WHISPER: One word prompt

I HATE hearing whispering!! I have always hated it.

There is a particularly spitty p-p-p lip flapping whisper that my parents used when they had their early morning cuppa at about 6 am. They whispered because they thought it would not wake me up but when it DID they just kept whispering.

I told them time and again from about the age of four that I couldn’t stand it and could they speak softly in normal voices. But no. They whispered until I left home just before I was 18 to go to uni in the city.

It’s that ear-drum vibration that whispering creates that I can’t stand. I have trouble even these days if I am depressed and a bit agitated, then someone speaks with a spitty voice. My ear-drums start buzzing and I have to run away. It must be the high-pitched sounds that are near or over the upper limit of true hearing because other people say they can’t perceive the spitty sounds. No matter what, it bothers me, so this prompt was bloody easy!

DSC00377 (2)

Some bright types tell me it is an angry reaction to my parents wanting to talk privately and I felt left out. But I couldn’t have given two hoots what they talked about; it was merely the manner in which they went about it. I could have done with the extra sleep. They were probably compiling the grocery list or gossiping about the neighbours- not of ANY interest to a little kid. I got my neuroses from what my parents DIDN’T do or say as much as from what they did.

Whispering is just an innocuous activity that pisses me off mightily, out of all proportion to its significance!



The prompt is: Assay

This prompt immediately brought to mind the time when I discovered a tin of heavy metallic blobs among the assorted possessions of my deceased Uncle Norman.

Uncle Norman was great to have as an uncle. He had no kids of his own and only a few nieces and nephews who lived a hundred or more kilometres away, as did I. When I went to visit him on his little farm near Armidale in the Northern Tablelands he let me join in and do things I could never do at home.

Firstly, he had some cows and sheep and some farm dogs to work with the stock. I would go out into the fields with him to fetch the cows up to the home paddock in the evening. The milking cow (or two) would know when it was time to go to the dairy each morning just on sunrise and Uncle Norman or Auntie Molly would let me have a go at milking. I was fairly hopeless as I didn’t want to hurt the cows! Besides, my hands were so tiny that I couldn’t get a good grip around the udder above the nipples – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

During the day with the animals happily taking care of themselves my uncle sometimes took me rock-hunting. He had a huge collection of rock specimens from all over the world, though he had only collected Australian rocks himself. sapphmapHe used to trade rocks with other people to get the overseas ones but the vast majority he found on the East coast of Australia. Around Armidale you could find many different minerals and gemstones, the best known of which are sapphires.

We would regularly go to spots along local rivers and pan for sapphires and we found many, some of good gem quality. These were either nice deep blue transparent stones or star sapphires.

The best sapphire he found he made into a ring for Auntie Molly and today I have this ring. An expert gem cutter shaped the stone for him but he actually forged the metal part of the ring himself using gold and a little silver he had scrounged himself. I was quite impressed that he was able to make the ring as he was an electrician by trade and usually did wood-turning as a hobby, not metal forging. sapphringThe ring is quite simple, just a few claws to hold the stone and a plain band. However, that leads me to the prompt, the Assay.

When I found the heavy tin of metal blobs I thought they might be leftover material from forging the metal from that ring. I knew that an assay was a method of measuring the metal content of a mixture of geological materials but had no idea who could do it. Secretly I was hoping there might be a little more gold in the mix that could be made into a few more rings or something. So I looked up metallurgical companies in the Yellow Pages and found one close by that was prepared to analyse my little sample.

A week later I was quite excited when I went in to find out the results. It was just a tin of slag! They thought it was probably left over from various attempts to produce a jeweller’s metal and contained no more precious metal that could be re-used. Oh well, it was interesting finding out!


Pink hearts, mechanical sheep and flamenco

[This was dashed off ages ago, but I’ve only just re-discovered it. I’ve had stacks of dreams since but this one marked the end of YEARS without memorable dreams. A landmark in the unconscious world you might say.]

A dream, after all these years! This one was a strange mixture inspired by the movie I’ve just seen A Little Chaos, a trailer for another movie X + Y and some clips from the Motionographer* blog (I think). I knock on a door and behind I can hear a little girl yelling and running about saying fairly random and bizarre things. When the door opens, its Kate Winslet looking like her character in A Little Chaos but dressed in a light pink frilly dress with red hearts printed on it. She quickly conducts me into her backyard which is about Adelaide suburban-sized within a paling fence. There are garden beds and squares of lawn and it’s mainly flowers and vegetables in old-style beds. Sweet peas on strings, some tall odd-looking things; (hollyhocks?). These flowers probably originated in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

We sit down on a pink quilt on a square of lawn. The little girl flits about yelling and talking to herself. A plant is giving itself a vigorous brushing- it has grey stiff leaves and a drying head with tendrils like hair. A mechanical sheep about 6 inches high and looking like Shaun from the poster for the movie toddles around.


There is suddenly an old dining table and carpet in a room. Musicians are on a few chairs holding Renaissance instuments. A woman in a long wool jersey dress does some flamenco steps. We try to clear the room of debris and furniture so she can dance. The lamb toddles about, chasing real kittens.


The kittens have apparently been starved as I have forgotten to feed them for weeks. Perhaps I’ve been sick? Steve yells at me for starving the kittens! [What has HE been doing?] He chases me from the house and says he’ll never forgive me and not to come back. The kittens are mewing and clutching their stomachs. I can’t remember them being so tiny and me not feeding them. Oddball stuff.

Maybe I was supposed to wake up and answer the kitties’ call for breakfast instead of writing this blog entry?

Example of typical Motionographer blog’s clips:

Sprint vector trailer

#dreams #fantasy #kittens #kitteh #movies #Kate_Winslet

Deities vs denigration. Or how to stop dwelling on things.

I was trying to locate some pointers on rumination that I felt were suitable to my own situation, being depressed. A few behaviourally oriented ones sounded good while others went all god-dy and totally put me off. What is the point of a deity saving you after you are dead to make everything right? You’re dead then and have no life to BE good FFS!

When I read the attached account of a woman grieving for her prematurely-departed husband I thought she was making more of a hole for herself by denigrating her own worthiness as a human and potential partner. Somehow I need to steer between deities and denigration!

My concept of myself is not that bad; I think I am worthy of love, praise and comfort and I have a fair measure of each. My social network is rather lacking at the moment and I haven’t had the cheerfulness or energy to cultivate it, so I feel a bit disconnected but NOT lonely. I am quite happy with spending every day alone, my only contact with the world through my laptop or tablet. However, my social situation of 90% isolation is NOT good for curing myself of ruminating. While I don’t blame myself for being depressed currently, being alone is provocation for negative thoughts about anything. A few years ago I was able to keep my mind active with online courses and I learned some amazing stuff. Recently though I have been unable to get out of my unproductive ruminative loops in order to learn new stuff, so unfinished online courses are just more negatives that I don’t need right now.

Iceland poppies

Iceland poppies

My Mindfulness practice has helped to a certain extent but it is not strong enough to keep all my head-crap at bay all the time. Doing something active like my hobbies would be great too, but I am in the middle of a very stuck period and haven’t got past first base with several projects that are lovely in themselves. Seeing the endpoint in my mind doesn’t seem to have the push-power it should. Somehow, my unfathomable feeling that things are not “right” gets in the way. Please contribute some ideas if you have tried successfully to fix your own stuck-ness or ruminations.

Here is the woman who is down on herself in her grief:



Chunks of Pi

My friends and I have been rather tardy in going to see The Life of Pi at the local cinema, but we managed it last Sunday night. I thought that the book was un-filmable, even without modern CGI effects and animatronics, but the movie was an enthralling adaptation of the book in startling 3D [we wore Clark Kent glasses].

Scene from the movie

Pi & Richard Parker

We were all very happy with it and I felt rather inspired by what I saw, which is unusual for me. For the very few who might not have read the book by Yann Martel [Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize] nor seen the recent movie, it is about a boy who finds himself alone in a lifeboat with a tiger after a ship sinks containing his fathers entire zoo exhibits.

When I first read the novel, which is quite short, I liked it OK although I didn’t think it was great. The writer seemed to go well for the first third of the book and then hit the doldrums, just like the boy in the lifeboat! To my mind the symbolic and philosophical themes didn’t seem to progress for a long interval and I was tempted to abandon ship/book. However, I knew there had to be some sort of resolution, so I went along for the ride. I was rewarded in the end and concluded that the book was an allegory of nature, growth, life and death, where the elements could each mean a number of things, depending on the mindset of the reader. I didn’t relate the themes to my life at the time, but seeing the interpretation of the book by Ang Lee (of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame- is he getting stuck on tigers??), I felt quite touched. As said by reviewer Gary Krist in the New York Times Review of Books;

Pi understands that his own survival depends on keeping his ferocious opponent alive and well — ”because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker.”

Pi to multi decimal places

Pi, as Pi writes it on the blackboard

The film said to me “Get your tasks of necessity over with and just enjoy doing your own thing. Life won’t come back and give you another go.” That’s quite revolutionary to me at this stage of my life. For years I have been wanting to get my Masters degree and find a job in Public Health, preferably in Policy and Research because I am so drawn to them in many waking moments. However, no one has been very encouraging and I haven’t gained any jobs or scholarships to study further yet, having arrived at a sort of “fallback” position of trying for a PhD for lack of a job. I figured I could still immerse myself in the subject area even if I couldn’t work in it. With the stimulus of Pi I may be shifting my thinking to accepting I have finished my working life and settle for enjoying the crafts and hobbies I can still do with my disabled hands and wrists.

I will still need to learn to value myself and accept I am worth Spotrick supporting financially as my childhood background has almost brainwashed me into thinking I must always have an independent income. At least now I have been unemployed for many years I have somewhat forgotten what it’s like to have my own money to spend the way I wish [while keeping up my household contribution, of course]. It’s still fairly sad for me to see friends going away on holidays to places I had planned to visit before the end of my life, but I am trying to experience those things vicariously now. I have been asking my friends to take lots of photographs when they go away – photos of the places, rather than the standard touristy pix of “me in front of the Tower of London” sort! My friends are beginning to co operate, but they take a bit of flogging [you know who you are, LOL!]. I still get tears in my eyes regularly when I see places on my Bucket List on the internet, but I’m improving.

Scottish loch

Scottish loch


So this week could be quite influential for me and I haven’t changed my mind yet in the light of a week’s distance or reality biting.

Does this sound like a good thing? Have I missed something that’s going to wreck it all?

Comments welcome.

Here are some reviews of the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/life-of-pi/

Acknowledgements: Pi poster with multi decimal places http://hoffnermath.files.wordpress.com/2009/

Movie poster: http://theawesomer.com


Praise was a no-no

Child development: The right kind of early praise predicts positive attitudes toward effort.


When I taught developmental psychology to young teacher- and childcare-trainees, I fought a losing battle most of the time trying to show them how to use praise in the best way to enhance the lives of the little ones in their charge. All the other teachers on the programs thought that you must “treasure the precious little children” by [wrongly] “boosting their self-esteem” in saying “wow, that was good” or “don’t you look gorgeous”, no matter the merit of child in any way.

This article points out where I was doing OK and they were NOT encouraging the children to try hard and put their best efforts into whatever they did. I believe the “wow, you’re wonderful” style of upbringing has resulted in generations of youngsters who won’t put in an effort, try to get by on appearance [at which many succeed & others derive much misery from], feel entitled to a good job no matter how lackadaisical their performance and are intolerant of less than perfect traits in a partner. Who knows?

As I mentioned on Google+ in response to this article, my life has been heavily influenced by getting no praise or the wrong kind when I was a little kid. I was virtually “squashed down” because apparently the “tall poppy” syndrome reigned in the 1950s. I can only remember a few instances where I was praised for any achievement, and this was by school teachers or other kids’ parents. As an adult [in years, maybe not in mind!], I have not usually tried very hard at most things, because I achieved most things as a kid by just turning up and doing. No one will believe me, but I got into med school that way- however, lack of effort after being ill for a long time probably made me drop out, where I might have been able to cope with some coaching and support for a while.

Kids I went to school with apparently often tried to topple me from the top of the class, but, not having put any effort in myself, I didn’t notice their frustrated efforts! Therefore, I didn’t congratulate them or praise them either because I hadn’t experienced it myself. These days I sometimes chat on Facebook to some of these old friends and discover how “victorious” some of them felt when they topped me at something and how some of them were jealous of my performance/”marks”, disliking me as consequence. It all seems so trivial now, but THEY have mostly succeeded in life with good jobs and happy families, whereas I am long term unemployed with a still “itchy” mind!

So, from many years of experience and contemplation I would say to parents “Be alert to your children’s achievements in every sphere and give them plenty of praise about the way they achieve.” My idea would be to teach kids as many things as you can quite deliberately so they don’t have to make so many mistakes along the road to becoming adults themselves. Teach them about praise too, once they are old enough to get the idea, and they will become sought after companions in life for their peers. Show children how to do things and don’t keep saying “No not that way” and correcting them – let them work through and discover for themselves the best methods once you have shown them, except when it’s dangerous, eg. diving off the high board!

Surely I might be happier and healthier now, maybe even suitably employed if I had been able to build on a solid basis of feeling competent and autonomous when I was learning to become human. I’m working on it.

These Were a Few of Their Favorite Things – and a few of mine

These Were a Few of Their Favorite Things – NYTimes.com.

I’ve been interested in science, reading & discovering things since I was tiny, but never had any of those wonderful construction toys that boys seemed to get for Christmas. I had plenty of dolls that I loved to dress up with clothes I had sewn & knitted for them & I was always pestering my mum for “scraps”.

At about 4 or 5 I received a wind-up train set and rails for Christmas, but never really got to play with it the way I wanted because my father immediately commandeered it and made long guided rail things from plywood around the rooms. He would usually take the wind-up bit out of my hands saying “don’t overwind it”.

Wimmer-Heinrich-HWN passenger train set

Wimmer-Heinrich-HWN passenger train set

I quickly learned about the remedy for “over-winding” by taking the little engine apart while dad was at work in the South Island (NZ; he was a government statistician in the 1950s and actually went around and collected some of the data, as they did in those days!). After figuring out clockwork motors, I proceeded to take apart music boxes and wind-up monkeys & put them back together again without anyone noticing. What fun!

No chemistry set ever came my way, in spite of pleading every year, but I did get to play with the usual household substances like vinegar & baking soda, making terrific froth plumes out of soft drink bottles. Developing films in the laundry was vaguely chemical, but you couldn’t experiment with that stuff.

I WAS really interested in stars and space, due to my father showing me the Southern Aurora and tracking the first orbiting space satellites, like Sputnick I & II. He kept an ear out on shortwave radio to find out what times to expect them and we always went out on the front lawn with his old German Field Ambulance binoculars that he had acquired from a mate when he was younger. I can remember the first space dog Laika and the poor monkeys & chimpanzees that were sent up to perish in plumes of fire on re-entry.

Laika - Russian space dog

Laika – Russian space dog

We kept track of many space objects and star and planetary happenings, and when I was a young adult (at least in years), the appearance of the comet Kouhoutek was quite a colourful spectacle low over the Pacific Ocean in front of my parents house. There was a phase I went through when I was around 14, wanting to be an astrophysicist & work with the Parkes radio telescope (The Dish). I would try to figure out the speeds and heights of orbits necessary for satellites of various weights to circle the earth and where they ought to appear at certain times – what a mess of maths that was!! No computers to help me then.

One thing that really cemented my interest in science was a children’s encyclopedia “of everything” that I received when I was eight. I read that thing to death, over and over. The parts I remember best are the chapters about the solar system and “how the body works”. I knew then that I wanted to be a doctor “when I grew up”.

From my encyclopedia

From my encyclopedia

However, the book puzzled me for years because it didn’t explain exactly what happened to food-waste, once it went past the stomach: I spent years thinking that the solid waste went out through the large intestine and somehow got separated from the liquid waste that exited via the small intestine! It took some exploration of mum’s nursing textbooks to get a handle on the kidneys, which ultimately fascinated me with how they could extract the liquid from blood without letting it all leak out in your pee!

I was a pretty weird little kid at times, with allocating all my little friends in third grade a strange “disease” out of my list from the Pears’ Cyclopedia (1960 edition; I was 8) when we played hospitals! My pals got sick of it before we’d even finished “A”: they’d had achondroplastic dwarfism, asthma, acromegaly and ataxia thrust upon them before I was outvoted on what to play at lunchtimes! Incidentally, the poinciana thorns in the playground (horrors they’d say these days) got a good work-out as “needles” for the play-nurses to prick their victims!!


My excuse

OK- I haven’t kept up with NaBloPoMo this month, in spite of my ambitions. Life threw me a bit of a curler. Two people I knew happened to die on the anniversary of my mum’s death and I got all discombobulated.

One person died peacefully in his sleep after many years of heart problems, plus having a burst blood vessel in his brain in 2009. At that time the doctors decided to let him go peacefully but his son (who is actually my good friend, not the old guy) persuaded them that he was quite functional – running his own little computer network at home, chatting on Facebook to friends all over the world and staying in touch with his former singing students. So they removed the clots over his brain surface and patched him up with metal plates. He was quite OK for an 81 year old, until he went that Friday night.

My friend of only 52 who died, had been quite close. He was the partner of my best girlfriend for about 20 years and they only split up 2 years ago. He was one of the happiest, healthiest people until he became depressed about 5 years ago. I think it was his “immovability” that broke them up as my friend was jibing at him for being “lazy”. My impression was that their business troubles (caused by old-fashioned local council regulations) were so deep that my girlfriend didn’t see the depth of her partner’s distress. Very sad all round because he then left the state and I couldn’t contact him. Apparently, shortly after he left he started having the health problems that eventually killed him. In spite of his great eating and fitness habits, he got bowel cancer which spread to his liver.

His wake (no funeral), was a tribute to his life, but was also sad for me. There were reminders of his happy life everywhere- his scuba diving gear and underwater camera, his racing bicycle, motorcycle & jet-ski. There was a continuous DVD playing of photos from all his adventures both overseas and in Australia. I thought that the most exciting thing he had done was when he was part of a BMW advertisement that was being made in the Arizona desert. He got to ride with a heap of others in a mile-wide line across the desert, with the ad being shown all over the world. It was great to visit, as he cooked wonderful food, always using the best ingredients and generally spiced up with a mixture containing chilis. Some people at the wake speculated that all the chilis might have produced his cancer, but my money is on his extensive exposure to high-octane fuels during his motorcycle racing & playing with other toys. We’ll never know- that’s cancer for you. Too sad.

Another whale stranding

Upon opening the lappy this morning, top of the news list was this: Rescue efforts continue for beached whales

Basically, a pod of sperm whales became stranded on some huge sandbars at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s wild west coast. You can see how narrow the harbour entrance is, plus sandbars are visible even on the Google map! The sandbars exist because this is the outlet of the mighty Franklin River– the one conservationists have fought so hard to save from the hydroelectricity schemes. Ironically, one piece of conservation is contributing to another species’ bad fortune. Nature does not choose it’s champions nor victims using logic or reason.

Macquarie Harbour showing narrow entrance

If you look on Google Maps, you’ll see that the Franklin River is huge and deep, ending in the monstrous Macquarie Harbourwhich has various deep, navigable channels. I imagine that the current pod of sperm whales was planning on steering themselves up a nice channel and investigating the nooks in the deep harbour.

The mighty Franklin River

Other whale pods had probably taken some great excursions here and reported to the whale-folk back home. This time, not so lucky and some of the family became beached. The reporter said the whales were in good condition and will probably be refloated in 24 hours. I’m not so sure, looking at their mouths, but we’ll see.

The strandings on adjacent Ocean Beach (north of entrance) are quite frequent. It is a huge long, straight beach, continually facing the Roaring Forties, blowing in unfettered by any land after Madagascar.

Ocean Beach & the Roaring Forties

It is pretty much continuous and I imagine that whales could easily be pulled out of their intended route and into the mass of waves running towards shore. I’ve notice the torrent of waves building up more than a kilometre from shore.

When I visited Ocean Beach in 2009, the wind was blowing hard as usual, there was a certain stench of rotting mutton birds and fish, but no whales or their carcasses. However, people who live in surrounding towns and villages are used to strandings so I think they probably happened long before humans arrived.

Why do whales strand? Zoologists and other scientists concerned with currents and climate change have many theories, none of which are easy to prove in the short term. Some say that whales’ navigation system is disturbed by an illness, pollution or the earth’s changeable magnetic field, causing them to go off course or miscalculate the position of a dimly remembered shoreline.

Tasmania, pimple in the Southern Ocean

Others say that Ocean Beach, on the “tiny” island of Tasmania within a vast Southern Ocean, is only a blip iin a big space, so sometimes the whales hit the island merely by chance. I don’t know what is believable about any theory on this , but as a soft-hearted human and conservationist, I find it worrying when these wonderful, lumbering animals meet their end during the prime of life.

A ScoopIt show integrates this blog post with other news about whales and conservation:

Day 26 NaBloPoMo: Music found and lost and found

Wendishness triggered off this blog entry with her tale of learning the saxophone as a child. I played the clarinet as a teen and later acquired a saxophone, but I had to buy it and teach myself. My father had said that he wasn’t going to have me taught the piano, or any other instrument (as he had been), because it would “distract her from her schoolwork”.

Tiny tot + tiny violin

He didn’t ask me- who had a mini violin and could pick out things on the piano by ear from about the age of four. One of my dad’s old friends from his days of piano-playing, was a woman whom I knew as “Auntie Myrtle”. She was an excellent musician and had taught the violin and piano for years before she retired. She made herself very involved in my early years and had given me a quarter-size violin when I was four. [The little girl pictured is NOT ME- she’s named Angelina and plays with a group of youngsters at Jesus Covenant Methodist Church]. Dad wouldn’t let me have lessons and I was trying to teach myself- without much success because I didn’t know how to tune it and make the notes I needed to play it. I was much better on the piano where the notes were fixed and I could play by ear. When we came to Australia, dad sold the piano, along with all the other furniture from our house and did not replace it in Australia. This meant he couldn’t play any more either- but he seemed not to care any more.

After we had been in Australia for 4 or 5 years (I was 10 by then), I wanted to learn the oboe because I loved the sound of it in pieces like Grieg’s ‘Solveig’s Song‘ from Peer Gynt and the solos in Ravel’s ‘Bolero’.

After conferring with a school music teacher who used to stay next door during schol holidays I decided that it would be more practical to learn the clarinet as reeds could be bought for it, whereas oboe reeeds have to be made by the player and there was no one to teach me. So, when I got my high school scholarship (a government thing for bright students whose parents had low income or lots of kids), I went to Sydney and bought a clarinet! My cousin just happened to go to school with Don Burrow’s daughter and she hustled me around to his place so he could show me how to attach the reed and how to blow it! Wasn’t I lucky? So, with 5 minutes input from the expert, I took my clarinet home to the country town where we lived (Port Macquarie on the NSW North Coast for those who are interested). There I taught myself and became skilled enough to really enjoy it. In 1970 I was off to university in Sydney to study Medicine, plus off to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for lessons. To cut a long story short I dropped out of Medicine and enrolled in a combined Music/Psychology major after a few years and did very well. However, not brilliant enough for a musical career, so Psychology got me my first jobs.

Too bad no amount of Psychology or anything else will get me a job these days!