for pointing me at this: The Survivor Movie.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Simple Pleasures

(click to enlarge)

There is a simple reward in gardening, an investing in the future.

The above photo is of a small patch of the garden as you go through into the front yard. Over time I have planted all sort of things in it and a few have found their own way there to add to the patchwork. A Mollis Azalea, a feral succulent with tiny star-shaped flowers, a native wax flower and assorted bulbs (Dutch Irises I know, the rest are 'bulbs') are holding the fort at present, made all the more lovely by dappled light coming through an apricot tree. Waiting their turn are violets and anemones, a fish-bone fern intrudes every so often but is beaten back. It has it's own area. A small daisy has a foothold and every so often an apricot tree wannabe sticks its head up.

Overlay that with the increasing bird life and you can start to see where the pleasure comes in gardening.

Oh, and the other secret ingredient is lots of mulch, meaning very little weeding.


Friday, 5 October 2007

Big stuff, little stuff and important stuff.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with a resounding "yes." The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand

The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things-your family, your children, your faith, your health, your friends, and your favourite passions-things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, And your car.

The sand is everything else-the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls".

"The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children.Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner.
Play another round of golf. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn."

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.

"I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend!"

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Heath Robinson

A week or two back I visited Snowsparkle's blog and she was recounting how she had set up a contraption of strings and pots as a bear alarm when she was camping. Impressed, I said that Heath Robinson would be proud of her. She confessed to never having heard of Heath Robinson, so I am posting a couple of his pictures.

He loved drawing the most convoluted machines made of strings, pulleys, weights, buckets, whatever. The machine above is some sort of potato peeler. The one below is picking up cigarette butts from the street.

I suspect he is the spiritual inspiration for Wallace and Gromit.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Recycling - Part II

OK, no-one seems to have had any serious problems with the idea that we are a bottle garden.

What is on this planet, is what we have. It all just stays here and gets recycled.

Now that, logically, must apply to the total amount of carbon on the planet.

Carbon on the planet is found in three places: The ground (oil, coal, gas, carbonate minerals), the biomass (plants and animals) and the atmosphere (carbon dioxide).

The biomass stores carbon. Plants take it out of the atmosphere and convert it to wood or leaves. Algae also extracts a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A certain amount breaks down to constituents or is consumed by animals who store carbon as flesh but also exhale carbon dioxide. On a larger time scale, plant and animal matter will produce oil, coal and gas when conditions are right. Algae especially is a source of hydrocarbons as, when it dies, it falls to the seabed where pressure and time and geological luck convert it to oil, gas or coal. It is not a quick process.

Currently we are extracting and burning the ground-stored carbon at a rapid rate, where it transfers to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a by-product of combustion.

Concurrently, we are also clearing forests, often accompanied by burning of the felled timber.

So we are putting the stored carbon into the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing the mechanisms that remove it from the atmosphere. The level present in the atmosphere must increase.

Nothing I have said so far is guesswork or assumption. It all follows logically from what we all learned in school about plants and animals and from the notion that we are a closed system.

The only item that I must take on faith is "what is the effect of increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?" The scientists say it leads to warming. I have no reason to doubt them.

When I posted earlier in the year about the ongoing drought in southern Australia and suggested that it was a consequence of global warming, I was poo-pooed by various climate change doubters.

I wonder if they still feel this way.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Recycling - Part I

It is a fascinating, and a little sobering, realization that we live in a bottle garden.

True, there is the occasional meteorite that adds to the collective mass of the planet and the occasional satellite leaves it but, by and large, we are a closed system.

Anything that is here now, was here then.

Conservation of mass.

Each and every one of us contains atoms that have previously participated in the make up of dinosaurs, ancient forests, Neanderthal man, woolly mamoths and the earliest plankton.

Every time we breathe, we inhale atoms of nitrogen and oxygen that were also inhaled by Caesar, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, Hitler and Jesus.

It is, if you like, a giant Lego set. People, animals and plants are being constantly constructed and deconstructed from the same set of parts.

Quite amazing when you think about it.