Monday, 31 December 2007

Carrots and such like.

Yep, they are all carrots. And you thought they were orange coloured, didn't you!

Never mind.

But what prompted this post is not a carrot at all. Well, not really.

It was a rabbit.

We are looking after a neighbour's rabbit while they are on holidays. I don't know its name so I call it 'Bunrab' when I am in feeding it. I think 'Bunrab' comes from a Pogo Possum cartoon series of long ago. There you go, you can use radiocarrot dating on that bit of information.

Every time the neighbours go on holidays they give us a bag of carrots to supplement the dry food they have for the rabbit. Every time I go in to feed the rabbit I chuck away the limp, withered and, without putting too fine a point on it, disheartened carrot in the compost and leave a fresh, cool, crisp carrot.

The rabbit never touches the carrots.

Where did this rabbit-carrot thing come from? Bugs Bunny? Peter Rabbit?

Any of you out there have a rabbit? Does it eat carrots?

Sunday, 30 December 2007

When being a little cranky can be so good...

.I know summer is really here when I get organised enough to make my own pasta and then use fresh basil from the garden to make a pesto sauce to go with it. The fresh pasta I make is an egg pasta that is kneaded and then cut with a hand cranked machine similar to the one above.

Tonight, I got organised and got cranking. Bliss!

Oh yes, the simple pleasures are the best ones.

What do you associate with summer?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

A small holiday puzzle

A holiday puzzle, but no prizes.

is the middle,
is the beginning,
and the end.

What am I?

Friday, 28 December 2007

Murphy was an optimist.

Yesterday our washing machine died.

This sort of thing usually happens in the holiday season. It is the universe's way of being mischievous. Our neighbours' hot water service died, too. Miraculously she found a plumber. (Reminds me of the Woody Allen joke: "Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.")

Murphy's Law states that "if something can go wrong, it will."
Kennedy's Corollary says that it it is going to go wrong, it will do it on a holiday.

Anyway we had an unplanned visit to the local electrical warehouse and bought a new one. It should be delivered on Monday.

Today, by accident, I found the receipt for the old one.

The old machine was bought in 1990, so it lasted well. What surprised me was the price. The replacement machine is fancier than the original one (though same maker) and, after 17 years, was only 13.9% more expensive than the original machine.

That's a price growth of 0.8% a year.

Pretty impressive, really.


If I have a concern about the new machine, it is that it uses much less water. While this is good in a global sense, I use the water on my garden. Does this mean I will need to do more washing?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Hunting the wild Haggis...

"The Haggis Hunting Season runs from St Andrews Day (Nov 30th) to Robert Burn's birthday (Jan 25th). It is a long held tradition that the finest restaurants attempt to be amongst the first to serve a freshly caught "Haggis Nouveau" for dinner on St Andrew's Day, accompanied by a fine Beaujolais."

So says the leaflet that accompanied a ceramic Haggis Whistle that helped fill my Christmas stocking. "Traditionally used to call the Haggises (or Haggi) down from the hills at the end of the season."

So, what unusual Christmas presents did you get?


My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare. - Mike Myers.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Stand back!

The annual Boxing Day sales are on.

Remember all those 'Peace on Earth, goodwill to your fellow man' pledges made over lunch yesterday? Well, they all count for nought in the mad stampede for bargains at the sales today.

Do not stand in the way of a shopper and a bargain. Look closely at your insurance policy and you will find that such suicidal an act is expressly excluded.

It is a time when you realise just how thin the veneer of civilization really is.

Richard, with all the confidence of the the young and inexperienced, headed off to Chadstone, the local shopping complex this morning but, to his credit, he left home at 7:30am. He was home again in two hours, largely unscarred and with three books.

Do they have Boxing Day sales where you are? Do you go? What are you looking for?

Or, more simply,...

"The first thing we do," said the character in Shakespeare's Henry VI, is "kill all the lawyers."

So, the previous post simplifies to "Merry Christmas".

And best wishes for 2008.


Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Seasons Greetings

i. From us ("the wishor") to you ("the wishee")

ii. Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the summer, or as the case may be winter, solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their not to practice religious or secular traditions at all ...

iii. .. and a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual preference of the wishee.

iv. By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:-

v. This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal. This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration will be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

vi. This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

vii. This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

viii. This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

ix. The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor

x. Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

xi. This greeting is made under English Law.

I don't know the author of this. I found it tucked away on some zip discs I have been sorting.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Fruits of the season.

As I sat to type this I realised that we had just passed the longest day. Seems odd, when our warmest weather is yet to come.

But, on cue, the apricot tree is ripening. Christmas time is apricot time. We are getting lots of fresh fruit and looking around for things to do with it. True, much of it gets eaten as is. I made an apricot tart for dessert last night. I don't know what Freud would make of it - the meal started with Harlot's Spaghetti and ended with a tart. Oh well, never mind.

The blackbirds, wattle birds and possums also help us harvest the crop.

And yes, those are drops of rain on the fruit. Real rain. For the first month in ages we have moved onto the positive side of the monthly average. Now it is steamy outside. The gentle buzz you can hear is the garden growing.

Life is good.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Tides of life.

Hot sun. Salty air. Rhythmic waves.

A little boy is on his knees scooping and packing the sand with plastic shovels into a bright blue bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created.

All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.

Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic.

A man is in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made.

All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.

Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come.

Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches.

As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father's hand, and goes home.

The grown up, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide.

"It's my castle," he defies.

The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs...

I don't know much about sandcastles. But children do. Watch them and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child's heart. When the sun sets and the tides take - applaud.

Salute the process of life and go home.

- LifeLine NZ.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Hot under the collar. Apparently.

This is a wet and dry bulb thermometer.

The dry bulb is the normal thermometer while the wet bulb has a fabric sleeve over it that is kept wet. When air passes over the wet sleeve, it cools due to evaporation and you can determine the humidity in the air by the difference in the two temperatures.

A wind chill factor, if you like.

In a totally humid area, like the tropics, little water would evaporate and the temperatures would be the same. In a dry climate there would be high evaporation and there would be a large difference between the two temperatures.

Which brings me to the local weather. There is a widget I have on my desktop that displays real and apparent temperature. Like so:

What I can't figure out is why should the apparent temperature be warmer than the actual temperature?

Any meteorologists out there?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

You can...but you can't.

I'm in tidy up mode on my computer at the moment. In the process I found a training lecture I did some years ago on how to deal with negative people.

In it was the following observation:

Yes, you lead a horse to water. And, no, you can't make him drink.

But you can put salt in his oats.

It's true! It's true!

"Siesta" by Paul Bonnard, (1867-1947)

Last night I dreamt I was sleeping with a naked woman.

When I woke, she was still there!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

So close.

Our last night as free men and we weakened to temptation.

Well, no. Not dancing girls.

But, despite my protestations about being stereotyped, we sent out for pizza for our last night.

Made our own garlic bread though.


A relook at eating disorders.

An early post generated some interesting comments. It got me thinking about just how large a part genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) play in eating disorders

I delved into the more recent journals.

The sensible thing to do is to look at twin studies. Ideally, identical twins. This will mean that the influence of genetics is constant.

Ross (2006) looked at the literature on twin studies and found that the level of both identical twins having anorexia was 35%. This is called the concordance rate and means that, if one twin had anorexia, there was a 35% likelihood that the other one would too. He also found that 97% of relatives of these twins do not have the disorder.

If the disorder was purely, or even predominantly, genetic, Ross claims you would expect a concordance rate in excess of 80% and that you would also expect the level of anorexia in relatives to be higher than 3%.

Wade et al. (2007) found that family functioning had a large impact on the differences between discordant twins (ie one has anorexia, one doesn't) with recollection of parental comments about their weight and the amount of food related to the likelihood of developing anorexia. Interestingly, considering the popular image of the mother affecting the onset of the disorder, Wade et al found a quite strong link to paternal protection. (An effect size of 1.6, for the statistically minded.).

An aside to this, the researcher who gave the lecture last week said that he would never start an in-patient treatment program for someone unless it also included a family therapy component. So he clearly thinks environment is critical.

Overall, my view is that, as with so much that is associated with the brain, the true answer will be an interaction between both nature and nurture.

But all genetic? No, I don't think the evidence supports that stand.


Ross, C.A. (2006). Overestimates of the genetic contribution to eating disorders, Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, (2), 123-131.

Wade, T.D., Gillespie, N., Martin, N.G. (2007) A comparison of early family life events amongst monozygotic twin women with lifetime anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or major depression. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40 (8), 679-686.

Time to mop!

When I put 'mop' into Google images, this is the first picture that came up.

A roll-mop. Marinated raw herring with onion and gherkin inside.

Goes great with a cold beer.

Not really what I was after but it will do. You see, Margaret is 'in the air' as I type but wont be arriving for another 12 hours. Richard and I have been sweeping, mopping (the connection!) and generally tidying up.

Not woman-clean, you understand.

Bloke-clean. It's not as good as woman-clean but gets you points for effort.

And just to tidy up the story, after I have tidied the house, I think I will take a roll-mop and a cold beer to the gazebo this afternoon.

Monday, 17 December 2007

In the end, I needed the coffee..

Dropped my thesis at Uni today, for binding. (Cheers, whistles)

To celebrate, I decided to have a boutique coffee, a tall vanilla latte. Not something I have in real life and something that I associate with the only place I have ever had them, Uni.

There was a different lady behind the counter, presumably the normal staff had gone on holidays. The conversation went like this:

Me: Could I have a tall vanilla latte, please.
Her: Sure. Do you want tall or regular?
Me: Um...make it a regular tall.
Her: OK. So that will be with soy milk then?
Me: (Thinks) You can't milk a soy.
Me: (Says) Regular milk, please. Tall, if you have it.

As I walk out I think to myself: She only charged me for a tall latte.

I sip the drink. Sure enough, no vanilla.

I was a good coffee. Just as well. I needed it.

And now some news from the stock market...

Today's Stock Market Report:

Helium was up - feathers were down.
Paper was stationary.
Fluorescent tubing was dimmed in light trading.
Knives were up sharply.
Cows steered into a bull market.
Pencils lost a few points.
Hiking equipment was trailing.
Elevators rose - while escalators continued their slow decline.
Weights were up in heavy trading.
Light switches were off.
Mining equipment hit rock bottom.
Diapers remain unchanged.
Shipping lines stayed at an even keel.
The market for raisins dried up.
Coca Cola fizzled.
Caterpillar stock inched up a bit.
Sun peaked at midday.
Balloon prices were inflated.
Batteries exploded in an attempt to recharge the market
Scott tissue touched a new bottom - then went down the drain

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The dangers of purple rain...

There is a small problem with the jacaranda dropping its flowers...

Lazy bees.

Our bees seem to the the timid, unadventurous kind. Not ones for rummaging around in the tree tops where the yummy fresh flowers are, they much prefer to fossick amongst the fallen flowers. Could they be afraid of heights? Perhaps they get nose bleeds if they go too high.

But they are the natural enemy of the bare foot.

I love walking around in bare feet.

So it is a challenge to tip toe through the, not tulips, but jacaranda flowers and avoid inadvertently sending a bee to its heavenly reward and in the process getting a sore foot.

I love the mauve carpet effect but, as part of the 'uh-oh, Margaret's coming home Tuesday, better tidy things up' campaign, they will get swept up tomorrow.

Coming together 2...

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Purple Rain

Purple rain! Jacaranda flowers 'eased' off the tree by some real rain!

Is happiness doing leadlighting in a garden shed while listening to rain on the roof? Probably not but it was good.

Perhaps happiness is knowing that there is plastic guard mesh on the gutters and that I will not have to get up to clean the flowers out.

Let's putty! (Like we've never puttied before).

Sneak preview of work on the bottom panel to the pantry window.

Tomorrow we putty.

Should be in for Margaret's return on Tuesday.


I am still wondering if it is too 'busy'. It may yet become a 'stand alone' panel somewhere else and a simpler second panel done for the pantry. We'll see.


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Well, what do you know...

Just got an email from the BBC - can I do an interview on their lunch time show?

Well, I suppose so, it is very flattering. But their lunch time is about 1am for me.

Oh, why not? Put the coffee on...

It all goes back to my misspent youth, harassing Nigerian conmen.

The interview was last night: The email invitation came at 9pm and the interview was at 1am. So, sorry I didn't get much time to tell anyone but I gave you all I had. It was on the BBC Wales webcast.

Post interview thoughts:

A bit of an anticlimax in the end - a few minutes of questions stuck in amongst news, weather and community announcements.

The sad but familiar trigger for the show was an 80yr woman in the UK who parted with £16,000 in response to a Nigerian scammer. Unfortunately the other interviewee, Tony Neet, focussed on the vulnerability of the elderly to scams. My experience is that age is no limit to people's gullibility. And greed.


How to interview an eating disorder!

As part of LifeLine*, I went to a training session the other night about eating disorders; anorexia and bulimia. Overeating was touched on too but wasn't the focus of the evening. It was fascinating. Some of the things that came out of it:

1. Early occurrences of anorexia, in the 13th century and earlier, were associated with religious purity and fasting. If you could resist the base urge to eat then you must be more godly.

2. Traditionally they have been female disorders but more and more men are being diagnosed with them.

3. A survey found 50% of primary school children wanted to weigh less and 25% have dieted.

4. 99% of women aged 18-35 years old are larger than the standard shop mannequin.

5. It is not physically possibly for a woman to match the measurement ratios of a Barbie Doll.

6. Nowadays young girls see more images of outstandingly beautiful women in a day than their mothers saw in their entire adolescence.

All interesting stuff. Unfortunately all these things conspire to keep women on an eternal treadmill, in search of the 'ideal' weight, along with the beauty, happiness and friends that it is supposed to bring with it. The sad part is that the treatment of anorexia and, to a lesser extent bulimia, is very difficult as the patient refuses to believe that they have a problem. So that brought up an interesting strategy.

The first step is something that applies to all conditions: don't label people as the problem. A person is not an 'anorexic', they are someone 'living with anorexia'. We were then taken through a process where we ask the patient if we could interview the problem.

"Could I have a conversation with just that part of you that is the Anorexia? This means you get the chance to just sit back and listen to us talk, is that okay with you?"

It sound bizarre but it can work really well. You can ask the problem when it came, how it helps the patient, how it hinders the patient, what it would like to change, when it will know that it is time to leave. It can be a revelation for the patient and yet they are answering the questions!

It does not have to be limited to eating disorders, of course. Any habit or condition can, theoretically, be interviewed the same way.

*Curious in some respects, as a characteristic of anorexia is denial that there is a problem so they would never call LifeLine.


Monday, 10 December 2007

Brought to you by P and C.

The fun police have slapped an "adults only" warning on a new DVD of classic episodes, which featured a world in which children played in the street, a monster gorged on cookies and a bad-tempered puppet lived in a bin.

The episodes, made between 1969 and 1974, have been released in the US with the caution: "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."

Topping the list of furry villains is the Cookie Monster, whose penchant for devouring cookies and the odd plate or two is no longer deemed appropriate behaviour for modern children.

Back then, Big Bird's bumbling friend Mr Snuffleupagus was still imaginary, which might encourage "delusion behaviour". And trash-loving Oscar the Grouch has been targetted for his blatant bad manners and questionable hygiene.

The Age, Dec 7th, 2007.

Oh, give me strength! Political correctness gone berserk.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Choice Time!

Click to enlarge

It is still early days - I have to putty in the glass, clean it up and blacken the lead but it is transportable so I can put it in place to get an idea of what I might do.

Click to enlarge

Two choices:

1. Continue with the original design and put this panel in the top window.

2. Put the panel in the bottom window and do something 'lighter' for the top.

I'll think about it.

Coming together...

Next comes the soldering...

I'm starting to warm to the idea of making this the bottom panel and making the top panel much simpler. As both panels are the same size I can put in in both spots and then decide.

Friday, 7 December 2007

What? No buggy whips anymore?

These are horseshoe nails.

Funny headed, flat sided things of no particular beauty.

Not a big mover at the hardware stores of Melbourne but there are people who ride horses. Or have young daughter who do, so there is a native market for them.

Now I am not a 'horsy' person.

I consider that a horse is dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle.

So why do I have a jar of horseshoe nails in the shed?

For stained glass, of course.

The flat sides of the nails are good for hold glass pieces in place while you assemble the pieces. Normal round nails are not as easy to pull out of the base board and are prone to chip the edges of the glass.

The state of play with the window is that all the pieces (143 of them) for the top panel have been cut and are now waiting their appointment with the horseshoe nails. There were a few minor deviations from the original drawing (eg one flower disappeared and I ad-libbed on colours a fair bit) but, by and large, it is taking shape. Below is the jigsaw of all the pieces.


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Hidden treasure

Hidden away in the back yard, where the blackbirds haven't seen them*, the raspberries are giving about 10-20 berries a day. Not a big crop but consistent. They got knocked around last year by the drought. This year I have my watering sorted out a bit better.

I probably should try to accumulate enough for a pie or jam or something but they are so yummy fresh...

*Probably too full of mulberries to fly.