Month: July 2015

Hello, new followers + Why I don’t usually have comments open on this blog

G’day!

I noticed that there are several new followers on my blog this fortnight – welcome, and thank you! I appreciate every follow. For new and longer-term followers alike, I’d love to hear from you. Please jump over to my blog GUESTBOOK to say hello.

A few of you have communicated to me that you noticed I don’t have comments open on most of my posts. That’s right! After being a Geocities webmistress and then a Blogger since 2001 I have been visited by just about every kind of Internet troll I can imagine (and I refuse to imagine any worse).

I’ve received those horrendously long Bible bashing comments written in all capital letters that are copy/pasted onto every recent post. I’ve had angry Christian men from the opposite side of the planet comment about how my biological gender renders me a lesser being in God’s sight and therefore I ought not to write as if I am, like them, human (if they were being consistently logical they ought to address these concerns to my husband, rather than assuming that they could reason with me). I’ve had angry and lengthy Atheist comments about how, well, I’m not an Atheist (I am not unsympathetic to Atheism and Agnositicism and agree with many critical observations about the problems with organised religion, so please know I am not interested in being antagonistic towards my nonreligious friends and acquaintances). Please be clear that Christians, Atheists and Agnostics alike, and other worldview groups too, are welcome.

And depending on which parts of my blog you’re reading all that talk of religion might be entirely irrelevant. For example, I also sometimes blog about music, so in that vein while I am a lover of heavy music, I would like metal heads of all genre-preferences to know they’re welcome and that I’m not interested in the “whose genre is best?” debates.

And honestly, I am tired of the nasty discussion threads – I imagine many of us Internet users are. What could be a beautiful and helpful tool for unifying humanity, dispersing knowledge and diversifying our understanding, too often becomes a series of ideological trenches where angry commenters pop out to shoot at each other because, well, we’re different. Fearful of The Other. My concern is that the Internet appears to have the effect of causing us to fall further into our fear-driven divisions. I don’t want to add to that negative culture. So while I welcome positive and constructive dialogue with my regular readers, I no longer have the time nor the interest to devote to curating and moderating the comments section so that it is a safe space for readers.

In addition, there are several freely available blogging websites, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to copy/paste lengthy comments to other people’s blogs, please consider starting your own blog! It’ll be far more satisfying and you’ll be able to say whatever you want and the people who read it will have done so voluntarily.

On that note, as far as the GUESTBOOK goes, please keep it positive. I welcome readers from all ethnic, national and religious backgrounds.

Please also note that this blog is written from an Australian perspective – so if I’ve written an Aussie-ism and it’s not clear to you what it means, feel free to ask.

For example: I saw a huge comment thread debate on the National Geographic Instagram today about the meaning of “zebra crossing,” a term familiar to many English speaking nations as referring to a black-and-white striped type of pedestrian crossing usually without traffic lights, which had been misunderstood by several readers as being a racist statement. If you’re uncertain, sometimes it’s better to ask than assuming the worst!

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Scenes from this year’s reading pile: Anne Rice and Lovecraft

 

 

You don’t have to spend much time with me before I’m quoting one of my all-time favourite authors Anne Rice at you. Now, I will up front admit that I don’t find all of her books to my taste, but that’s fine – she’s just such a diverse writer that her work can appeal to so many different readers. I recently went through a huge decluttering process with my excessively large book collection and am now pleased to say I have more shelf room for my Anne Rice books. Somehow H. P. Lovecraft snuck his way onto the shelf, too. While I was aware of Lovecraftian themes for years, it wasn’t until last year that I decided to explore his universe of non-Euclidean geometric forms entering physical spaces, octopus gods, and strange happenings in backwater American villages. It made me wonder why I took so long to read him!

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Sometimes my favourite thing to do on a cold, rainy day is snuggle up with an Anne Rice novel, a cat and a hot water bottle and start following the crazy immortal adventures of the wild rock star-esque vampire Lestat. My cat Riker very nearly ended up being called Lestat, until we quickly determined it didn’t suit his personality in the slightest!

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Oh, beautiful Prince Lestat is a masterpiece. I borrowed it from the library and finished it within a few days. But despite the book being nearly 500 pages, I lamented that it was simply too short. The complex storylines in the previous novels in the Vampire Chronicles series, which began in 1976 with the novel Interview With the Vampire, finds a lot of much-needed closure (from this fan’s perspective) in 2014’s Prince Lestat. I am a huge admirer of Anne Rice’s incredible mind, her compassion for people, and her excellent writing. Her Christ the Lord novels were spectacular works, and I highly recommend them as a starting point for people who don’t like vampires, witches or werewolves.

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Bioregional Quiz and Lots and Lots of Links

I have been following this interesting blog for a short while now, it’s called “Under the Pecan Leaves”. Two posts I read there today particularly grabbed my attention.

Firstly, this post about the ways information about the ecological issues facing bees is disseminated through popular culture: https://mylandrestorationproject.wordpress.com/. It is a really insightful read and I found it very thought-provoking.

Secondly, this post about knowing your local environmental conditions: https://mylandrestorationproject.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/bioregional-quiz/

I decided to give the quiz a try, and will share my answers below. The image used below is from this post. I do not know the writer of the blog, nor have I dialogued with them, but I have enjoyed reading their posts and have learned a lot from their blog.

Bioregional Quiz

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Image from mylandrestorationproject.wordpress.com.

  1. I live in south-eastern Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, Australia, which has a massive and complex water catchment system that largely relies on nature’s own filtration to treat the water. The water in our part of Melbourne comes from Cardinia Reservoir, just 15 km from our suburb. (References: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/cardinia-reservoir-parks and http://www.melbournewater.com.au/whatwedo/supply-water/reservoirs/Pages/water-storage-reservoirs.aspx)
  2. The Moon is in its First Quarter (Waxing Gibbous). (Reference: http://museumvictoria.com.au/planetarium/discoverycentre/moon-phases/moon-phases-2015/)
  3. Total rainfall in 2014 according to the closest weather station to our suburb: 683.4 mm (Reference: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/index.shtml)
  4. Two edible native plants of our region* – in this case, the state of Victoria, in south-east Australia: 1. Golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) gum infused into water to make a sweet drink; 2. Native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius). *Please note, these are not commonly eaten, and the information is based on traditional Indigenous knowledge of edible plants in Victoria. Generally speaking, you won’t just stroll up to the grocery store and find many foods based on Indigenous plants. (Reference: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/wildlife/downloads/Aboriginal-plant-use-list.pdf; further reading: http://www.aboriginalculture.com.au/index.shtml and http://www.indigenousaustralia.info/food.html. WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that these websites may contain images and voices of deceased persons.)
  5. Two native grasses of our region: Purple Sheath Tussock Grass (Poa ensiformus) and Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia sp). (Reference: http://www.knox.vic.gov.au/Files/Environment/Indigenous_Plant_inserts_2012.pdf)
  6. From what direction do winter storms normally come in your area? They come from a roughly south-west direction. The wind seems to cut straight across the Antarctic and into our homes. A recent news report (June 2015) noted that Australian homes are poorly designed and don’t take into account the severity of the cold weather, particularly in the southern states. While the image people have of Australia is often that of an incredibly hot, dry country (and most of it is), the majority of the population lives in wetter, coastal areas. (References: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/australian-houses-are-just-glorified-tents-in-winter-20150610-ghj2ox.html and http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/melbourne-weather-first-winter-blast-hits-victoria-20150512-ggzjv4.html)
  7. Where does rubbish go? That’s a little trickier to find out because the various shire and city councils have different answers to that question. Based on my understanding of this particular region of Melbourne: our waste is collected weekly. We have three different types of bins: household rubbish, ‘green waste’, and recycling. Green waste is for plant materials – pruned branches, lawn clippings, weeds. Recycling covers all papers and most common types of plastics. There is a special hazardous waste collection for poisons, paints, batteries and similar. We also have “hard waste,” where large household items, like furniture, appliances and bicycles are collected for recycling. Several charities collect mobile phones for recycling. We even have charities that collect old eyeglasses for recycling. Once the rubbish reaches the various transfer stations (aka “rubbish tip”) it is further sorted. Our local council also conducts random audits of people’s bins to check whether people are sorting their rubbish correctly. And the local council strongly encourages home composting.
  8. How long is the growing season? Basically it’s all year around, as I understand it. In particularly hot summers there may be a few weeks where it is too hot to plant – and also too hot to function, like that time we had four days of 41 °C (105.8°F) in Melbourne in January 2014. (References: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/vic/melbourne.shtml and http://www.vicfarmersmarkets.org.au/content/whats-season)
  9. Deer / ungulates: basically, apart from semi-wild escapees from farms, ungulates are not a part of the Australian landscape. We have kangaroos, wombats, koalas, echidnas, possums, myriad bird species, and platypuses. But no native deer. (Further reading: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2014/08/australias-animal-fauna-emblems)
  10. Birds: this question was a bit trickier. I am not sure what, if any, migratory birds live in this part of Australia. As for native birds, that’s a bit easier as we have so many different and colourful species here, including Magpie-larks (Grallina cyanoleuca), Magpies (Cracticus tibicen), Australian Ravens (Corvus coronoides), Crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans), Galahs (Eolophus roseicapillus), Noisy miners (Manorina melanocephala), Rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), and Sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita). (Reference: http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/. Further reading: https://www.listeningearth.com/LE/index.php and http://birdlife.org.au/)
  11. The primary geological event that appears to have shaped our region (Dandenong Ranges) was a volcanic eruption dated at 300 million years ago that resulted in the triangular or conical shape of the mountain that we see from our loungeroom window. My understanding is that a lot of Victoria originated through volcanic activity, and that is somehow related to a fault line that also causes the earthquakes we get around here – though I could be very wrong on that point. (References: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/313264/Dandenong-Ranges-National-Park-Management-Plan.pdf and http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/earthquakes-in-victoria-the-facts-20141204-1201sk.html)
  12. North is straight ahead of me!
  13. Spring wildflowers? I actually don’t know the answer to this, and I would have to hunt around for a while to find out. (Possible direction for further reading: http://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges/Things-to-do/Nature-and-wildlife/Parks-and-gardens)

This was an interesting exercise, trying to recall what I know and confirm it or adjust it in accordance with external sources. As I ponder the environment that we have here in Melbourne, and listen to the crazy winds blowing outside, what I can say is that this is a place of incredible variety. We have a saying in Melbourne: “If you don’t like the weather, go look out a different window.” The weather here can change in an instant (a quick Internet search for “Melbourne weather memes” highlights this pretty well).

All links accessed 30 July 2015.

Scenes from this year’s reading pile: Evolution versus Creation

 

On the evolution side: Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism edited by Petto and Godfrey.

On the Young Earth Creationist side: In Six Days edited by Ashton.

Not pictured: Intelligent Design by Dembski (I owned a copy that I read years ago, but it was the victim of a recent possession decluttering rampage).

Not represented: the myriad religious interpretations of the origin and development of life, including a whole lot of very diverse Christian approaches.

 

I will definitely and clearly state upfront that I am being an intentional fence sitter and won’t be proposing any personal beliefs on the One True And Correct Narrative On The Way The Universe Came Into Being. I have my own views, but I just can’t be bothered going down that fruitless and negative route attempting to explain it in a calm and reasonable fashion, offending just about everyone I know in the process. Some days I wish I could just say, well, maybe the Poetic Edda of the Ancient Norse peoples and their modern counterparts is the only true explanation of the universe, so in light of Ymir and his cow Auðumbla, who formed Búri while licking the ice, let’s stop all our bickering.

But as a bit of a challenge to myself I decided I would have some geeky fun and read some diametrically opposed books. Both are collections of essays written by highly educated scientists. Both are heavily referenced and ask some very interesting questions about life, the universe and everything. Both point the finger at the other to show how wrong the other side it. It really is fascinating. The Petto & Godfrey book is an excellent text, very thorough and accurate in its understanding of Creationist perspectives. The Ashton book is an interesting text that explores how scientists try to make sense of their field of research while rejecting materialist philosophy.

Because I know and care about people with strong feelings about the topic on both sides of this fence (not to mention a whole lot of in-between perspectives) I will avoid (for now) making any discussion of where my understanding lies. It’s a discussion I find is best had face-to-face. I long ago learned that social media doesn’t always provide the kindest environment in which to explore these concerns.

 

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