Friday, March 02, 2007

[homelessness] as far away as your sanity

Some years ago I had a lady friend who was into Tarot, palm reading and the whole biz. Together with the Chinese birth years, these things pointed out that I'd likely die old, alone and in pain. I ignored it.

Now that I'm closing in on those years and have lost my entire family infrastructure for various reasons, most of them through my own fault, through my own stubbornness, the prospect of sleeping rough on the streets fills me with dread. It really does.

That's why, when I saw this first hand article, it needed to be read. It deals with how people get to that point and if I'm annoyingly self-focused here, please forgive me. Fleeing from domestic violence [not me], alcohol [not me], losing one's mind and reason [slowly, slowly] or losing one's family and friends. Ah, yes. And from pride. Most certainly.

When you sleep rough, your existence takes on an unequivocal fragility. You're exposed to the elements and frequently succumb to illness. Your blankets and possessions are often stolen. You stand a good chance of being physically assaulted, harassed or openly mocked just for being who you are.

A 70-year-old homeless woman I worked with told me how one night she woke up in a shop alcove to discover a man in a suit urinating on her. Is it any wonder that the homeless often conceal themselves from prying and judgemental eyes?

How can people live and die on the streets in a country as rich as ours [and] why do people live this way when there's help available? The truth is, the help is severely limited. People who are homeless and over 40 report being too frightened of using crisis housing because they've heard stories of younger residents' drug use or violence. How long they remain there often depends on their mental health and physical strength.

Our income depends on our mental acuity - in my case, I live on my wits. Once that becomes erratic, the cash dries up and when that happens, I'm out there. It's just a question of time. People might say, from kindness, 'James we'd never let you fall so far.' They're judging by the James they know. They might quietly slip away from the James of twenty years from now. They'll most probably not even be there by that stage.

Who knows when it will strike?

[lizard watch] hillary's not getting hollywood funds

Take the poll in the right sidebar!

"Clinton fatigue", voting for the Iraq war, losing the black vote to the very vanilla Obama, Hillary is not doing so well and her prospects against the likely Republican opponents have also grown bleak. The Rasmussen and Zogby polls taken last weekend have Giuliani ahead by as much as nine percentage points.

Pollsters place much significance on the favourable-unfavourable ratings and the Post-ABC News poll has her at 49-48, which means opinions about her are set in stone. For every voter who likes her, one detests her. Giuliani and Obama both have unfavourable ratings in the mid-20s with sky-high approval ratings.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe says: "Her support's softened in Hollywood and there's definitely not that sense of inevitability about her being the Democratic presidential nominee any more. This is all important right now because we're in the middle of the primary fundraising season and Hollywood is a major fundraising engine for the Democrats."

The entertainment business rivals unions and trial lawyers as the biggest source of money for Democrats. Since 1989, Hollywood has given more than $US100million ($127 million) to Democrats for federal campaigns alone; this is on par with what the oil and gas industry has raised for Republicans in that time.

David Geffen, a former Clinton confidant who is now backing Obama said: "I don't think that another incredibly polarising figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is - and god knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? - can bring the country together," he told The New York Times.

"Everybody in politics lies," he said about the Clintons. "But they do it with such ease, it's troubling. It's overstating it to say Hillary's lost Hollywood, but she's not winning right now," says Jeffe.

Still, it's early days yet.

[may-december] even with the best will in the world

Mention was made today of an older man with a 17 to 21 year old girl.

So much has been written about May-Decembers, mostly either the outraged morality of those who have never been there or the wishful naivety of someone who has been smitten. The old rule of half your age plus ten has much to recommend it: 30-25, 40-30 or 50-35 but 55-17 is something else again.

A seventeen year old girl can have a veneer of maturity, especially these days and especially if she's of a serious disposition. She can look and act the goods and he's the catalyst which instils confidence in her and makes her seem even more mature, just as he gets a new lease of life himself. By nineteen or twenty she's almost a different person and that is half the problem.

What he's dealing with is not a fully-fledged adult but a girl who's still 30 to 40% her mother, who lacks the experience to make a life decision of this magnitude, given the gulf between them and whose needs and directions are going to alter as she hones her purpose in life. He, on the other hand, knows where he is and what he's doing. It's just that he's smitten.

To shy away from a serious commitment with such a girl immediately raises other issues - just what does the older man then want her for? If he says: 'Do I have to want her for anything?' this is sweet and actuated only by the purest motives but how, practically, can they then relate? How does he deal with her parents?

If he says there's no sexual component, then what will he do in the long term? How can he keep her from that which comes naturally at this age? Is he being honest with himself or with her? And what of the state of play with his own sexuality?

With the best will in the world, even if he's in peak physical condition, has most of his hair and desire has still not outstripped performance, even if his musical tastes more than 50% coincide with hers, even if she loves him more than he loves her, it is still fraught.

She has a different rhythm, differing perspectives even if they agree on an issue and he can only take the mentor thing so far, can only show her so much of the world and give her so much of the earth. He'll believe that in his case it's different, that he has the flexibility and sensitivity to make it work; that she is also old enough to decide.

It still doesn't work, in the end. I've not only been there twice but two friends over the last two decades also did the same thing, one even marrying. I'm not being mean - it simply doesn't work. Sooner or later the question of children also arises and this now becomes an extended family affair. And will the broader community of relatives give the happy couple an easy time?

'So, we'll go to another country,' he or she suggests. But she doesn't know what it is to be cut adrift from her moorings and when the reality finally sets in, what then? It's a lovely ideal, they might just love each other to bits but reality will finally bite.

Of course, none of this even begins to touch on the ladies 'of a certain age' whose motherly eyes lightly fall on a young man of promise in his 20s. That's another question again.

[friday] thought for the day

Friday afternoon, Friday afternoon - the two most beautiful words in the English language [with apologies to Henry James].

May Freya’s tears turn to gold for you on this day.

[napping] yet more evidence of its efficacy

Friday is a great day to point you in the direction of this piece in the Melbourne Age:

Is this the shape of things to come? There's a new batch of stimulants, eugeroics, coming on to the market. More effective than caffeine and amphetamines, it's said, because they tweak specific sleep-related mechanisms in the brain. The result: users don't feel jittery or wired, they just stay alert with their radar on.

Welcome to the future of work, according to this report. Still, workers are getting mixed messages. A new study by Greek scientists suggests that a daily nap is actually better for your work and reduces the risk oif cardiovascular disease.

Indeed, great nappers in history have included Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali and US presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. You can read about that here. By all accounts it didn't get in the way of their work.

As Churchill famously said:

"You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don't think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That's a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half."

Still, the findings of the Greek study might be inconclusive. "Napping is a great solution if you are energetic and active and if you have adequate exercise during the day, but it's not a great solution if you are a couch potato," one physiologist and businessman told Workforce Management.

Whatever the answer, the studies raise a few interesting questions.

With more of the workforce in casual employment, or coming in as contractors, is there more pressure on people to stay awake? What do we make of the companies that champion the managers who put in 80-hour weeks, or the road warriors who move from hotel to hotel? Are you more sleep deprived these days because of work? Or is other stuff keeping you up?

Maybe all you need to do is nap a little. If you feel too guilty for that, think of your increased productivity in your workplace, your increased energy and your all round well-being.

[tourism potential] how about africa

This is an abridged version of the original:

South Africa has been ranked 62nd out of 124 for attractive environment for developing the travel and tourism industry, according to the first ranking of its kind in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007, released yesterday by the World Economic Forum. Regional rival Mauritius was ranked 39th.

Countries were evaluated for, among other things, policy and environmental regulation; safety and security; natural and cultural resources; health and hygiene; air transport; ground transport; tourism and communications infrastructure; labour practices; price competitiveness and the priority which the government gives the sector.

Switzerland, Austria and Germany have the most attractive environments for developing the travel and tourism industry, Iceland, the US, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Luxembourg and the UK complete the top 10 list, Australia and New Zealand ranked 13th and 14th respectively while Spain, the world’s second-largest tourist destination, was ranked 15th.

In South Africa, safety and security is of serious concern, health and hygiene, low doctor density and poor sanitation and drinking water.

Anyone for a safari? Jeremy?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

[volcanoes] do you know where they are

These are some of the more famous volcanoes in the world:

Pelee, Caribbean, Arenal, Costa Rica, Katmai, Alaska, Santa Maria, Guatemala, Nyiragongo, Congo, Santorini, Greece, Ruiz, Colombia, Hekla, Iceland, Yellowstone, Wyoming and Mount St. Helens, Washington

Can you put a country to these ones?

Merapi, Krakatau, Agung, Tambora

El Chichon, Popocatepetl, Colima, Paricutin

Vesuvius, Stromboli, Etna

Fuji, Sakurajima

Ruapehu, White Island

Long Valley, Lassen Peak

Rabaul, Lamington

Kilauea, Mauna Loa

Mayon, Taal


Hawaii, Indonesia, California, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, New Zealand.

[sicily scene] need we rescue our friend

Two big lava flows burst out of Stromboli's side on Tuesday, sending up vast plumes of steam as they plunged into the Mediterranean waters below.

Authorities said there was no immediate risk to people living on the island, off the coast of Sicily.

Do we need to mount a rescue operation for Welshcakes? Will the lava destroy her latest culinary delight?

[richard m. daley] how to read the man

Mayor Richard M. Daley has just won a landslide victory over two relatively obscure challengers here Tuesday, putting him in a position to become the city’s longest serving mayor. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Daley had captured 72 percent of the vote, well over the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

“Thank you, Chicago, thank you again,” Mr. Daley told a boisterous crowd in a Hilton Hotel ballroom.

The battle rages as to whether he is a good man or a bad man and whether it even matters. Does Chicago, not particularly noted for a history of benign altruism, actually need such a man as Daley? One view:

Mayoral challenger Bill "Dock" Walls argued that Obama "just stepped into the cesspool of corruption by endorsing the most corrupt mayor" Chicago has ever had." Walls accused Obama of ignoring Daley's role as state's attorney during the torture of 192 African-American and Latino men by former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, "hundreds of millions" lost to the Hired Truck scandal, a 50 percent drop-out rate in the Chicago Public Schools, and a 40 percent unemployment rate in many black neighborhoods.

Another view:

When I think of Daley
, I do think of cronyism and I do question whether that is good for the city. On the whole, I support the Feds' efforts to route out corruption where it exists in the city government. However, when I think of Daley, I also think about the cooperation he has fostered between the different groups in the city, groups which in decades past bickered and stifled progress in the city.

I think about his beautification efforts and environmental initiatives and how they have made the city more livable. I think about his education reforms and how his administration has continually driven new initiatives to improve the quality of education in Chicago.

I think about his ability to partner city initiatives with local business and community groups (a la Millenium Park). I think about his grand vision for a Chicago Olympics and wonder what benefits to the city such dreams could bring.

[in house] on sitemeter and stats

On the impossibility of getting a monolithic organization to respond to you: I am currently locked into an impossible situation, caught between two monoliths:
New Blogger and Sitemeter.

New Blogger
tolerates my old template only under sufferance and the instant I try to do anything to the template, it will be rejected. That's not the end of the world as there's a new template to instal.

The bigger problem is Sitemeter. All my traffic count will be lost the moment I change templates because New Blogger doesn't recognize Sitemeter code. Clearly, the code must change. To do that, one must go into Sitemeter Manager.

I last did that so long ago that the password's lost. Also, my oasis e-mail is no longer operative. Therefore, I can't access the password to change ... etc. etc. So why not contact Sitemeter?

I have done so - over and over, day after day after day and there's not even an automated response. They have no facility to respond to the questions users might have. Sorry to sound so frsutrated but:

Sitemeter is a monolith which is not remotely interested in responding.

Thus this template is left in limbo, unable to be changed.

As for stats, The Cityunslicker made a comment about his and I commented on Iain Dale's. Chris Dillow, of Stumbling and Mumbling once said to me that it all comes with time. It really does expand, providing you're prepared to do a bit of work and offer something on your site. Plus, the Dales of the blogosphere are professionals, whereas we have day jobs.

In Ellee Seymour's case, she has a number of pluses - lovely modest lady, high profile Tory, interesting site. As for CityUnslicker, may I say his site and his content are so much improved and I'd say he's become pretty regular reading for many now. Seems to me that these things are what it's all about.

: Sitemeter have responded and the issue seems to have found partial resolution.