25 June 2007


I’m tired. Horribly tired. Not coping. Don’t know how I’m managing to do anything. Having anxiety dreams. Depressed. Very depressed. Despite the anti-depressants. And it isn’t even winter when I know I do struggle. I don’t know why. Noreen says I’m doing too much; I’m always doing things which are “duty” and that I haven’t had a break in weeks. I guess she’s right, what with work, the Anthony Powell Society, sorting my father’s estate, and the trust, and my mother’s tax, and …

… and this weekend a very close friend died; the other end of the country. Well Victor was 82; he had heart problems and Parkinson’s; was old enough to be my father; and was my best man all those years ago. Although we talked only infrequently, I shall miss Victor; he was the nearest person I knew, probably ever will know, to being a true polymath. So now I must give time not just to his funeral (and that may mean taking the funeral service) but to his estate, because I am one of his executors, and I promised. (Oh and just as I did for his wife when she died a couple of years ago.)

But all I am doing is things which I have committed to do; it’s not as if I’m taking on anything new; but I still can't keep up. At 56 I’m working harder than ever before, at a time when the system is no longer full of it’s youthful vigour – we none of us can do at 56 what we could at 26, leave alone at 16; simple biology.

So it’s no wonder I never get a break and I’m tired and depressed. And as Noreen also tells me I don’t spend any time “playing” – by which she means doing what I want to do, when I want to. How can I; there's no time!

What’s the answer? A big lottery win so I can afford to retire? Sounds good. If only!

22 June 2007

Our Cats - Happy Furry Friday

As it's furry Friday I thought I ought to upload pictures of our current two cats. So here they are: Harry above; Sally below ...

They are now about nine. And no, Harry and Sally weren't our choices of names; they're rescues which we acquired some 8 years ago when they were about a year old; they'd been dumped on the doorstep of our local Blue Cross centre (in Hammersmith, London) with Sally heavily pregnant; the staff chose their names. Sally's six kittens were spoken for almost before they were born, but no-one wanted these two really lovely friendly young adults. Harry greeted us for the first time by rolling on his back and demanding attention; he'd obviosuly said to Sally "It's alright dear, you look after the kids and I'll do the PR stuff"! The staff at Blue Cross were so glad we wanted them that they wouldn't even let us see any other cats!

17 June 2007

Zen Mischievous Moments #130

Another piece from this week's New Scientist but this time from a mainline article.

The article is titled The Last Place on Earth ... and gives 17 examples of the last place you can find various "things". I print the whole of number 7 below, it is so off the wall.

The last place on earth where you can still hear the strangest languages
ever spoken

The death of any language is a tragedy, but some are a more distressing loss than others. A handful of endangered languages are the last refuges of odd linguistic features that, once their host language disappears, will be gone forever.

One is Tofa, spoken by a handful of nomads in the Eastern Sayan mountains of southern Siberia. Starting in the 1950s, the Soviet government forced the Tofa people to learn Russian and abandon their traditional ways of life. Now, there are only 25 Tofa speakers left, all elderly. When they die, one utterly unique feature of Tofa will disappear: a suffix, -sig, that means "to smell like". In Tofa you can add -sig to the word ivi-, (reindeer) to describe someone who smells like a reindeer. No other language in the world is known to have this kind of suffix.

Linguist K David Harrison of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania has documented similar examples of endangered "information packaging" systems in his book When Languages Die. One of these is the body counting system used in an estimated 40 languages in Papua New Guinea. In languages like Kaluli and Kobon, the words for numbers are the names of body parts. So 1 to 10 in Kobon are "little finger, ring finger, middle finger, forefinger, thumb, wrist, forearm, inside elbow, bicep, shoulder". To count higher, you count the collarbone and the hollow at the base of the throat - and then right down the other side, all the way to 23. You can count to 46 by counting back the other way and even higher by starting over and doing it all again. So 61 in Kobon is "hand turn around second time go back biceps other side".

Quote: Monotheism

Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything just give him time to rationalize it.

[Robert Heinlein, Job: A Comedy of Justice]

09 June 2007

Naked Cyclists

Nice little piece today on BBC News about naked and near-naked cyclists protesting in London and elsewhere about traffic and climate change. Lovely quote at the end:
Bikes and naked bodies harm nobody. Car fumes ... are driving us all to climate chaos.
But I'm miffed that I missed it. I would have been there.

08 June 2007

Mass Circumcision to Fight AIDS

Here we go! I did warn you.

There was a BBC News item yesterday under the above title tells of a mass programme to circumcise males in Africa because doing so reduces AIDS rates (in males!) by 60%.

Effectively they start by "offering" the procedure to all boys born in hospital. But how long will it before adult & adolescent males are being "offered" the operation; just as men in India were bribed into vasectomies some years back. I put "offering" in quotes because I have no doubt that the offer will be heavy handed and not exactly optional.

I find this type of attitude obscene in today's world (no, any world). Mutilation of someone, for any reason, when they themselves cannot opt out is to me a violation of human rights and an abuse. The medical profession really should know better. There would be outrage if the equivalent operation was "offered" to females -- indeed there is outrage, because it is done to females (tho' not as an anti-AIDS measure).

Oh yes, and what about the women? Circumcising men does nothing to reduce the chances of a female catching AIDS from an infected male.

Come on guys. Let's have some medical responsibility -- in the round! A little holistic thinking. Let's find proper ways to tackle AIDS and not resort to barbaric, medieval, mutilation. And let's stop name-calling against those who don't agree with you, too.

03 June 2007

Charlotte Church Savaged to Death

Charlotte Church* savaged to death in the Beckhams' back garden
(*that’s the lamb Gordon Ramsay named after the Welsh singer and was rearing for his TV show)

The above is a headline from today's Daily Mail. You can find the full story here.

Someone please tell me it's actually April 1st! Or are these people total tossers?

01 June 2007

Zen Mischievous Moments #129

From the "Feedback" column in this week's New Scientist ...
Finally, using the public facilities in a shopping centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, Russell Pearse was confronted with a sign above the urinal instructing "Aim Higher". The effect was not, probably, what Victoria University in Wellington had in mind when it launched its recruitment campaign.