Sunday, February 27, 2005
Looking south east:
And (three shots stitched together by Adobe PhotoDeluxe 3.0) looking north:
The creek runs along this valley from left to right, and is further away than it appears in this photo. Below the level of the front trees on the left (a neighbour's feral bush area, mostly populated by camphor laurel trees - actually my favourite tree, but also a weed) the valley drops away steeply. It takes me 20 to 30 minutes huffing and puffing to get back up this hill. I'm not going anywhere near the creek over summer anyway: long grass + snakes = coward.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Reasons to love bad journalism: Part 1
Sweet medicine: Chocolate should be prescribed at British hospitals because of its benefits for women. Studies show it helps cut symptoms of pre-menstural [sic] tension and depression, releases endorphins and has magnesium, which cuts mood swings. It could substitute for drugs like Prozac, a chocolatier says. The Department of Health says more studies are needed.I know you’ll be saying, “What studies? What would a chocolatier know about Prozac? Where did this come from?” But with my hands pressed so firmly over my ears I can’t hear you, and to the Department of Health I say, “Phooew! The study is conclusive, fools!”
- Sydney Morning Herald, 26-27 February 2005, p.42.
Chocolate biscuits for wisdom, and now chocolate itself for happiness.This world just gets better and better...
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Doing the farm thing: cleaning a trough
One of today's tasks was to clean a cattle trough (pronounced "troff", if you're not familiar with them). This paddock has been free of cows for maybe a month or so, and, without new water being added as they drink out the old, the trough was getting pretty gruesome:
That's algae you can see on the surface, I think, and I also think its growth is enhanced by the way the sun heats the water every day. Cattle will drink water that looks as urkky as the pic above, and will even choose it over clean water sometimes (one paddock here has two troughs, one of which has only a disgusting mess in the bottom of it, and cows still drink from it) but I'm pretty sure it can't be healthy.
There's a new herd in this paddock now, and a few cows wandered over to see what was happening:
They're mostly quite docile animals, though you shouldn't take this for granted. Cows with young calves can be aggressive if you go near their offspring; one chased the dogs this afternoon, though she stopped when I yelled at her.
Most troughs have an outlet drain, but this one doesn't (God only knows why not) so it was a case of bailing all the water out with a bucket. Yes, that's my hand again - I couldn't stop it jumping into the shot.
The Project Manager claimed to be keeping eye on proceedings (though I'm not convinced it was necessary):
No need to worry about grass at the moment, as you can see.
Water is a different story, though. The trough started to refill about 1pm:
but the water stopped a short time later. It has to be brought up by pump from underground (an aquifer) and by the sounds of the pump, there might not be much water left down there. Supply was fitful at best all afternoon, and Dad the Farmer finally decided to switch the line across to a bore on the other side of the property. By 7pm the trough was about half full, and - fingers crossed - by morning it will be overflowing (joking... I hope)
That round black float is supposed to cut off the supply when the water reaches the required height. The problem is that over the years the trough has settled into a crooked position - one side is lower than the other - and the post to which the float is attached wanders about from side to side, pushed by malicious cows who are desperate to antagonise me and waste water...
Wandering along the edge of the trough was this beetle, who at first just dipped its head into the water every few steps:
...but then either jumped or fell in. If it screamed I missed it, but it wasn’t a great swimmer so I did the hero thing and scooped it out:
We call these Christmas beetles, which is the time of year you normally see them (we’re complicated people, yes). They normally appear at night and congregate near lights, so I suspect this one had been disoriented by the moon or sunlight reflected in the water.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Free Mojtaba and Arash Day
Bringing similar stories to light, Reporters Without Borders has a Press Freedom Barometer showing that casualty numbers for 2005 include:
Journalists killed = 6
Journalists imprisoned = 101
Media assistants imprisoned = 3
Cyberdissidents imprisoned = 71
Teachers go straight to heaven
I was a bit of a perpetual student at one stage, and wandered into several different unis and TAFE colleges over the years, usually settling into a glum heap somewhere in the depths of the library. Thinking back, there were only a few lecturers and tutors who stood out. The best ones loved what they were doing and wanted to share their enthusiasm, and the best of these was an inspirational fellow called Peter. Part of his appeal was his dark-chocolate voice, but he had a meditative quality about him which was quite mesmerising. Standing at the front of a lecture theatre waiting for everybody to trail in and sit down, he’d lean on a side wall, hands behind his back, and look at the floor, as though he was relaxing in the sun somewhere. And in tutorials he'd actually listen, as though he hadn’t heard the same ideas 50,000 times before. He had a way of making everybody's thoughts seem intelligent and new.
But the thing I loved best about him was his comment on my first essay. I was a mature age student and too big for my boots and thought I could wax lyrical in an academic essay, just because I wanted to. I can’t remember the topic, I just remember getting carried away and coming up with my own theories and thinking I was going to change the world. Anyway, this dear man had the grace and sensitivity to put me in my place kindly, without thwarting the eager student within. He made a few notes in the essay margins, but this is the one I'll always remember: “This is not strictly correct, but it’s interesting.”
What a line, eh? Admonishing and encouraging at the same time - it was quite a feat. I hope everybody at least once in their lifetime gets the blessing of a teacher as fine as Peter the Great. God bless him.
Friday, February 18, 2005
A storm just went through here, and I went out on the deck to let Little Pup into the laundry (a room at the back of the house). Just next to the door was this frog. I think it's a Green Tree Frog** or Litoria caerulea**. Compared to others I’ve seen, it’s quite big (that’s my thumb in the photo to give you something to gauge the size, and my thumb isn’t small). It wasn’t at all perturbed by me or the camera flash (I took four photos) or the lightning and thunder.
I’m always amazed when wild animals seem so unfazed by big buffoons such as myself. Why aren’t they scared? Or are they actually frozen in terror? (Just hoping it's the first.)
**Both of those links allow you to listen to a frog's call. You need to imagine the sound amplified by roof guttering or a downpipe though, which is often where the sound comes from. And I'm assuming that a "Green Tree Frog" is the same as a "Common Green Tree Frog". If that's wrong, please let me know. I don't want to offend my neighbourhood frogs.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Signs of ageing
Research by Olay has shown that there are seven main signs of facial ageing that concern us most. These are lines and wrinkles, uneven texture, uneven tone, a dull appearance, age spots and blotches, visible pores and an overall increase in dryness.
No offence to the funsters at Olay, but I’ve come up with my own seven signs of ageing:
1. unwillingness to tolerate bullshit
2. feeling happy in increasingly long intervals
3. swearing wildly and with gusto**
4. making large hand gestures while talking, in the manner of an Italian mystery-woman (well, yes, I’m deluded)
5. alternating between not wanting to waste time, and wanting to take all the time in the world
6. understanding what it means to say that life doesn’t last forever
7. looking in a mirror and seeing wrinkles, sagging skin, facial hair, spider veins, grey hair, bad teeth, and sun spots.
It’s the last of these signs that I want to discuss: appearance.
The bathroom where I live has only a tiny window. The room remains in gloom even when the light is turned on. Looking in the smallish mirror I can see only my darkness-filtered face, and not much else. So at Christmas, when I stayed at my parents’ ritzy new house and showered in the airy bathroom with the huge mirrors and lights blazing from every direction, perfectly positioned to highlight every imperfection across my entire body, it was a damn shock. “What the hell?” I thought. “What the hell??” I looked at least 500 years old. Which would be fine if I was 500 years old, but I’m 41. I had to put my horror to one side though, not wanting to frighten my dear parents with howls of anguish and despair.
But it returned, this horror, today. I looked in a little hand mirror this morning in good light, and nearly keeled over again. Oh good God, people, the horror, the horror!! The outside of me is ageing without letting the rest of me know. I feel betrayed. And this is just the start. It goes on from here, goes on and on until... you know.
What frightened me most in that little mirror was my mouth, and the wrinkles radiating out from it. It looks like I’ve been sucking on a cigarette all my life, and no, I bloody haven’t. Nor have I been tut-tutting in the fashion of nay-saying stereotypes everywhere, portrayed in cartoons with a cats-bum mouth. My mouth, now! A cats-bum mouth! I can’t believe it. I don’t know how it happened. It’s suddenly here, that’s all I know, and I don’t want it. If you’re familiar with the expression, “Eventually you get the face you deserve,” you’ll appreciate my vehemence in replying, “Well, no! You bloody don’t!”
And all my life I’ve thought that people who complained about getting older were idiots. At least I got that right.
I know there are more important things to worry about, I know there’s no justice in the world and I’m one of the lucky ones, I know the alternative to ageing is death, I know all that. I know this isn’t a big deal in the big scheme of things, but I don’t live in the big scheme of things, do I? And neither do you, I’m guessing. Nobody does; only their heads go there. I live here, in this body, in this life, in this set of circumstances, with this stupid mouth. It’s a fucking tragedy. Small, yes; insignificant to anyone else, yes; trivial in the overall stretch of my life, yes. But real nonetheless.
I’m going to mourn the loss of the smooth-skinned girl I was, and know I'm becoming someone else now, someone who looks different, lives better, and hopefully worries less about what people think. This is worth any grief in the universe, I suggest, but comes at the cost of feeling sad for a bit. A step - one more - in a life that feels real.
**My New Year’s Resolution this year was to start swearing like a sailor, and it’s a skill I’m mastering with indecent ease. But I don’t want to offend you, and if you don’t like bad language please just let me know and I’ll stop.
Monday, February 14, 2005
The wheels of commerce give a skip
DEAR SMOOCHY POO,
My love for you
grows every day,
you make my heart
beat faster than
a MINI Cooper S.
Well, maybe not a
MINI Cooper S 'cause
that's one fast car.
0-100 in 7.2 seconds.
If my heart beat that
fast, I'd probably die.
Love you though.
Bravo! I say. Made me laugh, anyway.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
My subconscious mind has a conversation running all the time. I don’t mean I’m hearing voices, it’s just mindless inaudible chatter that I can either tap into or not. And this afternoon it gave me something new to think about. I nearly tripped while walking, and thought, “Oh! Hootenanny!”
Hootenanny?? I’ve never said “hootenanny” in my entire life. I had to Google for a definition:
1. An informal performance by folk singers, typically with participation by the audience.If this made any sense, I could've put a nice neat conclusion right here. How annoying.
2. Informal. An unidentified or unidentifiable gadget.
**Dawna Markova, The Art of the Possible: A Compassionate Approach to Understanding the Way People Think, Learn and Communicate (California USA: Conari Press, 1991) ISBN: 0943233127.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Some days are diamonds
And then again, sometimes it’s otherwise... Walking along the road this afternoon I passed a house. One of the children living there is about seven years old. I couldn’t see her but she was playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the recorder: three notes, da da da da da-da-daa, da-da-daa, da-da-daa etc. I know this because I could hear her along the whole length of the road. At first I thought the sound was coming from something in distress. Then I chided myself for being mean: young child having fun, being creative, practising for school, etc. What’s not to like? That lasted for one or two rounds of the song. Then, over the ensuing rounds (say Rounds 3 to 503) I gradually started to feel a sense of wellbeing and contentment, walking further and further and further away.
By the time I turned into my gateway I was laughing out loud. Ah, yes. Ah, yes, yes, yes.
Friday, February 11, 2005
To ponder, perchance to wonder
And the fan wasn’t on, and nor was it in the kitchen. Hmm...
Thursday, February 10, 2005
The Remarkable Unnameable Sister
Today is big. Can’t tell you why, but let’s hint vaguely at promotion in a field that isn’t traditionally welcoming to women. I’ve been told she sometimes reads this blog (very slowly, sounding out the words) if there’s an occasional break in traffic.
Darl? You’re amazing. I wish I could trumpet your strengths, but those strengths are big. You're an inspiration to me and everybody. (Who gives a shit about them, though? You're an inspiration to me.)
Here's to you, Remarkable.
The aforementioned sister emailed last night and, while she didn't call me a fool in so many words (being busy and all), she did want to point out that her new title is ceremonial, the timing of it would be a joke for anyone else in the same industry, and the title is useful only for impressing the public. What Unnameable Sister, Fool the Younger, fails to realise is that the rest of us are the public. We're impressed. It worked! So shut up, darl, and bask in glory. (You idiot.)
© Digihound L.L.C. All rights reserved
** I know about the extradition order, and I'm keeping it up my sleeve.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Happy news from the depths
Thanks to the intervention of the angelic J (my sister), Marvel and the Harveys** will be making a permanent return to the stage! They’re not going to be killed. They’re going to live out their days on this farm. Ahhh! Happy ending...
I’d cry with happiness, except I don’t feel anything at all. I should be joyful, but something’s bugging me. (Why be happy, eh, if you can be really fucking miserable?) I’m trying to make sense of this. And yes, the real story here is me, and not the calves... That last sentence should be ironic, but unfortunately isn’t. Maybe it's sarcastic? Whatever it's called, I'm trying to imply self-centredness to the point of cruelty, hoping that a touch of humour will undercut the hideousness.
Yesterday J said I should ask our parents to keep the calves rather than sell them. This is where my thoughts get fuzzy: I hadn’t considered asking them this. The idea had not even entered my head. All along I’d been thinking: the calves belong to my parents, they could use the money, if these calves don’t go then some other calves will, it’s the way of the world, this is where my income comes from, I eat meat so can’t object to the way it’s provided, it’s the cycle of life, it’s going to happen so I should just stop thinking about it. The calves are probably two years old now, maybe older (they’re not “calves” any more, that’s just what I call them) and from the time I stopped hand-feeding them I was thinking ahead to the time when they were going to be taken away, never once thinking that maybe they wouldn’t have to go. Not once did I consider this, not once.
My parents and I get along, I’m not afraid to ask them things, they’re kind people, I love them and they love me. So why didn’t I ask them to save the calves? Here’s the only answer I can come up with: it wasn’t because I thought they’d say no (I didn’t think they’d say yes, but that wasn’t the reason), it was entirely because I thought I shouldn’t ask. Because of some rule in my head, some rule about me. I don’t even know what the rule is. It’s like I’ve suddenly dropped down into a deeper part of my brain and seen something shocking, something I didn’t even know was there. And if I’m not being clear enough: I was willing to let those calves die because of some unacknowledged rule in my head about the way I should behave. It’s like meeting the enemy, and finding it’s in your own head. Suddenly I’m a stranger to myself. I’m not going to agonise about this, it was just a shock.
This post should be happy - those calves have a new life. First day of the Chinese new year, maybe we should call them Roosters? Marvel & the Harvey Roosters. Excellent! God bless J and our parents. Heroes, truly.
**The Harveys will be singing in soprano, if you get my drift. If you don’t get my drift - brace yourselves, men - they’ll be castrated. Bulls fight each other and will chase any cow that gives them the come-on, even if they’re related. Once castrated they’re called bullocks or steers, and they become more docile.
Happy new year!
SBS TV (Australia) should start paying me, because here's another ad: Chinese film The Road Home (international English translation of title, though IMDb suggests the literal translation would be My Father and Mother) screens at 10pm tonight. It's beautiful, sad, etc., and the female lead has the weirdest running action in the history of running (her arms look frozen).
Monday, February 07, 2005
Wisdom for our time
© Despair, Inc. **
** Idiocy: never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
Tv = :)
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Marvel & the Harveys play an encore
and Harvey II:
Yes, it’s the paddock brought to you by names with “v” in the middle; there used to be a Harvey III as well, but he died. Marvel was a sickly calf, no real reason for it, and she didn’t pick up any condition until she was separated from her much-bigger peers and moved into this paddock. Harvey I’s mother died when he was a few days old, and Harvey II’s mother wouldn’t feed him, so I fed both with a bucket for months (which means mixing up a milk powder formula with warm water and carrying it out to them, a few times a day, seven days a week, and trying not to get knocked over when they’re frantically drinking it). When it was time for them to go onto solid feed pellets, Harvey I wouldn’t eat the stuff, so I used to make rolled oats, which he loved, and mix it in with the feed. I also used to groom them with a horse brush. And I know real farmers would be rolling their eyes in derision right about now... (laughing).
I’m dreading the day when these three little beasties will be sent away to their deaths. I asked Dad to not tell me when they’re going (just to clarify: this is my parents’ farm and their cattle) because it’d be too awful. Once they’re dead it’s fine with me - it’s the scary suffering getting-yelled-at-by-strangers part in the interim that eats my guts out. I know they’re going any day now, though, and the truck goes on Mondays. And Monday is tomorrow.
I’m encouraging you to look at meat differently (repeating myself). It has a lifeforce in it, transferred by the processes of god-knows-what from one creature to another. We all know we need food, and by extension, that food supports us. But if you stop to think about the connections between cattle and the meat we eat - the history of it, the journey it takes between hoof and plate - and then add all the connections between ourselves and every other thing we eat (I’m imagining long lines radiating out from each of us like rays from the sun) then you can see we’re all deeply embedded in a web of life, supported by forces far beyond our recognition or awareness. And here, just for the record, are three little bits of that web: Marvel and the Harveys. They’ve had a good life, and it’s nearly time to go.
When Dad got here this morning, I couldn't stop myself from asking:
Me: "Are those calves going today?"
Me: "Next week?"
Dad: "No. Three or four weeks, maybe... a month or two. Depends on the market [price]. I've got stacks of grass. There's no hurry."
!! Smiling, reader, smiling!
Friday night reverie, revisited
The other night I sent this pic over from Hello and was writing a post to go with it, but then ditched the whole thing. It just seemed too stupid - the photo, the writing, the very idea. And I do think in retrospect it was stupid, but now I’m also thinking that unless I stop editing everything in such a savage way, I’m going to be cooped up here in this cul-de-sac for ever with nothing to do. Yesterday I tried for hours to write something else and got nowhere. Maybe writer’s block is just self-censorship? Cutting off every idea before it even has a chance?
What’s wrong with stupid anyway? Nothing. It’s just not excellence. Excellence has its place, and it’s not here. Clearly (laughing). Here's what was scrawled on that clipboard:
Do I need to tell you that half an hour later I was boo-hooing about how tragic and awful everything is? Probably not. Sigh. It's so damn hard being such an idiot...
I'm sitting on a windowsill. This is about the only window in the house without an insect screen; which is handy, because (as I've only just discovered) you can sit on the windowsill, rest one foot on the balustrade of the deck at the back of the house, rest a clipboard on that leg, write this, listen to k.d. lang making beautiful music, and feel a soft summer night breeze flowing across from the sea, picking up scents of woodsmoke on the way, bathing me in the scents of a happy future. Really. I've convinced myself a happy future is exactly like this - fresh air, woodsmoke, a soft touch at my cheek, black velvet sky and stars, beautiful music, and beer.
I'll probably fall off this windowsill any minute and plummet into the garden, but at this minute, in this air, with this music, with these stars... You've got to take happiness however you find it, eh?
Thursday, February 03, 2005
But Claypot's 360 Degrees of Sky from Zambia today reveals some of the World's Best Reasons for a very good whinge:
Frankly, the thought of these eggs hatching, burrowing into your skin, turning into big swollen hard lumps, and then flies busting out of various parts of your body is far too horrific to contemplate.And not only, but also... (yes, there's more). Go! Go over and have a look.
AE 4 GP
This was the script: I hate mowing. I don’t give a shit about grass. What the hell am I doing here? What the hell am I doing here? The only thing separating me-in-this-stupid-life from me-in-a-different-life is me. What the hell am I doing here? I can’t bear it, I can’t bear it, I cannot fucking bear it...
You’ve got the drift, yes? This continued unabated for at least an hour.
It was hot. I’ve said that already, but it was hot. I came in here for breakfast, to sit in front of the computer where the fan is. Chomping away on Rice Bubbles, I turned the fan on, turned the computer on and started cleaning out a folder.
And found this:
Photo: Purdue University Library, Special Collections. Blatantly stolen. All rights reserved.
Amelia Earhart and George Palmer Putnam.
A woman with her head in the clouds and a man with his feet on the ground, after six years of marriage.
The joy of this image kept me going all day. Plus the fact I was pretending to be Ms Earhart, kissing dear George then flying a plane across the Pacific instead of driving a mower and wiping sweat from my eyes. Wish wish wish I was joking... (laughing).
Aren’t they just the biggest sweeties you’ve ever seen? My heroes.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Sunday afternoon views
... and looking south:
And heading home:
Traffic is a big problem here. I only had time to stop the car (in the middle of the road), get the camera out, take this photo and another, put the camera away, start the car and move off again before another vehicle appeared.
Not bragging or anything (much).
PS. I only know about this album because it was playing when I got my hair cut. Maybe every cloud has a silver lining.
And Evil Sister? You’re a darl, darl. Even if you don’t see this. I know you can’t read anyway. Kissie, kissie.