Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fireside musings

While we were toasting marshmallows last night we were chatting about various aspects of ritual and symbolism, and a theory about how they work presented itself.

Some of the stuff on how brains work that we covered in the last philosophy course I did was very interesting. In split brain patients (where the corpus callosum is severed to alleviate severe epilepsy), the left and right hemispheres of the brain have only miniscule connectivity, so the left hand literally doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Or more relevantly, the left brain doesn't know what the left hand (or eye) is doing. Since the left brain is the centre of language and at least some forms of consciousness, things that happen in the right brain can only be communicated indirectly, like by letting the left hand draw, sort of on its own accord. What the course failed to highlight, though, was that there must be some communication in order for the researcher's request for the left hand to draw to get through.

There is obviously lots going on in parts of our brains that we are not conscious of, and lots of them influence our behaviour (I'm thinking phobias, addictions etc). I am wondering if the symbolism of ritual helps to provide communication between language-based, conscious bits of the brain and other bits. I think perhaps that ritual helps to communicate our conscious intentions to the less connected bits of our brains.

And I suspect that this is why some traditions resonate with some people more than others. I am quite attracted to Wiccan-type traditions, not because I actually believe in the Sun King or other things, but because I find the symbolism resonates well with me, and the meditation-type exercises help and work for me. On the other hand, I really, really like the message of Buddhism, but cannot manage Buddhist meditation. I just can't do it.

I also wonder if maybe the Buddhist approach actually helps form new connections in the brain, rather than finding an external route with visualisations and ritual behaviour. Which possibly means my brain is not too plastic. :)

Judao-Christian symbolism doesn't do much for me, but it obviously works for lots of people. I wonder what influences what symbolism works and what doesn't for any given person. Maybe all that stuff I read in primary school and junior high school about witchcraft and the occult set me up for life...

It's a little odd that the belief system that I like doesn't work in a practical sense for me. I wonder if other people have any similar sorts of experience.

Farewell Jane McGrath

I'm very sad to hear that Jane McGrath has died at 42. Obviously I only know her story because she was married to a sporting hero, but I loved their interview on Denton. It was Jane who was interesting and engaging. After that interview I stopped thinking of her as another of the blonde cricket wives, and I'm always a sucker for a celebrity who uses their power for good.

To quote the boys' constant refrain, "It's not FAIR". Little kids shouldn't lose their mum. Nor should a man lose the woman he so clearly adores. I know it happens all the time everywhere, it doesn't make it any less sad when it happens to someone I know, even if only through Andrew Denton. Sometimes life sucks.

It's all about the teeth

Ben lost his first tooth on Friday. He was so excited he took it to school (without my knowledge). The teachers spotted the tooth, and it came home sticky taped to this card.

He wasn't ready to relinquish it to the tooth fairy on Friday night, but last night he decided the lure of the coin was greater than his obsession with the tooth itself. So the tooth fairy left him a dollar coin taped where the tooth had been.

Elissa, on the other hand, has cut a second tooth, and seems to have a bit of a bulge on the top gum too.

I thoroughly enjoyed our fire last night. We drank a very nice sparkling merlot, toasted marshmallows and threw some bad habits into the fire. Note that we didn't throw wine drinking into the fire. That isn't a bad habit, it's an indulgence. Quite different you understand.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

I was too dumb for the other one

I looked at Jay's and Mim's Book Quiz results, so of course I did it. I did it twice, changing one of my answers the second time because I couldn't make up my mind what the answer was the first time. Both times I failed to understand the result or how it connected to my answers. So I went and found another quiz.

You're the University of California, Berkeley!

A true hippy, you really wish you could spend the rest of your life in the 1960's. It's not that you haven't been able to settle down and be quite successful, but you yearn for the days of agitation and revolution. You're fond of the old comic Bloom County, as well as the more recent Outland. The rest of your life looks like a struggle between your prestige and your radical nature. You really like those cheap Sathers candies.

Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Still don't understand it, but somehow I could relate more to this. I don't know how much of a hippy I am, but I'm pretty sure I am not Lolita....

I'm raising a future ambassador

At the dinner table tonight:

[Distinct sound of someone breaking wind]

Charlie: Pardon me

[brief pause]

Charlie: What's that smell?

Me: Well, you really shouldn't do that at the table.

Charlie: [Condescending expression] My fart isn't on the table!

Oh the joy of the very nearly three year old.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Surprising wine of the week

Some time around 1995-ish, I succumbed to one of those blatant marketing schemes that does wine tastings in your home. Tupperware for drunks. And I bought a 1992 German Riesling. No doubt among other terrible things. The thing is, though, I never drank it. This evening, Crash went looking for wine what needs drinking and found it among the flotsam and jetsam. We chilled it without much hope. Opened it with even less - the cork looked seriously dodgy. And we poured out glasses that looked disturbingly similar to the blood being plastered all over the screen while we watched a dubious vampire movie*.

Can I tell you this was the best dessert wine I have ever had. Toasty, rich, honey, melon - frankly as many wanky terms as you like, but seriously bloody good. It is a Dr Zenzen (sounds like a great pedigree huh?) 1992 Alzeyer Pfaffenhalde Liegerrebe. Someone may be able to tell me something about this (Ingrid perhaps?). It might be crap when bottled, or I may have jagged a good thing. But wow did it age well. So if you see a bottle of it hanging around a bottle shop, grab it, really. Seriously good.

* Why does blogspot not know the word movie? It keeps giving me a spelling error

We have a tooth!

I have been just a tad busy, so I never got around to writing the "Thank God for Bonjela" post I kept composing over and over. But as of yesterday it is no longer necessary, as the the little biter made its appearance. So we have a brief interval with a happy baby once again.

I keep forgetting what a lovely baby she is when is not in any pain or discomfort. She plays on the floor for an hour or more. She smiles and laughs and eats and eats and eats. Unfortunately any discomfort at all tips her into unput-downable, whingy, difficult baby.

Also this week:

We started day care since my sister moved on to greener pastures (by means of going back to the same company she left to work for us in the first place). The first day was Tuesday, when I had a 3500 word philosophy essay due in. I dropped them off at 8:30am, and at 10:30am the carer rang me and told me she was too sick to continue the day. *sigh* So I went back to pick them up (another near tantrum, because we need to have a tantrum when being dropped off and picked up). Thursday and Friday went better, whole days, semi-reasonable amounts of sleep. Pretty happy kids. The carer is lovely and Charlie likes her.

The essay did get completed, and I can kiss philosophy goodbye. It's not that I stopped enjoying it, it's mostly that I stopped being convinced by it. The essay I wrote was on the question "Are there really selves?". My answer was "Yes, for appropriate values of really and selves." And then about 3500 words supporting that statement. I just can't help feeling that while it makes interesting pub conversation, it really is just people contemplating their navels waiting for science to answer their questions. And they take it all so seriously, and expect me to believe what they tell me. So I start psychology next semester.

And finally, perhaps the most exciting news, I am no longer a cow! Elissa took a whole bottle Wednesday evening, and so I gave her one Thursday morning and there hasn't been a breastfeed since. Oh joy. Oh bliss. The boobs have not yet returned to normal. They are still sore, but at least the end is in sight. I get my body back for good! Thursday night I celebrated by working until 8pm and then going to a Tupperware party. Sounds riveting, but was actually liberating and the party was fun and wine-filled. I managed to escape having only spent about $100. I fell into bed at 1am.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Being popular is the most important thing in the world

So said Homer Simpson, and of course no one really believes that. I know that even though it seems very important at the time, being popular doesn't really matter in the long run. We've heard plenty of successful people and beautiful people tell how they were excluded and unpopular at school.

So why is that I have been able to hold my children down while they were screaming so that they can receive the medical attention they need without my emotions overriding my rational understanding of the fact that they were not in harm's way, even if they were genuinely terrified, however, my heart broke when my eldest said "I wasn't sitting with anyone."?

Last night he attended a pizza and pyjama night at school.* It ended in tragedy, for which I have to take some of the responsibility. The down side of having your kids in bed by 7:30pm (reading til 8 now) is that they don't handle late nights well. He was utterly exhausted when I picked him up at 9pm and tears were flooding down his cheeks. He had lost his Ben 10 watch which he had carefully made from paper during the afternoon, and his best friend had moved away from him half way through the night. He hadn't enjoyed the movies (people had been trying to kill each other apparently, but I don't know how much I trust his reports). And when I asked him who he was sitting next to after his friend moved away, he sobbed "I wasn't sitting next to anyone."

It was almost as bad as waiting for Charlie to come out of surgery, and worse than leaving him in the operating theatre. Apparently no amount of logic can override my deep seated fear of not being liked, and my projection of that fear onto my children. This has rather taken me by surprise. I didn't think that the "popularity is not important" thing was something I only paid lip service to.

I can only hope that I managed to keep my voice light and not pass on my neurosis. Today he is feeling better about the whole thing - it was the lack of sleep talking mostly. I knew that at the time, but it didn't stop that gut wrenching agony of rejection.

* The teachers of the school volunteer to look after all of the currently attending children as well as all of their siblings over the age of 3 on a Saturday night from 5 - 9pm. The proceeds go to the P&C. They do this twice a year. Whatever else I may feel about the principal, her dedication cannot be questioned.