Saturday, December 30, 2006

Victory for reason?

On the subject of Saddam Hussein's hanging...

From the Scotsman:

"Hamid Alkifaey, a former Iraqi politician, said: "It is a victory for justice, it is a victory for ordinary Iraqi people over tyranny, it is a victory for reason and it is a day of joy for all human beings."
US President George Bush said: "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself."
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the statement from Mrs Beckett spoke for the whole government, including the Prime Minister.
Mrs Beckett said: "I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account."
She added that the Government "does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else" but added that "we respect the decision" of Iraqi authorities.
However, a statement from the Vatican today said the execution was a "tragic event like all capital punishments" and risked fomenting a spirit of vendetta and sowing new violence in Iraq."


Colour me surprised, but I find myself agreeing with the Vatican on this. I feel sad that killing anyone, no matter how despicable, is a source of celebration to some people.

And I have no idea how it can be seriously described as a "victory for reason".

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

These are not the toys you are looking for...

A Mr PotatoHead Star Wars Clone warrior, a present for milord T.

He pronounced it "Scary!" and ran away after he pulled off the wrapping paper. He got lots of other things he really liked, and I expect he'll grow to love it? I can see his point: those big bulgy eyes under the clone mask and the clenched fist.

The other arm's a bit camp. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cwismas time mistletoooe and woine

We're pretty much ready for Christmas, I think. Most of the presents are wrapped and stuffed haphazardly under the tree, M is out doing the food shopping as I blog and I'm to go pick up my granny later this afternoon.

The Guardian has an interesting article about a poll today. It's based on phone survey of 1,006 people (A peculiar number. Why not stop at 1,000 to make the maths easier? :D. I would!) and we all know to be sceptical about statistics, I hope.

Curiously, they found that non-believers outnumber believers two to one in the UK. This surprised me.

"Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as "a religious person". A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.
Older people and women are the most likely to believe in a god, with 37% of women saying they are religious, compared with 29% of men


...

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the "impression of secularism in this country is overrated".
"You also have to bear in mind how society has changed. It is more difficult to go to church now than it was. Communities are displaced, people work longer hours - it's harder to fit it in. It doesn't alter the fact that the Church of England will get 1 million people in church every Sunday, which is larger than any other gathering in the country."
The Right Rev Bishop Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, added: "The perception that faith is a cause of division can often be because faith is misused for other uses and other agendas.""


I do find it peculiar that only 54% of the people interviewed who said they were Christian are intending to attend a service. But maybe they're more of the puritan bent :P. (Oh, it struck me yesterday that I'd forgotten to bring up Mithras in that post, but since his myth was swallowed up or lost, it's perhaps not that relevant). No, seriously, it's because half the people who described themselves as Christian also described themselves as non-religious, so must have started off mis-labelling themselves. I suppose it's still a cultural norm.

NORM!

Oddly I am attending a church service tomorrow. If they'd interviewed me, it would have confused them. :D We're going to a children's service. It does feel more Christmassy if you go to something like that, I think. It's probably my upbringing creeping out. We used to attend church every Sunday (and of course at Christmas) in my formative years.

I am a mass of contradictions sometimes :D: angsting over religion in schools at some points and then taking my kids to a service :D. I think it's a matter of control and presentation. I know how I will answer questions, I'm not too sure about teachers... But don't worry, I'm not telling S it's all rubbish or anything like that, I simply add in the "some people believe" parts.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

On a cold and frosty morning


The children found a new use for the changing mat and sledged down the icy, frosted grass in the garden, which was inventive and great fun.

I had a couple of turns myself. :D

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The trouble with atheists

I watched a bit of the programme The Trouble with Atheists last night, presented by journalist Rod Liddle. M wanted to watch the DVD of the Da Vinci Code he'd rented so we switched off about half-way through. I think it was meant as a challenge/answer to the Dawkins' programmes they'd had on a few months ago. Oh, it made me giggle and growl in equal amounts.

His argument seemed to be that atheists are creating a new religion out of science really, which is an old saw (oh, and the arrogance thing :)). And he continued in this vein, declaring we have high priests and elders in Dawkins and his cohorts. He also found Darwin Bedford, a slightly cuckoo fellow by the look of it, who claims to be the atheist Messiah. From what was shown of him, he stands outside churches with placards saying god doesn't exist and handing out leaflets. This is on the same level of silly and annoying as the old religious placard lady in a town I once lived in, declaring those who died in the Tsunami basically deserved it.

I couldn't bear to watch the Da Vinci Code, having loathed the book, so read instead. From what I drew from it, the film seemed to move quite slowly and dully. Which is odd, since it seemed written with a film in mind, (although a predictable and cliché-ridden one). I had thought it would translate better than it seemed to, however, I didn't watch it properly so probably shouldn't have an opinion on it. :D

I read Julian Clary's autobiography A Young Man's Passage. I don't usually read biographies, but I'd been looking in the history section for something on Cromwell, and when I couldn't find anything, Clary's biography was the obvious alternative :o :P! Clearly. How could it be otherwise? A whim, indeed, but it was quite interesting and somewhat as you'd expect of the Joan Collins Fan Club, and somewhat more. His boyfriend Christopher and another friend died of AIDS, and his care of his partner showed him in a very different light.

Monday, December 18, 2006

School do do


I'm developing a real hatred of school events, and I'm not entirely sure why. (Or am I? Let's explore that. :D)

Well, part of it is how many people are there. Too many.

And they all arrive ages beforehand so if you want a seat, you have to be incredibly early and therefore are bored silly by the time anything starts happening.

Today I was going to take my camera, but I didn't bother in the end, as without zoom I'd only get specks in the distance, again. I had debated too long whether to take T with me or not, you see, to get there early enough. I took him as I thought he'd enjoy the singing and when you're accompanied by a small child, you have an excuse to be antisocial, as you're too busy watching your toddler to engage in long conversations. I had been worried that he might try to tear up the aisle and join his sister, but we couldn't actually see her at all, so no danger there. And I'd brought cars. He was very good throughout, only letting out a couple of joyous squeals and a couple of bashes with the cars against pew.

The songs the children sang were not your usual carols, but Christmassy songs that none of us knew, really. We did have songsheets, but none of the parents joined in, we just watched and admired the children.

I do like the vicar a lot: she's very good with youngsters and gave a nice child-friendly sermon. It wasn't particularly me-friendly, but then being in church at all isn't my idea of a good time. I can't really expect a service with no mention of god. :D Overall, it just washed over me, and I found the way she made it accessible to the children with a huge soft toy sheep and a star that lit up, very well done. She told the story of the shepherds who went to see the baby Jesus, and there was quite an amusing bit where she said they had been washing their socks, picking up on the "naughty" amended version of the carol, which made the children laugh. I was slightly flummoxed by a bit where she said one of the smelly (her word!) shepherds wanted a souvenir (well, that's not the right word, a keepsake, rather) and took a bit of wood from the manger in the shape of you know what, and Mary looked terribly sad. I suppose it was to try to lead back to the crucifixion and what that is supposed to symbolise. It seemed a bit unBiblical to me, but as ever, I could be wrong. I don't suppose it matters if it was poetic licence as such. It just grated on me a bit. But the service wasn't meant to please stray atheists. :D

It does strike me as immensely wrong-headed, the impression that some Christians seem to have that their religion isn't promoted in school any more, which I have seen expressed in the media and on-line. From my perspective, Christianity is definitely better represented than other religious beliefs, even though my child's school is not a faith or church school. The children might know a bit about other religions, but nothing on the scale of what they know about Christianity, (unless they are from a different religious background). I suppose it's only to be expected, given the country's history and culture. But I'd prefer it was taught as "some people believe".

I could take S out of those sorts of activities/lessons, but I don't think she'd thank me for missing performances like today or for making her stand out in school.

Anyway, I'm going a long way astray from my starting point.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The power of ten

This is fabulous - a trip through 10 million light years away, right up to quarks.

And the Simpsons version. :D

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Banning Christmas

What with various rags bare-facedly lying about how Christmas is being taken away from Christians, (boo-hoo, rend our shirts and rant red-facedly), it made me think about something I dimly recalled from history lessons.

This being, Oliver Cromwell's rule where Christmas and various other holidays were really banned.

Now old Olly was a Puritan, and those boys didn't agree with the celebration of Christmas.

It held unwelcome links with Roman Catholicism, (Christ's Mass) and with Paganism. A lot of traditions surrounding Christmas even now, predate Christianity and have their roots or equivalents in paganism. Ivy was a symbol of Bacchus, while mistletoe is believed by pagans to protect against lightning, bring good luck, cure disease and grant fertility. Holly has similar pagan connections. The winter solstice was a good time for festivals: Saturnalia was a Roman tradition, involving (as one would expect of the Romans, their reputation being what it is) a certain amount of excess :D. It went on about a week, although various emperors tried to shorten it. And there was Yule, a northern European pagan festival, which involved feasting and the sacrifice of a pig to Frey, (from which we acquire the traditional Christmas ham).

It seems fair to say that the Puritans wouldn't have thought much to Pope Gregory's advice to Abbot Mellitus (in round about 600 CE, when he was coming over to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity), which was to allow them some leeway with their festivals so not to drive them away from conversion. (This link takes you a site giving the contents of the letter, as preserved by the Venerable Bede.)

The Puritans wanted a day of fasting and reflection rather than the rip-roaring hoo-ha that surrounded Christmas. They wanted rid of all holy days whilst Sundays were to be strictly observed. They even passed legislation to this effect in 1645.

Of course, they didn't succeed altogether in getting people to stop celebrating, but they did make it dangerous.

Cromwell is an interesting figure: I must read more about him. What day is it today? ... Oh, library's shut today.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Party time.

S's party went very well. It was like a military operation: the magician had sent an itinary and schedule, as well as name stickers, invitations and the like. I was also in good form, having planned things better and thought through everything better than I managed last year.

I took charge of buying the party food, as I hadn't really approved of M's choices the previous year: too many sweeties = hyper kiddies on suger highs, as if the excitement of a party isn't enough. So the only sweets there were on my watch, were lollies in the party bags. :D Not that there wasn't sugary stuff available, in the shape of jam tarts, butterfly buns and kitkats, but there was more savoury things, and even fruit(!) available. We got everything prepared in good time and arrived at the hall to set up on schedule, for once. :D

It had been a bit of a disaster last year, really, as the children weren't that well - but I couldn't cancel the party since I didn't have everyone's numbers. We didn't have an entertainer either, and miscalculated just how well party games would keep the children involved, (or would fail to, rather). Still, the children remembered it, so it must have been fun. It was just an absolute stress-fest for us adults. :D And the party bags ran out because a couple of siblings who came with the parents to pick up the children took bags too. Argh! I shudder at the memory.

I think the numbers this year were better too, as we ended up with 14 instead of the 20-odd previously. It's a learning curve, this children's event organising. By the time T starts having parties, we'll have it right, I reckon.

Anyway S loved it, and T had a whale of a time as well, and some of the children were lovely with him, helping him join in the games and dancing with him. Last year, he'd cried and clung most of the time, as he wasn't too well and was only diddy.

It probably cost slightly more doing it this way, but I don't think it was that much different in the end, as we over-bought and had to provide prizes as well last year, whereas this year the magician provided those. And the reduction in stress was incalculable! :D

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Poems that mean something to me

A Christmas Carol

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty winds made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

(Excerpt - Christina Rossetti)

-------

Remember

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
you tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; You understand
it will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
for if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

(Christina Rossetti)

-------

Foweles in the frith,
The fisses in the flod
And I mon waxe wod:
Mulch sorw I walke with
For beste of bon and blod.

(Medieval Poem)

-------

Take mee to you, imprison mee,
For I, except you enthrall mee,
Never shall be free, nor ever chast,
Except you ravish mee.

(Excerpt from John Donne's Batter my Heart)

-------

Not waving but drowning

No-one heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much farther out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

(Stevie Smith)

-------

You should be made of Rubber

You're always moving stuff around
It wakes me up, it gets me down
Why must you be so bloody loud ?
You should be made of rubber.

You wake me up at 8am
You're gone by 9, but it's too late then
I can't get to sleep again
You should be made of rubber.

You should be made of rubber
Cos it's bouncy and it's quiet
So if you ever see a rubber body
You should buy it
You're loud and brash, you bang and crash
You really can't deny it.
(Don't worry 'bout the colour
You can take it home & dye it)

You drag your gear along the hall
It seems to bounce off every wall
I just can't get to sleep at all
You should be made of rubber.

You frogmarch up and down the stairs
As if you haven't got a care
Please don't sit down, you'll break the chair
You should be made of rubber.

I always know it must be you
I've seen the floorboards coming thru
The ceiling as they often do
You should be made of rubber.

One day this house will all fall down...
And it'll be your fault !
You shouldn't be so fucking loud
You should be made of rubber.

(Vis the Spoon)

It's time to party like it's 1999.

It's a bit of a social whirl this weekend. At least for the young uns.

Today we had the local children's Christmas party, to which I took S, T and her friend M. It was a good party, with a clown doing magic (and fortunately failing to terrify any children). Then a break for party nosh, followed by games, singing and Santa.

M and S were great and joined in with everything while behaving as behoves well-behaved children :D. T was a pleasure as well: he was trying to boogie down and do all the older children did. He loved the whole thing, sat enthralled for most of the magic show, ate his food at the table, no tantrums, no tears, no nuisance-making of any kind. It was most relaxing.

He found a shadow, a slightly older toddler who pursued him everywhere and seemed absolutely fascinated by him, (to the consternation of T, myself and his parents at times). He wasn't always content to follow him around, if T stopped moving, he would push him with his stomach and sometimes lean right into his face and bellow some sort of toddlerese, (either meant as encouragement or some deadly insult, who can tell?) Once he managed to stand on T's trousers, trip him up and then fall on top of him. I don't think his mother had a very relaxing time, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her, as her boy was everywhere at once, she couldn't take her eyes off him for a second, and obviously he was hounding T some of the time as well.

She was probably worried I'd get the arse about it. But T is quite used to bigger children chasing him and accidentally trampling him underfoot. :D

Tomorrow we have an early birthday party for S. I must ice some buns and fill some party bags in a minute.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mini-Tornado

A tornado struck an area in North London! What freaky weather.

It's like a scene from a movie where a super-villain is using his weather-machine for nefarious ends, demonstrating his abilities so he can blackmail the government. :D

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pricks and sticks

One of M's employees was stabbed with a needle by someone last night.

M is remarkably insouciant about this. I was quite shocked by how blasé he seemed, but it seems it is par for the course. He tells me he's been threatened with needles on numerous occasions.

I didn't realise; I guess he didn't want me worrying.

The poor guy will have to have an AIDS test, but I suppose the risk is relatively small. Apparently needles are popular with criminals because they're small and easily concealed, while carrying quite a potent threat. If the culprit is caught and charged, M says it probably will only be ABH since the actual injury is minor. But it seems quite wrong, because it's such a nasty threat and consequence. :(

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Last night we watched Superman Returns. It was an enjoyable movie. M thought it was alright, not enough action, while I thought it was pretty good. I'm not sure about Brandon Routh as Superman, for he has rather burly eyebrows. (Burly seems a good word for it :D)

Following astronomers' discovery of the remains of Krypton, Superman vanished to go and see what was left there. Five years later he returns, and this is where the narrative of the film begins. In his absence, Lois Lane has started living with someone and has a young son. She also won a Pulitzer for her article on why the world doesn't need a superhero. (Not that she's at all bitter! :D)

The easy thing to do, would to have made James Marsden's character (as her fiancé) an unpleasant person, but he is a thoroughly good egg: brave, loyal, kind, loving, strong etc etc. This makes the triangle more interesting and Superman's pursuit of Lois more complex and even morally dubious. I was quite engaged by the love sub-plot, (which often seem tacked on in these types of movie), so it was effectively done. Spoiler: I was also pleased by the outcome at the end of the film, because I feared the fiancé would be killed off in a typical Hollywood cop-out...

There were quite a few nods to the Christopher Reeve films and previous incarnations of Superman, and even to the classic lines "It's a bird, it's a plane..." :D

Monday, December 04, 2006

Reading: Cloud Atlas

On the back of my copy, AS Byatt is quoted as saying "David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end." This seems to sum up my reaction to this novel very well too.

I found it quite hard to give this book the time it deserved: it's been on my "to-read" pile for absolutely ages and although I've started it before, I've never kept going with it. But on an impulse, I took it with me on my long train journey at the weekend and got going. It's an interwoven tale where six narratives connect and split. It covers different time periods, from one set in the 19th century to the present to the distant future. It's told in halves, sometimes cut mid-flow, and then starting a new narrative. This is quite a jerk, and to begin with I found it annoying. Then I started wondering how each story would be concluded and whether it would have that satisfaction of resolution or whether we would be left hanging. It was done very effectively.

The author was playing with ideas about power and corruption, slavery and rebellion, and identity. Each of the characters share a birthmark, so whether they are the same person reincarnated or whether descendants, or whether marked by destiny, is a matter of speculation. Muitchell also toys with notions of story-telling: who is narrating, who is the audience, whether the narratives are written as real-life accounts or entirely fictionalised. For example, the tattered journal of Adam Ewing is read by Frobisher, whose letters are read by Luisa Rey, who is a character in a political thriller and so on. An element of doubt about the reality of events is inserted by Frobisher's skepticism about the authenticity of language used in the journal, while the fact that Luisa Rey becomes a character in a novel read by another protagonist works similarly.

The s-f parts of the book were interesting: one set in a technologically advanced dystopia, the other a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter was somewhat reminiscent of A Canticle For Leibowitz.

I really enjoyed this novel and I'm glad I finally read it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm free! [/Mr Humphries]

The obligatory bear shot, since I was adopting a touristy attitude.

And I guess I am a tourist in London, my student days in the capital quite sometime behind me. But it was strange and evocative of that time being back there on my own (with the children safe at home with M). It feels really odd being without the children: I don't need to point out the pretty Christmas lights and I'm not constantly looking around to see where they are. I can even hold a conversation without interruption, although that had me floundering at times: coherent sentences? What are they? I used to make the trip up to college to London Paddington on a regular basis, and it felt different yet oddly the same, being back there now I'm older.

The trip was very pleasant: I did a few code-breakers to begin with, then started to read Cloud Atlas. I'm so glad I finally gave this book a chance. I managed to get half-way through before arrival.

My friend and her family were waiting to meet me, which was very nice, and the children had grown so much... I feel like an agéd aunt saying that. (That's what kids do - they grow! You stupid woman). They were a lot bigger but still cute as anything.

Later on A & I met up with R, which was great. We went for a meal and then onto the cinema to watch the new Bond, Daniel Craig, do his stuff in Casino Royale.

Our greater-spotted waiter seemed unable to retain more than one word in his head, poor creature. First I made a mistake by thinking one of the dishes was a starter, so that confused him... and me. He scrubbed things out on his pad and perhaps that was why, when our meals arrived, our shared starter was a no-show. It arrived afterwards in the hands of a lesser-spotted waiter, who also obtained the wine we had ordered. But otherwise the food was fine (apart from R's cold chips!). The lesser-spotted waiter put the blame for the mistakes on the greater-spotted, but when the latter came back to us, he passed the buck to the kitchen. I'd prefer someone just said "Oh whoops, I did a boo-boo" and accepted some responsibility.

As seems the rule (at restaurants I go to anyway), actually getting a dessert/liqueur coffee and the bill takes forever. I asked but thrice for the bill, and ended up seeking the greater-spotted waiter at the counter in order to pay. It had become a matter of urgency since our film was due to start. They seemed most reluctant to take our money and I could feel a burning temptation to simply walk out.

At least the company was good! It was so nice to see R & A.

As we were late into the cinema, there were hardly any seats and no three seats together. So that was a shame, and R volunteered to sit alone, which was noble of her. She ended up sitting just in front of us, and it was all a bit awkward, not being able to interact. We also had some adolescent lads sitting beside us, who seemed to be conducting a conversation pretty much throughout, which made me want a nail-gun... but the film was good fun. :D

I think Daniel Craig makes a good 007 and the movie seemed truer to the Ian Fleming books than other Bond films are usually. I remember reading my Granddad's Bond novels reasonably well, (although it's been a long time), and the character is quite dark and verging on the socio/psychopathic. I don't find Craig particularly attractive but he was a good turn as Bond and certainly beats Roger Moore, Lazenby and Dalton into the dust. I will always have an affection for Sean Connery, and consider him the best Bond, cos I think it may be a legal requirement...

I'm not sure who the runner up is between Craig and Brosnan. On the whole, I think I may plump for Craig.

I found the poker scenes quite lengthy and found one of the characters explaining the pot to Vesper somewhat patronising. As an accountant type thing, her character would surely be able to work out how much money was riding on the cards, even if she wasn't knowledgeable about poker. Spoiler: I also wondered why she decided to give up and basically commit suicide when had she helped him, he could have freed her sooner. I thought she deliberately jammed the door and moved back from Bond. That was the way I thought it went, but A didn't pick up on it, so maybe it was a mistake on my part. I should ask R for her take on it. The torture scene was quite wince-worthy, but I suspect men might wince more and harder. :D

Afterwards, we considered going for a drink but the streets were quite busy, mad and alarming with drunken fools and on-alert police. We saw a woman being arrested and her (10 year old ish?) daughter trying to pull a policeman away from her mum and crying her eyes out. I felt awful for the girl and hugely angry & judgemental about the woman, (despite knowing nothing of what had happened). It was so rowdy around there, that I think we all thought better of it, although it would have been nice to discuss the film and chat some more. But I was quite quailing at the thought of the press at the bar, etc. ("Saturday night's alright for fighting, get a little action in.") I must be getting old. We went our separate ways, A & I heading back to hers and R going home.

A showed me her nearly-finished novel and let me start reading it. I kept on reading until it was lights out, and when I woke in the morning, wanted to keep reading. So that's got to be a good sign. :D (I'm good at understating).

I woke pretty early - well, half-sixish - so my children have really got me well-trained. I'm going to be an early riser for the rest of my life, I bet. After all those somnabulent years of lazing in my pit 'til midday.

Ah well, at least I shall be revenged. In their teens I shall burst into their rooms, throw open their curtains to inform them loudly and enthusiastically that they're missing the best part of the day! I already do that to M sometimes. :D Mwhahahaha.

I had a really good time being relatively free for 24 hours, although I kept thinking there was something missing. Not enough nappies or chasing or mum-mum-mum-mum-mum. And I particularly enjoyed the idea of M taking on my role without respite from my parents, since they are away still. Mwhahahaha, again. Not but what he's a good dad and husband, but it's just nice for him to see that my life isn't all sitting on the PC blogging rubbish. :D

The journey home had a few annoyances. The platform number wasn't given until 5 minutes before we were due to leave. Other trains had platform notices for ages, but ours?! Oh no. :D So it was a case of a flood of people trying to race each other.

I got onto the train in carriage E as my ticket said 21a E or something like that. But that seat was unreserved. I sat in it anyway, since it had no bit of paper sticking out of it. A perfectionist lady was trying to find the exact seat on her ticket, but although she had found the seat numbered on her ticket, the piece of paper stuck out of it said something different to the actual one imprinted on the seat itself. This caused her a great deal of consternation, and she stood in the aisle debating the wisdom of seeking out a piece of paper with her details on it, or whether to sit on that seat. She blocked the gangway for ages while she considered her options. About ten people were the victims of her indecision.

Once the train started, I changed carriages, seeking a forward facing seat so I could read. I settled in another carriage, that had lots of space and started on my lovely book again.

As we chugged along an announcement was made to the effect that the steward had walked down the train and seen many a bag taking up a seat. Dire warnings were issued, where he told us that the next station was expected to be filling our train and that when he walked down again, he would charge anyone with a bag on a seat for an additional single fare! I took heed, but unnecessarily, since hardly anyone actually got on at the next station.

I understand why it would be bothersome to staff, that people take up seats unreasonably, when there are perfectly good luggage racks. I just felt most naughty and wrist-slapped by the way he talked. As I suppose I should, being a heinous bag-on-seat-erer. :D

A pair of young women were sitting behind me, and talking loudly in strong regional accents, which made me feel at home. But one of them had a dreadful cough, reminiscent of the character from the Fast Show who cannot get through a sentence without spluttering, hacking and coughing himself into choking. At first I felt sorry for her, but after a couple of hours I wished for my nail-gun again. Or a jar of honey to ram down her throat!

M and the children were waiting for me, and that was lovely - the children virtually rugby-tackled me and seemed so pleased to see me. S had made me a card telling me how much she missed me. Aww.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Reading: Acid Row

This is the second Minette Walters' novel I've read and I enjoyed it more than the Shape of Snakes. I was totally sucked into the atmosphere and world of the novel, and grew to fear what would happen to some of the characters.

It is set in a run-down estate, which riots when the inhabitants discover a sex offender is living amongst them and a young girl in the town goes missing. It's an interesting look at the "moral panic" and hysteria such knowledge creates.

The offender himself is an ephebophile and poses little risk to young children: his victims were lads just below age of consent, who were actually willing participants, (although the law does not recognise that). I think this was an interesting choice for Walters'. To have a stereotypical paedophile - it would make the character completely unsympathetic, and it would be harder to blur the good vs evil aspect of the story. But it also feels a little like taking the easier route... Hmm. But I guess her point is that it isn't back and white and the label covers a whole range of offences.

I enjoyed this book and it raised some interesting questions.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

All by myself

M is away again, until Friday night.

I wonder why this job ever seemed like a good idea. I'm not sure it did actually; I think he took it because it seemed we didn't have much time to think about it and rejecting a promotion is counter-intuitive.

I think he should have stayed doing what he was and I should have started pursuing my own career.

However. Here we are.

Ow!

I managed to stand on a lorry yesterday. Unfortunately I was stepping over something else so when my foot went down, it was full weight and there was no chance to pull back. It bled most excitingly and I swore most vilely. Blood blood everywhere! And that marvellous throbbing sensation, where you become aware of your own pulse and the blood being pumped round your body, and it feels concentrated at the wound. It was right before the school run, as well, so hurriedly trying to clean myself up and staunch the flow was just what I needed.

The lorry was OK, in the manner of lorries generally. Toy or full-size, they win their battles against flesh.

I have a limp now. I don't know whether I'm being a big wuss or whether I actually need to limp. :D

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thinking, feeling cetaceans?

"Whales may share our kind of intelligence, researchers say after discovering brain cells previously found only in humans and other primates.
They were touted as the brain cells that set humans and the other great apes apart from all other mammals. Now it has been discovered that some whales also have spindle neurons – specialised brain cells that are involved in processing emotions and helping us interact socially.
Spindle cells, named after their long, spindle-shaped bodies, are the cells that are credited with allowing us to feel love and to suffer emotionally. Their discovery in whales will stimulate debate both on the level of whale intelligence and on the ethics of hunting them.
The cells occur in parts of the human brain that are thought to be responsible for our social organisation, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others, and rapid “gut” reactions."


This article certainly has further implications for the morality of whaling (Link in the title).

...

It's curious that I would place even more importance on preventing whaling, having this possibility of these animals being an intelligent lifeform.

Animal rights? The more intelligent a creature, the more it's worth? I guess it's a position predicated on the intrinsic value of our own species, but then, it's only natural to have a human-centric outlook when you're a human. :D

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hey teacher! Leave those kids alone!

I find this story most alarming today. I had always thought of the creationist/ID vs evolution debate as being mostly a US thing.

Spin it how they like, ID is not science. I have no objection to it being discussed in R.E. classes.

I have a huge massive ginormous humungous problem with it being taught in science lessons.

I find the ArchBishop of Canterbury's take on it (from March) interesting:
"I think creationism is ... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories ... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it," he said.

Splish splash

It rained a lot over the last few days and nights. There was soot and water coming down the chimney, and the road up the hill had a riverlet hurtling past our front gate. Everytime I stuck my nose outside, it started to pour.


But on Sunday we had a beautiful day, and we went for a family ramble. (Well, minus M, as he was having to catch up on his paperwork). Some of the paths were more like streams but we had a good time. T got soaked paddling through every puddle and stretch of water he could find and S collected interesting stones. :)



That's a path, that is.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Borrowed

I'm borrowing this from Stegbeetle, who had it from someone else, who had it from someone else. :D

You.Can.Only.Type.One.Word.No.Explanations.

1. Yourself: nervy
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): stressed
3. Your hair: itchy
4. Your mother: away
5. Your father: dead
6. Your favorite item: PC
7. Your dream last night: forgotten
8. Your favorite drink: wine
9. Your dream car: Beetle
10. The room you are in: living-room
11. Your ex: forgotten
12. Your fear: failure
13. What you want to be in 10 years? secure
14. Who you hung out with last night? husband
15. What you're not? patient
16. Muffins: fattening
17. One of your wish list items: roller-blades
18. Time: flies
19. The last thing you did: dog-walking
20. What you are wearing: skirt
21. Your favorite weather: windy
22. Your favorite book: Catch-22
23. The last thing you ate: toast
24. Your life: persists
25. Your mood: changeable
26. Your best friend: distant
27. What are you thinking about right now? swimming
28. Your car: dodgy
29. What are you doing at the moment? thinking
30. Your summer: fun
31. Your relationship status: married
32. What is on your TV? news
33. What is the weather like? raining
34. When is the last time you laughed? today

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cross about crosses?

I understand better why it is so important to the woman concerned in the BA crucifix controversy, for her to wear a cross. She is a Coptic Christian with an Egyptian background.

This is significant because there are historic & current tensions between the Coptic Christian and Islamic population in Egypt. In 2005, there was a riot in which 3 Coptics were killed and a nun stabbed, following the showing of an anti-Islamic play at their church. Some of the Coptics have the Coptic cross tattooed on the inside of their wrist so that there is no possibility of them hiding their religion in everyday life. To me, this changes things slightly and I have more sympathy for her position.

However, I can see BA's point, as well. If jewellery is to be worn under the clothes for the company's image (and possible health and safety), you can't make exceptions. Hmmm. Most/all airlines have strict dress codes.

I wonder what BA's rules are about tattooes? (I expect visible ones would be a no-no).
I wonder why the cross she wants to wear is not the Coptic one? (I suppose they vary a bit).

I find the Daily M#!l exasperating. They continue to say "banned" when it is "concealed".

And in their Tuesday edition, they had the ArchBishop of York's comments as their front page ("Nonsense" is the title if you care), but felt the need for a sub-heading about his country of origin. How on earth is that relevant? Ooh look, a black ArchBishop: how can he be of York?! Is that what they're saying? Grummock.

Dr Sentamu's comments seemed a bit overboard to me, since BA's decision is scarcely undermining British heritage and the British don't actually owe a lot to Coptic Christianity. He also says "banned" when it's "concealed". All a bit over-played, if you ask me.

I do sympathise with Ms Ewedia's position more than I did, but since she has been offered other work with BA where she wouldn't have to conceal her cross, or she could wear the cross but keep it covered while on duty, I don't really think she's being treated as badly as is being made out.

Teach me to look at the Daily Hate.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A god-shaped hole?

An intriguing question that has been posed, under the assumption that everyone has a god-sized hole in their psyche. I'm prepared to entertain the question, but I don't feel an absence. I feel no hole, I feel pretty whole :D.

Maybe I've filled it with something else? Maybe I've filled this alleged hole with something else, as suggested. What do I worship?

Myself?
Haha, don't think so. I'm pretty well aware of my faults, and although I'm at the point of quite liking myself most of the time, worship is way off. There are lots of people smarter than me, funnier than me, more interesting than me, just plain nicer than me. (There are also people nastier, just so you don't think I've got a downer on myself).

Science?
I enjoy learning about the natural world and thinking about questions raised and theories suggested. Do I think it solves everything? No. There is still so much to learn about so many things. We're still discovering new species, for goodness sake. Does it always get everything right? No, scientists can be fallible and sometimes self-important, mistakes get made, all is subject to review. I see that as quite a positive thing, actually, the review part.

My husband?
Maybe, at one time, during the infatuation stage of the relationship. But now, no. Bloody love the bugger tho... It's hard to worship someone who piddles on the toilet seat.

Celebrities/famous figures?
Erm, I've never sent a fan-letter or got anyone's autograph or anything like that. Which is a shame really, as I daresay it's nice to have. I can appreciate people's achievements, talents or physical beauty but I can't think of anyone I hero-worship or have ever hero-worshipped... As a teen, I was a fan of various bands, and I remember being quite perturbed by Kurt Cobain's suicide. I identified with the music. I admire quite a few authors' writing. And Johnny Depp (only as Captain Jack Sparrow, you understand) is a bit phwoooar. I might watch their movie/read their book/see someone live but I don't have much interest in the person outside of their art. I tend to know very little about them.

And fade...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On borrowing a dog

My mum's dog is nice to have on loan, while she is on holiday. She delves around for crumbs and clears up left-overs. Which saves on hoovering. Unfortunately she won't eat pine needles, of which we seem to have millions invading the house. I thought pine were evergreen! Maybe it's not pine. In fact, I'm damned sure it's not. However... never let a fact get in the way of a good rant, that's what I always say. Well, actually, as I tell M, I never always do or say anything! So there.


I don't think I'd want a dog all the time, as I'm constantly tripping over her, and instead of there being two children standing in the doorway I'm trying to get through with the shopping, there are two children and a dog. I'm also not keen on the poo clearing up aspect. But she is great fun, and lovely and gentle with the kids. Maybe when the children are older, it would be nice to have one. At the moment, it feels like an extra responsibility I don't need, although for a few weeks it's OK. :)


I'm very much on my own at the moment, with M away working and Mum on holiday. It's a bit gloomy to tell the truth. Still he'll be back on Wednesday night, I think.


Monday, November 20, 2006

A peculiar bird is the pelican

I was walking home from my Mum's when I saw a huge tropical bird, it was ostrich sized but more of a stork shape and had a pelican-esque beak. It was wandering the road, looking forlorn. It seemed friendly but I was still quite wary of it, thinking its beady little eyes were considering whether I might taste of fish. I managed to direct it into the pony field. When I shut the gate behind it, it fluffed up its cream coloured feathers and seemed happy enough to wander around the enclosure.

I started walking, wondering how to find its owner, and climbed the hill, where I saw a circus in the neighbouring field. It was an old-fashioned circus with animal acts. As I approached, I saw a man, who seemed to be in charge. I explained to the ring master that I thought I'd found a bird from the circus and he told me it must have got loose when they took the animals to water in the pony field. I headed off to bring him the bird, thinking I would lead it with a bit of string around its neck, only to find it wasn't there. I ran to my mum's intending to get a search party started, and worrying that the bird could fly after all, rather than being flightless as I had assumed. When I talked to mum, I discovered that she had called animal rescue. They knew where the bird had escaped from and had already come to take the bird away.

The ring master had lied!

Gonna send you home to momma in a cardboard box

I've just been reading about Human Rights Watch's report on Saddam Hussein's trial.

I don't agree with the death penalty full stop. If killing is wrong, then state-sanctioned killing cannot be right. Even when it is someone like Hussein who committed and/or ordered atrocities, killing him brings us down to his level, if you see what I mean.

I'm also worried about the martyrdom factor, and if what HRW says is true, it can only increase the likelihood of him becoming some kind of symbol.

Allegedly he has been obstructed from appeal, while the trial itself was "marked by frequent outbursts by both judges and defendants.
Three defence lawyers were murdered, three judges left the five-member panel and the original chief judge was replaced.
Defence lawyers boycotted proceedings but HRW said court-appointed counsel that took their place lacked adequate training in international law.
In addition, important documents were not given to defence lawyers in advance, no written transcript was kept and paperwork was lost, said HRW.
The defence was also prevented from cross-examining witnesses and the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein. "


It's all very depressing.

Diary of a dungbeetle

I have delved, and been victorious! And I only had to investigate one bin-bag, and only half-way down, so it wasn't the horror I imagined. I did manage to puncture a little hole in my thumb with some broken glass, and revisit the corpses of some stinky nappies* I had hoped never to see again, but it was well worth it.

I have now put my precious train tickets in a drawer where hopefully they can reside unmolested until the happy day of my journey. :D

*I feel the need to defend my use of disposable nappies, and will do so forthwith. We have no washing machine or access to a laundrette. There you go. :D

Hairy fairy

A middle-aged man, dressed as a fairy, has been giving out lottery tickets, paying for people's lunches and shopping in Cornwall.

What a nice fellow. :D

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The perils of housework

We did some serious cleaning and tidying yesterday and it's like a weight has lifted. It's not that the house was filthy or anything, but it was cluttered, and every surface was loaded with thingie things. It feels nice now.

But tomorrow I have to open those binbags of discarded thingie things and hope to find my blasted train tickets. Oh fuck! (Sorry for the language, but it's justified). The tickets for my planned jaunt to London, the tickets for the first night I've had away in ages. Did I throw them out in a moment of crass stupidity? I can't find them right now, so it seems likely.

So I'll be the mad woman delving through bin-bags tomorrow morning. And T has had lots of vile nappies today, so it's going to be the most fun a dungbeetle could have.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Nac Mac Feegle

I've read two of the books I got the other day. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett and Sue Grafton's S for Silence. I don't think I was concentrating properly on either, so a second reading is in order. I enjoyed the Pratchett very much. I like the stories of the Nac Mac Feegle, but my favourites are the Watch books.

Coincidentally, I am reading the Wee Free Men to S and T at night, which gives me the opportunity to adopt a horrendous imitation of a Scottish accent for some of the dialogue. I visualise the Nac Mac Feegle as small blue Billy Connollys. :)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fat-head

Half Past Dead was on telly last night and I watched some of it with M. Not a lot, although as is usual, M watched the whole thing. I think he is physically unable to switch off movies: his finger will not move to press that button.

Steven Seagal has a massive head, it looks to me like a latex mask. I wonder who would be under it, if you pulled it off á la Scooby Doo. (You meddling kids). We call him Fat-head. It's not exactly the most amusing or inspired nickname, but it suffices: "Fat-head's on telly, " say I. "Oh right, " says he, switching over to it. (M likes action flicks, even if they are rubbish with Fat-head in them :D)

Once I saw a film with him in it where he was making movie-whoopee with a lady (please read with Little Britain voice). Yikes. More stomach-churning than titillating.

Talking of "romantic" scenes that make me want to hurl... One of the kissing scenes in XXX with Vin Diesel, I can't bear with all the tongue and and gulping. He's going to eat her face off, he really is! Ewwww. I have to look away at that point.

The horror, the horror!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Time flies

An interesting article about the way the brain works with regard to time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Get orf moi land!

I spent some of this afternoon cutting down sycamore saplings.

I don't feel particularly great about that, but when it's a choice between the pony's grazing and growing myself a small wood, unfortunately the wood has to face the blade. A copse wouldn't provide enough nutrition for him, and anyway it's not my land to grow a wood on, even if I wanted to.

But I still feel a small irrational guilt about it.

The field is in an awful mess; it really needs a rest, feeding, and a bladed strimmer thingy to hack down the undergrowth that is trying to creep in. It's amazing how fast nature will grab back what we have taken. But resting it is just not possible as I don't have anywhere else to put the pony at the moment. In the Spring, it'll be worth dividing the land into two or three bits to let some recover, but for now I think that there's less impact with having him use the whole lot. He's in good condition for the winter tho, with a nice woolly coat. :D

Weekend

It was an interesting weekend.

On Friday night, I had yet another stomach episode: is this IBS? I'm not sure, but it's bloody horrible. (I've got a doctor's appointment on Monday). I needed two hot water bottles that night, instead of just the one. Luckily I have two, one a bit floppy that curves round my stomach and one stiffer one that rests against my back. They have to be extremely hot to give any relief. It went on for ages and I was in no fit state for much of anything for most of Saturday.

But in the afternoon M and I went into town, and bought me some books with my book token. I got the 101 Incredible Experiments for the Shed Scientist, which sounds like fun: making slime and rockets and solar batteries. I don't have a shed but I don't suppose it's vital :D. I can always borrow Mum's garage. It looks like there'll be things to try with S (and T as he gets older).

I also got Sue Grafton's S is for Silence. I wonder what she'll do for Z and X? I hope she doesn't resort to X is for eXecution or something like that :D. It has to be crime-related, even if tenuously, so it makes it pretty difficult.

And finally I got Dawkins' Selfish Gene. I was tempted by his new one The God Delusion, but at £20 in the shop, it was a bit blooming steep. The voucher was for £20, so I could get a couple of books for that instead. I see if it hits library shelves anytime soon, and if not, wait for it in paperback.

In the evening, we mooched about, ate Chinese and watched DVDs. The Chinese was a bit of a cheat, in that we bought it from Marks & Sparks, but it was very pleasant. We had sticky chilli chicken, crispy aromatic duck and spring rolls: yummy. But the cucumber supplied with the duck made us laugh: it was a little bit of a stingy portion. :D



The box instructed us to chop it into batons. #Cackle#.

For DVDs we had chosen Mission Impossible 3 (despite Cruise. Bloik!) and The Weather Man. The latter was an impulse by me, and a bit of a mis-step. For some reason I was expecting it to be funny, and it was not. Or not very often. And Nicholas Cage, who is sometimes strangely intriguing to me, had floppy hair and I didn't like that. M hated it and I found it hard-going: we weren't looking for anything to make us think or anything bleak, and this film was more in the thinky-bleak category. Oh well.

Mission Impossible 3 - well, I don't know what that's like - the wrong DVD was in the case and we had acquired Fun with Dick and Jane, a Jim Carrey film, by mistake. It was quite funny. Hopefully we'll get to watch Mission Impossible 3 for free now.

Yikes.

Well, I have moved over to blogger-beta, and it's all very alarming. We fear change.

It seems to have republished my whole blog. When I looked at Splee's blog today, and then went on to look to see what was interesting in his friends' page, it was dominated by me me me me me me. Which amused (and slightly embarrassed) me. Not that I had anything to do with it, apart from going over to the blogger beta thingy.

It told me to do it this morning, so I did. Baaaa.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thinking about the dead

It's time for another maudlin post from me.

Well, no, actually when I'm thinking about this subject, it's not painful really. I enjoy my memories. It's sort of bittersweet.

As it's coming up to Remembrance Day there's a lot of talk about white and red poppies, and the subject makes me think about my granddad. He was a radio-operator in WW2. He was at Dunkirk and he had to leave his section to get a signal. He got the famous come home message and went back to his regiment to tell them, only they had already been evacuated! I can't imagine what he must have felt. He and four other guys commandeered a motorbike and sidecar and somehow managed to ride it along the coast until a boat (I think it was a Dutch or Belgian fishing boat) picked them up and took them home to Britain.

I think he got a very little leave to see Gran and then he went into training again in Scotland. He was sent up from Africa fighting all the way up to Italy after that.

My great-uncle was a conscientious objector who drove an ambulance at the front. It must have been incredibly hard to take a stand like that too.

I'm proud of all this family history.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tick tock

On further reflection on my post about Daniel C Dennett's illness, I wonder why his religious friends felt they needed to tell him they were praying for him. It is not as though his atheism is any great secret, or any secret at all :D. Anyone who has ever heard of him would probably be fully aware of his views. I thought maybe he was being a bit ungracious about it, but then, on thinking about just how clear he has made his views, I could see where he was coming from more.

Perhaps they were expecting a complete u-turn in him on his almost death-bed, but even so, to bother him with it in his vulnerability, seems a bit rude. I wouldn't advance upon a believing friend's hospital bed trying to tell him/her about my views.

They could have prayed privately and limited themselves to wishing him well while with him, instead of informing him about their prayers.

I suppose they're after 'saving his soul', but it's not something I would want either, in his place. Would it offend me to be told someone is praying for me? Well, no, but I know I would prefer to be wished well and told I'm cared about and thought of.




"may I be of a sound mind, and do to others as I would that they should do to me"
Plato - The Laws - c. 360 b.c.e.

"I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil--you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself."
Dan Barker

"A man didn’t understand how televisions work, and was convinced that there must be lots of little men inside the box, manipulating images at high speed. An engineer explained to him about high frequency modulations of the electromagnetic spectrum, about transmitters and receivers, about amplifiers and cathode ray tubes, about scan lines moving across and down a phosphorescent screen. The man listened to the engineer with careful attention, nodding his head at every step of the argument. At the end he pronounced himself satisfied. He really did now understand how televisions work. "But I expect there are just a few little men in there, aren’t there?""
Douglas Adams


"I don't believe in ultimate things. I don't believe in the inextinguishable light of the other world. I don't believe that we will be lifted up and transfixed by radiance. One incandescent dusky world is all there is."
Edward Hirsch

Subject to change without warning

More trouble about the niqaab.

I'm looking at this issue somewhat differently now, because this new tabloid frenzy is over a female lawyer who has worked for several years in the courts, wearing a veil with apparently no problems.

But Judge George Glossop demanded she remove the veil and she refused, sticking to her beliefs. The tabloids are reporting this as her being in the wrong: yet it seems to me that if Ms Mughal has been working in the field for years without it being a problem, why is this judge suddenly making it an issue? Is he pursuing some sort of agenda?

And the tabloids are loving it, if you have a look at the Daily Express headline on Mail Watch: "The Veil Banned By Judge", indeed. ~Rolls eyes~

Not so.

He doesn't have the power to ban a veil, fortunately: what he has done is put a halt to the tribunal while he seeks advice.

I think part of the reason I feel differently about this case than the teaching assistant case is that where the teaching of children is concerned, I think their needs should come first. IF the children needed to see her lips move to help them sound out words, and if she was assisting with English as a second language, then it seems it should have been possible for her to compromise for their benefit. But not knowing the circumstances fully, it does leave a lot of ifs and buts. :( Maybe ~gasp~ I was wrong in the first place! :D Although I do find the veil a bit of a problem as a feminist.

In a court of law, I would have thought that Ms Mughal could have a microphone IF the veil genuinely compromises the judge hearing her.

Ha!

Pleased to see that the loathsome Bush has been given a bloody nose by his electorate.

My friend, my toilet

Days where your toilet is your best friend, are not the best days. They can scarcely be considered days at all.

Last night everytime M stirred in bed, every twitch, sent a ripple across the mattress and a wave of nausea and pain would flood through me, and I'd hiss evilly "Keep still!" On pain of death.

Poor sod.

I feel better now, although all washed-out, heavy and bilious. At least the pain has gone.

Bleurgh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Overkill?

Picture the scene: I sat admiring the two golden heads of my children nestled together over a book... when that idyll was shattered by seeing S prepare to pinch T's upper arm. :(

I intervened and sent her to the naughty step, from where she sat shrieking "I'm sorry!" and "It was going to be (ha ha, note the tense) an accident!" in furious and rebellious tones. I was going to remove a marble (they collect marbles for good behaviour and lose them for really bad) but her screeching drove me over the edge: it didn't seem enough. So I put her to bed early, where at least her angry screams are muffled.

So she ended up with three punishments for essentially the same thing: an unfulfilled act against her little brother. :( (Although the tantrum/scream thing is not a good behaviour and she really needs to learn a bit of self-control).

I didn't handle that very well. :(

I suppose at least I didn't smack her bottom, as I was sorely tempted to do. Smacking is something I don't really agree with, as a form of discipline: especially when what I want to punish her for is hurting someone. I can understand why parents use it, tho', but think there are usually better alternatives.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fox-holes

Thank goodness!

This is an incredibly interesting article to my mind.

Daniel C. Dennett was recently hospitalised, near-death, and talks about his continued atheism while he thought himself very likely to die (the old saw of "no atheists in fox-holes" being refuted by this, unless of course, one decides he's lying - in which case there's no point even reading it).

He's a supporter of the term "Bright", as a kind of positive terminology for naturalistic, atheistic worldviews, in a similar way to the way that "gay" was appropriated as (originally) a positive self-description. I'm not all that comfortable with the label "Bright", because of its meaning of smart: which to me smacks of saying you're either clever - or you're a believer. Which plainly isn't true and is an arrogant attitude of which atheists often stand accused. I can do without that sort of thing. I can be arrogant in my own time, thanks. :D

I have some difficulty with his view on those who prayed for him: it seems a bit ungracious.

"What, though, do I say to those of my religious friends (and yes, I have quite a few religious friends) who have had the courage and honesty to tell me that they have been praying for me? I have gladly forgiven them, for there are few circumstances more frustrating than not being able to help a loved one in any more direct way. I confess to regretting that I could not pray (sincerely) for my friends and family in time of need, so I appreciate the urge, however clearly I recognize its futility. I translate my religious friends' remarks readily enough into one version or another of what my fellow brights have been telling me: "I've been thinking about you, and wishing with all my heart [another ineffective but irresistible self-indulgence] that you come through this OK." The fact that these dear friends have been thinking of me in this way, and have taken an effort to let me know, is in itself, without any need for a supernatural supplement, a wonderful tonic. These messages from my family and from friends around the world have been literally heart-warming in my case, and I am grateful for the boost in morale (to truly manic heights, I fear!) that it has produced in me. But I am not joking when I say that I have had to forgive my friends who said that they were praying for me. I have resisted the temptation to respond "Thanks, I appreciate it, but did you also sacrifice a goat?" I feel about this the same way I would feel if one of them said "I just paid a voodoo doctor to cast a spell for your health." What a gullible waste of money that could have been spent on more important projects! Don't expect me to be grateful, or even indifferent. I do appreciate the affection and generosity of spirit that motivated you, but wish you had found a more reasonable way of expressing it."

I understand that he is making a point, or rather quite a few points. I just feel he could have expressed them better. I don't see that friends telling him that they have been praying for him is worse than the friends who were wishing him well. (Or does he see it as worse? Must re-read). He seems to see it as misdirected energy that he would prefer spent on real projects.

Hmm. Food for thought. I shall think about this some more. This is only a half-thought think I am thinking. :D

It's really November now


This morning it was lovely freezing fog everywhere, a proper November day. Brrrrrrrrr.

And it's a friend of mine's birthday! Happy birthday, if you're reading. :D

Three three and thirty three. I remember having to do poems that included three three and thirty three back at college. Ah, them wuz the days. :D

Lady with a pig, coming through!

The show Make Me A Model provides consistent entertainment. I saw a bit of another episode and I was in fits. I hope the sadistic makers of this show don't sleep well at night.

I imagine the people who get involved in these type of fame-hungry shows probably accept and expect a fair amount of the ridiculous, and probably want it too, ("We're totally programmed to do it, and we want to do it too!" [/Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey]) but really... Modelling by lugging a piglet down the catwalk?!

Lady with a pig coming through! (Sorry about the quality.)




I really don't watch this show, tho, (honest!) I just keep catching hilarious segments of it when trying to find something decent to watch.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'm just a boy who can't say no

M is finding his job really stressful. This weekend he isn't on call, but his phone still rings constantly. His little boss said that because *he* was on call, could M keep his phone on in case he needed him.

The enraging thing is, his little boss has actually switched off his own phone.

I could crown him. With a brick. (The little boss, not M).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good reasons for divorce

I can think of lots of reasons for divorce that seem well justified: serial infidelity, domestic violence, mental cruelty, child abuse, developing a hatred of the spouse. :D

But "loving someone but not being 'in love' with him/her" is one that throws me. It seems to me that there is a lot to work with in that situation, especially if there are children in the marriage. Surely there's a chance of rekindling those fires if you have a solid basis of affection and love for one another?

I suppose unless you're in that situation you can't know how it feels, but it seems, on the face of it, a bit of a frivolous reason to end a marriage.

I'm not sure what being "in love" entails if it isn't the same as loving someone. Is it the frisson of excitement, butterflies in the stomach, infatuation sort of thing? Because I don't think that stays as intense no matter who it is. This ain't Hollywood, people.

After a few years of washing someone's underpants and digging their hair out of the plug-hole, it's going to be less of a roller-coaster. It's inevitable. I still consider myself in love with my husband, however. We can finish each other's sentences a lot of the time but he can still surprise and enthrall me.

Ah well, not sure where I'm going with this.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The predator among us



Look at that sinister bearing, that beady eye, those vicious pink paws, those fearsome whiskers, the gloomy and forbidding aspect of his fur - the fearful symmetry - and tremble!

Tommy the hamster was up and about this morning, and amusing the children with his running around the cage, squeezing through tunnels and climbing the bars type antics, when he happened upon an intruder in his cage.

Not a finger, a snail. What insanity prompted the snail to venture into our house, I do not know. What further lunacy inspired it to make itself comfortable on the hamster's wheel, I know not either. It paid for its foolishness with its slimy life.

Snickety snack!

Tommy the killer hamster!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Whooooooo!



S had a great time at the Halloween party.

The only problem we had was that she didn't win anything. She didn't win best fancy dress, she didn't win the dancing competitions, she didn't win any of the raffles, she didn't win pass-the-parcel. She took each disappointment well up until the end of the party, but when she realised she wasn't going to win anything at all, she got a bit tired and emotional. I find that quite hard to deal with: I should have distracted her with talk of sparklers when we got home, but my back was hurting (I slipped on the stairs a week ago and I hurt my bum-bum! I must have given my coccyx a good whack, cos I've been in pain ever since. If it goes on, I may have to go and see my GP about my broken bum.) and I'd been chasing T around the hall for two hours, rescuing him from underfoot, so my patience was evaporating by the end. I scooped her up and we danced & whopped the hanging skeletons in an effort to cheer her up (and knacker my back still further), so crisis averted.

Anyway, she'd had a great time apart from that and she looked brilliant in her vampire garb. T had a whale of a time too, and spent much of the party dancing in a jerky jumpy wobbly way that was unbearably cute. :D

Today the Peter Pan costume is getting another outing at school as it's yet another dress-up day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cackle!

My mother in law sent me four pictures of her sofa.

It's a very nice sofa, don't get me wrong, it was just rather unexpected. (And she's an excellent mother in law, she really is lovely). There was no message with the email.

Didn't half make me laugh when I opened the attachments, and they were all sofas. :D


M was convinced the Brainy Baby DVD T was watching had "bull dung!" written on the little stacking men in some of the scenes, and I think he was planning in his mind a stiff letter of rebuke to the makers. It turns out it said "Bill Ding", (a pun upon building, y'know, I don't need to explain it, do I? ... But I will! :P).

Cackle some more.

In memoriam

This morning I was slightly maudlin after hearing A-Ha on the radio. It brought my childhood friend to mind, as when we were close, she was deeply into A-Ha. She had duvet covers and pillowscases with Morten's chiselled features smiling out, posters all over her room. I think she even had lampshades with them on.

She grew up a bit faster than me, although she was a year younger. When she was 16 she moved in with her boyfriend, and I remember my Gran's disapprobrium at the time (and my complete puzzlement :D). They broke up a couple of years later and she moved back in with her parents. She was driving home from work when an unlicensed and probably drunk driver crashed into her head-on: his car landed on top of her VW Beetle. She was a hundred yards from home.

Oh, she was fun. :D We used to ride together: I helped her gain confidence after she started off quite nervously. I think she'd had a fall and that had set her back, although she was mad-keen on horses. Her parents bought her a pony from my Gran and Granddad and I used to spend my holidays at their smallholding, which is how we were introduced. We used to make up gymkhanas and jumps, and hack on the moors, (before the conservationists set a walk-only speed limit :D).

She went on to doing quite a bit of showing and eventing, (I was never interested in competitive riding: I always felt under pressure from Gran, and my Mum expressed rebellion against her at that time by being singularly unenthusiastic. You have to be enthusiastic about going to shows/events: they involve getting up early, washing hosses, cleaning tack, paying for transportation (one way or another), hanging about in the rain and wind, holding onto hosses, catching escapee hosses, a lot of standing about and some quantities of mud. And I'm not really a competitive sport sort of person anyway).

She wanted to be a model.

Her parents' marriage fell apart after her death, they had no other children and I guess they felt their future together had been killed as well.

It's odd thinking about all this, what nearly 15 years on?

Any excuse

I'm looking forward to tonight: S has a fancy-dress party and she wants to go as a vampire. We found this gorgeous black party dress in Woolworths and a cloak to make it vampirey. And I've got face-paints from when we did a lot of theme nights at the pub, still unopened. I love doing face-paint: I did a fabulous (if I say so myself :P) Darth Maul on M one year and last New Year's Eve I did an ice-demon look on him, which worked very well.

We had a bit of a practice a couple of days ago, so it should be alright. S is very excited about the party, and she looks beautiful in the dress. I wasn't too keen on her having anything black, as it seems such an adult colour, but it does suit her and it'll work for other occasions than being a vampire. :D (Funerals, wakes, memorial services, goth meets, coven assemblies, evil atheist conventions, all those sombre occasions you take your 6 year old to, on a daily basis.. :P)

I've cut one pumpkin and have to do the other before the end of school, or I'll get a lecture. :D Pumpkins are a definite advance on my childhood, where we had to scrape out turnips. Now that was hard work!

It's a bit of a weird amalgam, Halloween: a mish-mash of paganism and Christian cultural imperialism, expatriated to the US and deported back with a rash of commercialism and trick-or-treating. But any excuse for a celebration in my book, whether it be Samhain, All Hallows Eve or Halloween. :D It's just fun to me.

I hope we don't get trick-or-treaters tho', cos I don't think we've got anything to give 'em but grapes. I'll just have to tell them it's eyeballs, should any dare to navigate our dimly-lit pathway this evening. :D

Monday, October 30, 2006

Close to Dye-saster

I suddenly decided to colour my hair yesterday, which I haven't done since T was born. I was confident about it, because it has never gone wrong in the past, perhaps too confident. :)

My first mistake was probably having used nit-lotion that day, and my second to have washed my hair only 15 minutes or so beforehand. (It specifically says not to shampoo hair beforehand). And my third was probably ignoring the time limit for leaving the dye on.

The result was fascinating: my hair took the colour well, but I'm afraid I opened a rip in the fabric of time/space and a pink blob creature from another dimension attempted to conquer my scalp. No matter how much I washed it, it oozed and stickied up my hair. I could shape it in interesting ways, poke it up in a mohican, spike it out like an even madder version of Bjork... I felt sure it would harden like a rock! :D I spent about two hours combing out that gunk, since water just seemed to encourage it, and went to bed in the conviction that I would awake with stegosaurus plates upon my head.

However today it seems the blob gave up and went home to Cthulhu. You'd never know the trauma I went through. (Well, actually I sniggered a lot... I make myself laugh! Such a dope).

The colour is a sort of purple/brown. Not too clear on this photo, but I quite like it. I just hope the blob doesn't return when I wash it again. :D

In appreciative mood




Autumn, mellow fruitfulness, and all that. :)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ahem

I'm pleased to have come across this site, which seems to be some Christian geologists trying to defuse the science/religion debate, and say it is possible to combine scientific study with their theology.

Some of the Young Earth people, I have issues with, as they seem totally prepared to throw out anything that doesn't jive with an absolutely literal reading of Genesis. They give the impression that they think it must be a lie and the scientific community are conspiring to keep the truth concealed!

8) Ahem.

I'm not a great one for conspiracy theories, they're fun to play about with, but I'm inclined to lean towards the most parsimonious explanations being more likely than the most convoluted.

The Young Earth view smacks of the Omphalos hypothesis to me, and I think that leads to the position that nothing can be known/verified and we might as well throw it all out, as far as I can tell. Sort of solipsistic: it could be true, but where does it leave us?

I knew I'd get back to this eventually. :D

Friday, October 27, 2006

In Pass-Remarkable Mood

Make me a Supermodel (which I am not watching, it just happened to be on the telly when I switched it on!) is presented by Fern Cotton.

She's a pretty young woman, with excellent legs, but didn't she look badly put together?! For a fashion related show? She appeared to be wearing a bin bag or overlarge-T-shirt covered in red sequins. No shape to it whatsoever. I was moved enough to photograph the disaster.


Shallow and superficial, moi?! Very pass-remarkable.

"Underwear is notoriously hard to pull off" according to someone on that show. Mwhahahahaha.

Must turn it off.

Ha ha

I have booked train tickets to London in December! :D

I'm all nice and chuffed about this prospect. A night away! To see my friends! Free from encumbrances (as I so dismissively describe my family :P)!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Well, that was interesting...

Yesterday I went to meet some people from a message board I use. It was quite pleasant although there were a few things I was uncomfortable with. I'm not sure it's something I'd do again. We'll see, I guess.

At least I know someone new in my home town.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Down with cows!

T had his milk challenge today. The first experiment was to put a little milk on his arm. The next step was to try him on drinks of diluted milk, slowly upping the concentration.

He reacted to the first, most diluted drink, so there we stopped. We had to stay in for two hours afterwards.

At least it is confirmed, all official-like. None of this doubting "possibly neurotic parents" malarkey. It's good to know we're doing (and having been doing) the right thing. Although his allergy is a pain in the arse.

But he may grow out of it. Let's hope so!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ish

10 years!

Every so often you get a real shock about the passage of time.

They are doing a 10 year reunion with the This Life cast in a 90 minute special.

Ten years! Good grief.

Need an oracle

I read Oracle Night, and again it was more about reconnecting with life than disconnection and alienation than I remember earlier Auster's being. I liked it a lot.

I'm supposed to be going to see my Gran today, but S claims a dodgy tummy. I don't want to risk a throw-up in the car or giving Gran a lurgy: but if I don't go today, I won't be able to get until Thursday. Hmmm. What to do? What to do?

It was Gran's 92nd birthday this weekend, you see, and visiting late in the week takes away from the birthday aspect. :(

Chains

I had a weird dream about necklaces last night. I think it may have been due to a scene in Prime Suspect where Tennison showed a girl photos of her dead friend who'd had her chain ripped off her neck. (I was actually reading Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett rather than watching Prime Suspect, but that bit sucked me in at the end).

It made me think about something I'd omitted when chundering on about the BA crucifix row. It may well be more than an image related dress code, but a safety issue as well.

Some of the general public have a nasty habit of being abusive and even violent towards people in the service and transport industries. (And even more shamefully, if that's possible, against emergency services). Having something around your neck for the easy grabbing of, would be a bit dodgy. They do have to lean over people to a certain extent and a chain dangling round their neck would make them more vulnerable. You can do a fair amount of damage and cause a lot of pain by throttling someone with their necklace, (she says, cheerfully :P).

I don't know what level of risk cabin crew have, but given the possibility of terrorism and the fabulous, (darling,) reputation of the British on holiday...

Friday, October 20, 2006

The knicker vicar

This story made me smile today.

More pant-tea, vicar? :D

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cool bacteria

Some pale and interesting bacteria have been found in a South African gold mine.

What is really interesting about these particular tiny critters is that they don't use photosynthesis at all, they're completely independent of sunlight. They are using "hydrogen gas to turn sulphate (SO4) molecules from the rock into hydrogen sulphide (HS). It is the energy-trapping equivalent of photosynthesis. The energy of radiation, which makes hydrogen gas energetic enough to form these bonds, replaces the energy of the Sun."

Tests on the inert gases in the water, such as xenon, concluded the Mponeng water had been isolated from the surface for about 20 million years, which shows that the bacteria had been living without any recourse to photosynthesis at all.




Little Henry was a scientist, Little Henry is no more,
For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4.

So am I in a good mood? No, I am not...

The boy is sickening. It's just a cold, but he cries when he coughs and he's all grumpy & oozing. But it doesn't stop him trying to leg it endlessly when I'm trying to get to the bank, oh no. I'm going to have to get him reins, I think, as now he can run, he likes to run everywhere. He's getting the notion of the road/pavement distinction, but he's too little to be relied upon and too fast to predict. S spent more time in the pushchair at his age, because we lived in a town centre and I rarely drove anywhere.

M got his car clamped in Birmingham and had to pay £80 to get it released. We now have bugger all money until payday. Which isn't too far away, at least, but given his other crimes against the budget this month, makes me apt to kick his arse when he gets in the door. Although when I see him my crossness will just go "phut" and I'll just be glad to see him... The arse! :D

I think I'll have to call off the ice-skating this evening as it's not fair to expect Mum and step-dad to look after T in his state. (Not to mention the financial issue). Last year they caught some bad flu/colds from us, and it knocked them silly for ages. They get flu jabs every year cos of his diabetes, etc, but it didn't manage to save them from our lurgies. I'll have to steer clear of them for a few days. No sherry for me then. :D

So am I in a good mood? No, I am not.