Nature is amazing. And beautiful. So is art, admittedly. And I'm not really suggesting that we don't need art.
But nature is pretty special.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Nature is amazing. And beautiful. So is art, admittedly. And I'm not really suggesting that we don't need art.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
House: Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market-
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.
John Updike 18 March 1932 - 27 January 2009
So, a couple of people have asked why I don’t use my real name on my blog. Well, it’s primarily to maintain at least some anonymity – something I think is quite important when posting anything online. Apart from facebook, but on facebook my privacy settings are turned up to max…
But why MylissaAriana?
Ariana was taken from Arianrhod of Welsh mythology. Not a particularly nice woman, but I like the name…
The English name is derived from the Italian form of the Greek name Ariadne, which means "most holy" (Cretan Greek αρι [ari] "most" and αδνος [adnos] "holy") and a Welsh name meaning silver (Welsh arian, "silvery").
Ariadne, of course, being the woman who helped Theseus overcome the Minotaur and the Labyrinth by giving him a ball of red wool and a sword.
As for Mylissa, well…
To cut a long story short, I had a very weird, but vivid, dream in which my name was Mylissa. Shortly afterwards I had to come up with a name to use online, and so I went for that.
More than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its land, sea and air operations against Hamas militants on 27 December, including 400 children. Fourteen Israelis have died.This statistic in various Gaza/Israel stories on the BBC news website is terrifying. Where, previously, numbers had been qualified by the statement ‘according to Palestinian sources’, the BBC seem to be suggesting that this is an accurate figure. With the recent furor over the BBC’s decision not to screen a fundraising appeal for humanitarian relief in Gaza by the Disasters Emergency Committee, I can’t imagine they’d be lax about their statistics, or allow anything that could be perceived as bias in their reporting.
Fighting a war against terrorists/freedom fighters is extremely difficult, especially when those militants have a history of sheltering amongst civilians. But Israel having made the decision to respond militarily to the rockets coming from Gaza, I can’t think of a way in which they could have effectively completed their campaign (assuming that their campaign was simply to stop the rockets) without huge risk to their own military forces.
But in my view, that in no way excuses the reports of extreme violence towards civilians and children, such as in this story:
…the head of neurosurgery at the El-Arish hospital, Dr Ahmed Yahia, told me that brain scans made it clear that a number of the child victims had been shot at close range.
If all this is true, nothing in the world can justify it.
Apparently two thirds of people prefer a green Santa. Not an eco-friendly Santa – he achieves that already with his reindeer-drawn sleigh. Although perhaps not. Do reindeer suffer from flatulence?
I digress. Green Father Christmas. Meaning, of course, a Father Christmas dressed in green. According to a National Trust survey, members of the public preferred traditional, green costumes when they were trialed at grottos last year.
A green costume suggests links to pagan ‘Green Man’ and also to Odin. The red costume is a recent phenomenon created by Thomas Nash in Victorian times and then cemented by the hideous commercialisation of a lovely, family-orientated, winter festival by the Coca Cola company (among others).
Admittedly, I might be biased, but I think its brilliant! Hopefully this year we’ll see more green Santas...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
AMAZINGLY SIMPLE HOME REMEDIES:
- If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto. The blockage will be almost instantly removed.
- Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.
- Avoid arguments with your partner about lifting the toilet seat by simply using the sink.
- For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.
- A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
- If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you will be afraid to cough.
- Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget about the toothache.
- Sometimes, we just need to remember what the rules of life really are: You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
- Remember: Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
- Never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom.
- If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You get another chance.
- And finally, be really nice to your family and friends; you never know when you might need them to empty your bed pan.
- Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?
- Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know there is not enough?
- Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
- Why doesn't glue stick to the bottle?
- Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?
- Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
- Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?
- Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
- Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?
- If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?
- Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?
- Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?
- Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?
- Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?
- Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?
- How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?
- When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?' Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That hurt, you stupid idiot?'
- Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?
- In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?
- How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?
- The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Just occasionally in life, you come across something that not only causes you to stop and think, but something that totally challenges everything.
This happened to me today.
Now, I’m not trying to be immodest here, but I’ve had a pretty good education. I’ve been very lucky. I went to a public boarding school (that’s private school to most of the world) from the age of 8-18 and while I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve got to say that they did their best to educate me to within an inch of both my life and my sanity. I went to a very good university and although I possibly didn’t leave with the best degree (for a variety of reasons), life at uni continued my education in not just an academic sphere but also in a general ‘this is how to live’ kind of way.
I enjoy reading. I read widely and have an interest in politics and current affairs. I like to debate topics with friends and family.
I am, admittedly, very bad at maths and not so great at science.
It is this last fact that should have alerted me that what I was about to read was going to cause problems.
Having read this post on the wonderful Dilbert blog I clicked on the link to the article: Our world may be a giant hologram (New Scientist website)
Interesting, I thought.
I understood about one word in ten. And it isn’t so much the words themselves, but the way they’ve been put together. They made things that look like sentences, but don’t make any sense:
“If GEO600 really has discovered holographic noise from quantum convulsions of space-time, then it presents a double-edged sword for gravitational wave researchers.”
Even the bits where theories were ‘explained’ make distressingly little sense to me:
“According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.”
Concepts, theories… I just can’t get my head around it and this really upsets me! Its like a nightmare and I can't escape.
Most things, if I don’t understand the details, I can look up some background information somewhere and end up with at least something approaching understanding of the topic. With this, I have no hope. None. I just don’t get it. And I really hate that I can’t understand it. I am now in a state of nervous tension with an image of a me, stuck to a giant hologram, floating in front of my eyes. I can’t think about anything else and its freaking me out…
This state of mind is the thing that has really got to me. In a way, the contents of the article are neither here nor there. But it is this feeling of utter bewilderment. Complete confusion. The only time I've felt like this was in Poland where (despite speaking Russian) I understood virtually nothing of what was being said. It is a horrible feeling and now its back. I'm in hell.
So, in order to restore my sanity, if anyone can explain the concepts in the article to me using not just words of one syllable, but also explaining the theories behind it in a way that even an Iron Age woman might understand, then please, please help!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Out with the old, in with the new...
"There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead."
"When we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."
Apart from the fact that every time I see or hear the phrase ‘yes, we can!’ I think of Bob the Builder, I am very excited about the inauguration of the 44th American President, Barack Obama, later today (and not just because our office will be grinding to a halt to watch it on the BBC). Obama is taking over the reins of a country that has an awful lot of problems, but I’m sure that he will rise to the challenge admirably. Hopefully the rest of the country will offer him the support that he will need.
Good luck to him…
Meanwhile, this article by Andrew Roberts in the Telegraph suggests that perhaps George W. Bush wasn’t all that bad, despite these ‘Bushisms’ on the BBC website.
Ah well, it can only get better!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Those of you who know me probably already know my views on pigs. Intelligent creatures for the most part (both my friends and the pigs. No, my friends are not pigs), pigs are also pretty cute. Well, piglets anyway.
I am by no stretch of the imagination vegetarian, but I don’t eat much pig. Or pork. Mainly I don’t like the taste of ham and bacon. But I like sausages. But I’m very fussy about what type of sausages I eat. I will only eat British reared pig. Not because of the taste (although it tends to be delicious), but because in Britain we have far higher pig rearing standards than in the rest of Europe.
In Europe, pigs are kept in terrible conditions. Intensively ‘factory’ farmed, with the sows locked in sowing stalls and farrowing pens, the pigs are often kept in darkness and on concrete floors. I would recommend reading Jon Henley’s article in the Guardian for further details.
In Britain it’s a slightly different story. We do have higher welfare standards for our pigs. Most pigs in Britain have access to the outdoors, straw in their pens and greater freedom of movement. But it still isn’t great. Often piglets born outside are fattened for slaughter indoors. Some British (Organic) farms are, of course, pretty good. Piglets gambolling about the open fields, out in the fresh air. All of that. But it comes at a price:
Tim Finney, managing director of Eastbrook's organic meats business, reckons that amounts to an extra 30 or 40p a kilo just to keep the system running, plus another 70p a kilo for the organic feed. "Overall," he says, "it probably costs us about double what it costs to produce a conventional pig. Although if we weren't organic, we could run the farm the same way and produce meat that was maybe 25% more expensive. That would still be a huge step forwards in welfare terms."
Jamie Oliver is starting a campaign. Not to improve standards necessarily, but to educate the public. He believes (as I do) that to be a meat eater (and we were bred to be), you have to fully understand where your meat comes from. With no apologies. If you eat meat, then yes, you are causing cute little piggies, curly-lashed calves and woolly, bleating lambs to be slaughtered. If you eat fish, then you are causing fish to be ‘drowned’. Get over it.
Oh, and if you’re a vegetarian, then please stop wearing or carrying leather. It just makes you a hypocrite. And justifying it by saying ‘well they’re dead anyway’ is ridiculous.
Anyway. If you can accept those things, good for you. I can accept them and so I eat meat. But that doesn’t mean that we’re so much better than animals. That we have the right to do what we want to them. We have the obligation to farm them as humanely as possible.
Ideally, of course we’d all raise our own animals like Alex Renton and send them to local slaughterhouses/butchers at the end of their happy, outdoor, organic lives.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Every procedure for getting a cat to take a pill works fine -- once.
Like the Borg, they learn...
I would like to be in Sweden. Becuase London is grey. And Basingstoke is grey. And even if Sweden is grey, it can't be any worse!
Besides, home is lonely right now as a certain person is on a business trip to Sweden. Lucky sod. Certainly more interesting than being stuck in an office surrounded by technology that is moving so slowly I'm contemplating attacking it with my tea cup. So..... slow....
So. Sweden. I'd like to be in Sweden please. Now.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Sad news – the wonderful pagan – spiritual - philosophical podcast ‘Deo’s Shadow’ is coming to an end. For those of you who don’t know Deo’s Shadow, I would highly recommend it.
Deo and Mandy have moved from Paganism to Atheism and I wish them well, although I will miss the podcast greatly.
But it does raise the question of personal spiritual development – once we fall into a category/religious path, how easy is it to break away or change our views? Having been brought up as C of E, exploring new religions at school was very limited. Everything was labelled, everything fit nicely into a little box and everything was compared to Christianity. But do religious ‘labels’ really do us any good? There is so much in common between the world religions and most faiths evolve, to a certain extent, with the times. So when I describe myself as Pagan, what does that actually mean?
I had a long discussion with my boyfriend about religion recently. It was really interesting, not just the depth of philosophical thought that we reached, but also I became aware of how much I don’t fit into the ‘pagan/witch’ bracket and how much my personal beliefs have changed and developed since I turned to paganism when I was 14/15. Paganism, I feel, does allow for this kind of development. The existence of ‘solitaries’ who embrace their own paths allows a wide variety of beliefs and doesn’t restrict the individual’s personal beliefs, nor does it force them to ‘fit’ to a more widely held view/religion. A variety of published books (some more proscriptive than others, admittedly), online communities or 'real world' groups allow for the exchange of ideas necessary to reassess one’s beliefs.
Not that this makes paganism perfect. Often you are left floundering in a sea of uncertainty, with no one to help, no religious text to guide you (although this does ensure a level of independent thought and responsibility sometimes less evident in other religions). Labels can help you to define yourself and find your place in the world. But paganism’s label can also restrict development. So much is expected of a pagan. Either we fit with often ridiculous long-held superstitions and bigotry, or conversely, we are expected to enjoy a freedom of thought and action (and acceptance by the wider world) that often is unrealistic.
This is still only a small beginning of a barely-formed thought in a very small brain (and still subject to change), but what do the rest of you think?
Update: I've just left the following comment on the Wild Hunt Blog on this topic (Part one here):
Personally I think that part of the problem is the labelling - putting people into boxes according to their label - and then expecting them to stay there! One of the things that appeals to me most about Paganism is its flexibility, that 'solitaries' follow their own path and therefore can change that path as and when they develop.
But perhaps I'm just a very naive Pagan! Certainly I've not spent much time in a wider pagan 'community' (or 'network') either online or in the real world, other than setting up a Pagan Society at University. Interestingly, my aim of the society was to allow pagans to meet and exhange ideas, thus having their own views/beliefs challenged with a view to encouraging development. However it quickly became more 'boxy' than I had hoped and I felt that it was preventing the open discussion that I'd hoped for. If this is what Paganism is becoming, then I'm not suprised that Deo and Mandy are looking for a more open 'label' in which to continue their development! Good luck to them.
Update 2: Well I haven't posted the comment above onto the Wild Hunt yet, because it wont let me. Grr. I'll just have to try again later or tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
For those of you who are unaware, our lovely kitty Panjaa now has his own blog! The gods only know how he types so well. Our last cat was only able to create long strings of gibberish. Anyway, there will be more Panjaa photos (and possibly even a video or two including a very funny one featuring my dad) but updating it when we have no internet at home is tricky in the extreme… Basingstoke Library is my destination at the weekend, however, and I will hopefully be able to do something about it then.
The Nac Mac Feegle (or the Wee Free Men) are a creation of the great genius Sir Terence Pratchett. Always up for a fight or a drink (or an opportunity to rustle a large farmyard animal), these little blue men pop up in several of Pratchett’s Discworld books. And they were the subject of conversation this morning. Namely, what nationality are they (loosely) based on? The options put forward were Scottish (of course) or Irish. Personally, I think the ‘Mac’ and the ‘crivens’, the clans, the accents, this article on Wiki, and the red hair and kilts all favour a Scottish descent. However, I fully accept that, despite being female, I am occasionally wrong. Please vote in the poll on the left and let me know what you think!
Ok, so its a very long quote, but I felt it should be seen in its entirety, it is very funny and demonstrates that I am not the only one planning to take over the world. Although I feel Charlie Brooker has been less ambitious with his plans. It is still full of bright ideas though....
Only one thing's going to get us through 2009, and that's romance. And possibly cannibalism. But mainly romance.
In case you missed the bulletin in your post-festive daze, let me bring you up to speed. According to the latest predictions, here's what we're in for this year: MISERY. Yes, not just misery, but MISERY. In capitals. Just like that.
Dim your lights. Here's the highlights reel. The worst recession in 60 years. Broken windows and artless graffiti. Howling winds blowing empty cans past boarded-up shopfronts. Feral children eating sloppy handfuls of decomposed-pigeon-and-baked-bean mulch scraped from the bottom of dustbins in a desperate bid to survive. The pound worth less than the acorn. The City worth less than the pound. Your house worth so little it'll collapse out of shame, crushing you in your bed. Not that you'll die peacefully in your sleep - no, you'll be wide awake with fear, worrying about the situation in the Middle East at the precise moment a chunk of ceiling plaster the size of a flagstone tumbles from on high to flatten your skull like a biscuit under a shoe, sending your brain twizzling out of your earholes like pink-grey toothpaste squeezed from a tube. All those language skills and precious memories splattered over your pillows. It'll ruin the bedclothes. And instead of buying expensive new ones, your grieving, impoverished relatives will have to handwash those bedclothes in cold water for six hours to shift the most upsetting stains before passing them down to your orphaned offspring, who are fated to sleep on them in a disused underground station for the rest of their lives, shivering in the dark as they hear bombs dipped in bird flu dropping on the shattered remains of the desiccated city above.
Welcome to 2009.
So what do we do? Well, as with any scary situation, we could try scrunching up our eyes and wishing it all away, but that rarely works, unless you're driving a bus across a busy junction and couldn't give a fig for convention. Instead, we're going to have to co-operate with one another if we're going to get through this. I know, I know: ugh. The concept of sharing has been knocked out of us. For years it's been all about you, your nice things, your signature dish and your plasma screen, and everyone else can go swing. Now we'll have to knock on doors and swap cups of sugar. But maybe it won't be so bad. Picture yourself sharing a meal with a neighbour. Or maybe a bath. A bubble bath. Look, there are little tealight candles round the edge of the tub. And you're having a glass of red wine together! It's lovely! Assuming you have attractive neighbours. If not, sorry. Just close your eyes and wish it away, especially when they stand up, turn round and bend over to search for the soap.
Actually that whole bath scenario might represent the way forward. It sounds quite romantic, and authentic romance has been in short supply of late. Authentic romance makes life more enjoyable, but more importantly it costs nothing. Buying flowers and
baubles and Parisian city breaks - that's not authentic romance. That's lazy showboating. Authentic romance could flourish in a skip. Prove this to yourself. Invite someone on a date and spend the evening sitting in a skip making each other laugh with limericks or something. Get through that and you've bonded for life. Or maybe a week. It's hard to tell when you embark on a new relationship. Still, if you split up: time for more romance with someone else. Everybody wins.
Mark my words, you'd be wise to practice your romancing skills now, because when, circa October, we're huddled together in shelters sharing body heat to survive, the ability to whisper sweet nothings could prove useful. Come the dawn, you'll need to pair up with someone to go hunting for supplies with, and it'll help if you've been cuddling all night. The world outside will be dangerous, so there'll have to be two of you. One to root through the abandoned Woolworth's stockrooms and another to stand outside warding off fellow scavengers with a flaming rag on a stick.
Obviously if two is better than one, it follows that three is better than two, especially in the thick of a food riot. Rather than forming boring old duos as per tradition, polygamous unions involving up to 30 or 40 participants will emerge victorious, roving the landscape in packs by day, writhing around in obscene configurations in their papier-mache huts by night - strictly for the purposes of generating heat, of course. We can all do our bit. I, for one, am fully prepared to take on 50 wives if it'll help make the world more manageable, provided I don't have to talk to them and I get to wear a crown and issue decrees and everything. We'll create a kingdom in a cave somewhere and kill and eat unfortunate passers-by, like Sawney Bean and his family. Now they had vision. First potential wife to contact me with full Ordnance Survey reference numbers for a suitable location (warm cave, close to major thoroughfare) gets to be Minister of Skinning Trespassers Alive and Sticking Their Heads On Poles as a Warning to Others of Their Kind.
All things considered, this may be a bleak year but at least it'll be more interesting than, say, 2006, during which nothing happened. So grit your teeth and meet 2009 head-on, because it's not going anywhere until 2010 at the very earliest.
In summary: happy new year.
Thank you Charlie.
P.S. Sorry if anyone has seen this twice, it didn't post properly yesterday for some reason.
Friday, January 02, 2009
Happy New Year, Happy Christmas and Happy Yule to all my loyal readers. Ahem. All 3 of you.