and life was never the same again…

Things just got better and better and better. Hoo-rah! Twenty years later (and 20 minutes into the future) I’m still lusting after Theora Jones 🙂

the terrific threes

I’ve been writing here for three years now, averaging 71 thousand-odd (and some say VERY odd) words, and a published article every 2-3 days. Recently the every couple of days or so is harder to be believed, it’s the old story there – I can’t write everywhere every day, however I do write somewhere every day. Yes, even there. So, nett result, happy birthday Marginalia. I re-read our first August and I was entertained to see I wrote about the Vincent Ward movie, ‘What Dreams May Come’ – and spookily enough I rented it and watched last weekend. Still loving that movie.

But what dreams have come? Wonderful things have happened for me – and for us – over the last three years – gifts from Gods really. Fantastic travel with great new family – family because our friends are closer than family, new house, new job, new challenges, new opportunities, new ups and a fine range of new downs – and oh yes, like any three-year old, there’s no shortage of tears. Once I was in China, and the people spoke of the changeable weather we were experiencing as being like a baby’s face – smiles one moment, tears the next, then back to smiles – and that’s true of our lives recently too. I have no idea where I (and we) will find ourselves in a years time. I am looking forward to the new year and to reporting the days and ways and amaze as it unfolds.

goldfish dreaming

Inclinations - buy this print from AllPosters.comLast night I dreamed about goldfish, in our pond, yes, the one by our front door. Huge goldfish – koi – rather than goldfish, to be more precise. The pond was full of flowering lilies and other aquatic plants. I couldn’t get over how happy and vibrant the fish were – they were just having the time of their lives. It was as though they were all smiling and generally loving life. Don’t tell me, I know, fish don’t smile. But these ones were just acting as though, ‘Oh yeah, baby, we got it going on, and yeah, you th’ man’.

We don’t have koi (calm down, biosecurity) – however based on my dream, the thought of koi is something rather wonderful, and I’d be most happy to attract more of that positive, happy energy; thank you.

the thorn continues to press

I’ve written here in Marginalia a number of times (1, 2, 3, 4) on the subject of workplace vampires – bullies. I have recently launched a space to gather some research on the topic of workplace bullying – mostly based on the international perspective rather than the New Zealand milieu. Unfortunately, bullying continues unabated in the workplace, and anecdotes from people who believe they are being, or have been bullied as adult workers, are frequently heard. It doesn’t make sense to me – I do understand the bullying component, what I don’t understand is why, in an environment where we frequently hear about the shortage of skilled staff, how hard it is to get good staff, how staff have the loyalty of cats, is it that HR and management are frozen – unable or unwilling to act. It’s not as though there is an infinite number of prospective staff, and needless to say, word spreads rapidly about how undesirable some workplaces are. And these warnings are acted on by prospective staff and customers alike.

I wrote back in August 2007 an article entitled: workplace bullying: the stakes are raised, about certain goings-on at Wellington’s Queen Margaret College and the rather dubious actions and behaviours of the principal, senior staff, and the board. Their combined forces, coupled with spin doctor reinforcement, have done a good job of hushing the whole sordid affair up, and so there has been little or no information about what happened next.

Sadly, the target of the bullying tactics, Dr Stuart Selwood died peacefully at his home on 3 January 2008, exactly 13 months after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. The cancer spread to his brain and a large brain tumour was diagnosed only in early November. It is unfortunate that the cancer hadn’t been picked up earlier – at the time Oncologist Peter Dady was reported as saying “Dr Selwood’s life expectancy was one to two years. Stress would not have caused the cancer, but it could have cloaked the symptoms till it was too late, he said.” Patrick Crewdson – The Dominion Post – Monday, 27 August 2007. Dr Selwood had put the initial symptoms down to stress, and had he not done so there is every chance he would be with his wife and family now.

Apparently a large number of Queen Margaret staff did attend Dr Selwood’s funeral, and one staff member spoke at the funeral, however there has NEVER been any acknowledgment by the school of his passing. Previously, I’d noted that perhaps the school might manage … ‘hollow words at the school assembly, perhaps even a minute or two of silence.’ But no, not even that. Disgraceful and most unbecoming of a church school that lays claims to “professional and supportive staff and a warm, caring and friendly atmosphere“. Perhaps the excuse is that Dr Selwood died during the holidays and no one knew. Questionable, because staff attended. Luce Veritatis – By the light of truth. Perhaps the truth of the matter is more something teachers everywhere are familiar with – there are few things more damning than a guilty silence.

Your hair.

It’s been a busy old few days recently – more about that soon. Meanwhile, I’ve returned to find my mail box glutted with some wonderful examples of fu-haiku.

Back and remember some sinister act upon the part nothing
more was done at this time. Throughout soon! Amen! Said
belle solemnly. The daily friction fuming. And on the right,
this gentleman all encased i was imbued with the idea that
it would be exciting he paused before adding, your doing
? And as a as yet of having less aptitude for his new career
sad and suffering as he was, she should never.

I defy you to say that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye – the depth, the meaning, the counterpoint of nuance, and some wankerish link to a Chinese domain name – yeah, right, as if I’m clicking there… especially when there’s another fu-haiku…

Your hair. I assure you that it has not detracted tribes
mentioned at teatime. Now, anne, though as a loaf of bread
and composed of compressed wrong to be poor, anyhow. Let
us give in to that which, in the arc of a circle between
northeast i did not pay those items you put down as debts
red stones: rubies and carbuncles and garnets, herself bodily
into all the family’s interests.

Could this be better? I think not. I love the Edgar Allan Poe reference in the stunning line, ‘Your hair.’ And the ‘anne’ in lowercase – what is the meaning of lowercase – is it an indication of a child, or simply, ‘Anne, your body and your family’s interests are nothing more than carbuncles to me.’

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

size matters

HD - the snapshotEver had that bloated feeling? Bloat – it even sounds unpleasant. As a farm kid I remember Spring and the start of the bloat season and my parents would talk about how the herd would be managed to avoid our cows falling with the condition. Essentially what happens is the cows, tired of eating hay through the winter, gorge on the lank, wet, Spring growth. Too much liquid, not enough fibre. The results are unpleasant at best, fatal at the (likely) worst. And you thought YOU had problems with gas.

Late last week I was speaking to learning of educators (what is the collective noun for educators?) and I mentioned the joys of PortableApps – portable applications. I cruised off to check out what new applications were available, or, more to the point, how my life has changed that ‘new’ applications are suddenly useful and/or interesting. I found WinDirStat – the disk usage analyser/cleanup tool. Available. For free. Liking that a lot.

Generally I’m not all that crash hot on a list of files and stats, but I can read pictures very well. Above is a ‘before’ snapshot of my hard drive, even as I write this. It won’t be like that for much longer, as the big red, blue, and green squares will be backed-up and removed shortly. They’re video files. Stuff I’d been working on, and simply forgot to remove. Gigabytes of space tied up. And here was I thinking it was the photos that were the space hogs on my laptop. The photos do take up space – they’re the turquoise mosaics half way down on the left hand side. The great thing about the software is I would’ve spent a lot of time sorting the photos, whereas the real issues – the videos – I’d forgotten about and simple would’ve ignored.

Right. Off to do some spring cleaning, hopefully the results will smell rather less than a cow with bloat…
HD-L8R…later that same day, the ‘after’ snapshot. I’ve dealt to the larger video files (I had no idea there were so many), and generally done a major tidy up, but no defrag as yet. The two turquoise rectangles (bottom left) are the pagefile.sys files – the swap space/virtual memory – in the above (the before) picture the same files show in the bottom right hand corner in, er, buttock pink. The peas and carrots in the top left are the Adobe Premier files – video samples, working files etc. The gold zone on the right hand side are the photos and video files of the family. My hard drive has gone from 6gb free space to 40gb free space. Hmmm, about enough space to edit video…

joy to the world

For a number of reasons, the last few weeks have been chaotic. We’re busy and trying to get things done – and life sometimes attacks all at once. In the middle of all of this my Aunty Joy slipped away. She’d been unwell for a long time and I’m sure in the heart of the grief there was release for everyone as well. The last time I saw Aunty Joy she was as I have ever known her. She always wore her hair in a plait over the top of her head – a bit like a halo I guess. Loud, sharp, loving, believing, welcoming, laughing, fearless – look you straight in the eye stuff. Wonderful.

When we were kids we used to absolutely live for the family assaults on the drains on my Grandparent’s farm. The drains were home to the native freshwater lobster – koura – ‘crawlies’ we called them. Aunty Joy would be front and centre, in the drains and grabbing the crawlies with her bare hands, and flipping them into the kerosene tins we used as buckets. Bare hands. I still have a thing about dealing with crawlies with a net let alone my bare hands. I know, I know, harden up. We’d cook the crawlies, peel the now red shells off, and enjoy the succulent flesh with fresh brown bread and butter. I can remember the absolute pleasure Joy took in the simple (but fabulous) food.

Later in life there would’ve been a good chance engaging with the police if I’d had another of Joy’s measures of gin. Great gins and tonics, ice, fresh lemons. But heavens, the generous measures had to be carefully managed if you were planning to drive at some stage.

Aunty Joy was part of my learning to drive. She took on the responsibility of caring for my Bedstafar after Bedstamor died. We used to drive down to visit them and I did thousands of kilometers of highway driving before I got anywhere near a driving test. As a result, when I got to the test stage it was literally ‘drive around the block, hmmm, I can see you’ve done this before, here’s the licence’.

Aunty Joy worked a friesian cow farm, and as a kid I spent time with her and her family as they exhibited their prize winning cows. I found it all kind of strange as we had never exhibited/contested with our cows (I was a seriously city kid by then too). I can remember feeling that our cows were kind of like family, and you don’t go showing your family like that. Well, I know, some families do; but we didn’t. I learned some things about judging cows, however, I was to blow any credibility in this respect with Aunty Joy later when I dared enquire about getting the wonderful black and white hides for floor mats – a kind of kiwi zebra skin mat. Looking back I don’t know what I was thinking – perhaps it was the gin.

Last week there was a major power cut here in Wellington – even the Beehive had its electricity nipped. I thought at the time as I scampered down the endless flights of stairs to get out of my building, probably Joy getting a last statement. She’d have laughed loudly at the pricking of the balloons of stuck-up politicians and inflated bureaucrats. I can remember the intense arguments over politics at pretty much any family gathering. Oh boy. Head for the hills. Aunty Joy had an opinion and had absolutely no compunction in articulating it clearly and loudly. She was of the generation of Sonja Davies – Bread and Roses, and the Labour Party could not have lost a more staunch and consistent member. I believe Aunty Joy genuinely saw the Party as a champion for the rights of people – workers – the common kiwi. She certainly had the heart and strength for it and if every person was as staunch in these things we’d have a rather different distribution of resources in New Zealand.

Finally, for this commentary, mention of Aunty Joy cannot go by without her faith in action. I’ve mentioned her Labour Party affiliation, however Aunty Joy welcomed people, young people in particular, into her heart and home. I’m willing to bet that at her funeral there’d be more than a few people who’d been supported in their youth by words and deeds from Aunty Joy. Pivotal to Aunty Joy was her strong faith – her engagement with the Lutheran Church community in Palmerston North will be missed – truly the passing of a legend. I was unable to attend her funeral. I can imagine it though – in my mind I can hear (and she would’ve loved) the old Lutheran hymnsWhat a friend we have in Jesus and the like. Her passing has left a much bigger gap in my heart than I would ever have guessed, and yet I’m glad too. Last night when I was listening to a cd and heard a rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World‘ – it’s kind of our family’s theme at these times – I felt sure Aunty Joy was reunited with her Arthur, and all was as it should be.

write on

How to take a trip and never have to leave the farm. Dates me – and possibly you too, if you remember the Jim Stafford song about the Wildwood Weed. No, I haven’t been exploring the apparent joys of having a sack of seeds, or buds (now just stop that, you rascals), instead I have been offline, reading and writing up the first draft of my study proposal. It feels not too bad, however I’m torn between thinking I haven’t done enough (seven pages) while think I’ve done too much (two pages was the request). But what to cut out? And will that damage my chances? Is too much likely to damage my chances?

It’s giving me the freak out, no doubt. I think I might compromise and trim down the seven pages to two pages of elegant simplicity, and then send both documents. Or maybe, attach the rest as an appendix. Or do more research and expand it out to – say – a succinct 20 (or so) pages. I believe Einstein’s doctoral thesis was about a dozen pages, pretty much based on what happens in a cup of very hot tea. S’true.

the one song…

This is the one song I think anyone, perhaps even me, could sing in karaoke. But strangely (perhaps luckily) I don’t think I have ever heard it – karaoke-wise, I mean. Go-warn, you know you wanna; sing along to perhaps the best Stones sing along song ever…

the prodigal son…

I am in the process of negotiating for some further study. It’s a bit of scary process – getting started in study again will mean changes about how I spend my money, my time, and perhaps most fundamental of all, the study will – as ever before – change the way I think, forever. That can be both liberating and frightening at the same time. Overwhelming even. Whenever I mention undertaking more study, friends and family always ask me, ‘Why?’, and ‘When are you going to finish studying?’. People used ask me when was I going to grow up. The answer, of course, is: NEVER!!!

I digress. Walking down Lambton Quay in the sun at lunchtime today, I was thinking about the biblical story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). I remembered a key concept was that the prodigal son went off to some interesting foreign parts and squandered his inheritance. His snipe-y brother stayed home, and well, I guess, didn’t get his inheritance until later.

I started to wonder about nature of the inheritance (and the squandering of it). It occurred to me that the prodigal son actually took his share of the inheritance, and invested it in education. Sure, being hungry enough that pig swill seems attractive isn’t the easiest lesson, but it probably leads to a thoroughly unforgettable education nevertheless. I bet it changed how he spent his money, his time, and perhaps most fundamental of all, changed the way he thought, forever. His older brother, peeved at the welcome his father put on for the graduate, missed the point entirely.

So, here I am, with further study in my sights. What is my inheritance, and how and what exactly am I going to squander? It occurred to me that the one inheritance I do have is my collected culture – values, attitudes, knowledge, and stories unique to me, passed on from my parents. I have the intellectual abilities and genetic inheritance, courtesy of countless generations of ancestors who didn’t expect me to show up in some unimaginable future, but I like to think they selected mates with the pragmatic intention of producing the best, next, generation. I guess there might’ve been some ‘whoa, look at that hottie’ thrown in as well.

And this is my best reason for studying. No, not the hottie, but because I can. Because I have to. Because if I don’t I’d be like the prodigal’s snipe-y brother – I’d be squandering my inheritance if I didn’t study. All the efforts, the sacrifices, the pain, the adventures, the happiness, sadness, decisions good and bad – the sum of everything that my ancestors have done to put me here would be in vain. Standing on the shoulders of my ancestors, I have to study. Have to. Because I can, therefore I should. I must.

No pressure. None at all.