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In 2009 people came to Floating Life after searching for…

  1. angels 2,619 visits
  2. english tests with answers 2,083
  3. serenity prayer 1,357
  4. conflicting perspectives 504
  5. english test with answers 458
  6. migraine aura 409
  7. nude children 369
  8. wilhelm von gloeden 269
  9. golf polo 260
  10. most interesting blogs 254
  11. orientalist paintings 251
  12. von gloeden 246
  13. young lesbian 221
  14. conservapedia is a joke 207
  15. how good is your english 202
  16. felix mendelssohn 188
  17. orientalist art 176
  18. angel kiss 173
  19. kiss 166
  20. bill henson 144
 
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Posted by on December 23, 2009 in amazing, blogging, site news, site stats

 

Summer Solstice – transitional doublepost

Frequently Unasked Questions

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1. What does that title mean?

Well, that’s the date here in Surry Hills, and it marks the turning of the year. It’s transitional too between Floating Life and Neil’s Second Decade. It’s a doublepost because it appears on both blogs.

2. Why are you starting yet another blog?

Reviewing the decade of blogging for the twelve Blogging the Noughties posts several things struck me.

  • I found myself re-presenting personal posts in the main and decided future blogging might be lighter than Floating Life has sometimes been.
  • A decade seems to have a kind of shape to it; ending Floating Life now seemed better than just going on “forever”.

3. So the new blog will be trivial?

Not entirely. Just lighter.

4. Aren’t you assuming something in the new blog’s title?

It’s true I reach my three-score and ten in the coming decade. Who knows what the future holds?

5. What can we expect on the new blog?

Who knows? Book reviews, of course. I am tossing around a Mary Mackillop post at the moment.

6. What about the National Library?

As some of you know, Floating Life is now archived at the National Library in Canberra. Whether the new one is remains to be seen, but the link to it will be archived at least.

7. What should your regular readers do?

Adjust their links and feeds, I hope. :)

8. What have you done to coordinate your blogs?

The only public blogs that will be ongoing are Neil’s Second Decade, Neil’s Sydney Photo Blog, and English/ESL. The first two will have a feed each to the other prominently displayed in their side bars. They also have matching “skins”. On Neil’s Second Decade (which has only two extra pages) there is a page listing all my blogs back to 2000 with month-by-month archive links.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in blogging, decade, site news

 

Blogging the Noughties 12: Top individual entries posted in 2009

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the twelfth of a series.

  1. Conflicting perspectives 1,242 views
  2. Counting the unemployed 531
  3. Mendelssohn Bicentenary 388
  4. Two thought-provoking articles from the SMH 193
  5. Radio National Poetry special: Five Bells 187
  6. Thinking about Victoria – updated 165
  7. Here’s another “100 best novels of all time" post 154
  8. The 7.30 Report, the Australian War Memorial 153
  9. Recession solving teacher shortage? 152
  10. The American Dream – Vanity Fair, Howard Fast, and some right wing flummery 143
 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in blogging, decade

 

Blogging the Noughties: 11 — 2008

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the eleventh of a series.

2008 going, going…. 2009 – a year of living dangerously

2008

 

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wollongong whiteshirt3r251887_1036501

mccain1shepard-fairey-barack-obama gaza-children

The last image is Gaza on 10 December 2008. 28 December, ironically, is Holy Innocents Day in many Christian churches… My other images recollect the big silly season story of last January, 13 February, the Henson controversy, going to Wollongong with Sirdan, the Australian Liberal Party, World Youth Day, and the US election – just a sampling of 2008 as I saw it. And I didn’t mention the Olympics, the Sichuan earthquake, and so much more… Quite a year.

2009

Fact: people I know are beginning to lose their jobs… The economic turmoil is far from over… Personally I see much uncertainty and possible change, not all good… Obama? Poor man, I say; what a job he has! And Gaza*, unfolding right now? Whatever the complex issues here, it is very very ugly. There is no doubt that even if Israel achieves whatever “victory” it seeks what they will also have achieved is an upsurge in Mumbai-style terrorism world-wide….

So, Happy New Year?

The folks at SameSame.com sent subscribers a New Year email which reads in part:

So what are the options? The Year of the Global Recession. It’s not very sexy, but it is pretty likely. Or what about The Year Of Enough? I recently read an inspiring tome of the same name by John Naish that’s all about being satisfied with what we already have. There are worse words to use in 2009 than "enough".

How about 2009 – The Year of No Fear? The older I get, the more I realise that we all have stumbling blocks that are in the way of us getting what we really want. Some of them are put in place by others, but most by ourselves. We’ve all got them, and the quicker we can jump over these blocks, the quicker we can get to where we really want to be, wherever that may be. Do I sound like Oprah yet? Good.

So there you go, I officially declare 2009 as The Year Of No Fear.

Who’s going to join me?

It’s a nice thought.

I leave this New Year post with a cartoon Len from Texas had on his blog recently.

horsey122108

But you may also like to visit Worldman: 2009 is ahead. Now there is an optimistic soul whose optimism is based on experiences most of us would find dire!

Update

* I recommend Robert Scheer on Gaza.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in blogging, decade

 

New blog now up: Neil’s Second Decade.

Yes, the successor to this blog is now public, launched in December just as this one was in December 2007.

I will conclude the year here as well, and then new entries to Floating Life will cease. The Blogspot photoblog is also going into recess.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in blogging, site news

 

Blogging the Noughties: 10 — 2007

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the tenth of a series.

Over on Old Lines from a Floating Life I have been doing a series to wind that blog up before it becomes merely an archive: see 2007 in Review. What is "in review" is the blog, not the world at large — so it is an exercise in "metablogging", aka "wanking". ;) However, I stand by it as it does have useful features, apart from my own enjoyment. There are good lists there of posts I would like people to read, for example.

The latest metablog will amuse some of you: 2007 in review: #23 — template fickleness! I think I may have set some kind of record in the past year or so.

There are strict limits to the fiddling you are allowed to do on WordPress.com. They do not normally allow Java scripts, for example, for (I believe) security reasons. They also limit the changes you can make to a template. I have happily wrecked quite a few templates on Blogspot, but you can’t do that on WordPress. The templates are in fact common to all the blogs which use them, so if they let me restructure something deep down that change would automatically transfer itself to all the blogs using that template. You can, apparently, buy some CSS rights, which I haven’t even though it isn’t expensive. I guess they must decouple you from the shared template then in some way.

There are things you can fiddle with, such as sidebar widgets and custom headings. You will see I do both, because when I have something to fiddle with I am sure to fiddle. One big deficiency in my expertise (among legion deficiencies) is that I have very limited graphic programs apart from what Windows XP brings with it. I don’t have Photoshop for example. However, I have found a neat free program that enables the basics plus more: Photofiltre, a little French thing that doesn’t take up much space and is easy to learn and use:

newlines1

LATER

Good Heavens! Jim Belshaw has been template fiddling! He has also been posting very interesting reflections on the "culture wars" which I may address later. In the meantime I guess I am making a contribution to part of it over at the revived Blogspot site, where I at last remembered to update the Google Search thing to include this blog.

AND EVEN LATER

Redid the header for Ninglun on Blogspot.

 newblogspot

– 29 December 2007

New Year Blog Resolutions

Remember the end of 2006?

1. Write less.

2. Write about what I know. It is a commonplace of writing teaching that one should write about one’s own backyard. An example of that advice:

I have a muse and essentially her name is Oregon. My stories take place there. Fiction grows out of place. Always keep your eyes open, understand where you grew up. Write about your own backyard, the place you know best.

On the other hand, Elizabeth George wrote:

One piece of advice, that neophyte writers are always given is ‘write about your own backyard’. Loosely translated, this means to write about an environment with which you are familiar. Broadly translated, it means to write what you know. To this I say balderdash. If I had believed that, I’d have spent years attempting to write about Huntington Beach, California, a place that could not interest me less as a setting.

I am writing a blog, not fiction, but I do think I should continue to rant less, and focus more on posts where I actually might have some insight, however modest, to share. With so many millions of blogs out there, does it matter if this one omits many things others find important? I think not. We all have something to offer.

3. Do not use the term "political correctness". Why? Because it has become a shorthand for too many things which strike me as undesirable and lazy. The thing is to argue each instance on its merits, avoiding any such catch-all phrases.

4. Otherwise, go on pretty much as I have. Enough people seem to appreciate it. Just for the record, here’s how it started. A quick quote from a very early entry (May 2000):

Meantime this computer (lent to M and me by G: thanks!) shows definite signs of dying and something will soon have to be done. And my reading goes on. I suspect June may be somewhat less inward-looking in these pages than May. It has been therapy for me, and my justification for putting all this stuff here is that others can benefit from such glimpses into the human condition, because I assume I’m not special. I know reading others’ pages has broadened my thinking.

Well, Resolution 1 seems to have gone by the board, doesn’t it? Even though, believe it or not, I was slightly less loquacious this past year if you just look at my main blog. However, at 84 posts this month has been the second-hottest for 2007, maybe the top, if you include all those 2007 reviews over on Old Floating Life — 26 posts there in December, and Oz Politics had 23… English/ESL had 11 in December, and Ninglun on Blogspot 9. That’s 153!!! Counted that way December 2007 has been my bloggiest month ever! :P

Hmmm… Maybe I did fail in my resolution. When you look at all my blogs there were 1,314 posts over all in 2007. Just checked 2006 where 1064 posts still exist in the various blogs; there have been at least 100 deletions or rearrangements, so it  is closer than may appear… Not really a case of "writing less" though, is it?

I will let you be the judge on #2, and #3 I have generally adhered to, while #4 was easy! Guess I will just carry on…

– 31 December 2007

Blogged with Flock

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in blogging, decade

 

Blogging the Noughties: 9 — 2006

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the ninth of a series.

A multicultural Surry Hills morning

December 26, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIt’s Boxing Day here in Surry Hills. "Boxing Day is a holiday of peculiarly British origin, but in most years it falls on the same day as the Feast of St. Stephen (St. Stephen’s Day – 26th December)." Well, it always is the day after Christmas, even if the actual public holiday might move a little. For example, if the 26th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then a long weekend would happen. What Boxing Day means to most Australians is the fourth Test Match in Melbourne and the start of the epic Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. juiceandjavaSo I slept in this morning, in this flat where I would not be if it were not for my Shanghainese friend M. I go down to the Indian newsagent and buy the Sydney Morning Herald, then go to the coffee shop on the corner of Belvoir Street and Elizabeth where the Vietnamese owner and the very gay Tamil sidekick ask me if I want the usual. The Lebanese man is already at his table reading his paper. Two other customers of indeterminate Eastern European origin join us. An American says in response to the Vietnamese owner’s "How are you this morning?" "I’m well, by the grace of God." He and his Anglo-Aussie friend avoid the smokers. I buy cigarettes from the Shanghainese on the corner of Goodlet and Elizabeth.

I open the Herald and take in one of those good news stories one should focus on at this time of year: Gift of faith: a day off at Christmas.

IN THE kitchen a row of six women wearing hijabs dice vegetables and slice fruit. Nearby another group of young Muslim women are tearing open packets of pasta by the dozen and throwing them into a huge pot of boiling water. Across the room, two young men wearing skullcaps are stirring a sizeable pan of beef curry. Aiming to give their Christian counterparts from the charity Just Enough Faith the day off, the dedicated Muslim volunteers spent most of Christmas Day preparing and distributing homecooked meals to more than 500 homeless men and women at Cook and Phillip Park. The volunteers come from Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development, in Roselands, and see their role as building bridges between the faiths. Christmas has no significance in the Islamic religious calendar. The founder of the centre, Imam Afroz Ali, said the initiative, called the Crescent Program, was unusual because it involved an Islamic organisation doing charity work for non-Muslims. "This service is directly for our Australian brothers and sisters," Mr Ali said. "What has made this successful is that the younger generation, particularly Muslims who were born here, have been dying to do something like this. "Their parents, the older generation, still have connections back to their places of birth overseas, so a lot of charity goes back there, and there is no hiding from that. But Islam requires us to provide charitable services in our own neighbourhood first. So we have to do this as Muslims, right here in Australia, regardless of gender, race or religion."

muslimwomen I think of Jelaluddin Rumi:

The garden of Love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow and joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.

Well, I did just now at least… ;) (See Rumi Poetry Page.) Last night ABC-TV broadcast An Aussie Irish Christmas.

On Christmas morning Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks will host a unique event: a Mass and an entertainment spectacular beamed live to Ireland celebrating the history of the Irish in Australia. In the early 1800s more than 25,000 Irish convicts were detained in the Barracks. In the 1840s 4000 young female orphans escaping the "Great Potato Famine" were housed there. An Aussie Irish Christmas is a one-hour special that will screen on ABC TV Christmas evening, December 25 at 7.30pm. The event will be hosted by Mike Bailey – ABC TV NSW weather presenter and Irish descendant. RTE – the national broadcaster of Ireland – will broadcast the event live to Ireland from Sydney. Poignant stories of the hardships and triumphs experienced by these early Irish arrivals will be woven into selected highlights of the event to evoke a living, entertaining history of the Irish in Australia. A moving memorial to the orphan girls at the Barracks will also feature in the program and high profile participants include Irish President Mary McAleese, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Ms Clover Moore MP and Cardinal George Pell…

And Lebanese-Australian NSW Governor Marie Bashir.

She was born in Narrandera in the Riverina district of New South Wales, and attended Narrandera Public School and Sydney Girls High School. She completed the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1956 at the University of Sydney. Bashir later taught at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, and increased her work with children’s services, psychiatry and mental health services, and indigenous health programs. When she became Governor of New South Wales, she was Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney (which she became in 1993); Area Director of Mental Health Services Central Sydney (from 1994); and Senior Consultant to the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern (from 1996) and to the Aboriginal Medical Service, Kempsey… Bashir is the first female Governor of New South Wales and the first governor of any Australian state of Lebanese descent. In 2006 the Queen appointed Professor Bashir a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

My own Great-great-great-grandfather Jacob came from Ireland involuntarily in 1822 and for a time resided in those same Hyde Park Barracks. This is my Boxing Day Australia. I am rather proud of it. Let’s not let politics, undue concern for or against so-called "political correctness", fear of terrorism, or any other distraction, spoil this Australia. Rejoice in it and embrace it. Looking at the faces in the choir at that Aussie Irish Christmas was instructive in itself. Back to Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in blogging, decade

 

Blogging the Noughties: 8 — 2005

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the eighth of a series.

Here things get to be different, as the archives are right here on this blog! That’s December, but there are other months to check too. This is a convenient place to look.

Christmas Day

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M turned up last night with a box of chocolates. My brother rang first thing this morning from Tasmania, where it is 13 Celsius, unlike Sydney (40-ish yesterday!) Just back from church now — really nice. Lots of hugs. Even kisses: Sam’s was good ;-) Now to Sirdan’s for lunch, and the idea after that is to kidnap Lord Malcolm for a while. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Neil

December 25, 2005 at 10:20 am

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in blogging, decade

 

Blogging the Noughties: 7 — 2004

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the seventh of a series.

No guarantee the links still work! These are taken directly from copies of the old Diary-X blog.

diaryx04 

Boxing Day: You can read the Queen’s Speech now. "Discrimination still exists. Some people feel that their own beliefs are being threatened. Some are unhappy about unfamiliar cultures. They all need to be reassured that there is so much to be gained by reaching out to others; that diversity is indeed a strength and not a threat."

And just for fun, if you have never seen it before, check the science of Santa Claus.

Christmas Day: later: A surprise visit from M with gifts. :-) Also a letter had arrived here from his older sister in Shanghai, the gist: thanking him for reuniting his family during his visit earlier in the year… Very apt for the season…

As was the Queen’s Christmas Message, I thought. I still have considerable regard for that old girl. Can’t link to it yet as it is still under embargo, it only being morning in London: but we have heard it here is Sydney half an hour ago. It sent a strong message on pluralism and tolerance.

Christmas Day 2004: My dinner companion last night tells me he has now had AIDS – not HIV but AIDS – for nine years. He is just out of hospital, again, having had a sojourn there since I last saw him two weeks ago. He looks well, considering, and his spirits are as ever amazingly good. We talk of many things, such as the "political correctness", which he opposes, that makes some paranoid about Christmas. I too don’t accept we should be too namby pamby with all this "Happy Holiday" stuff: so far as Christmas symbolises peace on earth and goodwill to all men (I don’t mind the odd bit of so-called sexist langage either) I am all for it.

"After all," my friend says, "Australia is a Christian country."

"No it’s not," I reply. "It is I hope a secular country. Of course George Pell and Fred Nile would like it to be a Christian country, but it isn’t."

But of course it owes a lot to the Christian tradition. Really, the best we can do is cherry-pick the decent parts of all religions and live and let live, don’t you think? I find the God of so many in this world seems merely a cosmic extension on an earthly tyrant, prone to jealous rages, psychopathic attacks, and given apparently to punishing thought-crimes, or failure to accept the party line, with eternal flames in Hell. Or so your very traditional Christian or your full-on Muslim believer would have it. Jews seem much less fond of Hell. Perhaps they know deep down, after their historical experience, that Hell is here on earth and in the dark hearts of human beings. Especially of True Believers.

These thoughts might seem black for Christmas, but not really. As we think of good will towards all men and peace on earth, think of the enemies of good will and peace and reject their thoughts root and branch. Take George Bush’s little mate Gerald Allen for example:

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. "Oh no," he laughs. "It’s my fifth meeting with Mr Bush."

Bush is interested in Allen’s opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush’s base. Last week, Bush’s base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers’ money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That’s why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I ask Allen what prompted this bill. Was one of his children exposed to something in school that he considered inappropriate? Did he see some flamingly gay book displayed prominently at the public library?

No, nothing like that. "It was election day," he explains. Last month, "14 states passed referendums defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman". Exit polls asked people what they considered the most important issue, and "moral values in this country" were "the top of the list".

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They’ve been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society’s fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".

You may read a number of responses to this mindless drivel here on Broadway World. Why is the 21st century after the birth of Jesus still plagued with this steaming crap?

Master Allen would probably be horrified to learn that he is at least in this "crusade" – loaded word that – on the side of the likes of Abu Bakr Bashir and Osama bin Laden, but the fact is he is. Not all Christians, thanks be to God, are of Master Allen’s persuasion of course; not all drink deep of the cruel judgmental narrow zeitgeist that commands too much power today. For the true spirit of Christmas in action, go to Family Acceptance, another and better America.

I reject a vision of God as a magnified Gerald Allen, and I further no longer believe God has done much in the book-publishing department, so I rate the Qur’an as a wholly human product from a specific historical moment and cultural background, but with much good in it, as I also rate the Bible. This opinion of course will have Master Allen’s God and Master Bashir’s Allah condemning me to the eternal barbecue, to which my response is that timeless American Huck Finn’s. Even so, I do find it encouraging when believers draw at least rational conclusions from their dubious premises, as the lads in the Salt Mine’s Islamic Students’ Society do in their latest newsletter. It is brave of them to have written this too. They at least are making a contribution to peace on earth and good will towards men, in their own way:

There is a dangerous escalation of violence that is taking place around the world that is disturbing to most people. In the fight against terrorism, Western Nations are directly attacking terrorist organisations that recruit suicide bombers. When such action is taken, it is important to understand who or what is your enemy. Suicide bombings can only be prevented by understanding its causes and also its motivations. What would motivate a person to lash out so violently? This is something that needs to be understood in order to treat the problem of suicide bombing.

Most suicide bombers that are heard about on T.V or radio are Islamic militants that are opposed to the idea of Western Nations intervening in their country’s affairs. This leads to the question: Does Islam in any way endorse or encourage such violence? Islam is strongly opposed to violence, and recommends peaceful ways of sorting conflicts. However, in the Qur’an it says: "And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you. But do not transgress limits. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors."

This statement may be seen by some people as a justification of violence in Islam. The statement is saying you may fight against those who fight you, but you must not start the fight, and also that God despises those who go too far. This statement, if misinterpreted can lead a person to form incorrect conclusions about Islam in regards to violence. If a person becomes involved in a fight with someone else, then the fight should be resolved peacefully, however this statement is not addressing such a situation (unless it was a situation of self-defense), it is targeted to conflicts on a much larger scale. For example: If a sovereign nation is invaded by another nation and has many of its citizens killed, then the only option left for the nation is military action. This would have been an act of self defense as is the case with Iraq and how certain Iraqis feel about the American occupation.

This statement is also saying that if Islam itself is in danger, then violence is permissible, however this is not a justification to go on crusades against other religions. Islam does not allow crusades which have purposes of destroying other religions. In the Qur’an Allah clearly outlines, “Let there be no compulsion in religion…” (2: 256)

More importantly, suicide is forbidden in Islam. The taking of life is only allowed by the way of justice; i.e. the death penalty for murder. In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace. If someone was killed, the victim’s tribe would retaliate against the murderer’s entire tribe. This practice is directly forbidden in the Qur’an. Following this statement of law, the Qur’an says, "After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement". No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people. This is how Islam came to create peace and justice in the warring tribes of Arabia.

Discussion about suicide bombers leads back to the question of why do they do it in the first place. In the Palestinian territories, those who support suicide bombings claim that it is merely a tactic of war in defense of their land and homes. Living under siege, and without the superior weaponry of their opponent, they see it as a heroic act of martyrdom, not suicide. In their point of view, it is a final act of resistance, stemming from desperation. So with any such discussion usually between Muslims and Non-Muslims, empathy is required to understand how people feel. Often through having an acute state of mind about the affairs of the oppressed and the oppressor will lead to a better understanding. Hopefully, through discussion of this sort the ISSBH aims that stereotypes and myths are removed.

I don’t necessarily agree with all that, but it is encouraging nonetheless to see Muslim Australian teenagers writing and thinking in this way. And yes, they are very bright boys, let me tell you.

As for my dinner companion: I would much rather have spent last night with him than with Gerald Allen or any of his clones, including his influential mate. The world is the richer for my dinner companion’s ongoing wisdom and patent courage.

Peace to you all.

24 December 2004: Thanks to The Poet for drawing our attention to US Mistakes in Iraq: "In this weblog, a number of the major mistakes made by the US administration after the occupation of Iraq are briefly outlined. The issues involved are so complex that any brief presentation of these issues has to be over-simplistic. These mistakes not only led to the loss of ‘the hearts & minds’ of the Iraqi people but actually led to ‘gaining’ their animosity and resulted in considerable damage to Iraq and to America. A lot of innocent blood was unnecessarily spilled!" It is a "sidenote" on an Iraqi blog, A Glimpse of Iraq, where the latest entry is actually quite amusing.

Have a look too at Riverbend’s Christmas wish list on Baghdad Burning. Riverbend, Girl Blog from Iraq, is always worth visiting. Makes much more sense than Rumsfeld. But that isn’t difficult, is it?

Best wishes to all my readers: you could do worse than look at the latest Interlude meditation.

Oh yes: if you see a silver-grey Toyota Echo, make sure there is sufficient distance between your car and it, won’t you? ;-) Wonder how the twin rabbits went?

17 December 2004: Teeth still hurt :-(

Wonder how the Rabbitmobile is going?

16 December 2004: Started the day at The Mine, where I am again, having been to and from Bondi Junction by train for X-Ray, which the dentist now has. New appointment next week.

Interesting quote from the Salt Mine’s internal site: "Dr Andrew Refshauge, Minister for Education and Training, visited the school yesterday. He made a press statement about the performance of New South Wales students in an international study on performance in Mathematics and Science. Apparently New South Wales performed second only to Singapore in the study. Australia as a whole was further down the list. Other breaking news (unauthorised access to HSC results) meant that the statement did not receive any coverage in the news last night. There were some shots shown from here: glimpses from a Year 11 Physics class and questions relating to bullying and Clover Moore’s approval of an upbeat National Anthem. "

My latest Salt Mine blog may amuse you.

15 December 2004 – later: Bad news. I should have known, as a pretty good omen was that amid much sparks and smoke a power line fell down in Kippax Street right outside the dentist’s just as I arrived!

So, I have an abscess, it seems, but I think I knew that, and I must continue with the antibiotics and get a full mouth X-Ray in Bondi Junction. Then I will very likely lose two teeth. Eventually this will probably mean a partial denture. Other options are just two troublesome and expensive.

I feel God made a mistake in the dentition department….

"Left alone, abscesses can become quite serious. In the days before antibiotics and modern surgery, dental abscess was a common cause of death…"

"If you thought that dentists have only been inflicting pain recently, think again. New research has just shown that prehistoric dentists may have been using stone drills to treat tooth decay up to 9,000 years ago. Excavations at a site in Pakistan have unearthed skulls containing teeth dotted with tiny, perfectly round holes. Under an electron microscope, archeologists found a pattern of concentric grooves that were almost certainly formed by the circular motion of a drill with a stone bit. The scientists from the University of Missouri-Columbian suggest that such findings point to a stone-age knowledge of health and cavities and medicine. The holes, when drilled, would then probably have been filled with some sort of medicinal herb to treat tooth decay, something that has long since disappeared…"

15 December 2004: The good news first: my tooth problem (or rather teeth problems) calmed down during the day so that I was able to enjoy Yum Cha, including mango pudding, with M and a gathering of friends at the Golden Harbour. It is noticeable that having someone present who can request particular dishes in Mandarin does make a difference.

I then went to the Mine where I did a bit of work, after which there were farewell drinks at Fox Studios for Jenni, the Head Teacher Welfare, my immediate boss, and for a member of the Science Department. I had just one light beer.

The bad news: the teeth acted up overnight and I face the dentist later on today :-(

14 December 2004: I am told the Flower Power Christmas do may even rival Saatchi and Saatchi — well, those words were not used, but I do look forward to hearing how it goes.

Here are some timely words; may timely deeds follow:

We are all children of the same providence on a journey to the same destiny. Therefore, within the scope of humankind, there is a place for everyone. The things that make us different from one another can be regarded as assets that can be pooled in order to achieve a common purpose. This idea of variety within a unity is especially meaningful to us Indonesians, who live by our national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika "We are many, but we are one".

That was Indonesia’s new leader Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono at the International Dialogue on Interfaith Co-operation in Jogjakarta a little over a week ago. There is also some disturbing stuff on that transcript, if you care to look: a survey of Indonesian opinion, said to be reliable, found "that only 60% of those surveyed disagreed with that type of [terrorist] campaign explicitly, and what that left was 16% actually supported the bombing campaigns, and another 25% wouldn’t explicitly disagree."

13 December 2004: On ABC Local Radio last night it was comforting to hear William Storrar, Professor, Christian Ethics and Practical Theology, University of Edinburgh, arguing a case that is dear to my own heart. I hope they put up a transcript. Essentially he was saying that our current crop of right-wing neocon free marketeers have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and we should be more assertive about the principles behind the welfare state, for example, which he says was not after all a failure. Good to see a Presbyterian argument on this.

He was not being sentimental about the Left either; indeed anyone who wishes to be misty-eyed about the old Marxist left would do well to contemplate Martin Amis’s well-researched diatribe Koba the Dread. (Neil Ascherson struggles to rescue something from the obscenity that was Stalin in his Guardian review, but is really pushing shit uphill I feel.)

Or look at the amazing poisoning of the Ukraine opposition leader, a throwback if ever there was. (I can see Robert Mugabe already looking into the possibilities of dioxin; Leninist starvation tactics he seems to have mastered already.)

At the same time, what price the creatures on our own side? Since Mohamed El Baradei is not proving compliant enough for Washington, inconveniently telling the truth perhaps as Hans Blix did, "the US is tapping the phone of Mohamed El Baradei, hoping to gather information that would help Washington remove him as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, and hasten an all-out effort to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions." They even thought up the brilliant idea of replacing the inconvenient Dr El Baradei with a proven lickspittle, our very own Alexander Downer, who would no doubt find whatever he was told to find. At the moment Alex is proving coy.

And that brings us to the David Hicks Affidavit published last week: the link leads to the full text of the affidavit lodged by Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks asserting that he has been tortured during his detention. There is an excellent documentary THE PRESIDENT VERSUS DAVID HICKS by Australian director Curtis Levy, and a site Fair Go for David Hicks. You can read the amazingly biased ramblings of a right-wing US blogger with an excessive trust in his own government on the subject of Hicks, if you care to. One representative of that bastion of democracy opines: "There is a lesson here for the soldier. Prisoners eat, shit and take up more time than they are worth." Nice.

The point of course is not what Hicks may or may not have done, which remains to be proven. What does matter is how the USA has adopted so much from the totalitarian handbook in their pursuit of people like Hicks that one wonders what the outcome of the War on Terror will ultimately be. Quite a few Americans worry about that too.

Been a while since I have had a political rant, isn’t it? Since the last election, and confronted with a self-destructing Labor Party, I have been too depressed to bother…

And the teeth. I see the dentist on Wednesday but got some antibiotics from Dr Banquo today, who amused me with a little rant on creationism. Apparently there is a Christian channel on pay TV and Dr Banquo religiously (?) watches a program on animals. Oh my God, look at what you might watch 24/7! The program Dr Banquo refers to seems to be this one. Dr Banquo says it is the funniest show on TV!

  • Quite a few typos today: I wish Diary-X had a facility for previewing before posting…

    12 December 2004: Sharan Newman’s, The Real History Behind ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Penguin 2004) really is honest, learned, user-friendly and entertaining in its own right, but sadly it is also the worst example of proof-reading I have ever seen. Here is just one example, and the text has far too many of these: "The story as put Gorth in Holy Blood, Holy Grail has it that Godefroi established the Priory to protect his bloodline…" This is not Sharan Newman’s fault; obviously the publishers omitted an intermediate step or two in order to flood the bookshops before Christmas. A shame: as I say, it is a very good book.

    spamtmpl Has anyone else been getting Holy Spam? Let me quote: 

    Hello Shellyjohnston,

    If you die tonight where will you go ?

    God is the most important thing in life.

    Without God we have nothing.

    Save yourself and the ones you love:

    Say, "Oh God, save my soul. I’m so sorry that I have sinned against you, but I have come home. I will serve you, Lord, the rest of my life. Deliver me from all my sinful habits. Set me free! I do believe Jesus died on Calvary for me, and I believe in His blood, that there is power in His blood to wash away all my sins, all my sins!" Say, "Come into my heart, Jesus; come on in, Jesus. Come on in!"

    If you meant it, He has come. If you meant it, Jesus is yours. Start reading your Bible, pray daily and believe that somebody’s listening; His name is Jesus.

    Send it back to abuse@heaven.com perhaps? See also, for a wry laugh, Holy Spam, Batman. Still, the following Christian has his heart in the right place, and he says it all really, even if there is a typo: "…some Christians seem to think that because they’re doing God’s work, that it is okay. That they can disobey the printed and conspicious terms of use by their own hosting companies. Or worse, ignore outright the terms of use and/or desires stated on a church website such as Redland’s. Folks, as Chrisitians, not only are we NOT above the law, but are called to live by a higher standard. It is for this reason, I am imploring my Christian brothers and sisters to stop marketing via unsolicited commercial email. Not only is it ineffective and amateurish, it is illegal, unethical and abusive."

    Very true, Dean Peters. What’s more, if ever I had a drag name it wouldn’t be Shelly Johnston!

    The pic above comes from The Holy Temple of Spam.

    Later:

    Lord Malcolm’s Christmas Picnic in the beautiful Sydney Botanical Gardens went well. I even spoke to the Empress and he even replied. Sirdan was missing, rumoured to be in Newcastle. Me – I have come home early with a hideous toothache (began yesterday) and a possible thunder and hail storm threatens outside, so I’m off now…

    Must contact the bloody dentist tomorrow.

     

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    Posted by on December 20, 2009 in blogging, decade

     

    Blogging the Noughties: 6 — 2004

     grumpy

    Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the sixth of a series.

    No guarantee the links still work! These are taken directly from copies of the old Diary-X blog.

    Entry 127: Miserable git writes entry.

    2 June: A short one today — possibly a relief to my readers after the past couple.

    I still feel like death, a bit of a contrast to last Wednesday, eh! It’s ironic that this cold (flu?) came on the very day I was meant to be having a flu shot at the Salt Mine, but even I knew it is foolish to have a flu shot when you are already fighting off an infection. Madam cheered me up no end by telling me that Jerry had a flu shot and was dead two weeks later…

    I may give in and go to the doctor today. So far I have only missed one day at the Salt Mine, as Monday I don’t work anyway and today there is a strike. We’ll see if I am up to going tomorrow, but I certainly won’t go coaching this afternoon.

    At least one consolation is that the broken tooth (it fell apart during Sunday’s lunch with the Empress and Sirdan) is not hurting, but I can’t do anything about that anyway until I am over this present episode.

    Delenio greeted me via ICQ last night — first time for ages. Sent get well greetings, as he apparently still reads this diary. He is deep in some essay on historiography and finding "poor historians" (both Keith Windschuttle and his haters) very frustrating. Last time Delenio and I talked about this he was rather taken with Sir Geoffrey Elton on this subject.

    Elton’s view of the nature of history and its study had a very simple starting point: in the past there were people like us, reasoning people with thoughts, feelings, ambitions, concerns and problems. These people lived and made choices and what they did produced the events, effects, creations and results which is history. When people acted in the past, exercised their will and made choices they made their futures and created our present. History for Elton was explicable, but the varieties, complexities and vagaries of human reasoning and thinking in diverse situations made it unpredictable.

    … Elton was above all concerned to assert the responsibility of those who study the past to acknowledge its humanity: ‘The recognition that at every moment in the past the future was essentially unpredictable and subject to human choice lies at the heart of a study which respects the past and allows it a life of its own. If men (and women) are treated as devoid of choice, their reason is demolished; the product is a history which dehumanises mankind’.

    … In Elton’s concept of history as a story of human existence and activity there was little place for those large-scale forces, trends, structures, and patterns beloved by social scientists. Everything in history–the events of the past–happens to and through people. Sociological categories may be useful descriptive shorthands of movements and outcomes over the long-run, but they remained abstractions unable to explain specific actions and events–the details and particularities of past happenings created by real people doing something. ‘History deals with the activities of men, not abstractions’, Elton wrote.

    Conservative but sensible, I would have thought.

    Well, that’s it again. Told you it would be shorter. See you tomorrow if I am still vertical ;-)

    (Wonder how this would look written in the International Phonetic Alphabet?)

    Later

    Doctor Banquo tells me 1) I’ll live and 2) to go to bed for the next couple of days. Well, I’ll do that, kind of… 

    Entry 128: Miserable git recovering…

    Con-Dopey.Ch 3 June: I am still vertical after all, even if still feeling a bit as if hit by a truck. The Salt Mine is doing without me today, though I guess given what I said last week about the peculiarity of my Wednesday/Thursday arrangements I could be said to be still on strike… Tomorrow we shall see. The Rabbit gave me a call last night to see how I was, and I was I hope articulate: very happy to have had the call, Mister R :-)

    Speaking of being hit by a truck or car, there was chaos in Cleveland Street (just around the corner from here) this morning as a power pole was almost snapped in two by an early morning collision. As of 10am they are still doing the final touches on the replacement pole. Power lines on main roads should be underground, don’t you think?

     
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    Posted by on December 19, 2009 in blogging, decade

     

    Blogging the Noughties: 5 — 2003

    Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the fifth of a series.

    January 09, 2003: This afternoon did not disappoint.

    chris_and_dim Cafe Max – Madam and Dimmi 2003

    Nina, Trevor and a friend of theirs from Wollongong arrived at Cafe Max on time, and Mr Rabbit met Sirdan for the first time, after which Mr R had to scuttle off to the city for a time, but not before being somewhat taken with Nina’s amazing vitality and tales of salsa dancing in Cuba. Madam at Cafe Max won some new converts to her special Caesar Salads with edible baskets. While the Wollongong contingent went off to see Waiting for Godot, Sirdan and I went home and then to the Norfolk, where Mr Rabbit joined us.

    Wanting to give Mr R an opportunity to beat me at Trivial Pursuit (which he almost did) he and I set off home to await a call and also the end of the play, which was apparently excellent, but the Wollongong group could not join us for coffee as they had a train to catch. Mr R set off a few minutes ago to catch another train, pleased with his day which was far from over.

    Excursions both to the South Coast and to Sirdan’s (once he has de-mined his living quarters*) seem highly likely in the near future. Both promise to be excellent.

    January 11, 2003

    This is all a bit paradoxical really, but that’s OK. Life often is. Reflecting on the richest and most deeply satisfying experiences I have had in recent years, I find they are in doing ordinary things, especially in the right company. Much better than getting pissed in a gay bar, or feigning amusement at some piece of bitchiness, or suffering the percussive assaults that pass for music in too many gay venues. Yum Cha is of course one such time of pleasure, but I refer to even more ordinary things, like the Trivial Pursuit games that get mentioned here from time to time, for example. And so much more. One paradox is an old dog can learn new tricks, or relearn the value of old ones. Another is that the freedom we enjoy as gay men to be ordinary (and, in the best of all possible outcomes, to find a loving partner) only exists because of the dedicated noise and activity of our more Dionysian brethren (and sisters). Yet each of us must pursue happiness where he finds it, and for me that is not really on the gay scene (in the full sense of the word) – which is not to deny the good it has done me and the companionship I have found there. Told you I was being paradoxical. Funny thing is, M (much more Dionysian than I am) probably agrees with me too.

    Writing about last night’s dinner is difficult. M and Y were the hosts, and their flat looks lovely now, particularly the roof garden. Y did the cooking, and, as great a fan as I have been of M’s cooking, I have to say (but so does M) that Y is just superb. Thousand-years-old eggs were among the delicacies on offer.

    Two of my fellow guests were old friends of M: A (who had a heart attack just two months ago, had a stent put in, and has been in hospital twice); B, a delightful man who works in the field of education administration. The third, C, came with me and had been specifically invited by M. Had the dinner been last Monday, much of what happened would not have happened. Now if there was anyone in that room whose prospects for living seemed very much in the balance, it would have been A, but this fact really did seem to get lost. Mind you, alcohol rarely makes people more perceptive. M’s application of the responsible service of alcohol rules to a domestic dinner was actually quite masterly, I thought, and prevented things degenerating further than they did.

    To be fair to C, I don’t know how I would cope with his recent news, and it is very fresh; there has hardly been time to cope. Everyone in the room was inclined to be sympathetic, but C does tend to go on when sloshed and becomes increasingly, well, boring and overbearing; I have seen this before. I was watching A particularly, given A’s situation; he had a need for a relaxed dinner with friends, not to be treated to various diatribes, however understandable their origin. I was also concerned that M would be annoyed with me as I had brought the spoiler into the feast. He probably is, but my role will be to defend C, who does indeed deserve to be defended, under the circumstances.

    "I am being a good host; now you try to be a good guest," M said at one point in the evening.

    M delivered some other very insightful statements, and I think he really did C a lot of good, and I have to be happy about that. C certainly was, and thanks to M’s strength of character — and Y’s — C left in better condition than when he arrived, and I am glad about that. But I don’t think it was the dinner M and Y planned. As I say, the food was to die for — no pun intended.

    25 October 2003  M’s comments did do a lot of good, and relations between M and myself, strained severely in this incident, have much improved since.

    * I really don’t remember what that meant at the time! — 2009

     
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    Posted by on December 19, 2009 in blogging, decade

     

    Blogging the Noughties: 4 — 2002 –2004: memorable visuals

    Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the fourth of a series.

    1. From a friend in the UK, Tariq Timur, came this memorable image of the Paris Gay Pride

    pgp200211

    2. With this you had to have been there! Sirdan will get it. It appeared on my Geocities site. Remember Geocities?

    empress

     
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    Posted by on December 18, 2009 in blogging, decade

     

    Blogging the Noughties: 3 — 2002

    Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the third of a series.

     Friday, December 13, 2002: …Brian, I am universally incompetent…

    Gilchrist has just been caught Shah, bowled Irani, making Australia 1 for 101. And isn’t Saddam Hussein the English captain? It is all very confusing.

    My mother was a great cricketer, apparently the best wicket keeper in her school, of which her father was the Principal– indeed, also the entire staff, except for my grandmother who taught sewing informally. Apparently though talent was not enough, so on those rare occasions when the school (Braefield) had to play someone else my mother did not score a berth. Wrong gender, you see.

    I had the right gender but not the talent, or perhaps not the determination. I did bowl once in Primary School, with such risible consequences that I immediately wrote cricket off my list of things to do, though I seem to recall travelling around The Shire with the Sutherland Primary team, as mascot I think. I don’t recall ever actually being on the cricket field as such; indeed I think a great deal of time was spent with other mascots exploring the surroundings of whatever field — the Gunnamatta Bay foreshore in the case of Cronulla, or the nearby bushland in the case of Sutherland Oval.

    At Sydney Boys High I avoided cricket completely. My sport in summer was Non Swimming, a brilliant sport that involved mostly sandcastle building. The trick was never, when tested, to swim twenty metres. Some Master Non Swimmers sustained this ability for their entire school careers; one was not allowed to play any other summer sport until one had swum the requisite distance. One such genius ended up as Head of English at a prestige Brisbane Anglican School. I, on the other hand, accidentally swam too far one day and was immediately promoted to Lifesaving, which also involved sandcastle building, but at a different beach. There was more though. I seem to remember almost drowning once, but I never did get my Bronze Medallion. Or play cricket.

    Backyard cricket excepted, of course, but even that only in Primary School.

    My mother retained a lifelong passion for the game, and watched it religiously well into her eighties; her father too was a fan, and so was at least one of my female cousins. None of the males seemed to have cared too much about it.

    Now in my old age I am actually beginning to enjoy it. Mind you, I always could become interested if I actually sat down and watched it, but rarely did. M, on the other hand, never added cricket to his cross-cultural achievements. It is not particularly Chinese, though; I actually have met the odd Chinese cricketer. M could not understand what people saw in the game, though he could sit rapt watching tennis or soccer, and swimming and diving, it goes without saying, are spectator sports any redblooded gay man will watch, no matter what his background.

    I blame Mitchell. For my straying into cricket lately, I mean.

    Oh, I forgot to mention; I did have a stint as a cricket coach, at Cronulla High during my early years of teaching. This was almost as funny as my being a Rugby coach very briefly at Illawarra Grammar. Or teaching Woodwork for a month at Sydney Boys High — which I did! My highest school sporting achievement was teaching swimming at Illawarra Grammar, my students confident in my cousinship to an Olympic Gold Medallist. My second highest was befriending the most famous Sports Master ever known — Brian "Basher" Downes at Wollongong High School — who reacted rather well to my answer when he asked me what sport I would be involved in. "Brian, I am universally incompetent" was my reply; he seemed to like it and gave me girls’ badminton.

    By the way, my current workplace is directly opposite the Sydney Cricket Ground. Oh, and Australia is now 2 for 161. I think that is about 90 short of the English total…

    Saturday, December 14, 2002

    Stephen Deken is the originator of Diary-X**, where my current diaries are created and where at least the past month (currently September on, as I have been lazy) of archives also live. I love Diary-X; it is so easy to use and is so human at every level. The people behind it have faces, if you know what I mean.

    diarist
    Image at http://www.3bearz.com/im/diarist.jpg on Three Bears.Com

    On his own Diary recently Steve had this advice for web diarists:

    Don’t obsess over your hit count, how many people are linking to you, or what your layout looks like. It’s not that these things aren’t important, it’s just that your focus should be on the words you write instead of how much people like or dislike you. If you focus on the words, if you focus on capturing the emotion of your day in an entry, you will gather readers, even if you never once ask people to link to you, even if you have a prefab layout. Words first, readers later.

    Diary-X is a place for journals, a place for diaries; it is not a place for weblogs. The distinction, which is unfortunately lost on a lot of people, is quite important. A journal, a diary, these are very personal things, they are intimate expressions of self; they are introspective, they examine what’s going on inside your head. A weblog is impersonal, it does not address the notion of self; it is extrospective, it examines the world outside. Diary-X is meant to house journals, it is meant to be introspective. (Traditionally, in the online world, a journal/diary has a single entry per page, while a weblog has multiple entries per page; this is one of the reasons diary-x only allows a single entry per page.)

    There is no requirement to update on a daily basis, or even to follow any sort of regular pattern of updates at all (every other day, MWF, Tuesdays only, etc). If you can’t think of anything to write, if you don’t feel the need to write, you shouldn’t write. This is not to say that it’s a bad idea to bind yourself to a pattern, just that there is no need to do so. Regular updates will certainly build your traffic, but there is the danger that you will wind up writing for your audience instead of for yourself. Your journal is a personal thing and for the most part you should ignore your audience.

    Journals on diary-x are public communications, and that needs to be taken into consideration when composing entries. It’s a matter of respect, it’s a matter of privacy, it’s a matter of etiquette. The people who are important to you are likely to show up as "characters" in your journal, and they may not approve of being spoken about. Some of them may feel that you are speaking about them behind their backs. While it is up to the individual to ascertain where the line gets drawn, you need to be aware that the things you say in your journal can have an impact on your relationships with other people, including your parents, siblings, significant others, and even your working life. Diary-X is not a substitute for a handwritten journal stored safely under your mattress, which are private communications.

    I thought such good advice was worth heeding myself, and also worth passing on. Oh, and do visit Steve’s diary; it is worth it. And browse others in Diary-X from time to time.

    Thursday, December 26, 2002

    Yes, I am back.

    Christmas certainly had its good points this year. One aspect has been getting in touch with various family members I have not seen much of for a variety of reasons the past few years, especially some older ones. I was just speaking for example to my Aunt Beth who, despite arthritis and a few other penalties of age, remains at close to 90 amazingly sharp. She commented briefly on what she had been reading in the Herald and was happy that there is a chance I might see her on Monday, even if it is cleaning day and the cleaners who do her place may prove noisy.

    That I may be enabled to see her, and make a few other pilgrimages, is down to another of my Christmas highlights :-) Here is a poem that I have loved since I first read it at sixteen; it has of course a theological import that I well understand, but seems to me to say much that is relevant to anyone experiencing uncertainty about their own worth or chance of happiness. Enjoy.

    I also spoke to my brother in Tasmania, which was nice. And to M, which obviously was very welcome.

    On Monday evening I went to the Norfolk Hotel with Simon H. An excellent conversation ensued, enlivened also by a mathematical colleague who is just back from the UK, Ireland and New York.

    Christmas lunch at the Empress’s was excellent. For the record, it was a small affair: the Empress, Sirdan, Lord Malcolm, Paul D, myself, and towards the end, Grace. And a dog and cat. The food was fabulous. I contributed some Chinese chicken. (A nasty looking one with head still attached when I last saw it was the focus of another Christmas elsewhere ;-) but I am told it, and the accompanying salad, worked out well.) The Empress had done an amazing poached salmon in aspic, a hot dish, West Indian I think, and a three years old Christmas pudding that actually had shillings, sixpences and threepences in it. Sirdan made some olive bread, kind of Turkish style, which was just right with everything else.

    This year was fairly cool. It did not rain in Sydney, or not much, but in other parts of the state the drought was relieved, if a bit too vigorously. Nature is wonderful, isn’t it?

    I am currently reading a very quirky novel indeed, but one that makes you think seriously about the future, ecology — and Americans. It may err on the side of silliness a bit in its central conceit — a revolt by the world’s animals, including domestic moggies. For a scientist, though, Robyn Williams writes quite entertainingly, and the book is worth reading: 2007 is its name. I guess you can literally call it a fable.

    I also had a Christmas email from an acquaintance I have known since 1965, John Boase, who has published a very interesting book of sonnets. There is a story here, but I am not telling.

    My OUT friends sent quite a few greetings too, and I had good messaging sessions with Robin of Cambridge and Tariq especially.

    ** Shame about Diary-X!

     
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    Posted by on December 18, 2009 in blogging, decade

     

    Blogging the Noughties: 2 — 2001

    Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the second of a series.

    13 December: Great letter…but the Australian government will ignore it

    I have a page on my website devoted to the recent twistings and turnings of the Australian government on refugees and immigration. The tragicomedy rolls on. Like tiger repellent in the Australian desert (very effective, as you never see tigers there), our fearless Ruddock’s "Pacific solution" and "border protection" have kept the millions of Afghan refugees from leaping into boats and swamping our shores. Nauru (24 square kilometres isn’t it?) has accepted another payout and will take more asylum seekers. Do they outnumber the Nauruan population yet? The cost of all this–well, not really 500 million dollars salted away from three different government departments–oh no; maybe just 100 million dollars, said Ruddock yesterday.

    Born in pre-election vote-catching expediency, morally vacuous, patently absurd, ad-hoc management–what else can you say about it? This perhaps:

    A letter to the Prime Minister

    We write to you as a group of Australian citizens currently living overseas, who share a common concern with regard to recent events in Australia that have attracted significant international criticism.

    We are proud that Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Immigrants have made a profound contribution to Australia’s unique national character. Although our history is not perfect in this regard, we have succeeded in creating a common identity through tolerance and open-mindedness towards those who join our community.

    In this light, we are disturbed and disappointed by the Federal Government’s actions in relation to the desperate plight of refugees. We are deeply concerned that Australia’s international standing as an open and tolerant nation has been compromised. As ambassadors for our country, we have found it difficult to justify to our overseas colleagues the Australian Government’s recent decisions in this regard.

    Furthermore, we strongly object to the Government’s use of language that dehumanises and vilifies refugees trying to escape persecution. We feel that, as Prime Minister, you have a responsibility to encourage Australian citizens to overcome their fears and uncertainties about the significant changes that are currently taking place in the international sphere. Instead, we believe that your Government has framed the debate in a way that gives legitimacy to intolerance in the general community. We ask you to move beyond populism and to conduct Australia’s affairs in a way that reflects our status as a forward-thinking nation.

    We call on the Australian Government to comply with its international treaty obligations with respect to refugees, and to meet its responsibilities as an international citizen in responding to humanitarian disasters.

    We call on the Australian Government to respond to the current refugee crisis (as it did for East Timor) by increasing the number of available places in the humanitarian program for the refugees currently fleeing Central Asia and the Middle East.

    We call on the Australian Government to put an end to mandatory detention and to inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

    We care deeply about Australia’s role and future direction, and strongly entreat you to re-visit these issues.

    Dr Bryan Gaensler, Cambridge MA, USA, Clay Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, 1999 Young Australian of the Year. And others.

    That appeared in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, but to the government and the true elites around here (you know them, always slagging genuinely liberal views as "elite") it won’t make a blind bit of difference. Just another soft-headed set of chattering class chardonnay swilling pointy headed politically correct crypto-socialist bleeding hearts after all: not real Aussies at all, not real patriots.

    14 December: A long partnership over

    An hour ago, Australian Eastern time,

    in East Devonport, Tasmania

    Norma,

    my brother’s partner of 30 years,

    passed away after a long battle

    with emphysema.

    15 December: My brother.

    My brother and his partner have been living in Tasmania for many years now; I am not quite sure how many, but certainly more than five. Before that they lived in various parts of Queensland.

    One of the ironies of their life together was that they were both married on the same day in Sutherland, way back in 1955, but in two different churches and to two different people. My brother’s first marriage lasted ten years, and it was after the end of that that he and Norma got together. I remember once saying to them that they could have saved a lot of trouble by getting it right on that day back in 1955, to which my brother replied, "Oh well, we still celebrate our wedding anniversary."

    While my brother and I have been in regular contact by phone, especially since our mother died 1n 1996, I have not seen him for many years, and Norma even longer. Unfortunately there is no way I can go down to Tasmania either, not that I could do much.

    Ian and Norma were together for over thirty years. A second attempt at partnership suited both of them. They were kindred spirits, and were very lucky to have found each other. In the past few years Norma was basically bedridden, constantly on oxygen for her emphysema. My brother could not have been more loving and more devoted. He certainly had more peace and happiness with Norma over the greater part of thirty years than he had ever had before.

    He’s not a young man now; neither of us is. I am not sure what he will do eventually–stay in Tasmania or move back up north. At one time he said he might move back to Queensland, should anything happen to Norma.

    My brother had four children by his first marriage, some of whom I see from time to time. Norma had at least one daughter, whom I met, by her first marriage. Ian and Norma had no children by their relationship.

    And yes, I won’t harp on it, but Benson and Hedges had a hand in Norma’s suffering and death.

    The deep blue skies wax dusky and the tall green trees grow dim
    The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall
    And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim
    And on the very sun’s face weave their pall
    Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave
    With never stone or rail to fence my bed
    Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave
    I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
    –Adam Lindsay Gordon

    20 December. Christmas thoughts…of a naked Ninglun

    Yes, it is very warm in Sydney tonight and you should be glad I don’t have web cam. Looking at myself I can have few illusions about being no longer young, despite rather nice remarks today from some female colleagues, who expressed amazement at the concept that I turn 59 next year (God willing, of course.) I told them it must be my healthy lifestyle ;-)

    It is that time of year, school having ended, Christmas and New Year, just around the corner; a time to take stock. So I am naked in another sense, trying here to be unpretentious and honest with myself and my readers, some of whom I know and are dear to me, others of whom are total strangers. I so love the web diary–it has helped me so many times since I started, simply in the fact that I can say and do things here in total privacy and yet I am sharing it with the world. It is quite amazing, as happens from time to time, when someone suddenly pops up from, say, Denmark or Texas, and tells me: "Thanks for that" or "Yes, I love what you said…"

    A year ago I made a list which is now on my Home Page of ten beautiful things in life. I still stand by that. But this year I will put in ascending order the year’s six greatest blessings, bearing in mind what a horrible year it has been in some ways. This is a very personal list, and are the things I thank God/fate/circumstance for in 2001.

    6. Some good things professionally, targets achieved in some areas at least, and students whose difficulties I have been able to make easier.
    5. The blessing of reading and our local library.
    4. Being able at my age to still think new thoughts and learn new things, and to take an imprudent decision when I knew it was what I had to do.
    3. My friends at yum cha and around the pubs/coffee shops for their fellowship and confirmation of one’s worth and existence.
    2. Becoming a non-smoker at last.
    1. Finding one is loveable after all, and seeing another find that too about themselves.

    Yes, I know the grammar is not quite right in number 1, but the thought is wonderful :-)

     
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    Posted by on December 17, 2009 in blogging, decade

     
     
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