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todayiamadaisy July 29 2014, 00:56

An Angel Runs Away

My car battery died on Sunday. RIP, battery. The RACV Emergency Assist came and gave it the kiss of life on Sunday afternoon, which kept it going long enough to get it to Mr McKeever for the last rites yesterday morning. 'Well, you can't complain,' he mused. 'Twelve years is pretty good for a battery.' Is it? I mean, I wasn't complaining anyway, because Freddie is a very low-maintenance car and this is one of the very few non-scheduled visits I've ever had to make to Mr McKeever.

Anyway, if I didn't have to take Freddie to Mr McKeever yesterday morning, I wouldn't have had to pick him up from there yesterday afternoon, which means I would have had no reason to drive up the Henna Street hill on my way home. And that means I would not have seen the middle-aged couple in thinly-stretched lycra bike shorts and yellow safety jackets riding a tandem up the hill. I say riding, but they seemed to be stationary. Doing an awful lot of pedalling in order to stay still. It was hugely enjoyable to witness.

My Masters subject this term is an odd one. It is called Executive Leadership. It's a compulsory subject, not something I would have chosen to do voluntarily. I am finding it a bit... scattered. Every week starts off as I'd expect. Academic readings and studies and so on. Once all that's out of the way, it turns into a self-help course. This week, for example, we are learning about charismatic and transformational leadership theories. We read about definitions, studies, difficulties in applying definitions and theory to actual people, criticisms, alternative theories. All that jazz. And then the text has the heading: HOW TO DEVELOP CHARISMA. That seems out of place to me. It's like reading a thoughtful piece about the causes of World War I, then over the page it says HOW TO ASSASSINATE AN ARCHDUKE.

If you are wanting to develop charima, by the way, this is how the text book says to do it:

* create visions for others;
* be enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic;
* be sensibly persistent;
* remember names of people;
* make an impressive appearance;
* be candid; and
* display an in-your-face attitude.

Don't be me, in other words.

(I do remember names, that's one thing. And I remember faces. I'm just not particularly good at combining the two.)

Actually what I found most interesting this week was the competing schools of thought about charisma. One school says that charisma is something inherent in a person. If you are charismatic, you are charismatic, no matter what you're doing. The other school says that charisma is temporal and situational. Once the need for a charismatic leader has passed, the charisma fades. (Or perhaps moves to the next charismatic leader, like a mist. That's not the text book there. The mist idea is all mine.)
todayiamadaisy July 22 2014, 11:15

The Love Trap

Today my work had mandatory fire extinguisher training at the fire station. I put out a fire on a stove with dry chemical extinguisher, and then again with a fire blanket. It was a persistent fire, but I defeated it. It is surprising how unthreatening fire is when it is isolated to a single stove, outdoors, in the middle of an otherwise empty concrete yard, with four firemen on hand. It is disconcerting, however, that the fireman doing the practical demonstrations put on all his yellow safety gear to do it, then handed the extinguisher over to us in our normal clothes.

The fire blanket was fun. We had to rip it out of its bag and then place it over the fire. 'It's not for beating fires,' warned the fireman. 'Although I did once see a man beat out a toaster fire with one of these. He said he didn't think it was very effective, and I said, "You're supposed to take it out of the packet first."'

I got Brownie points for being able to name the points of the Fire Triangle that the Chief Fireman drew on the whiteboard as Fuel, Oxygen and Heat. 'That's right,' said the Chief Fireman. 'That's what civilians need to know. But we in the Fire Brigade know it as the Fire Tetrahedron,' and he draw dotted lines on the back of triangle to make it into a 3D shape. The fourth point, according to the Chief Fireman, is Some Sort of Chemical Reaction. That's technical talk right there. It occurs to me now that he could have just drawn a four-sided object and called it a Fire Square, but I suppose a Fire Tetrahedron is more exciting.

They also did a brief spot on What To Do If You're Caught In A Bushfire While Driving. Park on open ground, stay in the car and cover yourself with a blanket. I knew that. What I didn't know (or, if I have been told this before, I didn't take it in) is that fire goes much, much faster uphill than down or on the flat. So don't go parking uphill from a fire, everyone. That's just asking for trouble.
todayiamadaisy July 21 2014, 23:43

A Dream in Spain

Apparently Australia is suffering from a kale shortage, as we are eating so much of it. I read an article today about a farmer who was pulling out his cabbages and leeks so he could plant more kale, because we just can't get enough of it. I can't help but think we are heading for a kale bubble.

I bought some hand moisturiser last week. I didn't think to mention it at the time. I mean, it seemed unremarkable. Only it actually is remarkable, because of the smell. It's essential oil-infused oil, basically. I used it Friday and I sort of had it in my head all weekend, and then I came home yesterday (Monday) and the scent of it hit me when I opened the door. It's not an unpleasant smell, which is good. It smells cold and minty. It's just... enduring. I've left it outside today with the lid off to see if a bit of wind will take the edge off it.
cos July 21 2014, 01:26

Portland Plant Bio Conference Trip

Entry mostly for my own reference, though maybe someone else is interested too.

Friday, July 11
- Alice and her lab fly to Portland in morning for Plant Biology 2014
- I drive to Alice's & her housemates' place in CT late evening, stay there

Saturday, July 12
- Drive to Bradley airport (Hartford-ish), fly to Portland via Chicago
- wait an extra few hours in Chicago due to flight delays
- Jocasta picks me up at PDX airport and we drive to Days Inn and check in
- Carolina Chocolate Drops outdoor concert at Oregon Zoo
- Get to Portland contra dance in time for the last 3 dances. Jocasta's first contra dance!
- Back to hotel, bedtime. Did we eat dinner? Other than fries at the zoo concert?

Sunday, July 13
- We drive to convention center Marriott, pick up Alice
- Multnomah Falls with Jocasta and Alice, hike to the top
- Jocasta drives us back to Days Inn (where my stuff is), and departs to go home to Yakima
- Afternoon w/Alice! Pack up my stuff, and we take the max to convention center.
- Check me in to Quality Inn, across from Marriott, and Alice returns to conference
- Bill Evans banjo house concert in SE Portland with Martin

Monday, July 14
- Work at Portland Google office, somewhat changed (and bigger) since I last saw it
- Lunch with Alice and Eric S at downtown food carts, Alder & 9th pod
- Visit Gabby at brunch box, where she works - first in person meeting w/her!
- Dinner on my own at food carts, then meet Alice at max stop
- Powells with Alice, including cafe, rare books room, and gardening section :)
- Voodoo Doughnut with Alice, and a box of doughnuts for the next three days :)

Tuesday, July 15
- Work at Portland Google office
- Food cart lunch @ Alder & 9th pod with Alice, Kevin, Martin, Paul, Lara(Bean), Samantha
- Meet up with Darlene at max stop after work
- Dinner w/Darlene at Marrakesh in NW Portland, recommended by Samantha
- Back to hotel w/Darlene staying the night

Wednesday, July 16 - full day with Alice!
- Alice checks out of Marriott, labmates go to airport to return to CT
- Alice and Gabby meet me and Darlene at my hotel room late morning, we check out
- Berry picking expedition to Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
- Collins beach on Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
- Stop at B&B on the way back into town to check in / see room
- Portland Wednesday Munch at bar next to Gabby's apartment
- Darlene takes bus back to Oregon city, Gabby goes upstairs (home)
- Alice and I stop briefly at Voodoo again, then return to B&B

Thursday, July 17 - full day with Alice!
- Breakfast at B&B, followed by bird watching on their balcony
- Portland International Rose Test Garden
- Portland Japanese Garden
- Lunch at Persian House downtown
- Lan Su Chinese Garden, including calligraphy demo
- Hike at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in SE Portland
- Monster Palace dinner gathering! We bring lots of berries :)
Us, Megan, Martin, Chase, Terra, Dan, Shaunna, Jeff, Beth, their kids, Kevin, a few others...
- Last night at B&B

Friday, July 18 - full day with Alice!
- Breakfast and bird watching at B&B
- Long but pretty drive to east (rear) side of Mount Saint Helens National Monument
- Get maps, park permit, and lunch food, in Cougar, WA
- Meta Lake, Harmony trail (to the shores of Spirit Lake), Windy Ridge overlook
- Drive directly from Mount Saint Helens to PDX airport
- Get dinner food at airport, redeye flight to Newark

Saturday, July 19 - full day with Alice!
- Breakfast at Newark airport, brief flight to back Bradley
- Drive back to Alice's house, shower, collapse on futon and sleep 'til afternoon
- Lunch at Oriental Cafe in Willimantic
- Hike at Shelter Falls Park
- Fetch Alice's car from lab, then more Alice time at her place
- I drive home in the evening shortly before Alice bedtime
braisedbywolves July 20 2014, 23:10

Films I've seen.

Edge of Tomorrow
  • I wasn't entirely sure about this, but the director of Mr and Mrs Smith still has a few benefits of the doubt in his account.
  • It is, in a nutshell, Groundhog Day directed by James Cameron - and as blackly funny at times as that suggests.
  • Tom Cruise continues to be extremely watchable when on the run and bewildered (See also: Minority Report, War of the Worlds)
  • Also there is an inspiring montage of him being shot in the face.
  • I thought Emily Blunt was good at her role (the details of which are one of the plot best twists), though my companion, the excellent , thought she could do with more Sigourney in her spine.
  • Also there is bonus grumpy Brendan Gleeson! What film is not improved by him?

  • This is not at all subtle about being a post-Fukushima version of the aul' atomic terror.
  • Except - we're not post-Fukushima: things are still pretty bad down there, and not really getting anywhere near better.
  • I wonder if this actually affected the planning of the film, whether it'd be set back, or scuppered, if things turned worse.
  • Anyway, this is a fine film, more than enough to wash out the memories of the Matthew Broderick version - it takes on the chest the fact that it's the also the first post-Pacific Rim film which bears direct comparison. It's not as good, but there's a lot of distance between 'as good as Pacific Rim' as 'a very entertaining film'.
  • Being a Godzilla film, from Warner Brothers, in 2014, does odd things to its politics: it's anti-military but pro-soldier, scoffs at nuclear solutions but features the world's gentlest megaton explosion.
  • Considering that it's set in Japan and Hawaii (and for that matter San Francisco), the film does seem terrified that we'll lose focus unless it cuts back to a pretty, white character* in peril every few minutes.
  • Which would generally be the lead character and his wife - who bizarrely appeared as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the post-credits sequence in the second Captain America movie.
  • Hopefully that was a one-off, as they're dull as hell.
  • But at the end of the day, this is a film that understands the beautiful music made by giant lizards and cities.
  • * okay, a pretty, white character or Bryan Cranston.

The Wind Rises
  • This is Hizao Miyazaki's last films - or at least his latest last film, he has thrown this smoke bomb a few times before.
  • It's the story of a young airplane designer in the first half of the last century, from first dreams to making the Mitsubishi Zeroes.
  • In a lot of ways it'd be a shame if it was his last film.
  • Firstly, he remains an amazing film maker - a lot of his signature animism isn't on display here (apart from a set of snarling writhing bombs in an early dream sequence), but just watching him depict wind across a grass field is beautiful.
  • It's also the first sign of a new direction, a historical piece, featuring an adult as a protagonist for the first time - it would be interesting to see where he goes from this. It's also obviously a very political film - partly because WWII remains immensely political now in Japan.
  • And lastly, it would be a shame because although it's an experiment, it's not a very successful one. Interestingly it's not that Miyazaki can't write adult characters, there are a number of them around the place. They stand out too, as rendered in more detail, while a couple of characters who only appear as essentially the protagonist's spirit animals, dispensing cryptic advice when he needs to hear it, always seem on the verge of turning into actual animals.
  • But while he can write adults, it's clear that he's never really on their side - the protagonist has all the focus of a child at serious play, tongue out of the side of their mouth, and the world shifts around them as they barrel through the story. The troubles that beset them are a child's view of what might happen to a grown-up, and their responses, while true to the fable-like nature of his other films (where persevering is the only truth) are disastrously self-centred here. This would be devastating self-critique if it was intentional, but I never got the impression that it was.
  • None of this makes it a bad film, or in any way a waste of time! We look forward with eagerness to further works from this promising young director.
todayiamadaisy July 20 2014, 12:01

Never Forget Love

My run of finding things on the street continues. I found an extremely valuable ring while I was walking between work and the car park the other day:


I went to see Opera Australia's touring production of The Magic Flute last night, which was good. It was set in 1920s Egypt, which worked really well, and the lead was sung by the chap on the poster and his very thin head.

In the foyer waiting for the show to start, I was standing next to the theatre manager, who was talking to an old lady. We were all standing near a poster for a production called Pete the Sheep. The old lady said, 'My daughter is taking my grandson to see that next week,' and the manager said, 'Oh, make sure they come early, because the sheep come out and mingle before every show.' I'd like to see that.
braisedbywolves July 12 2014, 17:07

No subject

I have, over the last week, when chatting to the Irish here or at home, been curious to know if they have an answer to a question that I'm curious about: whether the entire country has lost its fucking mind.

There's a decent account of it in the Washington Post(!) but the short version goes:

  • Garth Brooks is returning to touring after 13 years!
  • He'd like to start with 5 concerts in Croke Park!
  • And so he met a nice man, and the nice man said he'd set them up, and the nice man took 5 concerts' worth of money (off 400,000 people)
  • Except the nice man hadn't actually arranged a licence to do this at all!
  • Because Croke Park is actually in a residential area, and there's a long-standing agreement that the GAA, the sports body that owns the venue, will only allow 3 non-sporting events per year to avoid pissing off locals.*
  • So when the application went in April, 10 weeks after the concerts sold out, Dublin City Council agreed to allow only 3 of the 5 concerts.
  • And in fairness a good day's sleeveening for whoever thought of that, as they must have realised that this would get elided into a fair offer: in fact One Direction took the three nights earlier in the year, and the appropriate amount of days would be none; Hibernophiles will recognise the sensation of the ground sliding away on first contact.
  • But Garth won't have it! How can he only entertain 240,000 people, when he's ready to thrill 400,000? It would tear the heart right out of him, so it would.
  • And so, this has been front page news for the last week in Ireland, and the Mexican Ambassador has been willing to help if he can, and An Taoiseach will look into it, and people get to cover their face again and admit that we had you all going for a while there, with this idea that we were a real country.
  • And the worst bit isn't that the disgraced and finally removed former Party of Government has sensed that there's an opportunity here, for a blow to be struck in the name of their guiding principles of a quiet word and a handshake and a bulging envelope, and has put forward emergency legislation to allow the overturn of a county council decision where necessary for the global good.
  • The worst bit is that they're right, that there's something buried down in the nervous consciousness of the race that is always ready to bend or blunt the law at the whisper and glimmer of Money For The Economy, especially that which can be fleeced from tourists. I got it full blast when I rang my sister, who is scornful that they'd throw away this money, just hanging there, fully €200 million according to no less an august figure than An Taoiseach.
  • Don't really have a punchline here, I'm afraid. Moral seems short on the ground, too.

* An article from the BBC has what is perhaps the quintessentially Irish facet of this: This was broken in 2009, when 4 concerts were arranged, there were pickets at the 4th concert, there "was then an agreement made between them and the GAA about the future staging of concerts", except that it was later found that there was "no written evidence" of any such agreement _that they would actually properly from now on, scouts honour, abide by the original agreement_.

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