Saturday, January 31, 2004
Anyway, after a game of pinball and coffee I came home.
I think of my friends in AA shoveling snow. I think of Ikrek and Brittle Lemon and how, in Singapore, everything is so modular so you take everything and everyone for granted. Everyone is just part of the furniture until you move away. And then you think: what would it be like to meet for the first time in different circumstances, what faces would they wear and how would they be different and how would you be different? And isn’t that question after all the final question of ethics and politics? I still glad, in the end, that we went there.
PS: I’m still hopelessly besotted with our kitten. And Geeta is having fun in Auckland.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Sunita (my beloved—like the new handle?) and I have just had meeting over at the Ministry of Education. They asked about our book and told us about the current research on autism and education in NZ. We’ve been invited back in three weeks for them to tell us more about their work so some contract work appears in the offing.
Sunita also starts work next week as a special education teacher helping an emotionally disturbed autistic boy in the mornings. Apparently, his mum used to leave him for hours locked in a room. Great. For this work Sunita gets paid a measly $12 per hour.
I picked up the lads from school yesterday and as it was their first day back I bought them a large cream donut and told them they could have half each. Mr T: "Dad, can I have the biggest half?"
And how did I ever live without a cat? I am in love.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
I finished Simon Blackburn’s Think and while I enjoyed a tour of the great Western philosophical problems I wanted more on some very specific—though troubling—philosophical whirlpools. It seems rather too easy to dismiss post-structuralism and post-modernity as varients of nominalism. I remembered an interesting conversation I had with Ikrek just before leaving Zingers: I said that I’m confident that the laws of physics are universal. These laws apply throughout the universe and should we contact an alien civilisation then we can be sure that they would have a similar understanding of Kepler’s laws, redshift, etc. Ikrek wasn't so sure that the laws are so universal and felt that even at the level of basic physics culture intervenes and contaminates these laws so that they are culture-bound and not universal.
Of course, at stake here is what we mean by 'universal' and also what we actually claim to know in disciplines such as Astronomy. I’m pretty sure that my position is sound but I also respect the very pressing doubts raised by Ikrek’s 'post-modernity.' But these issues—or indeed the whole problem of language—aren’t really addressed by Blackburn in his punchy, well-written and entertaining introduction.
Great cover though:
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Why Debbie Gibson? Well, my good friend Miss J is taught by a man who wears a t-shirt and a necktie. I was google searching for t-shirt and ties and Debbie just came to me. Doesn't she look like Leeza Gibbons or most young women on American TV or a character from a Douglas Copeland novel, say, Susan Colgate? American hair. Tri-Delta adolescence. I don't mean to be smarmy--it's a living and at least I see a peace sign in the design. What does Debbie think about the war in Iraq or Arnie? What about conditioners? OK: I'm bored and should go back to geeking out with my astronomy software.
We're not getting cable as I see no reason for us to pay for five year old Mr. T to sit around watching The Cartoon Network all day. But we did get a spanking new aerial fitted and so I was able to enjoy The New Pornographers video "All for swinging you around" this morning.
All there errant probes make me cross my fingers for Cassini-Hyugens. Don't go offline...don't go offline....
Friday, January 23, 2004
I have a big job interview later this morning and my heading is itching like crazy: just like R's and T's and L's. If you are a parent with young kids at school you know what this means. All I have to do is to try not to scracth before I get to the chemist and get us all the right combs and shampoos. Yes, I can see the funny side of this. What lousy luck, though.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The autistic sensibility flattens narratives told by visual images (which is why I am such a bad film critic). “But you know the outcome!” is a foolish rejoinder. What matters is the flow of sounds and colours, the way a particular computer or robot behaves: all incidentals. Autists invite us to re-think film outside of narrative or ideology. (Peter Jackson: “Does it have good battle scenes?”). A certain other approach to film; an idiot’s sensibility if you will but also a designer’s or a photographer’s (back to Le Divorce: the way the bag floats down at the end of the film).
One other minor point about the Singapore story. The equation Singapore=human rights abuse, while not entirely untrue, cannot be said to be true either! It ignores SEA, Malaysia, etc and feeds into the nationalistic notion that we are best. In other words it's another smug story BUT it also recognises Amnesty as a legitimate news source--which is why it is a good story. I was a member of Amnesty for two years and I've always been a little surprised that I was allowed in to Singapore despite this rather mundane fact (I think I wrote two letters as a member--hardly a committed member). Got 2 go...
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Suppose you decide to check yourself out for some disease. Suppose that this disease is quite rare in the population: only about one in a thousand people suffer from it. But you go to your doctor, who says he has a good test for it. The test is in fact
Most people say, it's terrible: you are virtually certain to have the disease.
But suppose, being a thinker, you ask the the doctor a bit more about this 99 percent reliability. Suppose you get this information:
- If you have the disease, the test will say you have it.
- The test sometimes, but very rarely, gives 'false positives'. In only a few cases--around 1 per cent--does it say that someone has the disease when they do not.
These two together make up the better than 99 per cent reliability. You might think that you are still virtually certain to have the disease. But in fact this entirely wrong. Given the facts, your chance of having the disease is a little less than 10 per cent.
Why? Well, suppose 1,000 people take the test. Given the general incidence of the disease (the 'base rate'), one of them might be expected to have it. The test will say he has it. It will also say that 1 per cent of the rest of those tested, i.e. roughly ten people, have it. So eleven people might be expected to test positive, of whom only one will have the disease. It is true that the news is bad--you have gone from a 1 in a 1,000 chance of didease to a 1 in 11 chance--but it is still far more probable that you are healthy than not."
Simon Blackburn. Think
Monday, January 19, 2004
Sunday, January 18, 2004
R. is keen to have a web counter on his blog--so if you know of a good visitor counter please leave a comment so my 8 year nethead son can start fooling with code. And he wants a clock on the blog!
A kind friend from Japan has sent me XP disks so I can reboot 'Crasher'--my PC from Singapore whose system was deleted when R installed the Dos Shell. Now it is back from the dead and we'rew on the web using the rather zipper Mozilla browser. Pretty zippy.
Does anyone else think that the grandiose 'men on the Moon, men on Mars' may all be about corporate contracts--how much money can you make from scientifically valuable cheap shots to Pluto?
Saturday, January 17, 2004
I’ve finished Kundera’s Slowness: a short, stylistically accomplished though vacuous and somewhat distasteful novel. This is my first and probably last Kundera novel.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
That afternoon you speak to your tax consultant. Yes, you have to pay tax on the rent (fair enough). No, there is no way you have to pay tax on that income. And L reminds you of the media reports of people whose families claim were driven to suicide by the Inland Revenue Department.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
On the way to the pool “I heard it through the Grapevine” plays on Classic Hits. I had been listening to French (Algerian?) rap on Radio Active where I was once a jock, but R changed the station & as Marvin sings I remembered when I first heard a version of this song, on a cheap K-Tel 45 of covers that we bought at Tescos back in Delph , 1973, & I thought that he must have heard it at a grape farm or winery because I took it literally.
A sign at the pool’s changing rooms (tane wahi) reminds patrons that cellphone are not to be used in the changing rooms do to the taking and swapping of pictures on the net.
When I interviewed Sarah she explained that she had spent about eight months learning idioms with her speech therapist: ‘wet blanket’, ‘thick as a brick’ etc.
So we sit by the splashing waters and discuss the gene pool: I didn’t talk till past three, had tantrums, used to eat weird substances (coal, dog food, carpet), was taken to doctors because I thought to have ‘brain damage’ and we move on to discuss my sister Jo, also odd, and my sister Jayne’s son Campbell and his late speech development as he is slow with language. And, well. Well. Well. You know. You feel kind of weird. Again.
And you thought that you just had the curse of the Irish in your family.
So we drive along the old Karori road to Johnsonville, the cloud so low you can’t see the hill tops and a light drizzle falls as the radio now plays Stella’s Undone and T says “Mum, I know of a really good name for a girl: Courtney.”
Monday, January 12, 2004
I’m sure that I don’t need to give you a link to Pres. Bush’s hints of a bold new space initiative. I’ve tried to contain my blogging about the current Mars mission as I thought it might be tedious but Bush’s ‘hints’ do warrant a few words.
I’m a little sceptical of this whole approach. Sure, in the long term, we do need to put people on Mars. Why? Because a long time from now the sun will expand and Earth will be fried. We will be able to live, provided we have the technology, for a limited time on Mars.
But this is all many millions of years away. And I wonder what other parts of the space program will be affected by this bold new initiative. Does a Moon/Mars mission mean that we don’t build super space telescopes that could be used to produce images of other Earth-like planets? Does it mean that the US will no longer fund CETI research or send probes to distant Pluto (which gets further and further from us every year) or the Kuiper belt?
It’s a pity that the Stardust mission, which is now returning to Earth with a sample of comet material, didn’t quite get the fanfare it deserved.
So I’m a little dubious about these proposed missions. I’d like to see the total space exploration programme. Putting people in space is very expensive and what do we gain in terms of what we learn? In contrast, a small satellite like COBE which measured the cosmic background radiation was able to effectively ‘prove’ the big bang and provides a wealth of information about the early universe. I don't think that this is the right time to spend so much money putting people into space when we can explore more with robots.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
Friday, January 09, 2004
I see Kevin Bacon naked. On national TV, 11.00PM, and I catch the end of the B-noir movie ‘Wild Things’ which I kind of enjoy. Anyway, Bacon steps outside the shower and you get to see the sausage. I admire his nerve—Kevin Bacon’s own piggly wiggly. Or did he use a double?
ZMFM’s promo cart: “While you’re on holiday, we roll the hits for you all day long. Ten in a row.”
And the Auckland Womens’ Hospital wants volunteers to take part in a research study on the meta-amphetamine P. A scary drug; a real scary drug.
Goldenhorse are playing tomorrow and next week so are Turin Brakes. But we're short of money and we are still trying to get R used to the idea that he can stay the night with T at Nana and Nani's. Difficult.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
And, no, I don't think that Di was murdered, but ...
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Still on antiobiotics! I submitted ‘Nanosphere’ to The Listener. And, late in the evening, Latika, I’m afraid comes down with a raging temperature and is bitten by the flu.
Our book is now in production and we should read the proof in mid-February.
Monday, January 05, 2004
I’ve also finished Geoff Cochrane’s Acetylene. He’s a local poet living here in Wellington. Here’s a poem I greatly enjoyed in this collection:
The Day Room features piano, pool table,
a great stuffed bird in simulated flight.
And Shaky Pete himself is having lunch:
Fish cakes and beetroot and shredded lettuce.
By one means or another,
he quit the Methadone and the cigarettes—
only to scald himself and break his hip
in two unfunny kitchen accidents.
And this is where they’re put,
the young ones with indifferent prognoses,
the stroke victims and those fucked up in prangs.
Fish cakes fry in an electric pan.
‘You’re looking much better,’ A.J. tells Peter.
Walking with the aid of the stick,
the patient shows us to his room.
It’s full of the things
Pete has always owned and had about him.
His punter’s binoculars are hanging on the wall;
the telly’s showing TAB Trackside.
On a low shelf, Into India mixes it
with James Lee Burke.
Behind a Van Gogh print
faded to within an inch of its life
(the painter’s cell at Arles)
Peter has contrived to hide a bag of dope.
‘Would you like a smoke, A.J.?’
‘I could be tempted, Shaky.’
‘It’s only a bit of cabbage. What about you, Geoff?’
Perhaps I’m slow to answer
(grass doesn’t do for me what I want done.)
I’m looking at an oval-framed image
dating from the Sixties,
a photograph of Peter and his late brother, Brian,
sharp young blades abroad
in clobber from His Lordship’s.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Thursday, January 01, 2004
New year’s eve list: best book ‘The essential difference’ Baron Cohen. Best film: too crappy, no award. I guess The Two Towers (yawn). Best CD: Gramsci Object. MH’s burnt compilations (comps are better than real cds). Best drink: Guinness Foreign Stout, Hobbies: astronomy, poetry, masturbation. Best poetry: Rita Dove. Web site of the year: Blogger.
For some reason this morning I’m ringing bells, lighting incense, looking at rupas, pausing, big mind, big sky, big space, empty hands. Ringing. Some flashes somewhere. And you don’t believe anymore in the written word. You are here you are not not here.
Happy new year! Ikrek, Bitter Lemon, A&J, Pete, everyone else.