Friday, 27 August 2010

Not Secateurs

Yesterday evening, a gift from a thoughtful god, thunder and lightning and then some much needed heavy rain.

Some random and often disconnected thoughts and links.

Creator of the Dilbert cartoon, Scott Adams, tells about his attempts to build a green house - natch as opposed to a greenhouse - and how he has a responsibility to do so.

Vampires are very fragile really, and we have created them entirely in our own image.

'True Blood' is too gay for some, not gay enough for others. A great post by Sparky on the site 'Womanist Musings'. Well argued.

Alex and her friend Mary are currently doing the Jack Kerouac tour, although the only on the road bit seems to have been my driving them to Seatac. The rain on the way back from there was more like a gift from a pissed-off-at-humanity style god.

At the Peace Arch border crossing, on the U.S. side, there is a sign giving the names of the people in charge. Painted onto the board is the name Barack Obama, but oddly, his title, 'President of the United States of America' has been stuck on as an afterthought. It was as though, when they got the board printed up, someone thought,
'We know who we want, but we're not sure what job to give them.'

Presently, the Women's Rugby World Cup is on. You probably wouldn't know this, but I don't care much for sport. I do, however, care for a woman's right to play it and to be lauded every bit as much as her male counterpart. Thus I mention it, and hope that sports enthusiasts will take a look.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


If you could see houses being built around these parts, you probably wouldn't want to spend a night in one. It looks as though they throw them up from mdf which then gets to stand around in the rain a while before being clad in coats of many,though subdued, colours.

Houses are built from timber around here because that's what there is a lot of, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because they fare better in case of earthquake. A lot of planning and money go into earthquake preparedness here.

Ok, so back to the cladding. Now, it's really no-one else's business what colour anyone paints their own house, but hey, I have me this blog, just so that I can diss other people's taste in paint jobbies.

A short while ago, one of the other dog owners told me that a particular firm of decorators were cheaper than others. Very keen on low-pricing the dog walkers are. He pointed out the house they were painting at that time. Far from being subdued, it was more vivid, livid even.

There are certain colours that I think of as food colours, brown and yellow for example. And frankly, what goes in as food, comes out as bodily functions. If Dulux had a shade for the colour that house was being painted, they'd have to call it 'dehydrated urine stream', from their 'bodily function' range.
And who wouldn't want their house to stand out from the crowd thus?

Today, another house was being painted in a vibrant shade. This time, the colour was purple, violet in fact, bright, screaming violet.
Nothing wrong with that, in principal. I'd wear clothing in that colour, food would be...interesting. But for the outside of a house, it, well it shouts.

A couple of weeks back, Kevin was watching one of the TV progs that he watches that I don't. A pair of men were mixing paint colours from donated paints. It was somewhere in the San Francisco area I believe.
People would bring their unwanted paint in, it gets mixed and then it goes out again, free, to anyone who wants it.
And that's my guess. The painters want the same thing as the dog-walkers, they want a bargain and they are painting houses in secondhand paint.
Either that, or they're colour blind.
Doesn't bear thinking about.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Kid Gloves

Lafayette (the French one) "Merci Napoléon, ces maudites prisons autrichiennes me font chier!" (Thanks Napoleon, those accursed Austrian prisons piss me off).
Lafayette (the Bon Temps one) "Dem fuckers is a whole other dimension of trash". No kid gloves there.
Actually, I made up the first one.

Now, the current Head Prefect of Canada is Mr. Stephen Harper and he is not winning any hearts and minds apart from those of the nutjob bigots. His latest idiocies have been to make the Census optional, thus rendering it pointless, and preparing to dismantle the long-gun registry, thus sending Canada back about 100 years. Police chiefs are furious and plan to campaign against him on this.

My beef with him however, is more sartorial. Now, in general, male public attire is not very liberated, the un-reconstructed men have not taken the brilliant lead of the gay community in making their standard clothing more stylish or individualistic. But that being said, Mr.H. doesn't even do the shirt, jacket and tie look with panache. Or even competence.
This thing where they leave their top button undone and the tie at home on the special tie-hanger, is all very well in casual settings, but when talking to the public on TV, in your role as its leader, you can't be doing with this half-arsed look.
When we had Mr. Paul Martin as our PM for all of twenty seconds, he could work the 'rolled up sleeves, tie-less' look, because he looked like a man who was PM in his spare time, and for the rest of the day, pulled a shift on the shop floor.
Mr Harper on t'other hand, looks like he spends his day sitting around twiddling his thumbs and waiting for some lackey to come and give him a latte.
Not a man for kid gloves and yet somehow... a man for kid gloves.

Kid gloves have been on when handling the gradual reveal of my friends' wedding. Yesterday, in the Parish Bulletin, the gloves finally came off and it was announced that our vicar and her missus were to be tying the knot. So far, only positive and supportive feedback I'm very pleased to say. And actually, that is quite a thing to be able to say, given the general age group of most Anglican audiences.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Adventures with my Dog

It's not that I thought painting would be easy with a small dog in tow, it's just that I hadn't entirely envisaged how difficult it would be.

It goes without saying that every time another dog barked, I'd have to stop what I was doing and go and shut him up - which process involves the 'submit' position (for him, not me), but for some reason I hadn't worked out in advance that it would also involve him stealing the drop cloth, pulling the decorator's tape away from the skirting board and that after about thirty or forty such interventions, I would start tiring and walk into a bit I'd just painted. That it would of course involve his objecting to every person who walked or cycled by, every lorry or van, digging in the garden, hiding in the garden, finding a flower pot and recycling it orally, and of course, the fearful silence.
If it had gone quiet for more than ten minutes, I also had to get down off the ladder and go and investigate. He'd chewed the cover off my book because I'd stupidly left it on the chair I'd sat in when I had eaten my lunch. He'd found a folded up paper towel somewhere and was shredding it. He'd gone over the sofa and behind a chair to get a colour sample.
Progress was slow.

But enough of that.
Austen sent me this BBC interview of Professor Deborah Cameron, Professor of Language and Communication at Worcester College, Oxford, by Stephen Fry, about whether women and men use language differently. Cameron really knows her stuff, sadly Fry drops the ball a couple of times. However, nil desperandum, it's an interesting interchange.

And lastly, or rather most ghastly, Sarah Palin. On this occasion however, these Mamma Grizzlies speak out and against her nonsense. Make sure you click on the link to see the video clip.

The blog picture is inside the Capitol, the government building in Juneau.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Wheatgrass - it kills 99% of all known germs and then some. And it's growing in our kitchen. There it is, full of....grassy goodness. Think it tastes wheaty? No, no, no, no, no. It tastes of grass. I imagine Gillian McKeith eats nothing else.

But the most insane thing about wheatgrass is that you can practically watch it grow!
Alex has a seed sprouter, so it germinated very easily, and then we planted it. I make the coffee at 7.00 and take it back up to bed. About twenty minutes later I go down and pour a second cup. I swear, the wheatgrass had grown in that time. Why are we not air-dropping wheatgrass into areas of famine? - I mean apart from the fact that those places usually have no water. Oh, and that it tastes of grass. As soon as we work out how to extract all the anti-mortality ingredients from it, we will be ingesting it like mad.

Wheatgrass is mental. But it's hypnotic and it cleans your colon.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Sun and the Moon

This is a picture by Alaskan artist, Rie Muñoz, it has a First Nations' legend across the bottom, 'The Sun and the Moon belong to Women'. We saw it in a small shop/gallery in Juneau, which, I believe is the Rie Muñoz gallery. I can't say I loved her style, but this one spoke to me.

So it is Ramadan. I found this out from a Dawn via Facebook. I am taking the liberty of re-posting her link here, because there are some reflections on Ramadan by women and men of Islam, and it's of course, another indicator or reminder of how close people of faith can be.

At church today, M gave us some powerful images that had stayed with her. One was of being on a train going into New York. The suburbs were grey and dreary and then suddenly, a bright, colourful image, an advertisement. There was an attractive young couple against a happy, countryside background, but across the bottom, the surgeon general's warning that smoking can kill, an ad for cigarettes.
This vivid colour against the grey, with the message, 'buy this, it will kill you'. This is what society is reduced to.

Yesterday, I went to my first ever bridal shower. I went because of the two people involved and the equally wonderful person who was organising it. In general I think I could give them a miss. It was a very pleasant occasion, fantastic food and great company in a lovely home. As such events go, it was well done. The two brides already have a home, so the host had made the theme 'wine'. Clever.
I think I would personally encourage a more streamlined method of gift receiving, go in, give gift, done.
Ah well.

Right now, if the sun belongs to women, then they must be having one very long hot flush. It is impossibly hot. Going outside is almost to give up breathing, and no end in sight.
Coming back up from the Static on Saturday morning, the line going down to the States was so long it wound back onto the motorway, it must have been three hours plus-worth of waiting. I reckon people had decided it was perfect weather to go down to the seaside, and then instead, have sat on the tarmac with the sun beating down on their metal box so that they could inch forward towards the equally over-heated women and men of the Homeland Security.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


You know how sometimes you have all the information but don't make connections? Well that happened to me yesterday with Norway.

Norway, as we know, has its own really excellent line in Fox's Glacier Glaciers, and fjords, famous for their fjords to the extent that I had no idea anyone else had any until I went to Alaska. This could be partly connected to my baffling and inexplicable hatred for the subject of geography when I was at school.

One of the up-sides of there being very little TV on during the summer, is that occasionally you get to watch some gems you wouldn't have even bothered looking for. And last night, we found such a gem, a programme about Norway.
Now, had I been asked about Norwegians, the only one I could have thought of was a rather odious man I worked for in an office for about two weeks before I went to the Nature Park.

But of course, really I know many others. Who, for example, hasn't read Thor Heyerdahl's 'Kon-Tiki Expedition'? It was almost compulsory reading for my generation. And Ibsen, everyone's heard of Ibsen. Amundsen, and then the Norwegian Whaling ship that rescued Shackleton after he had shown true grit by walking hundreds of miles across the ice in just his gym shoes. Liv Ullmann of course. Alright, so not that many really, but some.

Ibsen's 'A Doll's House', it transpires, was banned at first in Britain, for portraying women and men as equals.
And there's the thing.
The Vikings. Yes, not just a bunch of horned-hat wearing, sea-faring marauders, but actually a very advanced society, and one in which women and men were equal. They took equal parts in the governing of their society, in fact, negotiation and discussion, arguably more female methods of governance, were how it all worked.

So what could possibly have gone wrong?

Christianity. Yep, good ol' not-supposed-to-be, but-turned-out-that-way, misinterpreted Christianity came along and it all went pear-shaped.

Fortunately, with all that Vikingocity in their blood, the Norwegians are back on track again and remain in the top three of the global index of gender parity.
Which just goes to show you can't keep a Norse God down.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Out Rage!

The little town of Juneau.

A lot of rage on the news this morning.

There was the sorry spectacle of a woman who couldn't get chicken McNuggets during the breakfast service and so tried to push herself through the drive-through window and actually socked the employee working the window twice.
My son has worked this crappy job, not for McD's, but for another fast food joint, and whilst I am impressed with and astonished by the level of hygiene the place insists on, I was equally astonished by the level of abuse these workers have to face. Add to that actual physical violence and this bizarre sense of entitlement that some people have, I can't begin to understand why anyone thinks they have the right to treat other human beings like this, nor that they have some right to be able to just drive up to a window in their oversized vehicle and be served whatever food item they happen to fancy.

Then there was the incredible, changing story of Stephen Slater, the flight attendant.
On the first report on CBC, Stephen, a 38 year-old flight attendant, asked a man who had stood up and was opening the overhead locker whilst the plane was still moving, to sit down. The man let Stephen have it with a stream of verbal that couldn't be repeated on CBC, at which point the item of luggage fell out of the locker, hit Stephen on the head, who then proceeded to let out his own invective, stomped off, taking a bottle of beer with him, activated the emergency chute, which he used to exit the plane, went to the staff car park and drove himself home. Later he was arrested by the Police.
The second report, not ten minutes later, made it seem as though Slater himself was more to blame, by leaving out the passenger's bad language and the force with which the flight attendant was hit.
On the radio, later, the male passenger had become a woman and the whole interchange had been elongated. Stephen had now been with the airline for 28 years, which meant that he must have started with them at the age of ten.
Suffice to say, the real point, in my eyes, is yet again how staff are treated by customers. Apparently a lot of people feel this way and Stephen Slater can hopefully look forward to a career on the talk show circuit.

Why, wondered the CBC, was there more outrage over the awful situation in Pakistan than the awful flooding in China?
A British reporter explained very clearly, so that even those who hadn't yet had their critical number of cups of coffee could understand, that the Chinese government were well enough staffed, resourced and prepared, to be doing everything that could be done for their own people, what was making things difficult were natural circumstances, that no amount of equipment nor drafting of additional machinery, could improve.
Pakistan on the other hand, was not dealing well with its natural disaster because its government was not helping, the President had gone off on a tour of Europe whilst his country drowned and starved, resources were not getting through and the people worst affected were getting, basically, no help at all.

Lastly, rage I anticipate, or rather, rage I DON'T anticipate. Rod Stewart is to become a father again at the age of 65. And this, to my mind, is entirely his beeswax. But when a woman of any remotely advanced age becomes a mother, there is generally an outcry from people who think it's some kind of public outrage and something they should personally have a say in, rather in the same way they think they have the rights to make decisions about any woman's reproductive rights.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Jack and Jesus

I don't understand where the time goes too. I swear it's accelerating - which is bad news really. Still, the good news is that we've had some rain. The grass was almost entirely straw coloured, except, of course, where people had ignored the hosepipe ban and sprinkled their lawns and the pavement with it. This morning, a very fat man with earplugs, sitting on a motor mower, was attempting to cut non-existent grass in the park - for this, we pay our taxes.

Like the Governator, and in fact, almost everybody except the hard core religious right, I was ecstatic to see that Proposition 8 has been deemed to be unconstitutional. Of course, this doesn't mean that ordinary, tax-paying Californians can just go out and marry the human of their choice, since they have to put up with another time-wasting challenge by a bunch of imbeciles whose purpose on this planet is to poison everything, but hey, in time, we could be back to normality. The Governator gave a nice speech about how California should be leading the country not slowing it down, and I have watched this video with Jack Black as Jesus, about 17 times.

On the cover of Time magazine's 9th August issue is this picture of a young woman who was mutilated by her husband and his family because she tried to run away. It doesn't even bear thinking about, and yet, we need to, because it's just a matter of degree. Men in Afghanistan can get away scott-free with this kind of violence against women. Men in the west still commit acts of gender-violence and it's not ok just because it's not as horrifying as this. And both men and women allow a society to continue to treat women as the second sex and create an ethos where this happens.

This article in 'The American Prospect' shows how, when men are challenged on sexism, they simply continue it behind our backs, and it's still just as damaging, and underscores my point about how sexism in language works against gender equality.

But this article also brings home another point, and one that Kevin has brought to my attention before. Subversive workplace sexism like this damages men as well, and I don't mean in a 'what goes around comes around' version of reality.
No, because the good ones, the ones that fight sexism simply because it's wrong are excluded from these 'in groups', in exactly the same way that women who are happy to be 'one of the guys' are able to be included on the surface. Of course, by accepting that male is higher status and female lower status, those women are accepting that they are a lesser part of the group.

Likewise, men who believe that women are not the second sex, that gender equality is an absolute priority, are treated as though they are part of the outsider, lower status group. But at least they have integrity, and come the revolution.....

And then there is the casual sexism highlighted in this article by Bidisha in The Graun. Read it, it's startling, but so right.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Unreasonable Coldness of Being

Oh, Lardy, Lardy, I wish I were sitting on that Fox's Glacier Glacier right now. It is too hot to move. I envy those in the south of England their recent thunderstorm, I'm prepared to storm the met offices of CBC if they are lying to me about the forthcoming rain.

Now, whilst I am a hot person, Alex and I have a theory about cold people, or in fact, anyone who has some kind of 'special need' as it were. If you go out in public, then you should, like any follower of Lady and Lord Baden-Powell, Be Prepared. You don't go to someone's house and expect them to supply you with insulin if you're diabetic, if you have small children, you normally take a supply of nappies and other assorted accoutrements with you, so why does someone who knows in advance they are freezing in the middle of summer at say, 25°, not bring warm gear with them? I mean, I get that ANY of us can be caught out, I myself had to ask for painkillers the last time I visited Sleepy Mansions, and of course, there are certain things it's reasonable for a host to supply, water, extra blankets for the bed in the winter for example, coffee, toilet paper, wine, internet access.

Likewise, Alex came up with the example of gluten intolerance. She frequently has people visiting her shop asking about what they can feed their guests who are coming for dinner and who have gluten intolerance. Again, it's a matter of degree. If I invite a vegetarian to dins, I would cook something without meat. One tries to remember one's individual friends' peccadilloes, Sleepy can't be doing with the pig flesh, Susie doesn't like mushrooms, that kind of thing.

But gluten-free tucker is expensive and hard to find, and if you have a doctor's note, you can claim your gluten-free nosh against tax, ergo, take it with you.

Or, if you don't have enough foresight to plan for your own special need, then at the very least, pre-establish a completely off-the-wall persona with random, peculiar behaviour, for example, this would be an advance warning indicator, some kind of foreign accent that comes and goes....ahh, right.

Oops, I thought I'd better add that I am absolutely NOT talking about Dawn here, who, whilst being a colder-than-me person is the absolutely perfect guest and travelling companion and brings her own jumpers.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fox's Glacier Mints

Only there is no polar bear sitting on it, nor a smarmy fox pointing at it, and in fact, it's not really a mint. Just a glacier. A beautiful, incredible, disappearing glacier.

On board ship, we had a naturalist called Milos, who told us interesting stuff and gave illustrated talks. One of his talks was about the sky at night. He took us all the way back to the big bang, it was fabulous. But it wasn't far enough for me, so I had to work out for myself what must have happened before then.

Imagine it, Sicily, 1923. No, sorry, that was Sofia in 'The Golden Girls'.
Imagine it, Infinity, six billion and a funny squiggle years ago. The Celestial Programmers are having a cuppa in the staff room.
XGVG - So, the new proggie, is it ready to go yet?
YHWH - Yep, yep, just about, I've fixed the little time blip,
XGVG - Excellent, I knew you only had to remodulate,
YHWH - Pretty much, yeah, oh and I had to get my head around this whole procreation thingie.
XGVG - Wha? Procreation, wtf's that?
YHWH - Oh, it's something I've built in to make it all a bit more interesting, actually, I'm anticipating it being very interesting,
XGVG - I'm intrigued, do tell...
YHWH - Well, it's a bit of an odd concept really. See, when I boot the whole thing up - I'm calling it 'The Big Bang' as a sort of working title, stuff gets formed, then it sort of spills out everywhere and some of it sticks together and whatnot, anyhoo, cut a long story short, after a relatively short amount of time, we get to the really good bit of the programme, and what I am calling 'Life'..
XGVG - Working title?
YHWH - Working title, pops up, in fact, some might say it looks like a bit of a googly in the programming, but I can assure you it's intentional. So, 'Life', gets more and more complicated, but in order to keep going, it has to somehow reproduce itself....
XGVG - Ah..because of the time thingie....
YHWH - Because of the time thingie, right, so, at first, the units of 'Life' can reproduce by splitting themselves, but when it gets VERY complicated, and here's the beauty of this, I'm dead pleased about it, two units will have to get together and sort of fuse and then divide to form a new unit.
XGVG - Huh, clever, I like it, so what's it based on?
YHWH - Was hoping you'd ask, here's the bit I really like, it's based on numbers,
XGVG - No way...
YHWH - Yes way, numbers right? Numbers work here, numbers work within the programme,
XGVG - THAT is elegant,
YHWH - Right? make it even more interesting, I have made two equal but different halves, but I've given them a different number of coding strings,
XGVG - Awesome! Wait, do we still say awesome?
YHWH - I believe we do, and are! So, one type will have three strands of code, the other four,
XGVG - Equal, different and one has an extra string of coding, I cannot wait to see it running. So, the whole programme, do you have a title for that?
YHWH - Eh...I dunno, I'm a bit stuck really, I thought of 'Creation' but then I thought, hmm...maybe The Sims? I mean it is a simulation...of sorts....
XGVG - One type has three strands of coding, the other four, it's just brilliant, brilliant! And what could possibly go wrong?