Thursday, August 31, 2006

Treasure alert

Lord Sedgwick at There Ain't no Sanity Clause discusses the interim control order this country has imposed on "terror suspect" Jack Thomas: Who's Jackin' who?

His post gives said control order exactly what it deserves: plain ridicule and loathing. Even the magistrate who imposed the order today said it looked "somewhat silly" and "almost a bit farcical" for having included the name of Osama Bin Laden in the list of people and organisations which Mr Thomas is banned from contacting. And according to Lex Lasry QC, lawyer for Thomas, the list includes 13 people who are either dead or being held (presumably incommunicado?) at Guantanamo Bay.

Just what is such a stupid order actually about? This is the explanation that gets my vote:
The Attorney-General [...] embodies very convincing evidence of the way politics gets in the way of human rights. He's an Attorney-General, in my opinion, with an eye only to one thing at the moment and that is saving face and gaining a political advantage.
- Lex Lasry

Season's greetings

Jasmine showing off in the foreground, and coffee trees with ripening cherries (those red things) in the background.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For my sisters

Each of my sisters responded to one of the previous two posts (1 vote for Beaker, 1 vote for Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny) so I got their pin-ups together for a portrait.

Ready for this?

(drum roll please)


Beaker Goes Bunny Bunny
(click for a larger version)

By the way, I've got a 1972 edition of the bunny book, and it actually is titled the Bunny Book. (To refresh your memory, 1953's title was Grandpa Bunny.) Each book has a few pictures which the other does not, which seems a bit silly.


I scanned a few pages from the 1953/1972 books and posted them at Flickr. The first of the book scans is here. (In case you're not familiar with Flickr, use the "See different sizes" or "All sizes" links to access the original-size photos, and click on the thumbnail photos under "Deedree's photostream" to go to the next/previous photo in the list.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ancient treasures

I watched Time Team on ABC TV tonight, an English series which takes archaeology-related experts to a site somewhere in the UK and gives them 3 days to investigate the place. Every time I see it, I want to rush out and become an expert in something/anything immediately, just so I could be like them...

Unfortunately, "expertness" takes a bit more time and effort than "immediately" would allow. This is a great pity. Those Time Team experts get to investigate some fascinating cultures, including (as someone mentioned tonight) the Beaker people:

Who knew the Muppets were so historically-relevant??

(NB. Photo came from here.)

Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny

Something about rainy days brings nostalgia, or that's what happens with me anyway. And it's raining today (75 mm since Sunday night, in fact) so...

Two pages from my probably-favourite childhood picture book, Grandpa Bunny.** There's a large version of this pic over here (slow to load if you're using a dial-up, sorry).

It's the story of Bunnyville, "deep in the woods where the brier bushes grow", and Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny, who, "as every bunny knows, was the ancestral founder of the town, which is a very fine thing to be". He and Mrs Bunny Bunny had many offspring, so it wasn't long before Daddy-then-Grandpa Bunny Bunny had so many helpers in his job of painting Easter eggs that he was looking for something else to do. He started to paint the flowers in the woods, and trained some bunny apprentices:
They tried out some new shades of green on the mosses and on ferns.

They made those woods so beautiful that People who went walking there marvelled at the colours as they talked among themselves.

"The soil must be especially rich," they said, "or the rainfall especially wet."

And the bunnies would hear them and silently laugh. For they knew it was all their Grandpa Bunny Bunny's doing."
Years went by and all the Easter eggs and spring flowers were being taken care of by his children and grandchildren, so Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny (as he had become, "For that is how things go") started to teach the newest young bunnies to paint the autumn leaves. And (cue the picture above), "He taught them in winter to paint shadows on the snow, and pictures in frost on wintry window panes and to polish up the diamond lights on glittering icicles."

By the time crews of young bunnies were painting the tiny buds of spring, and the wings of new butterflies, and beetles, and creeping crawling things, and had in fact "painted up that whole wild wood till it sparkled and it gleamed", Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny was having trouble finding any work for himself. He "stayed at home a lot those days, and thought and thought and thought."

Finally he gathered that season's bunny boys and girls and told them he was going away, and shared with them the secret of his brilliant new job. After he'd gone, "The older bunnies missed him, and often they looked sad." But the younger bunnies knew better, and smiled.

>>> Look out - spoiler follows :D <<<

One day a rainstorm pelted Bunnyville, and then when it cleared, the bunny children ran out of their bunny houses, looked up at the sky, and did a bunny dance, shouting:
"Great Grandpa's been at work again! Come see what he has done!

And the People walking out that day looked up in pleased surprise.

"Have you ever," they cried, "simply ever seen a sunset so gorgeously bright?"
Ahhh... :)

Isn't it lovely? The best story for a rainy day. Great Grandpa Bunny Bunny. My hero.

**Story by Jane Werner, illustrations by The Walt Disney Studio, adapted by Dick Kelsey & Bill Justice from the motion picture, "Funny Little Bunnies". Grandpa Bunny. Sydney, Australia: Golden Press, copyright 1953 Walt Disney Productions.

**The 1972 edition (which has some variations in text and illustrations) was titled Bunny Book.

(See also... Flickr pics)

Watching the grass grow

The other day I went past an area that I used to mow. It's on the part of the farm that was sold, and the new owners don't mow it. The grass and weeds are now waist high, and that's after a dryish winter. By summer the place will be a big scary jungle unless they bring in the big guns (tractor with slasher).

It's not like I was ever really emotionally attached to keeping the grass short - because no, I wasn't - but it felt strange to see that all trace of my efforts has been obliterated. My work there was of no lasting effect; it's like I was never even there at all.

Being inclined to ponder such things, I saw a metaphor for my life. One day I'll be dead, and one day all the people I know will be dead, and because I have no children, I won't have contributed to the world in terms of genes or new people, and I haven't done anything else of lasting importance either. When I die, there'll be no sign that I was ever here at all. The activities which currently absorb all my time and effort will one day come to nothing whatsoever. The metaphorical grass will grow up and cover the place I used to be, and that'll be that. Jungle again.

Which is all fine and obvious, of course. Why should it be otherwise? Billions of humans have come and gone, most of them probably leaving genes, but maybe not a lot more in terms of any real significance. From the world's point of view - if it had a point of view, and I'm wildly guessing here ;) - we're just ants in the big ants' nest of life. We can and will be squished into oblivion as easily as we humans mindlessly squish ants underfoot. We don't last, and most of what we do doesn't last either. History records a few movers and shakers, but most of us won't do much more than tremble; we'll just live for a while and then disappear.

I'm not saying that our lives don't matter. Quite the opposite. Of course they matter. I think everything we do matters. Living is important - we matter because we're here, I think, not because we're here to "do" something.

Still. Anyway. Et cetera. I don't know. In fact, sometimes I don't know anything, and this is one of those times. Maybe I'm talking about the intersection between personal and public significance: what I do matters to me and mine, but not to anybody else. But no, that's not really it either, because what I do contributes in some small way to the way the world runs. Even though it probably won't be individually recognisable, I'm making a contribution to the greater whole of humanity and the earth. Or some bloody thing... Hmph. Let's just go back to "Sometimes I don't know anything."

And let's go back to that jungle, the area I used to mow. The grass and weeds are rioting now that I've gone, and the other day, looking at them quickly from a car driving past, just for a second it felt like they'd dismissed me.


Monday, August 28, 2006


Well then. On Saturday I found the quizzes at OkCupid and started a binge that might romp on for some time...


The most uncrapworthy** tests so far (and my results):

- The 3 Variable Funny Test (The Ham)
- The Religion Founder You Resemble Test (Mahavira, of Jainism)
- The Personality Defect Test (Emo Kid)
- The Am I a Leftist Moonbat? Test (76% Leftist Moonbat)
- The 4-Variable IQ Test (100% interpersonal, 120% visual, 100% verbal, 80% mathematical)
- The anal-retentive apostrophe Test (Perfection!)
- The Classic Dames Test (Katharine Hepburn)
- The Classic Leading Man Test (Humphrey Bogart)
- The LONG Scientific Personality Test (INFJ)


More. Because I spent so much time yesterday doing the damn things.

- The Yin or Yang Test (20 Yin, 10 Yang)
- The Lover Style Profile Test (The Classic Lover)
- The Political Objectives Test (Social-Liberal)
- The Moral Attribute Importance Test (Anarcho-socialist)
- The Erudite Wordsmith Test (Wordsmith potential)
- The Proofreading Test (Senior Editor)

The end.

**Relatively speaking.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Funny, that

Sometimes I get up in the morning and it feels like I'm being attacked by mess. Inside the house, outside the house, in my life, in my brain, everywhere, all the time, MESS!! It's like a tidal wave appears, pushing me down and thundering overhead, killing all hope and energy, and I know I'm not going to survive it, can't, it's too big. This doesn't happen every day, but often enough that it's not unusual, and mostly it happens in that early-morning sleepy state when I still can't focus on anything properly. Panic hits and I want to collapse in a whimpering heap. But I haven't done that yet and probably won't. It's just a temporary thing, a fleeting moment of horror about all the things I should have done or should be doing, but haven't done and aren't.

The sensible reaction would be to tackle the jobs that need doing, one by one, and keep doing them until they're finished. And sometimes I start to do this. But it doesn't last. I give up after an hour or a day or a week, and instead of making slow progress, I go back to just despairing at the size of the problem. Most days I just mentally shove everything into an imaginary cupboard and push the door closed.

Today is one of those days. And I'm thinking, So? It's Sunday. There are things I should be doing and I'm a lazy cow for not doing them. But it's Sunday and I'll do whatever I want. So.

And tomorrow or the next day or the day after that I'll get up in the morning and suddenly want to collapse because things are falling down or falling apart and everything is a mess and I can't deal with it.

The fact is, I can deal with it. I should deal with it. Dealing with it is what life is about. One thing at a time. Step by step. Baby steps when you can't take bigger ones, and huge great strides when you're getting the hang of it.

I know this in my head, the problem is translating it into action. Funny, that.

And you know the funnier thing? After writing all the above, I put on a CD (Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me") and suddenly feel unaccountably happy and relieved. This little dummy spit has made me feel better. I might even tackle some of those stupid tasks today. It feels like I could.

Being a human, reader. It's so weird. One minute you feel like shit and the next you feel like ... whatever the opposite of shit is.

Happy Sunday to you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Swallows on the roof this morning. There are a few families nesting under the verandah roof at the moment but it's hard to get a photo of them because:
(a) they fly away too quickly (yes, I'm a scary beast), and
(b) it's pretty dark up there.

I think they nest about twice a year but can't be sure, so this post is my official reminder for future reference. They come back to the same places each time, and if the old nest has been knocked down, they'll rebuild it (mostly with a thick mud mix, by the looks of them).

I like thinking about all the generations that have been born and raised here - many many more than those of the human residents. I don't know how many humans have lived here over the years (the property was snatched from the wilderness in 1882) but the birds would outnumber them by... what, thousands? A lot, anyway. Go the birds.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


This is an echidna (pronounced eeKIDna) - apparently a Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

I found it late yesterday afternoon as it was snuggling into the ground there, half covered by sticks and leaves and assorted whatnots. It wasn't digging, just wriggling occasionally, and only seemed to be breathing now and then, as if it was scared of me towering over it and saying things like, "Oh! Look at you!!" and trying to touch its spines. Yes, very intelligent and caring behaviour on my part... I wanted to get a better look and it was scarily easy to overlook the poor thing's fear and just continue staring. They don't amble around here very often, or not that I've seen.

Anyway, I took a few photos and this crappy one was the best of them - click on it for a bigger version. I was hoping to get a better shot this morning, but alas, Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) has moved on.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Garden: 2 (& Bleak House)

Well, I haven't actually planted anything in the garden yet, but by this afternoon all of the beds had been dug over at least twice, and most of the dead weeds are gone now, and the pavers are at least peeking out towards the sun, so that's something more than nothing, and that, shall we say, is good.

Digging is not the most interesting job on earth, so for part of the time today I was thinking about Bleak House, currently running on Australia's ABC TV on Sunday nights. I watched it last week with my sister Mavis, and proving that she is an intelligent sort of bod, just after the part where the street urchin Jo slips away from this mortal coil and the assembled masses dissolve into grief, Mavis-darl declared, "Oh! It's so delicious!!"

Yes indeedy. I wouldn't have thought of it, but that's it exactly. A period drama as stylish soapie, Bleak House is absolutely delicious. I haven't read the book and don't know how many liberties the TV version takes, but it's fine with me if it's being wilfully outrageous. All of the baddies are so deliciously bad, and all of the heroes are so deliciously good. Charles Dance seemed to be having so much fun playing the wicked Mr Tulkinghorn (now sadly departed, it seems), it would have been quite appropriate if he'd pulled on a black hat and ridden through town as an outlaw cowboy, all guns blazing as he rode over the sheriff and posse.

Sigh. It's magnificent. Bravo to the BBC.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Maori Queen, national treasure

News from my source in the Pacific (you know who you are, J): the people of New Zealand Aotearoa and neighbouring friendly countries are mourning the death of Maori Queen, Te Arikinui, Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Thousands are visiting the Turangawaewae marae at Ngaruawahia, near Hamilton, where Dame Te Ata's body lies in state before her funeral next Monday.

In the words of NZ's Prime Minister, Helen Clark: "It is a time of deep sadness. A mighty kauri has fallen." From her letter to Dame Te Ata's family, written in the languages of Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori):
Oho ana te mauri i te rongo kua moe a Te Atairangikaahu i te moenga roa. He wahine wehi, he wahine kaha, ki te hiki i nga mahi mo ona iwi. Kei te tangi te Ao Maori me to Ao Pakeha mo tenei wahine humarie. Ko ia te manawa o Waikato Tainui, o te iwi Maori nana i tuhonohono nga iwi. [English translation] My spirit (literally life force) has been startled by the news of the passing of Te Atairangikaahu: an awe-inspiring woman, a strong woman who worked assiduously for her people. The Maori world and the Pakeha world mourn the loss of this gentle woman. She is the heart of Waikato Tainui, and she drew together Maori people and the tribes. [...]

New Zealand has lost a national treasure - a woman of great judgment and vision who has touched the lives of all who met her.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Peach flowers. At least, I think that's what they are. I found them yesterday on a neighbour's tree.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Big trucks

I drove up to Brisbane yesterday and, mainly as a way to focus my head (away from thoughts of dying on the road, for instance), counted the big trucks driving in the opposite direction. I left here (North Coast NSW) before 1pm and arrived there (Brisbane Qld) after 3pm, so journey time was close to 2 hours 30 minutes. And I counted only semi-trailers or B-doubles, and didn't include tip-trucks with trailers, or those semi-trailer-length tip-trucks that carry road supplies, or any other type of big truck.

So. Do you want to guess? The main road south from Brisbane airport over 2.5 hours in the early afternoon on a weekday. Big trucks: how many?


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mr Thoreau tracks a pig

Today's post from The Blog of Henry David Thoreau (Thoreau's Journal: 08-Aug-1856) is rather amusing. Henry had planned to go "a-meditating along the river", but his father's pig escaped from a pen and it was Thoreau the Younger's duty to catch it:
I proposed to father to sell the pig as he was running (somewhere) to a neighbor who had talked of buying him, making a considerable reduction. But my suggestion was not acted on, and the responsibilities of the case all devolved on me, for I could run faster than Father. Father looked to me, and I ceased to look at the river.
I've never tried to catch a pig (it sounds like a joke, doesn't it?) but if they're anything like cattle, the key might be in not meeting their eyes. Seriously. Cattle seem to be scared or challenged by eye contact and will then thwart you at every turn, if they're inclined to. But if you avoid looking at them directly (look to either side with your hat pulled low, say) and direct them using body movements, keeping everything calm and slow, then they'll usually do what you ask. I'm basing this rule on very limited experience, though. And it doesn't hold true for young calves (who are too silly), or the mothers of said calves (who are too fierce), or bulls (who will do anything they damn well please). And maybe it doesn't hold true for pigs either.

But anyway. Mr Thoreau tracks a pig, and though I felt a bit sorry for both of them at one time or another, for most of the story I was barracking for the pig. He was very cool.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


This is the next-to-first jasmine flower this season. It's the next-to-first and not the first because the wind has been really gusty over the last few days and the first flower, poor thing, had its little face smashed in by a raging southerly. Boo.

Every year the first jasmine marks a change in the seasons, I think, or that's the way I look at it anyway. Winter is on the way out now, and while I hate the reminder (boo-a-hoo-hoo! winter! come back!), I do really love the messenger.

One year when I was living in Canberra, my angel Mum sent me some jasmine (by post or by courier - my visiting sister Mavis - I can't remember which). She wrapped it in damp cotton wool and carefully packed it into a box, and somehow, miraculously, the flowers arrived intact. I can't remember most things about that year, but I do remember that beautiful present.

Now it's jasmine time again and winter is leaving and summer will soon be arriving and it all just cries out for a bit of old-time folk singing,** doesn't it?
To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

From "Turn, Turn, Turn", a song made famous by The Byrds in the 1960s, using Pete Seeger's original music/Bible text combo.

** If that midi-file-with-lyrics business didn't make you smile, you're just not trying, are you? Sing! reader, Sing!!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The title that is much longer than is seemly for the width of the sidebar archives list

I used to have a rule about the length of blog post titles: they had to be short enough to fit into just one line of the sidebar. I don't know how or why I developed this rule, and it took me more than a year to realise the thing was there, despite the fact that obeying it - trying to make titles short - got me tangled up in knots.

Stupid behaviour due to a stupid rule, or a stupid rule due to stupid behaviour? Which comes first, the idiot or the idiocy?

I don't know, strangely enough.


Friday, August 04, 2006


I'm sceptical about IQ tests. They supposedly measure intelligence, but really they only measure the ability to think and reason. The notion of "intelligence" should cover a wider spectrum of abilities (see Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences). A high IQ doesn't necessarily indicate someone who is "intelligent" in the normal sense of the word.

Can you see what I'm getting at? IQ tests measure the things I'm not good at, so bah! The damn things are useless!


Yeah, but anyway... I just did this IQ test and my score was okay. If you want to try it yourself, you'll need pen and paper (it's self-scoring) and 45 minutes. There are 60 questions.**

Most of my incorrect answers were to questions I thought were easy (the ones comparing patterns). But here follows a question that I comprehended quite accurately right from the start (in the sense that I had no clue whatsoever and recognised this immediately).

#60: A fish has a head 9" [9 inches] long. The tail is equal to the size of the head plus one-half the size of the body. The body is the size of the head plus the tail. How long is the fish?

Possible answers: 27" - 54" - 63" - 72" - 81"

Here's how this went in my head:

1. (imagine a fish; cut the head off) "The head is 9 inches long."
2. (cut the tail off) "The tail is 9 inches plus a bit more."
3. (stare at the fish) "That leaves the body. It's 9 inches plus 9 inches plus a bit more."
4. (stare at the fish) "Okay. So where are we up to? 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + a bit more."
5. (chop at a few outlying bits of the fish, hoping it will help somehow)
6. "Right. Don't panic. Focus. We've got a combined length of... what? 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + a bit more, which equals? ...36 inches plus a bit more."
7. (congratulate self: good work) "Obviously the key to this is 'a bit more'."
8. (congratulate self again: great work) "How much is 'a bit more'?"
9. (stare at the fish) "And where was it?"
10. (stare at the fish) "Come on, focus!"
11. (stare at the fish) "Don't panic! Look at the fish!" (staring! staring!)
12. "What am I looking at?"
13. "What was the question?"
14. (sigh)

Oh, what the hell, though. It takes a certain kind of intelligence to know that if a fish is too big to fit in the oven, it should have been left to live peacefully in the sea. So.

** Note:

#29 deals with copper, iron, brass, tin and lead. You need to have a rudimentary idea of what these things are, or the question requires a guess.

#40 deals with US money. If you don't know it already:
penny = 1 cent
nickel = 5 cents
dime = 10 cents
quarter = 25 cents
half-dollar = (not telling; guess)

#58 deals with Imperial measurements:
inch = one twelfth of a foot
mile = 1760 yards
acre = 4840 square yards
yard = 3 feet
foot = 12 inches

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Really wild wilderness

Copyright Renae Baker 2006

Nacreous clouds (aka polar stratospheric clouds) in a photo taken by a meteorological officer working at Mawson in Antarctica. They were more than twice the height of clouds normally seen in polar regions, and (umm... Should I state the obvious?) they look amazing.

Found via My Last Continent, which also provides a link to the happy news that "Brazil's air force and navy will transport more than 100 penguins to Antarctica next month after the flightless birds were stranded on Rio de Janeiro beaches." The penguins will fly (by plane, the lazy sods) to southern Brazil, then board a ship for their trip home to Antarctic waters. Isn't that nice?

Of course, a possible scenario =

The ship weighs anchor. All human passengers flock to the railings. All penguin passengers splash! splash! plop! their way into the sea.

Ahhh... Look at them frolic! Look at them play! Home at last to freedom.

But wait! Shouts ring out from the humans.

"Penguins! Look out!"
"Oh no!"
"Look out!!"
"Oh no!!"
"Look out! Look out! Look out!!!"
(collective bellow from horrified spectators)


Oh, go on, laugh. It won't kill you (^_^)

NB. No animals were harmed during production of this blog post.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's a wilderness up there

The sky was just gorgeous today. It seemed to have a bit of everything in it. I suspect we might be in the winter/summer changeover period (if there is such a thing). The prevailing breezes seem to be moving back around to their summer residence in the northeast after spending all winter blowing up from the southwest. Maybe this is putting more moisture into the air and creating more clouds. I don't know. But the sky: oh! So beautiful.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Warbling (the remix)

Please forget for a minute that you know what "chortle" means (1. to chuckle gleefully 2. a gleeful chuckle) and just listen to how the word sounds:


So? Did you hear it?

It's a magpie singing, isn't it? (Correct answer = Yes, D! It is!)

Great Australian Soloist: The Chortler