'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Dawn at the Park.

More images from that early morning walk around the park on Monday.  After my run (my kids will tell you I never run) I can truly confirm what I always say: that art equals 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.  I'm pleased with these.  There's a few more too that will go into my art resources folder.  

You can click on them to see them better.  Spot the cobweb.  I didn't until I downloaded them.

It's been a while now

Painting by Tony Lloyd

....Losing love 
Is like a window in your heart 
Everybody sees you're blown apart 
Everybody sees the wind blow.
- Paul Simon, 'Graceland'

Monday, 29 September 2008

Monday has begun

I took this today at 6.45 am (daylight saving time) ....

... after running 100 metres (to get to the other side of the park) AND in my dressing-gown! (with coat over the top).  Too beautiful a sunrise to stay in bed and miss!  

The Grand Canyon of Mars

On Mars there is a really wonderful canyon.  Well, more like a system of chasmas and enormous depressions...about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) long, roughly along the equator.

That's about as far as from Cadiz to Helsinki.  Or Seattle to Philadelphia.  Or Perth to Sydney.

This image below of this canyon, called the Valles Marineris, looks north over the central part.  
That's Melas Chasma in the foreground, behind is Candor Chasma, and the steep walls of the Ophir Chasma are at the top.  
They range from 5 - 7 kilometres (3 - 5 miles) deep.  

Here's a zoom in: 

As on Earth, we can see faulting, landslides and layered deposits.  The layers would indicate to me either water sedimentation, wind deposition, volcanic activity or all three.

For a really nice high dpi view of this, go here.

 Credit: G. Neukum (FU Berlin) et al., Mars ExpressDLRESA

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Just Notice the Difference

When I was doing my degree it was common knowledge the other psychology lecturers looked down a little on the psychometrics lecturer.  And he even admitted it once to us; that psychometrics struggled for recognition as an authentic branch of psychology. 

Basically, psychometrics is the attempt of psychologists to quantify behaviour.  Without going into too much detail here, one tool we used on each other was the JND - the Just Noticeable Difference.   And it involved formulae like this:

We sat for hours with headphones on, trying to distinguish between slightly different pitches and slightly different volumes of sound wavelengths. We tasted different sugar solutions, and smelled different intensities of odours, lifted different weights and looked at pairs of colours that were very similar.  Our experiments generated vast quantities of raw data and provided huge volumes of dots for scattergrams and subsequent statistical analysis.  But unfortunately didn't tell us much about humans except that the tireder or hungrier or boreder you get the larger has to be the Difference before it's Just Noticed.  Not surprising, really.

All this stuff came back to me last night when J. sent me this colour discrimination test/game.
It was much easier than the JND pairing experiments, and actually quite fun.  N. got 100%!

Saturday, 27 September 2008


If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?

To which I add: And if after me, I am not for you, how will we make 'us'?

(Thanks to "i" - An intelligent and thoughtful blog.)

Friday, 26 September 2008

Tommy Emanuel

I've just discovered this man.  Wow.

I should get my guitar out of its corner and get back into practicing.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

My love affair with a certain blue.

In my garden I have a little patch of bluebells.  Each spring they remind me of the spectacular masses that grow in certain woods in England.  
I love blue in the garden, especially this purple-blue - that tricky colour that for centuries was unstable in artist's pigments, and obtainable only by using precious ground lapis lazuli.  

A couple of years ago I took this photo of the lovely pre-renaissance Madonna Voto with her wonderful lapis background in Siena Cathedral.  She has her own little Chigi capella (chapel) and is the favourite of the Sienese people. 

Ah, there's that blue again in the apex sky over the Duomo Siena bell tower.

I took the photos below of my children in West Woods near Marlborough, in 1996.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

And the seasons...

...they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down.

But time is relative.  Relative to what you are doing.  An hour in the company of someone you love but may never see again for a long time can seem like a minute.  A minute walking barefoot over hot sand back to the camp-ground can seem a hour...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Spring 7, or Summer.

The heavy scent of the wisteria hangs over the garden, the climber adorns the arch in front of the fernery, and the forecast is for NO RAIN for the next fourteen (that's 14) days... Summer has arrived in the Bay of Plenty!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Spring 6, or Nursing story 1

Mollie, trainee nurse, with her brother.

When my Mum was about 17 she left Cowplain School in Portsmouth and came out to New Zealand under the 'Assisted Passage' scheme, enrolling at Waipukurau Hospital in Hawkes Bay as a trainee nurse.  

My many memories of her are punctuated by her giggles and stories about larks she and her fellow nurses would get up to.  These were revived and retold often due to frequent (it seemed to me) 'Nurses Reunions' which she always attended with great enjoyment. But then my Mum always seemed to be laughing about something or other most of the time.

One story involves a very difficult patient; a man who seemed to enjoy making life miserable for the nursing staff and the other men in the ward and who complained a lot, despite not being very ill at all.  

Mum and her crony hatched a plan.  They explained to him that he needed an enema, and pulled the curtains around his bed.  They asked him to lie on his front, and wheeled in the equipment. The next bit usually involves a tube and a stand and a bottle of warm soapy water.  Except that being on his front, the man didn't realise that instead of the tube, he had inserted in his bottom the stem of a daffodil, it being spring.  Then the curtains were pulled back with a flourish, revealing his indignity for the amusement of the patients in nearby beds, while Mum and her friend left the ward for ten minutes.  

Sunday, 21 September 2008

In my little town...

... the cherry blossoms are in full fluff.  Early this morning,  Sunday,  I took a stroll with my camera.  Imagine the sound of the tuis chortling and gulping, spoilt for choice with the nectar both from the cherries and the yellow kowhai, the sun shining, a few people using the money machine outside the bank, a few cars going past, people walking their dogs and everyone smiling because last night we won the netball.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Friday, 19 September 2008

Flossing Etiquette

Do you floss?  You should.  Matt Koval does and here's his video to show you the right way to do it.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Polyphasic sleep


Steve Pavlina had an interesting five months doing it.  Dr Claudio Stampi did it while sailing solo, studied it, but doesn't recommend it.  Buckminster Fuller did it for two years and only stopped because everyone else didn't do it. Leonardo Da Vinci may have done it all his life. Thomas Edison did it in his lab, Winston Churchill in his armchair.  Albert Einstein, Lord Byron, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Alan Alda all did it and were probably more successful because of it.  Babies do it all the time.  My son Tom is trying it out.

It's called polyphasic sleep.  As opposed to monophasic (one block a day) sleep or diphasic (includes a siesta) sleep.  
Also called the Da Vinci sleep schedule, dymaxion sleep, segmented sleep, power napping, the sleep of genius, and Uberman sleep.

Most people are familiar with stories about torture by sleep deprivation.  The idea is that you can make someone go mad by waking them after they have fallen asleep but just as they begin their R.E.M - rapid eye movement sleep - generally believed to be associated with dreaming. (People, when woken from REM sleep generally report a dream.)
We know from studies that we must have REM sleep.  Or we eventually go mad and die.

However if we can't get it, either by situation or choice, it seems we can adjust as long as we can nap.  Even short naps in which we get only twenty minutes sleep, as infrequently as six times a day.  Apparently our REM sleep kicks in much earlier, within 5 minutes of falling asleep, and we get all the REM sleep we need.

Why would anyone want to do this by choice?  

Because you get more time to do all the things you want to do, because you're sleeping only for a total of about 3-4 hours in 24.  In fact, some people have said they not only do this, they feel better too, more of the time.  They say they are more creative, more energetic, plus get a lot more done.  Think The Mona Lisa, buckyballs, electricity....  

Most people don't sleep this way, because most other people don't.  
And because the first three days are pretty rough, and most people aren't good at postponing their gratification.  

What would you do if you had four hours more each day?  

What could you achieve if you had 28 more hours every week?

Wikipedia - polyphasic sleep.
Steve Pavlina - very interesting diary of his polyphasic sleep experiences.
Ririan project (power napping and how to do it)
Tom's recent blog at three weeks on the schedule.
A good mp3 20 minute gentle alarm.  (It starts with the alarm to allow you to set the volume.)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Ninja Cat

I laughed so hard at this clip my face hurt.  Not just at the surreptitious movement, but the size of the pupils!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Spring 4

I had a lovely day today - spent most of it in the garden.  Mowed the lawns and general tidying.  The japanese maples are just coming into leaf, and the wisteria is about three days away from fabulous.  The little pink winter violets are almost over and the flowering cherries are a mass of frothy pink up in the village.  I think I'll go for a walk on Sunday morning and see if I can take a nice photo of them.  I don't usually go much for urban landscapes, but they did catch my eye today when I went to the post office.  

As I worked, I heard the tui, californian quail, kingfisher,  grey warbler, and of course the ubiquitous sparras, blackbirds and pukekoes down at the river.
It won't be long before the shining cuckoo turns up back from the Solomon Islands, with its distinctive song, and the usual plans for stealing egg space in the warbler's nests.    

Monday, 15 September 2008

Take time

Take time to gaze at a sunset sky
Where colours blaze to dazzle the eye.
Take time to watch a moonlit sea
And look in awe at a towering tree.
Take time to look in the heart of a flower
Adorned with diamonds from a gentle shower.
Take time to view a mountain high
With snowy peak ‘gainst bluest sky.
Take time to listen to the song of birds - 
A paean of joy without need of words.
Take time to tell your closest friend
Your love and loyalty will never end.
Take time to stop and stand and stare
At wonders round you everywhere.

Editor's comment: Yes I know the sentiments and rhymes are a bit trite, but I still like it.  

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Me, 2 or 3.

I found this old sheet of Pixie Photos the other day.  What a lot of trouble the poor guy must have had getting me to smile.  I vaguely remember the day.  For months Mum had been in and out of hospital with ovarian cyst ops and I'd been moved from Baboushka to Nanna and Poppa's and back again, getting the distinct impression I was a bit of a trouble.  Very clingy and tearful when Mum did get home again, and all the photos at that time show me very close to her, hanging onto her coat, and looking very serious.  Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived!*

*West Side Story.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Fame again again!

My daughter this time!  I think she's beautiful (and I know she's wonderful!) but it seems from this photo that someone at Vogue magazine has spotted her - perhaps it was at the recent college ball? Wouldn't it give you a thrill to see this when you were sitting in your dentist's waiting room?

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Mouse and his Child.

Nearly forty years ago Russell Hoban wrote The Mouse and his Child.  

The 'Last Visible Dog' is an idea from this book. 

In 1977 an animated movie was made of the book.  

Like all movies-of-books, it has its shortcomings.

Quirky, philosophical and, at times, somewhat dark book and movie.  

I recommend the book first.  

I especially love the earlier issues with the original Lillian Hoban 


However the movie does have a delightful theme song, which has

resonated for me at certain times in my life.

The Mouse Child's Theme.

Wind in the trees,  leaves on the water 

tell me my name, what am I here for?

And knowing---

As I walk under the umbrella of the sky 

I wonder why, and who am I?

I must be someone.

Stars overhead, silently glowing 

Tell me my name, where am I going?

There must be--

Out in the world it somehow seems I have to learn

Someone who'll smile 

And know my name 

And who will take me home.

Wind in the trees, leaves on the water 

this is my name, my name is laughter. 

And always--

As I walk under the umbrella of the sky 

warm in the sun, 

I know that I have become someone.

Stars overhead, silent and endless

no-one's alone, no-one is friendless 

I think of that wondrous world 

that I no longer have to roam 

and close the door

knowing my name 

and knowing this is home.

-Gene Lees

From the animated movie "The Mouse and His Child"

Post for vendr

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A healthy lunch

On the way to the park where I walk is a gigantic avocado tree.  It's laden with big fruit this year.  I pop one in my pocket every couple of days.  Yum.  Nice on toast (instead of the butter) with sliced tomatoes on top...
Or with sprouted brown lentils, gherkins, mayonnaise and ham.  And a cuppa Rooibos tea.  Yes, with milk and sugar.  That's the way ah ha I like it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


New Zealand has a dear little owl species.   When I was a little girl I grew up in a home on the bank of a river, and often at night I heard the call of the morepork owl (ruru) or the swamp hen (pukeko) and the familiar calls always make me feel safe and cosy even now.

The other night I was sitting in my study on dusk and not one but a pair fluttered into the strawberry tree just outside the window.  What a thrill!  I've heard morepork in most of the 14 years we've been here, but it was wonderful to actually see them for the first time.   Looks like we'll have some babies too!

They are tiny owls, as adults no more than 30 cm (12 ins) and you can see better pictures and hear their distinctive 'more-pork, more-pork' call and also their screech  here.

I took this photo at dusk on a tramp (hike) back from Ketetahi Springs in the central North Island.

Post Script:  The link I gave doesn't record the repetitive nature of the call, whereas this Department of Conservation one does.  You can hear another owl or two answering too.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Fame - again!

I went to the movies the other night.  We were just settling in and the adverts for up-and-coming movies were being shown and what did I see?!  
My middle son has been down in Dunedin for only a month and seems to have already broken into the New Zealand film industry!  He didn't say a thing to me about this!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Spring 2

I went for a walk around the sports park with Shelly the dog.  The dawn redwood leaf buds and the willow leaves were just breaking through.  A harrier hawk pair were wheeling and circling over the rough scrub on the other side of the river and there was a smell of freshly-cut grass as the mower zoomed back and forth over the rugby pitches.

As the sun broke through holes in the dark clouds, the lime green of the new growth really glowed.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Antarctica summer begins

Photo by Nicola Dunn, July dawn light, Scott Base (- camera shutter froze open!)

I keep an eye on a great blog written by those intrepid conservator people who spent the winter at Scott Base, Antarctica.

Aside from the vital everyday maintenance and servicing functions (and it's interesting enough to read about how these are performed in an inhospitable environment that got regularly down to  minus 40ÂșC last winter), this is a team of people who have been cleaning and restoring bits and pieces from Shackelton's hut.  
There are many great stories and great pictures, but one post talks about the 'festival' they have.  

"The festival revealed so much creative talent, bringing everyone together to relate many of the themes that identify life in an Antarctic winter: isolation, darkness, strange behaviour, expired food, bitter cold and a quirky sense of humour."

The blog is intriguing and the images taken by all members especially Anthony Powell the satellite engineer (his website here), are especially evocative.  Anthony is in the process of making a time-lapse full-length movie.  In the meantime, here is a short teaser.

Light has been gradually returning since the end of July.  And the sun rose for the first time on August the 20th.  Around now the batch of people will be picked up and will fly back to those various parts of the world they call home.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Spring 1

The magnolia stellata is looking lovely, with its petal snow around on the bright spring-green grass.  And the buds of the wisteria are elongating.  I expect we'll see the first purple flowers within the week.  When the kids were little we used to have a little competition about now -  each tied a piece of coloured cotton around the bud we guessed would be the first to flower.

We haven't had a fire for a week, and last Friday was daffodils-for-cancer day, so it looks like spring is definitely here.  

So I thought I'd better get the autumn leaves swept up today.
(This time next year Ann, you and I will be sitting there in the late afternoon sunshine enjoying a glass of something-or-other won't we?  I can hardly wait!)

Thursday, 4 September 2008


On Saturday I drove over to Hamilton to have lunch with my oldest son.  Can you imagine how I felt when I saw this?  (Yes - it's him!)  

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


It's been many years since I watched more than a few minutes of television.  I find it disturbing and stressful.  TV saps my creativity and wastes my time.  I keep up with the news by listening to the radio and online.  Don't think for yourself.  Watch television.  

Cartoon by New Zealand scientist/cartoonist Nick Kim

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


Once, about four years ago on a flight to the States, I sat next to a woman with whom I have corresponded ever since.  She was in New Zealand visiting a grand-daughter and every time she writes she asks me when I am coming over stay with her.  Here are a few extracts from her last letter.  

"... No Christmas note from me last year because I was off on a Cultural Exchange to China. What a different world:  too much to absorb.  Even got to walk awhile on the Great Wall, but nearly froze there with a long down coat plus many layers.  Cranes everywhere, (half the world's are in Shanghai); construction is mind-boggling. Go soon if you want to see traditional China ....
... I was going to a church meeting Feb. 6 when I fell off a curb trying to evade a man who'd followed me more than 2 blocks ... Broke the same knee cap as 2 years ago, but also gashed my forehead, broke an elbow, a finger and some ribs.  Luckily I'd bought the usual pair of season tickets for 5 theatres.  For those free tickets people offered to wrestle with my wheelchair ... so I got to see a performance of every production that three months.  Amazing theatre we get here."

Oh, and she has just bought a new car.  

She is 90 years old this year.  

Monday, 1 September 2008

Eye Candy Day 1

Because it's my blog and I'll do what I want, I've decided that the first of each month, at least for as many months as I feel like it, will be official "Eye Candy Day".  Yes shallow, yes visual only, but fun.  Those who know me and who know how many times I've watched "P & P" will not be surprised at my choice this first month.  Yummy scrummy.