science

October 2016 – Update

The last time I shared anything on my WordPress blog was in August 2016. Scheduled art posts aside, I can’t believe it’s been that long. As I mentioned then, we were evicted from our house. I don’t know what the rental laws are like in other parts of the world – I’ve heard that parts of Europe tends to be a lot more protective of tenants’ rights – but here in Victoria, Australia, they’re pretty awful. It was only in the last couple of months that the Victorian Supreme Court made the decision that properties must be maintained in a liveable condition. That’s right, up until very recently, landlords were allowed to rent dangerous, derelict properties to tenants. It took a woman from a low socio-economic bracket and her Legal Aid lawyer (Legal Aid being a free legal service for poor people who need access to assistance) to fight the monster that is rental laws in our state, and I thank God for her willingness to take this fight to the highest levels. Someone had to.

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Books: Laudato Si’

At some previous point I already noted that I read Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si’: On care for our common home. It is available for download at the Vatican website (see HERE for the text, PDF and other language versions).

I haven’t really got the words to fully do it justice. It is an appeal to all people – not just Catholics – to reflect on our relationship with the Earth, nature and cosmos. To consider how our actions of consumption, greed, control, and for many Christians, a theology of Dominion, deplete and damage the world of which we are a part. And that it is the poorest of the poor who experience the worst effects of environmental degradation. This Papal encyclical is a God-send for me, as a person of faith with a university degree in Environmental Sociology, and who tries to live a minimalist lifestyle (somewhat unsuccessfully) and who makes an ethical and ecologically-conscious choice to live on a plant-based, wholefoods diet (“diet” in the sense of a lifestyle of healthy eating, as opposed to a temporary fad to effect extreme weight loss), and who is deeply concerned with the sociological impact of theological perspectives on ecological conditions.

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New drawing: UFO with whimsical landscape and night sky

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Here is one of my recent drawings, now available for sale on stickers, notebook covers, t-shirts, art prints, post cards and more at my RedBubble portfolio. (If you buy it, there won’t be an obnoxious blue copyright watermark.)

The original illustration is one of several UFO and alien-themed illustrations and paintings I’ve made over the summer (December to February in my end of the world).

This one was drawn by hand using ink fineliners on A3 paper.

UFOs are one of my perennial drawing and writing themes. Ever since the day I discovered the section on the uncanny in my high school library (a sunny winter’s day, circa 1994, with the books on Atlantis and Bermuda Triangle located by the window with some couches) it was as if the universe expanded. In the face of an awe-inspiring, massive universe, human concerns like war, violence, political borders and greed seem so small and petty. Look at the vast expanses out there, the further we look we find more to admire, we find more questions, we find incredibly complex and beautiful structures… It makes me think of the lyrics from Tool’s song ‘Right in Two’ from the 2006 album 10,000 Days:

“Monkey killing monkey killing monkey.
Over pieces of the ground.
Silly monkeys give them thumbs.
They make a club.
And beat their brother, down.
How they survive so misguided is a mystery.
Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here.”

Whether or not there are extra-terrestrial beings out there is a topic on which I’m a happy fence-sitter. I desperately wish Star Wars and Star Trek represented a genuine reality. I have pored over all kinds of alien books over the years, from the terrifying Whitley Striber’s Communion to Gary Bates’s Alien Intrusion – a fascinating exploration of a Creationist Christian approach to alien abductions that envisages them as manifestations of ancient Biblical demons, and again, I’m not going to posit my own personal view on that (I don’t identify as a Creationist but know many people who do and I’m not interested in ridiculing or attacking people who hold to a different origins story). One of my most-consulted reference books is the Reader’s Digest Almanac of the Uncanny, a wonderfully inspiring illustrated chronology of human beliefs, superstitions and interpretations of the metaphysical realm. I have also seen unexplained lights in the sky (okay, in retrospect they were probably easily explainable, but at the time I was convinced I’d seen something uncanny), and I come from a part of the world where it was fairly common to encounter people who had a tale of UFOs or demonic manifestations. So, who knows? I’m happy to stay open-minded, as well as keep a little skeptical distance… and I try to be reflexive about the fact that my desire for UFOs to represent a real manifestation of other worlds within our universe mustn’t override my capacity to reason through it.

 

What I’ve Been Reading Online

Taking a mental break from NaNoWriMo

AUSTRALIAN CULTURE

  • These women had every right to be safe.’ – Short obituaries to some of the many Australian women murdered by their partners in 2015. Destroy The Joint keeps a tally on the violent deaths of women in Australia. It’s horrendously sad and, as an Aussie woman, bloody terrifying. If it were a virus killing off Australians at a rate of 1 or 2 every week there’d surely be money spent on research to combat it.

SCIENCE AND FAITH

  • A seminary student visits the Creation Museum. – I found this interesting for a variety of reasons. I am grateful for people who take the time to question the opinions of young earth creationism (YEC), not because they’re picking a fight (I hate conflict…) but because they’re raising really important questions. After I got married to a former-YEC true believer I was strongly discouraged from following my personal interests in science – particularly my fascination with astronomy and the evolution of dinosaurs – because it conflicted with his and his family’s views on Genesis. Fifteen years later I find myself trying to re-learn science, and deconstruct the worldview that so heavily influenced my understanding of science for a decade. This Petto and Godfrey book was a great overview of the issues involved and I found it really helpful.

RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

POSITIVE BITS ON RELIGION (Trying to balance it out because I don’t want this to always be a negative, angsty blog.)

  • The World Community for Christian Meditation – How grateful I am for encountering contemplative Christianity. What a lifesaver for my faith that has become.
  • I love this quote from Pope Francis: “The disease of a lugubrious face. Those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious
    we have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others – especially those we consider our inferiors – with rigour, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident!” – I have brought these words to mind several times since I read them. I must meditate on them more deeply.

ART

NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 2

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Nanowrimo - Screenshot - I like the new range of badges. The caffeine abuse and procrastination badges are particularly apt for me.

Nanowrimo – Screenshot – I like the new range of badges. The caffeine abuse and procrastination badges are particularly apt for me.

The kids are home from school today for the Melbourne Cup public holiday and it’s virtually impossible to write when there’s the standard adolescent war over homework versus video games. Being a strict and therefore mean parent, my rule – that a homework assignment due in less than 24 hours takes precedence over Minecraft – seems to have generated more than its fair share of tension in the household. As a result, my creative energy is in hiding. I’m using the time to catch up on the third module in the Open2Study Astronomy course, which is absolutely fascinating. I often lament that my mathematics skills weren’t good enough for me to follow the physics and astronomy route in my studies.

The good news is that I’m already well above par in the Nanowrimo word count stakes and even if I didn’t write a single word for a couple of days I would not fall behind. However, that said, I’m enjoying my story thus far and want to know what happens next.

Current word count: 7270/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: a horrendous series of bluegrass-style banjo covers of pop songs that my husband found on Spotify.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

For the first time in my Nanowrimo history I have started out with a well-above expected word count and I can’t really account for it, except for the fact that I am enjoying writing my story. Oh, I know that the writing is not my best quality. I wish it had something more timelessly poetic about it. At this stage it’s still a bit on the thin side. It’s more plot and dialogue than well-developed scenery. I am conscious that while my mind vividly imagines the landscapes and buildings and spaces in my story, my writing does not yet adequately convey this information. However, I take it as a positive thing because the story itself wants to be told. Developing and enriching the language in it is a second-draft task.

In 2014 I was a “Pantser,” in Nanowrimo terms: I largely made it up as a stream of consciousness story. I had a couple of vague ideas but when I started I really made it up as I went along. It was not a great story. It was hard to want to write it. I didn’t like it. In some ways it felt l had used up all of my good writing ideas in Nano 2013. But my Nano 2015 story is one that I’ve wanted to write for several years; I just never felt that I had the ability to do it justice.

Sometimes I wonder if it might be better as a short story than a short novel, but as I write it in all its superfluous detail, I find myself honing in on the parts that actually matter.

The story I’m writing was, like so many of my writing ideas, originally derived from some of my vivid dreams / nightmares. Some specific scenery came from those dreams and eventually, as I linked them in my mind, I found a fantasy story hiding in there.

In my story the main character, a woman named Zaira, is a low-level hermit within a religious system. The Order holds incredible political and cultural influence and while in its earliest times it existed to support humans with supernatural abilities, over the millennia it has become so deeply entrenched in political systems that it forgets where it began. In that system, where once every three centuries they are required to select a worthy King and Queen to rule the people as a kind of social reset button, Zaira is called up to fulfil the role of Queen. The story begins with her receiving this mandate from her superiors, and it follows her journey as she unwillingly acquiesces to the leaders and finds within it a chance to fulfil her own personal ambitions. There is a lot more to it than that but at this stage I’m not sure if I will write enough during Nanowrimo to enter the “book 2” stage, as I’ve listed it on my Scrivener layouts.

Current word count: 9,129 words

Today’s writing soundtrack: Manala by Korpiklaani