Sunday, October 30, 2005

Now I've seen everything...

There's an article in today's newspaper about the latest baby accessory: the "Thudguard". It says:

Toddlers can be a handful to keep safe, especially between the ages of seven and 20 months when their tender heads are egg-soft but their knack for finding peril is at an all-time high.

Hmmmm: seven-month-olds bungee jumping off change tables. When Wonder Boy was seven months old he was anchored to the ground by a couple of kilos of plaster of Paris, but even so, I doubt many properly supervised babies of that age can do more than roll over a few times.

I note this warning on the Thudguard website:


Well, I don't know any 20-month-olds who can cycle, skate or rollerblade, so that's that danger out of the way. And the dire warnings about the chin strap, ventilation slits and (elsewhere) the danger of overheating if they wear the thing too long make me think the helmet itself may be more dangerous than the odd bump on the head that comes in the normal course of a toddler's exploring.

Babies have long survived the normal trials and tribulations of toddlerhood without the protection of a helmet for their egg-like crania. My own mother recently confessed to having dropped a tin of jam on my head in the supermarket when I was a baby... which might, come to think of it, explain a few things.

And as if a baby helmet is not a ridiculous enough concept on its own, they put EARS on it. WTF?

If I ever see a baby actually wearing one of these things I'm going to report the parents to DOCS for endangering their child's sanity by making them the laughing stock of the neighbourhood.

Friday, October 28, 2005


I'm feeling a little down because of something that happened this afternoon, so I'm susceptible to a melancholic frame of mind.
Over the past week I've been re-reading Jane Eyre. And this afternoon as I worked, iTunes delivered up the song "Love is Blind" by my favourite Aussie boy band, Human Nature.
I like this song for its pretty piano accompaniment and lovely harmonies, but in the mood I'm in it seemed particularly poignant. Do you think the lyricist had been reading Jane Eyre when he/she wrote it?

Silent night, a lonely night
I didn't mean to wake you up
I was leaving anyway.
We never asked each other why,
We only made each other cry.
When the day becomes the night
And all that I have left inside
Is scattered on the wind
Didn't I give you all that love can bring?
Didn't I give you more than everything?
You know it hurts to end like this
When we've come so far.

Don't tell me love is blind
'Cause I know what I see
Tell me how you walk away when all you know is me?
And all that might have been,
And what we left behind...
Don't ever let a living person tell you love is blind.

Memories of summer days
Laughing like a little child
Lying in your arms
We would own the stars like days of old
We'd make a vow to have and hold
Now we see the empty stage
The actors gone, the empty page
The tears between the lines
Save me from these wild imaginings
Try to stop my heart remembering
Acting like there's someone else
When there's only me.

So tell me what to say
Tell me what to do
Tell me how to walk away when all I see is you.
Shadows on the wall
Pictures in your mind
Never let a living person tell you love is blind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shoot it down

Today I am going to have a rant about the proposed anti-terror legislation that our government is trying to rush through parliament. (If you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks, you can guess where I am, though I won't be able to tell you about it afterwards.)
According to the lead article in today's newspaper, nearly three-quarters of Australians think it is fine for people who may be suspected of terrorist activities to be detained without charge, for periods of up to two weeks, without being able to reveal their whereabouts to family and friends; with no judicial review (that is, the police don't have to have any actual evidence, let alone enough to procure a warrant), and no right to tell their version of the story afterwards.
All anyone (at least, about two-thirds of the population) seems to care about is the "shoot to kill" provisions: that the police should be allowed to shoot someone who runs away when they try to arrest them, even if they turn out to be innocent. As if the police don't already have the power to do that: remember Roni Levi, and David Gundy? (And that's just in New South Wales.)
Am I alone in thinking that the "shoot to kill" clause in the legislation is a smokescreen, inserted to shock the public (which it has done) and divert our attention from the other, more insidious, aspects of the legislation that have the potential to turn our democratic nation and justice system into a big-brother state? To muzzle the press and violate the trust of families?
We should not just be protesting against a few aspects of this legislation; we should let our democratically elected representatives know that the whole thing is unacceptable. And as for the Federal Opposition, where are they? Where is the voice of conviction standing up in Federal Parliament and speaking out for their beliefs? You know, actually opposing?
Come on, Kim: It's Time.
I don't know any other way to make our voices heard than to urge a visit to GetUp!'s website, where you can send an email to the appropriate parliamentary representative, although I am afraid even GetUp! is focussing on the shoot-to-kill aspects rather than the idea of defeating the whole bill.
But go on, make a stand for human rights and democratic freedom in Australia. While you still can.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Good God!

I was having an email discussion that arose as an indirect result of the previous blog entry, and I am finding the debate so compelling and stimulating, that I thought I would raise it here in my blog.

The question my friend asks is, isn't the human concept of "goodness" evidence for the existence of God? Where did we get our moral and ethical structure from if there is no God to provide the pattern?

A few days ago, for example, I read that oxytocin makes you more trusting. (Via the Tangled Bank.) This seems to support the idea that even those qualities that we consider virtues are more or less dictated by chemical reactions in the brain, and raises the question of how we came to value them as "good".

I am interested in having more input on this subject and hope you will let me know what you think, either by leaving a comment here or emailing me privately, if you prefer. (No holds barred: I don't mind which -- if any -- god you want to presume, although I especially welcome followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

ID yourself

Last night Catalyst, the ABC science program, ran a piece on Intelligent Design. Presented by a palaeontologist who noted from the outset that if evolution is wrong, his life's work is also wrong, it seemed to be a fairly balanced report. I thought it gave way too much time to Michael Behe, one of ID's main apologists, without actually challenging him or his presumptions directly. This may have been because they were using footage from another provider (I doubt the ABC budget would stretch to sending a reporter to Lehigh University for a 15 minute program segment). He trotted out the "irreducible complexity" argument using the example of a bacterial flagellum. An Aussie academic was happy to point out the flaws in this argument, although the point was rather glossed over, probably due to lack of time.
Today, scientists in Australia have released an open letter entitled "It's Not Science" (see this report in today's SMH). A friend copied me in on a letter he sent to his local newspaper after watching the Catalyst report last night. In a nutshell, his argument is that scientists do science under the auspices of their internal moral compass, and without an Intelligent Designer or God -- whatever you like to call it -- where do you find the lodestone for your moral compass?
My response is that science is empirical. Whether the morality that guides your inner compass is Christian, Hindu, atheist or even Pastafarian, when you put together two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom you get water. The question of whether the joining of the atoms is random chance, or because someone glued them together with cosmic glue, is not science -- it's philosophy. It may even be called the philosophy of science. But in most universities, that's a separate course, in the philosophy department, in the Arts faculty.
The other day I had the misfortune to watch part of a TV show called "Australia's Brainiest Kid" or something like that. In one part of the show, six children had to choose a subject in turn and answer questions on that subject. As a subject was chosen, it was deleted from the board. Guess which subject was left until last (12th pick)? Science. This shows that we have enough trouble teaching science to children, even to these "brainy" kids, without introducing elements of philosophy into the science curriculum.
Teaching ID in science classes is like teaching history in maths classes, because you believe that Pythagoras' theorem can't be properly proven without an understanding of Pythagoras' stint as a priest in Egypt and the formation of his school of the mathematikoi in Croton. And any maths teacher (especially mine, poor souls) will tell you it's hard enough getting calculus through to a class full of teenagers without having to put it into a historical and philosophical context. (I'm really sorry, Mr Verhoeven.)
So I agree with 70,000 Australian scientists: it's NOT science. Teach it at home, teach it at church, teach it in philosophy or religion classes, but keep it out of the science labs.


Never enter your PIN number on an ATM machine. You could get the HIV virus.

From Anne_Jumps via the Carnival of Feminists.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bra and undies

Last October the Southern Cross Crazies, an online crazy-quilting group I'm a member of, held a retreat. A challenge was set, for participants to embellish a bra to raise money for breast cancer research. Here's mine:

(Okay, technically it's not a bra, it's a bikini top I bought at an op shop and crazy quilted over.) At the retreat, we had a women-only fashion parade to show off our bras, then we put them on display and everyone voted for their favourites by coin donation.
In a month, the New South Wales branch (plus some interstate members) of the same group is getting together for this year's retreat and the challenge this time is to embellish a pair of men's underpants, with the aim of raising money for prostate cancer research. The question is, how will we run the fashion parade? Someone suggested we get celebrity models. I wonder what size boxers Hugh Jackman wears?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Crochet, anyone?

Here's the Crochet Dude. Check out his groovy loops.

Via mish mash etc.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Shines Right Through

CD I'm listening to: Great Big Sea, a band from Newfoundland who combine traditional Celtic-style Newfoundland sea shanties with pop ballads. My sister and her husband introduced me to their music and the lovely VoR found me their latest album when he was in Canada last week.

Here's a snippet.

Found object

We stopped in at a garage sale on the way home from the cinema (we saw Wallace & Gromit -- Wonder Boy's choice), and I found this marvellous pair of opera glasses. The case is credit-card size and the lenses pop up when you press the catch. They are very old and dusty, and the leather that once covered the metal case is all but gone, but they'll clean up quite nicely, I think.
They're the perfect size to pop into an evening bag; all the better to watch Jud Arthur with, my dears. They might come in handy at the football as well.
And just $1.00!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fresh Ink

He did it. He really went and did it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Girls govern!

Last Saturday our inner-city community had a big day out at the local park. The event was a celebration of the life of Ted, a resident of our suburb all his long life, who passed away last year. Ted was the patriarch of the community in more ways than just because half of the homes in the suburb are inhabited by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; he was active in local government and in initiating community activities such as the Junior Neighbourhood Watch and having the playground at the park upgraded to meet safety standards.
To cut a long story short, the whole community turned out on Saturday at a giant barbecue and fun day. Wonder Boy and I went along to eat sausages and ice cream, pat rabbits and guinea pigs, climb into an ambulance and fire engine, and smile at the neighbours.
During the formal part of the proceedings, such was Ted's standing in the community that our elected representatives at all three levels of government attended in person: Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney (our local council is Sydney City); Christina Kenneally, our State parliamentary representative; and Tanya Plibersek, our Federal MP.
It was only then that it occurred to me that we have a woman as our representative at every level of government: local Council, state Legislative Assembly and federal House of Representatives. I am sure that we are one of the few seats/areas in the country that can boast of really doing our bit to correct the under-representation of women in government at all levels.
Not that it makes me think Clover Moore is doing a good job as Lord Mayor, just because she's a woman. I voted for the other bloke.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


A couple of nights of determined stitching and I can now report that my jeans bag for the Bags of Fun challenge is finished. Sort of.
I've added handles (made from the legs of the jeans) and stitched in a lining. But I reserve the right to add more embellishments at a later stage if I feel like it.
I didn't photograph the back, which is much the same as last time I photographed it.
If you'd like to see the work in progress, click on the flickr button in the sidebar. If you'd like to see other examples of jeans bags in this challenge, click on the Bags of Fun button.
Next project I think will be my block for the Katrina Survivors crazy quilt challenge. Although I am quite keen to start on my moon rock...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Moon Rocks

The Bad Astronomer featured a document from JPL (NASA) about the Moon (you can download it, but it's a big one). Amid the esotery were some really great diagrams and pictures that even I could understand, such as the scale diagram of the Earth/Moon system, showing where the centre of gravity is located inside the earth (see my entry about planetary semantics below).

On page 21 is a fabo colour-coded topographic map of the far side of the moon. Now I have the inspiration I need for the pebble paperweight project that I have been planning. More pics as soon as I find time to start it! Here's a picture of the original pebble paperweight idea from the Embroiderer's Guild of the UK:

How does my garden grow?

Those of you who read my blog to see how my embroidery is progressing must have been frustrated for a while now... if you're still bothering to visit! Work on the jeans bag is continuing slowly, but to keep you interested, here's an update on my latest additions to the underwater garden.

You can see other people's work on the jeans challenge by clicking on the Bags of Fun button in the sidebar: there's a lot of stitching going on. Laura Lea's mermaid is worth a look, as is Curli's "Growing Old Disgracefully" and Allison's beautiful rose garden is already finished!

La Boheme

Last night the VoR and I went to see La Boheme at the Opera House. I love this opera: it's a nice mix of romance, comedy and tragedy. I had a little tear in my eye at the end.
The role of Marcello was sung by an understudy, whose name happens to be the same as a recently retired AFL player, so VoR was delighted to be able to comment on them leaving out of his bio that he played half-back flank for North Melbourne (they only listed his musical and operatic credentials). Coupled with the fact that this opera is in four acts (quarters), and Rodolfo was sung by the same tenor who sang Cavaradossi in Tosca -- 'he must have been traded in the off-season' -- the VoR was in his element with sporting analogies.
I thought that Marcello (admittedly, the understudy) and Mimi had been cast with looks in mind rather than voice: both of them looked quite young and boho but seemed to have very thin voices. In their duet they both struggled to be heard above the orchestra, which was a shame.
But I do have a new opera hero: Colline was sung by Jud Arthur in some impressive blonde dreadlocks and a very bohemian goatee. He sang the role with just the kind of strong thoughtfulness I always like in a philosopher. (I have also seen Jud performing impressively as a bare-chested Mikado, although only on television.) It's a shame he's a bass/baritone: I could easily fall in love with him if he was to sing the role of the poet Rodolfo. Why do tenors get all the good parts?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Needs meme

Do a Google search on "[Your first name] needs" to find out what's missing in your life. Here's my list:

Melody needs... rhythm as feelings need guidance
Melody needs... new words
Melody needs... to kill
Melody needs... to be sufficiently simple
Melody needs... to be known
Melody needs... your help
Melody needs... a catch
Melody needs... to be modified
Melody needs... a baby brother or sister [this might comes as a shock to my mum]
Melody needs... to be saved
Melody needs... a ride tomorrow night
Melody needs... to ring out
Melody needs... that.
Melody needs... to brush her teeth
Melody needs... more 'shaping'
Melody needs... words
Melody needs... a bit more colour
Melody needs... to grab the listener's attention
Melody needs... contour
Melody needs... forward momentum and direction
Melody needs... to set it off
Melody needs... to stand out very clearly
Melody needs... to flow
Melody needs... him
Melody needs... to be memorised
Melody needs... altering
Melody needs... to be passed around

(and that's just the first four pages).

Via Pharyngula.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The best medicine

I laughed out loud at this blog I found today.

Handcuffed Lightning

As Molly would say, do yourself a favour.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Two at a time

With just one shared award, Australia has doubled the number of living Nobel Prize winners that we had last week. Congratulations to Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren, and kudos to Prof. Marshall who even went to the extent of drinking a glass of ulcer-causing bacteria and giving himself gastritis to prove his point.

(Our other living Nobel laureates are Peter Doherty and John Cornforth -- and I will admit to cheating on the last one and looking it up, as I was only a little tacker when he won his prize in 1975.)

The boy wonders

Wonder Boy: It's so hot today, I'm feeling laxative.
Beche-la-mer: Laxative?
WB: What did you say before that the heat makes you feel?
Beche: I think you mean lethargic.
WB: What's laxative?
Beche gives basic physiological explanation.
WB: So if someone says I have a lax nature, what does it mean?
Beche foregoes opportunity for humorous one-liner in view of not offending 10-year-old straight man's sensibilities.

Semantics and astronomy

The recent discovery of what might become known as the 10th planet in our solar system, temporarily designated Xena, was pretty exciting. Not least because it revives the controversy that has for a long time surrounded the definition of a planet, and whether Pluto (and Xena itself) should be called one.
Since you asked, here's my two cents worth: I don't think Pluto should be a planet. Because I'm a student of language and literature, I'm looking at the problem from a semantic point of view, rather than a physical one. I think that planets should be defined (simplistically speaking) as gravitationally spherical bodies (that is, large enough to be pulled into a sphere-like shape by their own gravity) that formed in the main rotational plane of the the solar system and that orbit the sun. This discounts Pluto, the orbit of which is too tilted from the plane of the solar system for my liking, and also Xena, which is even more tilted. These two "planets" should become known as the largest and first discovered of the Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
Which brings us to the question of moons. Xena has a moon, which has been playfully called Gabrielle. Does having a moon make it a planet? The Xena discovery team likes to think so. Pluto also has a moon, a huge moon. But so do several asteroids (not including Ceres, which is, however, more or less spherical and would just about fit my definition of planet). And Mercury and Venus don't have moons. According to the definition I proffered above, there are plenty of moons in the solar system (including Earth's) that should be classed as planets, as they almost all orbit the sun more or less in the plane of the system. Even by adding some kind of clause about the primary orbit being around the sun rather than a nearby large planetary body doesn't really help: the moon doesn't actually orbit the Earth, but both bodies orbit each other around the centre of mass of the two (which is inside the Earth but not at its centre).
There are plenty of astronomers at the International Astronomical Union and in universities around the world who are scratching their heads over this whole definition thing, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus in sight for many years yet. This might be a good thing, because you never know what the properties of the next major solar system object to be discovered will add to the controversy.
If, like me, you're interested in the ongoing semantic debate about planetary status, you can get a more erudite view of it from the Bad Astronomer or more information about bodies in the solar system from The Nine Planets, where Bill Arnett has revealed his preference in nomenclature by updating the title.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The VoR has a good year

The Sydney Swans won the AFL grand final; the Tigers won the NRL; the Newtown Swans under 10s made the grand final and even the Sweaty Penguins (the B-grade volleyball team he plays for) won their comp.

But he's only allowed to get one tattoo.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pride & Prejudice

Still on my Jane Austen marathon, this morning I re-read Pride & Prejudice. [Sense & Sensibility was yesterday. I was rather dissatisfied with that one this time around. I don't remember thinking it before, but this time I felt I would have found it more pleasing if Marianne and Elinor had ended up with each other's lovers.]

But I digress. Having just had a visit from my mother, I couldn't help but see her in P&P's Mrs Bennet, constantly saying things that probably should be left unsaid, without realising her words' effect on other people's feelings. Here's something my mother said to me during her visit:

"When are you going to move to the north side, so that we don't have to pay the toll when we come to visit you?"

By the "north side" she doesn't mean the nearby North Shore, she actually means the north-western outskirts of the city, where her boyfriend's daughter lives. No, I don't think we will uproot our family to live somewhere more than an hour's drive from our friends, Wonder Boy's fantastic school, the VoR's workplace, the beaches and our favourite local entertainments, just to save her $3.50 a few times a year.

When she says things like this, it's hard not to be offended. She is always in such raptures about her boyfriend's daughter's big, new home and its location, and they prefer to stay there than with me (I can understand that: my home is old, small and sometimes crowded, and there is occasionally a queue for the only bathroom). But I like where I live, I think my home is quite comfortable and I wish my mother did too.

Last time my mother asked whether I would consider moving (or rather, asked when I would move, as though it is already decided that I want to), my feelings were hurt but I bit my tongue and let it go -- I thought it was just one of those throwaway comments that are said without thought and regretted afterwards. The fact that she repeated it during this latest visit, however, makes it appear that she actually thinks it's okay for her to suggest I move to the other side of the city for her occasional convenience!

My gracious sister, the Country Pumpkin, who is so much more patient than me, I am sure would be like Jane Bennet and try to soothe my ruffled feelings and teach me to overlook the hurt. And some others of my friends (yes, you know who you are) would say I am, as usual, being over-sensitive. So I will try to imitate the lovely Country Pumpkin's forbearance. I do love my mother, despite her foibles.

Gemini rising

I turned to the back page of the Good Weekend magazine to check the quiz answers and was horrified to see an astrology column had replaced Mark Dapin's droll satire piece.

My first reaction was to condemn the Good Weekend for lowering its fairly rigorous journalistic standards. But something made me read the StarLite column anyway. Perhaps it was the byline: Ptolemy II. (Makes a change from "Athena Starwoman", "Emily Leo" and "Lilith".) So here are my stars for this week:

Be realistic about your attractiveness to the opposite sex. A handy rule of thumb: if you haven't had sex for a month, relax and enjoy the break; for a year, you're either not trying very hard or trying too hard. If you've been celibate for two years or more, time to go online.

By the time I got to Scorpio -- "Dress warmly when outdoors or that annoying sniffle of yours could disintegrate into full-blown pneumonia" -- and Aquarius -- "Your lucky book recommendation this week is Ulysses by James Joyce. Why lucky? I have no idea. I'm just a conduit here." -- I was hooked.

My very favourite entry was for Leo: "Sorry I can't be more specific, but a massive flurry of comet dust is obscuring your vital signs."

I wonder if this will be a regular column? I can't wait to see what the stars have in store for us all next Saturday. And I was so pleased to see that the Good Weekend can safely remain part of my favourite Saturday reading, from Dr Karl's mythconceptions to the inspiration for tonight's dinner menu (mmm: prawn, celery and white bean salad). Who knows, maybe Ptolemy is Mark Dapin's middle name.