A Land Flowing with Honey and Diesel

November 28, 2007

Recollections of an attempt to seize raw honeycomb from a live hive, nestled out of the way in a willow tree.

A Land Flowing with Honey and Diesel
A Story by PickledEel

Norman Mailer and Bad Sex

November 28, 2007

Normal MailerI do like this piece of news. It tickles my irony bone. So to speak. On my shelves I have a select handful of books on writing ( I know, I need more). Perhaps the most useful in terms of unleashing my pen has been Stephen King’s On Writing, a surprisingly well written piece on writing. Bet he worked hard on that title. It’s one of those volumes that is read in a sitting but every couple of pages you are being struck by the “bleeding obvious”. Read more

Singapore Sign of Our Times

November 27, 2007

Notice anything odd about this sticker? It is the reverse (inside) view of a Singapore car registration sticker. Taken as we drove up the freeway when its message caught my eye. It is pretty nondescript actually and I paid it no attention for most of the trip. Read more

Snow Dump in New York

November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2003

We made it to the meeting this afternoon after scrubbing up and brushing the light dusting of snow out of our hair. But were feeling the cold. After slushing and sliding our way down through Manhattan we made it into the hospital and into the manager’s office. Read more

What are the Churches Not Doing?

November 25, 2007

I am no social commentator, not do I have aspirations to be one. But as a “member” occasionally things just leap out and slap you when they point at our society and highlight our shortcomings. In the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend there was an interesting article about a small company which has built its business around the cleanup required after a death (accidental or otherwise) or where a site is so filthy no regular cleaner will go near it. Council contracts for abandoned apartments and that sort of thing. They do a good job I am sure. But their observation about cleaning up the apartment of a derelict struck home. One of the cleaners said “…no one should live like that(in a “pigsty”) It is great to be able to help make his life a little better. Rightly or wrongly the reporter went on to say “This sort of work used to be done by charities or nuns or concerned people in the community. It is now done by cleaning contractors such as Gabby Simpson.”

Well I am not sure about you but it strikes me as a pretty sad state of affairs that our social safety net, our network of care, is reduced to not only contractors but to cleaning contractors!! Come on! Good on Gabby and her cleaning contractors for having the attitude they do. But shame on the rest of us for letting things get to a point where a reporter observes that in our community one of the key groups we expect to be best tuned into the needs of the poor and needy – the church – is not so tuned in. OK, there is a reasonable argument that plenty of churches are pulling their weight (here is one I know). But church or no church, our community is confronted by the fact that too many in our community live and die alone and none of us are aware until their lonely deaths hit the press – usually salaciously since some have rotted in situ for months and in one case for more than a year. Too many of these in Sydney these last couple of years. I sincerely hope we can do better than leaving these people up to our forensic cleaning contractors. Who incidentally, are usually on site when it is far too late!

Hidden Piper in Xian

November 24, 2007

It is a not uncommon cliche of those who observe China that these are a people comfortable being in close proximity with each other. They live right on top of each other and being comfortable around other human beings is something that is part of the their DNA it seems. Certainly they have a sense of personal space which is VERY different to our Australian culture, which likes to put wide open spaces between us, even between those who live in our capital cities. (Want to see a bunch of Australians at their most uncomfortable? Insist they crowd into an elevator or commuter train!)

But that does not mean the Chinese don’t appreciate their space. They seek it out in all sorts of ways and at different times of the day. In Xian I was in the habit of getting out as early as I sensibly could, to walk around the old Muslim quarter, eating their doughy breakfasts with them and wandering through Lianhu Park as they went through their exercise rituals. One morning I heard the clear, haunting sound of a flute carrying across the park and initially assumed it was being piped across a sound system. But as I walked around the lake I realised the sound was coming from a bushy knoll. When I climbed through the bushes and across a handful of rocks I found this flautist (I think that is what he is) playing his music. In his own space. A few like me had come to investigate the sound, and a couple sat and tapped along, keeping time with their feet. Everyone else ignored him and he had his own place and space in the middle of one of the most ancient and well lived-in cities on the planet. It was a magic time and place for me as well.

Here he is in the video, lost in his own music and creating a special place for the rest of us in the park and under the bushes on the knoll. At the end of the piece (I regret not filming more of it) he signed to me that the music was about a train – I fancy the sound of a horn can be heard in there somewhere. Travel in China is all about these special moments.

Drawing Attention to a Killer

November 23, 2007

Here is an interesting dilemma which I find rather intriguing. Take your spent fuel rods and bury them somewhere other than near the Hudson River. Then warn off the accidental and the curious who might want to dig the stuff up again – not a good idea if you are planning on dying in your sleep at a ripe old age. Here is the dilemma – what you write on the warning signs might be good for now. We all know the radioactive fan symbol and of what it warns. But what about this stuff that hangs around in lethal doses for ten thousand years. Those warning signs need to be legible AND understandable in ten thousand years as well. The text shown here tells the opening lines of the poem Beowolf. Believe it or not it is in English. The shift in language over 1000 years has been dramatic and few outside of Old English classes can read this text – not even I who spent three years studying the language. I am pretty rusty now. Look how many languages remained a mystery to us that were only 4,000 years old. Clearly warnings around radioactive waste need to have some ready currency in 10,000 years.

An interesting challenge that is actually being addressed by some of America’s scientists. They flag some scenarios that speak to human nature as much as anything else. So we put up warning signs, saying “don’t dig here, a horrible death awaits.” That did not deter those who dug around the tombs of ancient Egypt or of Persia. Indeed, the more vociferous the warning, the greater the attraction. An archaeologist in the year 9007, whose hair has not already naturally receded from his pate and fallen out his ears, might think that the urgent warnings are signs that he is on the cusp of a famous and wealthy find. After all there would be no immediate signs of ill health. One of the more interesting solutions is to seal and bury the stuff without any signs or warnings. If someone is smart enough to find, the hope is that perhaps they are smart enough to be carrying Geiger counters with them – not always a safe bet with boffins. Thinking practically that is.

The Economist carried this article on future proofing nuclear waste bunkers that caught my eye.

Lashes for Being Raped – Saudi Hypocrisy

November 21, 2007

There is a breathtaking hypocrisy in the news floating around overnight that a Saudi woman has been awarded 200 lashes and a prison sentence because she was in a car with a man who was not her relative. Apparently she was gang raped in that trip. The lads get off with a comparatively light sentence but as a victim she suffers this. It is of course her fault – if she was not a woman and not in the car then the men would not have been provoked into raping her!! The hypocrisy is even more breathtaking when in Riyadh you watch the boys picking up the girls at the shopping centre. In broad daylight. Or sit in certain hotel bars on Dubai Creek and watch the Saudi men march in (usually in pairs) and pick up their East European hookers. One (loose) rule for the men. Lots of rules for the women – which damn them for being women just to start with.

New York Blizzard

November 19, 2007

Yesterday afternoon I caught the Amtrack up from Philly. I planned on working but it was freezing outside and warm as toast inside. I think I only heard three bars of clickety clack music and I was asleep. I woke just as we arrived at Penn Station. I had an address for the hotel which I saw was in 7th Avenue. I counted the blocks and figured there was only a short distance to travel. I had a case for each hand, was wearing only a suit and business shirt and in the warmth bliss of the station figured this would be a quick and bracing trip. After a block I can confirm the bracing, but not the quick. Stupidly I walked past a man selling mittens of a dollar. Not one man actually. About five. By the time I had cleared the station they were well gone. So on I pushed. Block after block after block. Across Broadway, up 7th Ave, through Times Square and on and on. Slower and slower. More and more braced – stiff. I did not realise just how stiff until I arrived at the hotel reception and was unable to speak, unable to put my cases down and appearing like a mute before the rosy faced receptionist. She seemed to know what was going on and pointed me at a corner near a heater, beside which which I thawed, eventually released my hands and then attempted to sign in again. But even though I could mumble (the jaw needed massaging to help it along) I could still not hold a pen. She accepted a scrawl.

This morning I was more rugged up but we ventured out (on 7th Ave rather than the pavement, with large chunks of ice smacking into the ground every now and then from off the skyscrapers, warning us off) to meet a prospective client, only to make it two blocks before a snow flake stopped us in our tracks. We glanced at each other then continued on. By the end of the block it was falling heavily enough to dust us. We back tracked and purchased beanies and mittens (at which point this photo was taken) and just as well since in the intervening minutes a blizzard whipped across the city and the first dustings had turned into an assault in which you could barely hold your eyes open. By the time we scouted out the location of our client we looked like a couple of cold and bedraggled half-beats. We have an appointment elsewhere this afternoon – lets see what that looks like in this weather. And if we can scrub up sufficiently to make the right impression.Thanksgiving 2003

Solomon Islands – Frame Up

November 13, 2007

We have only been here three days and already we have learned the routine. Get going at first light. It is as humid as a warm bath but at least the sun is not frying us. Work like crazy with the sweat sluicing off us. Hats are necessary first to keep the salty water out of our eyes, the sun off us a secondary role. Tool handles are slippery. Read more

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