Kenneth Charles' LJ, please keep it anonymous, mention no names!|
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|Tuesday, January 29th, 2008|
For those of you worried about these sorts of things; I get back in Australia on the 17th of February, though I:ll be busy with jetlag and packing and stuff for a few days!
Since Bulgaria, shot down to Turkey, cruised there for a week, then to Malaysia and Vietnam for another week. Got some awesome clothes made in Vietnam, that was very warm indeed! Now I:m in Japan having all sorts of adventures. The word is `culture bitch-slapped`, but I:m coping!
Going to Sapporo in about a week for an ice festival, that will hopefully make this toe crunching cold worthwhile!
2008 holds great promise!
|Thursday, January 10th, 2008|
|Good to be alive!
Well since last time I've gallivanted hither and thither, but this is the drama of today:
Went skiing at Vitosha mountain just south of Sofia! Getting there was a minor challenge - missed a bus and waited for 40 minutes in the freezing cold. Got there, took a massive cable car up the mountain (only slightly rusty) and eventually managed to hire some maybe dodgy gear. Took off and burnt up the slopes. Legs got cold (cause I was only wearing jeans and thermals) but fortunately I didn't fall!
Then comes the drama; I accidently skied off-piste and got utterly lost. Attempts to walk out were thwarted by waist deep snow. A bit hairy. Eventually I found my way out (by walking crab fashion on skis for about 50 vertical metres and shouting a bit). Spoke to some Russian girl and found I still had enough time for 2 ski runs, so I did the only two runs on the mountain I hadn't done yet. Pictures will be posted somewhere eventually, but the steeper parts were in shadow, and were pleasantly challenging.
On the bus on the way back I spoke to two groups of people; a Russian woman and Bulgarian woman, who were travelling. The Russian was studying media and coms at St Petersburg. The other group was a Swiss software engineer and a Bulgarian recently graduated GP, whose common language(?) was English, or a version thereof. They had met when he was cycling through Bulgaria on his way from Lucerne to Dubai.
I've given up on asking people why they are in Eastern Europe - it is more than obvious that we are all crazy!
|Sunday, December 23rd, 2007|
|Opera heaven (almost)
In Washington DC I saw the Kirev Opera doing Otello, which was good (except they'd lost some of their set coming across from St Petersburg, I think).
In New York I saw Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met, with Hvorostovsky singing the part of Renato, amongst other leading lights. It was more than good. 15 minute standing ovation at the end, and it was the season premiere!
Sadly the next day I was too busy screaming around NY to make it to an Anna Netrebko meet/book sign do at the met, which broke my little heart. Waaahhhh!
But still not bad. I look forward to catching some opera in France!
|Monday, December 17th, 2007|
It snowed a few times when we were in Maine. I made a Quinzhee and helped siblings build an igloo. Both were a little too small to be used, sadly. Lots of ice and snow - horrible!
Lots of lovely lovely food. Not so horrible.
|Tuesday, December 11th, 2007|
Yesterday the family and I headed from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan, to see what was happening!
We tobogganed down tall dunes (30m ish) covered in a thin layer of snow. I tried to skim some ice across the as yet unfrozen lake, but didn't quite succeed.
There have been a few ice storms, the main effect of which is messing up our flights. Hopefully no major delays will eventuate.
Nothing wildly adventurous has occurred yet - such is life.
4 days ago I was in San Francisco - I visited Berkeley and Stanford, both interesting unis. Unfortunately, no earthquakes took place!
|Tuesday, December 4th, 2007|
|Travel to US, UK, Europe, Near East, and Far East!
Middle east some other day.
Leaving very very soon - updates will be posted here.
For those who are interested, I'm travelling with less than 7kg of luggage, not including the clothes I'm wearing, plus camera etc - which comes to about 4kg (heavy shoes too).
This is a new challenge, I think I'll survive though!
Happy holidays, merry christmas, new year, and so on!
|Sunday, August 26th, 2007|
An earlier prototype of a sci-fi story. I gave up on this sketch and register as I found the mood a little dark. Then again the sci-fi writer must remember than even in the future, stupidity hasn't been cured...
John stirred in his sleep. Slowly the images returned to him.
Constant whir and hum of indestructible machinery, an ever present sensation of great speed, constant progress.
He awoke, clambered out of his bunk, groped for a sachet of dark powder, managed to tear it into a perfunctorily clean mug and stumbled toward the distant samovar. The trip took him past roughly 50 pairs of somnolent feet, feet of all sizes, shapes, clothing. One pair, size 15 at least, calouses like boot leather. Faintly aromatic. Another pair, mismatched – perhaps a matching mismatched pair lurked under the darkened blankets?( Read more...Collapse )
|Saturday, August 25th, 2007|
Today I ended up with about a km between me and home, with a lot of rain falling, and not going away. In the end I tucked my books under my jumper, did up the zip all the way and walked.
Fortunately my hair repels water, and the jumper was relatively water-resistant, and it was sweet. I haven't walked so happily in rain for a long time. I should do it more often. Every now and then at the appropriate early hours of the morning a streak around the place in heavy rain is a cold and somewhat enervating experience, but this time it was more relaxed, and the lights all reflected on the ground and on all the rain falling.
I was wet, and I didn't care. Interesting...
|Friday, August 10th, 2007|
|More assorted short stories
The Rangoon Sailing Club Birgie
I walked down the main corridor of our family’s home, returning to the fold after periods of itinerancy. The relatively spartan furnishings seem to exude creature comfort, but what I pay more attention to despite my times of self-imposed hardship are the decorations.
On my left walking from the entrance was, and still is a ceramic icon representing twin lorikeets. I don’t know where they came from, but one of my first memories is wondering what they were. Now at eye height they were then towering towards the distant ceiling, and a safe distance from my curious but clumsy hands.( Read more...Collapse )
|Tuesday, July 24th, 2007|
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus…
I ran the once famous line through my head once more and regretted that I had not brought my own book of his poetry. The trip had been a long one, more than one thing had gone missing.
Most people do not know what a book is, do not even know how to remember one. I will have to do better than that – it was no quick trip to get here.
Through the window Earth looms from below. While as long as anyone can remember it has been mostly barren, rocky yellow colour, it must not have always been so. One cannot imagine life arising there as it does now.
I knew where to go, and before long had landed on an area of the broad, spherical desert once perhaps identified with the word Italy, though since no-one knew when Earth was last inhabited, it must have been at least thousands of years ago.
I guided the archaic transport across the pitted landscape, its ebb and flow telling an ancient story of the tides and pull of history. I knew well before I left that any trace of previous human occupation was long gone, vanished along with place names, memories, people, and whatever else might have existed.
Before long I had reached the place, and set down on a small rise with a view in most directions. I know that there was no tectonic activity, no satellites, nothing save only a place in space.
Soles occidere et redire possunt…
At what time the ancients may have called lunch I left the capsule and walked onto the dusty plain, in all likelihood the first person to do so in thousands of years. A broad fiery red sun loomed overhead, obliterating all shadow save only nearer to the ground. Why here?
I look out across the plain, worn apologies on the horizon which may once have been ‘alps’, dust ahead. O Sirmio, did I never realize I would return to find you barren and loveless?
With a considerate eye one can read the history of a place, from storms, footprints, waves lapping a shore with enough persistence to wear it entirely away. Encroaching ice-sheets grind and scour. Volcanoes turn the first clod, and the last. Meteors blaze a fiery trail. Ever present wind circulates a constant stream of dust, which even now probably bears the last survivors of a doomed experiment.
Life, Archea, locked in small pores in dust, hydrous salt as the oceans steam, bubble and boil to nothing. As the world’s surface is run and turned, turned and run again.
Once, perhaps, a human man stood on this spot and breathed
Da mi basia mille…
Or turned, distraught, and fled.
Benacus is dried. Sirmio is no more. Lydian waves no longer cackle, a mere whisper of wind tickles the senses and, no longer bearing the wings of a flirtatious sparrow, departs to circle the Earth once more.
Thus a wanderer cannot wander forever.
Some time later with the sun still overhead I returned to the pod and left the surface, this time for the last time.
|Saturday, June 23rd, 2007|
Yeah. Exams, ever encroaching ennui, etc etc.
Thought what the hell, put on my walking shoes, checked the map, and headed off. 9kms later at Bondi Beach. Damage - right ankle and nail. Have to work on my pacing, loosen shoes slightly. I've become much softer after a semester of sedentary study. Or something like that.
Howards plan to penalise the very poorest people of Australia seems like the perfect punitive approach. ( continued rantCollapse )
|Sunday, May 13th, 2007|
An exciting weekend!
Four friends and I met at my place, the last arriving just in time to distribute food and so on, then quick-march to the station, arriving with about 20 seconds to spare, for a train that leaves once every hour!
Took the train to Cronulla, and the ferry across to Bundeena, and walked to Little Marley. There we saw a few roos, a few deer, etc etc. Prepared for the night.
For dinner we ate pasta, some funny looking dampa, and chocolate! Spent about 4 hours attempting to sing 'no no nora', then retired to sleep.
I was awoken by someone rocking my hammock, with my beannie down over my eyes. We had a cold breakfast, cleaned up and decided to head south to Otford. Pausing here and there, we saw a BIG manta ray in the ocean from the cliff-top. Gambolled in a waterfall, dodged falling rocks, negotiated cliffs, and had lunch at the 'figure 8 pool'. Climbed up the waterfall (eventually) and walked out through the Palm Jungle, seeing a Lyre Bird on the way. We must have been close to the next because it was very loquatious and close for some time. Beautiful creature.
*Just* made the train back, everyone was very very very very very tired!
Got back home, had a fight with the washing machine, and will with any luck go to sleep soon!
Good times, good singing, good fun!
|Sunday, April 29th, 2007|
When tragedy strikes, it is invariably unexpected, almost always accidental.
As a former student who had the privilege of an education at the Glengarry Campus, I cannot emphasise strongly enough the positive effect it had on almost all its participants.
The key issue here is danger and learning to deal with it.
In the modern world, the most dangerous things most people do are drink excessively, and drive cars (especially in combination).
Is it morally right for a school, the primary source of education for children, to eschew contraversial or risky educational procedures on the basis of financial liability?
I would put propose that the Glengarry Campus has successfully produced nearly three thousand young men with survival skills, balance, mental maturity, personal health and fitness, appreciation of non-computer based recreation, etc etc, that the rest of the western world can only envy.
On a personal note throughout my many adventures I would have died many times over had it not been for the experience gained through the Glengarry system. I can directly attribute my survival on dozens of occasions (many of which would have occured irrespective of whether I had attended Glengarry or not) to lessons learnt in the much more controlled, much safer environment of Glengarry. Education concerning risk calculation etc is as comprehensive as it could be. The fundamental problem here is that young men are prone to bravado and disobeying instructions. But this is not a problem unique to Glengarry. On the contrary, while at Glengarry, children have no access to the excesses of alcohol and drugs so common in our age, having only a healthy diet of exercise, team building, mateship, etc etc.
I am sure there are many graduates of the Glengarry system who have deliberately never set foot in a forest since they left, but lessons learnt there aren't relevent only to survival in the bush. I am equally sure there are many who have continued the safe practises learnt there without serious problems throughout their adult lives, and who no doubt are still living today, either through remission of dangerous teenage health issues (like obesity), or direct challenging situations.
Recently a number of bushwalkers, some school age, have tragically perished in the national parks surrounding Sydney. From the news analysis, one common theme of all these incidents was a lack of prior preparation or observance of basic safety rules. I would posit that had these people had the benefit of Glengarry, or even something like Outward Bound, they would not have died.
In addition to deaths, comprehensive outdoor experience and training also prevents injuries to the people themselves and whoever they happen to be with, be it in a regular outdoor setting or some sort of emergency, like a ship wreck or whatever. This is the same philosophy that is behind the outward program, which was set up in 1941 initially to give people maritime survival skills. From memory they found that survivors of shipwrecks on rafts were usually the old buggers who'd lived through the 1st world war, and had some idea of personal endurance and mental toughness, not the younger, fitter, stronger, but mentally and technically unprepared people.
The details of the Nathan Chaina case aside, it seems the system is set up to allow individuals and corporations to sue educational institutions (traditionally known for their lack of funds...) for UNLIMITED sums of money. I think this is a reflection of an overly litigious society - and it will not make its citizens safer. For every outdoor experience shut down due to excessive insurance costs or whatever, thousands of people are going into an uncertain future lacking the survival skills that every other member of the human race has always had. Our nomadic ancestors, however recent they were, knew more at the age of five about finding water, not getting lost, avoiding snakes, etc etc than most people now know at any age. And until the entire world is concreted over, it is not unreasonable to expect people to have some idea!
The other issue here is the concern of value of human beings. In this case because the victim's family owned a large company, which has since lost profit, the school is supposedly liable for sums of money beyond any institutions ability to pay. If however, another student at the school had died instead, or whose health been otherwise compromised, whose family business was small or nonexistent, then the school would be liable for payments of 'wrongful death' or health payments, which would likely not exceed a million dollars, which is still a lot of money.
The key issue here is linking the loss of a life by a third party to financial loss of an incorporated body. Is it ethically right to suppose that an outdoor education operator could choose to deny children of financially strong backgrounds access to education, or conversely, only allow children whose parents lacked the legal or financial clout to inflict large damages claims.
Some would say our society is indirectly responsible for activity of this kind through exploitation of child labour in the third world, and through pharmaceutical testing in third world countries which lack the regulations and basic ethical standards (such as informed consent) that are found in our system. However such blatant discrimination could surely not be upheld within our own shores, under the same Australian legal umbrella.
Finally, I do not deny that tragic, accidental death or injury may come with blame due to faulty decisions or negligent action - that is not for me to decide. I would merely propose that the thrust of the legal system come down on the side of sanity, of fairness and egality, and of the greater good.
|Saturday, April 28th, 2007|
Firstly, today I bought a CD of Piano Transcriptions by Arcadi Volodos, recorded almost 12 years ago. He's a lot better now, but they're pretty good. To the point. It was put in a brown paper bag and tied shut - no doubt to protect the general public. On top of that I was wearing my trusty raincoat due to there being rain. So the picture is me, in dodgy raincoat, with brown paper package. SUSS.
Secondly, why are there so few women in Physics? All the women who are in physics have more combined awesomeness than all the guys, but this does NOT address the central issue. Still I have no answer for this one.
|Sunday, April 15th, 2007|
|Why do people wear make-up?
EDIT: I wrote this in 2007 and it strikes me now, 11 years later, as rather naive. This is a LiveJournal, after all. But I'll leave it here because I think it's an interesting placeholder for grappling with aspects of self expression, individuality, personal choice, social norms, and facets of society that I didn't encounter until early adulthood. I'm still not hugely into make-up, but these days I see my preferences as my problem and don't really want to impose my views on other people. It took me a surprisingly long time to work that out.
Don't get me wrong, make-up has many good uses, and I've used it myself many times in various stage shows and so on (where subtlety is not the point...), but I've never understood why people, young people especially, wear it.
The standard line is 'enhance natural beauty', which translates roughly as industry creating insecurity then peddling the solution, and they're certainly not the only ones - why do people wear 'modest clothing', or swimmers at all (aside from sun protection). Vis. CNNNN's "Esteem, because you need it." "My hair was flat, letting my family down!"
What seemed obvious to me is that perhaps if you're an absolute genius at makeup, and the guys (in general) the women are trying to impress don't look too closely, it may accentuate features, resulting in a net beauty increase of perhaps a few percent, nothing more. But infatuation and obsession, interest and love are not made of increases of a few percent.
Personally, a sparkling wit, clear intelligence, being articulate, talent (musical or otherwise), confidence, and common interests are much more important in generating attraction and interest. By several orders of magnitude. To me and my reasonably good eyes all visible make-up is obvious, and makes me wonder what they're hiding, and all desperately subtle makeup seems utterly pointless, kinda like painting a portrait over a photograph.
Add to that make-up's expense, impracticality with physical activity, time taken in application, and 'blanking', and I wonder why anyone bothers (in every day life).
What is 'blanking'? The human face is a marvellously expressive organ, not just through physical movement, but also through colour, a true window on the emotions. Not only does make-up (and botox) screw with that, it also sets it all the same, as though you've got a broken record constantly sticking to the same tracks. The current ideal in make-up being a look perhaps only achieved really in moments of extreme arousal (strong colours, etc), and it's no wonder that guys rarely get the hint, or seem like complete emotional blockheads. It's like blinding someone then wondering why they don't duck when you slap them. The senses work best in synthesis!
Recent research indicates 11 or 12 distinct layers of the retina, all of which process the raw data slightly differently allowing colour and many other aspects of sight to more completely describe the world around. No doubt all of these layers depend on subtle visual cues, and it is not a big extension to say that open empathy may be triggered subconsciously by these - which are then short-circuited by visual obfuscation!
A blank wall is never really all that expressive!
Before the age of 30 most people are more or less as attractive as they will ever be. If that is still not good enough for them or society, we should question that, rather than have unrealistic expectations. Throughout my adolescence I was afflicted/blessed by not insubstantial acne - perhaps this distraction was just enough to tune me into the value of people beyond 'face value'. This then becomes a question of honesty - not to others, that is simple, but rather to yourself, the easiest person of all to fool!
Another point of that is character. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed to Angelina Jolie as the 'ideal' beauty. Personal preference aside (which would find differently) imagine if you will a world populated solely by Ange's (and for balance, Brad Pitts). As Alain de Botton elaborates in 'status anxiety', the biggest factor in this is not disparity, but similarity. It's safe to say that men and women today are the healthiest, best looking in the history of the world, yet never has cosmetic surgery and other extreme treatments been so common. I mean, chill out!
What I mean by character is a beautiful face is attractive across the room, but once you converse for more than 5 minutes (which, I grant, some people may be unable to do), a face with character, quirk, and interest can be far more charming, far sexier, than the preconcieved ideal. Afterall, can you ever be surprised by your own eburnean fantasy Galatea?
Perhaps (perhaps that isn't strong enough) I am odd, and everyone else judges everyone by physical appearance, even people they know well. Perhaps if you have not a single grain of wit in your whole body it is worth scraping that extra 2% of beauty at the cost of freedom, independence, and authentic sexuality and character, or conversely lacking that wit you can only judge people on physical appearance. I find it hard to accept such a bleak view of humanity, as even the lowest common denominator 'prole-feed', such as our own beloved SMH, or maybe 'Big Brother', still have some artistic merit, however dubious.
Yes, make-up has a purpose. In middle age and the twilight years, if modern optometrists sabotage dodgy-eyes self defence, then perhaps it's fun to daub on a bit of youthful magic, prance about and remember what it was like in the good old days. But age has it's own compensations. For stage work, bright lights need strong reflective surfaces to not blend out, and there is no easier way to experiment with identity in any of a multitude of ways. I object only to an almost religious observance by the already stomach-churningly gorgeous youth of today.
So where does this long, indulgent rant end? If you think there is more to people than what appears on a photograph, if you think you have more to offer than an artificially pretty face, if you crave just a little more person than what can be satisfied by photographic media (any coincidence that movie stars are good looking), then think twice about what you're doing when you reach for the 'foundation' or automatically rank all faces in the crowd according to correlation to some ideal and unrealistic fantasy.
Life is too long, too varied, too interesting for something so superficial, dare I say cosmetic, to have any intrinsic value.
|Wednesday, April 11th, 2007|
|Bad sex literature
Some champ has helpfully put a website together with published sex scenes.
In early high school occasionally equally inexperienced people asked me to edit their stories, and I universally cut most of the so-called sex scenes, but compared with the following, they were Pulitzer Prize material.http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/badsexpassages.html
|Tuesday, April 10th, 2007|
|Crappy Ancient Historical Films
Braveheart. Gladiator. Troy. Alexander. 300. Need I go on?
All of the above films (which deteriorate steadily in quality) make some sacrifices of historicity to plot, drama, and the film format. This is fine. Who really wants to see a film in some foreign language?
What annoys me is the simple detail which is lost for nothing. Scottish warriors in William Wallace's time wore helmets and lived in houses. Horses had no stirrups in Ancient Rome. Moreover, they didn't really care about incest. Troy... need I say more? Homer is perfect - why mess with it? Alexander? Awesome battles. Lots of them. Not so awesome boring bits in between. Oliver Stone could have dealt with Alexander's bisexuality or the political resonances it has with modern times, but did neither - just uselessly expanded the plot... and WTF was Angelina Jolie doing there? HUH! And 300. It doesn't cost much to do some research into what Spartans wore, how much body hair they might have had, their social structure (Helots?), political structure (Ephors?), Xerxes characterisation, and the role of modern sexual mores in ancient Greek society (minimal). Gnnn. No wonder all of the above films have REALLY pissed off one country or another.
I hear a movie adaptation of Dan Simmon's Ilium is in the works. It doesn't NEED to sacrifice history for drama, perhaps they can get the costumes and makeup right there. Oh please!
Other than that, my Easter weekend was dramatically improved by the worst head-cold in the Southern Hemisphere, which then metastasised to my joints, my oral lining and god knows where else.
Happy Easter everyone!
|Thursday, March 29th, 2007|
|Day in the life
Woke at quarter to seven. Read Feynman Red Lectures for half an hour, dressed, breakfasted, walked to first class - vector algebra. Held narcolepsy at bay!
Progressed to next lecture, either one of either real and complex analysis or nanoscience - by default I picked the harder subject.
Next hour was spent in consultation with my project supervisor, deriving the coupled mode equations for long period colinear propagation in Bragg Fiber.
I then moved to chemistry where I sat in on a second year quantum mechanics lecture, discussing the mutual orthogonality of all solutions to the Schrodinger wave equation in one dimension (then generalising), while simultaneously eating my packed lunch.
Next hour was a linear maths tutorial, in which my brain failed to kick itself into gear - the links were not forming. That's okay, because the next class was Electromagnetism, in which we used Stokes Theorem and a few others to do some funky stuff looking at potentials.
Next hour was a lecture on Discrete Maths, in which we did a bit of number theory concerning primes, pair primes, and a few other bits and pieces, which was interesting.
Following this was my last class for the day (9th or 10th, depending on how you count it), a tutorial on real and complex analysis in which I made halting progress in proving various identities through various fairly unrigorous schemes.
Then the fun started. A quick rush back to home to grab my trombone, and then to band to play some freaky hard jazz stuff for two hours. Sadly our room does not yet have a drum kit. This is being worked on.
Following this, back to home, spruced up, shave, etc etc. Got dressed in my black dinner suit, a blue shirt, very blingy belt, and pink bow-tie with blue flowers on it and set off for the choir I was bludging that night to pass some music onto people.
That done, I moved off to the party, arriving in time for a few rounds of the legendary game (Bartok), but not in time to order dinner from the local Thai place. Someone departed to pick it up - I thought to give them a hand carrying it, and set off after them. 20 minutes later I was back, having realised that they took a car. ;)
Fortunately many people were not hungry - therefore, neither was I. Mmmm.
We then caught a bus, which was awesome in my bowtie. Did anyone say ostentatious - to Statement where Don Rader and his chums played some mind warpingly good Jazz for a few hours while we fully took advantage of RSA to drink as much water as we could.
All good things must come to an end (for life to be truly miserable), so we set off. Me and a few other guests walked the 5kms back to uni - night time is so nice. Quieter, and doesn't hurt the eyes!
Got back to my room, found my computer still stuffed, repaired since.
Read the news on a website, retired for the night (or early morning) following a shower and other usual niceties, alarm set for the next day, when it all began again.
|Sunday, March 11th, 2007|
|A day's sailing
I spent a day sailing on Pittwater. Very nice. The water was very clear. I spent the previous night on board the boat. Someone saw a shooting star, I saw the flash but nothing else.
The wind was perfect, the sun hot (as usual), my pale skin swathed in UV abhorent goop. A swim or two reconfirmed my severe lack of swimming ability. Perhaps speedoes are the answer - I always preferred skinny dipping.
After a magnificent lunch, on the way back from the beach to the mooring, I trailed my feet and hands in the water - sharkbait.
The water curled around my spread toes and fingers, green and blue and white and cool and rushing, splashing, and smearing my blue antifoul-woad annointment. Between my fingers a hollow of green spread from the laminar flow, rejoining with a splash and froth of bubbles.
A sliver of beach, a warm lagoon, many little fish, no doubt some bigger ones with pointy teeth. Good food, good company.
Nearly as beautiful as you, my love, and not nearly as talkative!
|Saturday, February 17th, 2007|