Friday, April 27, 2007

[sea of troubles] change the lifeview

Leaving aside the metaphysics and theology and concentrating instead on people, as in human beings and all their joy and pain, the issue of suicide is sad because there IS an answer and many people have seen it work many times.

A doctor doesn't treat symptoms - he treats root causes and that's the only way to go. The drugs and the electro are cosmetic fixes. A huge amount of the trouble is when we put ourselves at the centre of ourselves and our needs above all.

This is the sun and the stars revolving around the earth. Even a rationalist will say that's a rubbish model.

This manifests itself in an obstinate drive to solve all problems ourselves and we can't because we simply don't have all the equipment [unless you're a superman - I'm not].

You know the rest - despair, drinking, bleak music and so on. Absence of hope is what it comes down to and according to Dante, there's one particular entity who has this even written over his gateway.

Medically, there are people predisposed to despair and suicide. I may be one of these. Plus there is life experience to take into account. But even medical science knows of many "miracle" cures, so many that perhaps it should start to take the phenomenon seriously.

The human physionomy and brain can do remarkable things if it's operating in the right way. This is all JC was saying in pushing the faith, hope and charity thing so hard. It stands to reason. Faith, hope and charity regulate the brain and allow little time for despondency.

Putting family, friends and unfortunates first is a first step and no one is saying that's the preserve of the Christian alone. That would be idiocy to suggest that. It's just a first step to a sense of self-worth.

It doesn't change the curmudgeonliness, the cutting tongue [or keyboard] or life's day to day issues. It just makes it so much easier to cope if one is outward, rather than inward looking.

And this is not my character. I'm a selfish mother, with a caustic tongue. Any niceness you see in me was put there.

Which brings us to the next thing. There are no free lunches.

If you want comfort in your troubles, you have to pay for it. Standard business principle. The 3rd person in the Trinity is the good oil - it works in the same way those without a Ferrari can't appreciate true speed and safety until they've driven one.

But there's a price. You have to believe it can work first. It's the Peter walking on water principle. Believe, you walk on water, you soar to the clouds. Lose faith and you sink. Who cares whether it was allegorical or if it happened?

In my situation, I would say all my troubles came from stubbornly insisting on my own way. On the occasions I throw up the hands and say: "OK, OK, what do you want me to do then?", immediately things fall in line.

Things start to gel instead of jarr.

In a nutshell, we're going to come a cropper if we let this manic drive for self-aggrandisement consume us [even if we insist it's for the good of our family]. Doors close here and there, opportunities present themselves less and less and so on.

Go the other way though and it's simply good business practice.

That's all I wanted to say.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

[suicide] to be or not to be

14 year old Mike Altman wrote this for M.A.S.H.:

The game of life is hard to play; I'm gonna lose it anyway;

The losing card I'll someday lay, so this is all I have to say:

That suicide is painless; it brings on many changes and I can take or leave it if I please.

… and Joy Division:

So this is permanence, love's shattered pride.

What once was innocence, turned on its side.

A cloud hangs over me, marks every move,

Deep in the memory, of what once was love.

Oh how I realised how I wanted time,

Put into perspective, tried so hard to find,

Just for one moment, thought I'd found my way.

Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away.

In his second year of university, an old school friend, Rhys, who'd introduced me to Rugby Union at school, was sharing a bedsit with his best friend and one day he came home, left a note for is friend Will, then blew his brains out.

The note said how sorry he was for having caused so much trouble. What trouble? There'd never been any trouble.

Because of the fear and shame it generates, suicide is scary and difficult to talk about, even for health professionals, and usually it is reported in code: "there were no suspicious circumstances". Suicide is a major public health problem, accounting for 2101 deaths in Australia during 2005. There are 40 deaths a week and rates for young males are particularly high. Suicide is on a par with the road toll as a preventable cause of premature death. We are struggling to make a real impact.

Some suggest that the internet is leading to more suicides and you can see why in the case of some of those sites, the fora, the late nights and the seeming obsession [I'm in here now, for example].

On the other hand, there are suggestions that the net can, in fact, help decrease the number if it acts as a helpline. An example of such a site is and the advantage is that the helpline is just a click away for a young internetter.

Mary Quant said, in the Observer, in 1996:

Being young is greatly overestimated . . . any failure seems so total. Later on you realize you can have another go.

Many won't make it that far.

And what of yours truly? Many times it's crossed my mind but four things stop it.

1 It's self-indulgent and concerned with one's introspective ego, a failing of the young but also prevalent amongst the not so young of a certain mental set. A passage by Agatha Christie said it, for me:

You take your life today and perhaps in five, six, seven years hence, someone else will go to death of disaster simply for the lack of your presence in a given spot or place.

You say your life is your own.

But can you dare to ignore the chance that we are taking part in some gigantic drama under the orders of a Divine producer? Your cue may not come till the end of the play - a mere walking on part - but upon it may hang the issues of the play.

2 Douglas Adams' "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things" is close to the Australian Aborigines' idea of the same kind - that the earth and the sky feel every nuance, every scream of terror and every murder, even self-murder.

3 The technicality that if one is Christian, then suicide is a backsliding against the 3rd person, a statement, in fact, that the 3rd person can't help you and therefore a one way ticket to the infernal regions.

4 I always want to know what's happening tomorrow.

Taken together, this is a nicety which keeps me alive. What keeps you alive?

[blogfocus thursday] some home truths

This evening, we're dealing with absolute rubbish.

1 Matthew Sinclair shows that the most important issues are often those close to home:

More and more councils are having waste collection take place every other week. The Conservatives I am campaigning for are likely to introduce fortnightly collection. The change is a response to a major increase, by the government, in landfill charges. Councils can either take drastic action to increase recycling or face heavy new charges and be forced to cut other services or increase taxes.

Fortnightly collection is not popular, it comes up on the doorstep and people really resent it enough to change their vote.

2 Olly's Onions has the good oil on these rubbish collections:

Campaign to save weekly rubbish collection stepped up Refuse collectors across the country today appealed for support to help save the Daily Mail which has been publishing rubbish every week for over a hundred years. Oswald Mosley was last night unavailable for comment.

3 Speaking of the good oil, J. Arthur MacNumpty gives the Scottish lowdown on the infamous Eurovision voting system:

Brian Taylor has compared the STV system to the voting in the Eurovision Song Contest, of which I am a fan (stereotypical? moi?).

I disagree with him. Firstly, the ESC is closer to FPTP than STV - all though each nations' votes are ranked, the points are allocated according to ranking rather than proportion, so a song in first place can win by 5 votes in a country and get as many points (12) as if it had won by 50,000. Secondly, the people who draw up our electoral boundaries are obsessed with 'parity', i.e. getting the size of the electorate in each constituency to be as equal as possible, while in ESC, Malta and Andorra have the same voting strength as Turkey or France. Thirdly, the STV system does not allow voters in neighbouring areas to support each other's candidates.

4 Longrider writes of the counterproductivity of trying to bring pressure to bear on smokers to stop:

Well, I do have some personal experience of addiction and I am painfully aware just how difficult it can be to quit. But, and here’s the rub, the addict has to want to quit. NICE seems to be assuming that all those hooked on gaspers fall into that category. While many smokers talk the talk, most of them in my experience are happy enough to puff away given the opportunity.

Mrs Longrider has no intention of quitting, so her employer would be wasting time, effort and money trying to get her to do so. Indeed, the more the government and the health fascists try to make her into a pariah, the more determined she is to fight back and puff away regardless.

5 You're not going to know these gems unless you get yourself over to Mutley the Dog:

The first canal in Britain was not the Bridgewater Canal as is often claimed – it was the Ste Helens/Mersey Canal, known as Sankey Brook, which was opened in 1757. The Bridgewater Canal - used for transporting the Duke of Bridgewater’s extensive collection of travelling Commodes - did not open till 1761. One of those commodes, carved entirely from Ivory weighed nearly 3 tons, or the equivalent of seventeen middle sized motor cars. The Sankey canal was briefly filled with spermicide in the 1960s.

Between 1777 and 1896 it was illegal to urinate in a Canal or to dispose of turnip tops or pigs trotters. Curiously, it remained legal to defecate in a canal and specifically to dispose of all food remnants from barges.

6 The afficianados are going to know exactly what Peter Cruikshank is talking about:

People are beginning to wise up to the implications of allowing those cuddly Web2.0 services to host all that nice information your give* them (see Because you can’t do bettr than Flickr for instance for the enthusiasm that Web2.0 can generate - sorry Simon, only picking on you because my comment on your blog raises the issue of data protection)

In For Your Information | ‘Web 2.0′ and data control Peter Bradwell of Demos has picked up that even Tim O’Reilly (not a poor man, I don’t believe) has noticed that internet business are interested in money, not some dream of participatory democracy.

7 It's interesting that Wulf is writing of anonymity on the net and tracing comments back because he does seem to take direct comments himself [I might be mistaken]:

However, by and large, I think some level of identification is valuable. If I post a comment on someone else's blog, it is backed up by links back to other places I have made a mark. That online trail is only my representation of part of who I am but it gives an identifiable persona. Even for those who have never met me, or met those who have met me, "I" am unlikely to be a marketing bot designed to hawk a product (see my earlier posting, False Accounts) or a bored teenager creating a complex fantasy world to wind other people up.

Equally, I want some degree of traceability from those I encounter on my Internet travels, including those who might comment on my blog. Not addresses and bank details but simply the option of following their trail back a little way so I can decide what credence to give their contributions.

8 JMB admits what many of us know full well - we are not that technically savvy and it's a learning curve we all take. We go out this evening, as we started, with some home truths:

I have to tell you, quite ashamedly, that the reason I could not see how to resize in the photo software programs, which I already have on my computer, was that I did not have a file in place. As everyone but me already knows the relevant options are grey until you have an image to work on! I assumed it was because I had an inferior version which came with some hardware or other I had bought.

Well as I always say, these things are sent to make us humble when we get too big for our boots. Another of my sayings is that I hope to learn something new every day and yesterday I learned quite a few new things.

Hope to see you on Saturday evening, readers.

[carnival of cities] support colin campbell and blogpower

I just did it and it's easy:

1] find one of your posts on a city of the world - any one;
2] go over to Colin Campbell's site with the url and click on submit;
3] follow the instructions they give you;
4] take care of your other business, knowing you've done something worthwhile.

Let's get behind Colin on this.

[icelandic dichotomy] two finance heads at odds

Whenever I need a lighter post, I turn to Iceland. Do not think for one second I'm making fun of them. I just love their quaint way of doing and reporting things, that's all - very direct, saying what they think, finding practical solutions and lacking hype and spin.

Take this classic from yesterday: Finance Ministry and Central Bank at odds:

At a public meeting yesterday the Finance Ministry introduced its economic forecast for the remainder of the year, which is very different from the economic forecast recently released by the Central Bank of Iceland.

According to Thorsteinn Thorgeirsson, office manager of the Finance Ministry’s economic department . . . the economy will reach equilibrium towards the end of the year and the Central Bank will reach its target inflation of a 2.5 percent, which will remain within tolerance limits over the next few years.

Thorgeirsson predicted that economic growth would be less than one percent this year, due to a reversal in foreign investment. He also predicted the trade deficit balance would go through a rapid recession and reach almost 16 percent of GDP by the end of the year, due to increased export of aluminium and a decrease in imports. Last year the trade deficit was 26.7 percent.

While Thorgeirsson predicted a soft landing for the economy, the Central Bank predicted a hard transition over the next two years, as the research department of Landsbanki Bank pointed out. Representatives of Landsbanki said the inherent differences in the two economic forecasts are “uncomfortable.”

In the Finance Ministry’s forecast, further large-scale industrial projects are not taken into account, which would have great impact on the economy, as Markadurinn reports.

I appreciate that their business is not really our concern but still - it's an interesting illustration. I'd really like to hear from our economist bloggers and others involved in finance as to whose version to believe.

In other words, who are the professionals here?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

[my father] the earthly variety, that is

I find my father difficult to write about and yet that time is about now when … well, you know.

Not a tall man but with wiry strength from hard work, his hands were strong and his hair receded somewhat later but he was never bald. He wasn't a bad looking chap.

It was a question of which got him first, in the end - the emphysema, the hepatitis or the leukemia. From the war years, it was. I didn't understand what was going on because:

a] I was still too young;

b] I'm not always au fait with this sort of thing;

c] He was a bit remote.

I didn't understand why this was but he was always a distant person and even when we did things together, like paint the walls - he was an expert - I'd always feel he was critically judging me, even though he usually praised the job, except for this little qualification or that.

He was a perfectionist.

Anything he touched he did well, until his later years. I wanted a sailboard and he built it, complete with rudder. I wanted a treehut and he built it. Some of it rubbed off and I've since built sheds and fences of reasonable, unwobbly quality.

I once built a small pyramid. He built a complete house.

He wasn't really stern but just seemed that way - one of the old school who neither suffered fools nor bad manners. Especially the latter. I never heard him use bad language. Actually, now I come to think of it, I really can't recall a swearword ever passing his lips.

He'd get angry though and very quickly. My mother, bless her heart, was … well … well … she had the capacity to provoke with a misplaced word or would do something silly, like not understand how to put up the tent on our annual seaside holiday.

I was with my father on this - how could she not understand the instruction when we'd done this thing every year since I could remember, in exactly the same way? I didn't like how he verbally mauled my mother at these times and in these situations, one stayed mauled.

On the other hand, my mother was as tough as nails and never blanched or even flinched. You have to understand we're talking only words here - fluff and foam - nothing of any lasting substance.

They always presented a united front to me so it was only years later I ever found out he never touched anyone in anger, even under severe provocation - he'd say some pretty choice things, straight to the heart of the issue and then he'd withdraw and go to the workshop.

I never knew how sick he really was. When he'd sit in that huge brown armchair, doing nothing but tap with the fingers of his right hand on the armrest, I thought he might be getting a bit lazy.

Fool - me.

He was never lazy and when I went to his workplace for the first time ever, on gold watch day, it wasn't a gold watch but a very nice brown suitcase for his upcoming first trip out of the country since the war. My mother made them go.

One or two of his underlings spoke to me of him and it seems he was as hard a taskmaster at his workplace as he was at home. This was at a time when these values were beginning to go out of fashion, especially with the young. They didn't actually say anything, of course - I just read that in their manner.

Truth was that they respected him but didn't quite know how to handle him, like us, I suppose.

He was a mason for some time and knew the local masonic community and no - he never showed me the handshake but I did see his paraphernalia once. Interesting stuff. Looked Jewish to me. He didn't remain.


Aye, there's a word, isn't it? I think of D.H. Lawrence and his father sometimes, of sons of that era and their fathers.


Probably, in that highly respected way and certainly he commanded loyalty. But he kept his own counsel so much and I'd have liked to have been closer but that was not to be.


Compassion, certainly, especially when I saw his later suffering. I really can't say "love" to a man.

I know I've never ever felt the need for a father figure nor a mother figure and perhaps that came from them. I naturally feel the need to protect, a bit like a mother hen and the need to defend - those instincts course through the veins.


Well ... yes. All right. Yes.

So now he's departed and she's departed and all of them have departed and wives have departed and girlfriends have departed and friends are in other parts of the world and still I go on.

Ellee Seymour wrote earlier, in a comment, that:

I always light a candle and place it in front of my father's photo and some flowers when it is his anniversary.

That's what I'm going to do now and then say: "Forgive me, father if I haven't represented you as I should. You know I did my best."

I think he's more kindly than I give him credit for. I believe he's possibly looking in on me right now. I think he'll not see the necessity for this post and will think the "forgive me, father" is gratuitously overdramatic but maybe he won't be too annoyed overall.

He'll like the shot of the Five Rise Locks. Pity I don't have a good one of Beckfoot Bridge.

April 26th, 04:00.

[april 25th] anzac day - gallipoli

This one is mainly for British readers. The Australians already know all this.

On 4th August, 1914, England declared war on Germany and Winston Churchill wanted a strong demonstration of the Navy in the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as a final objective.

About 2 in the morning of 25th April, British Admiral Hamilton ordered the 1500 Australians of the covering force to the shore.

What was strange was that the maps issued to the officers bore no resemblance at all to the surroundings. Instead of a flat beach and gently undulating terrain beyond, they were facing shrub-covered rocky formations and cliffs that nearly ran into the sea.

Before long, it became clear what had happened : the force had not been put ashore as intended, but in a small bay 2 km further north. No matter where they had exactly landed, the Australian troops of the covering force did not hesitate to carry out their orders.

They immediately threw off their packs and stormed the heights closest to the beach. Because the boats had landed in complete disorder, the beach itself was soon congested with new troops being landed without knowing in which direction to advance. After a couple of hours, chaos was complete.

They sent a message to Hamilton, who only said, “You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe."

According to some sources, this text gave the nickname "diggers", which the Australians would keep for the rest of their history.

Turkish sniping and bombs kept raining down on the Anzacs, who could only hope to throw the bombs back before they exploded. The sea was literally red with blood. For days after the landing, dead bodies would be washed ashore. One third of the troops died for 500 metres result.

As spring came to an end, a plague of flies fed on the unburied corpses, then dysentery and the water supply became a major problem.

The hostility towards their enemies gradually dropped and the Turks were considered as victims of the same deplorable situation. More than once 'presents' were thrown across no-man's land or messages exchanged.

Then the wind started blowing from the north, which led to sleet and snow. The temperature dropped far below zero and the troops had no winter equipment, which had arrived on the peninsula but had then been shipped back for some reason.

Soldiers froze to death while on guard duty, and the transport of supplies broke up completely. Fighting had become completely impossible. Turkish soldiers refused to advance against the enemy.

During the second week of December, the first phase of the evacuation was started.

Every night, numbers of small vessels came to Anzac Cove to pick up the sick and wounded first, then the prisoners of war and finally the soldiers.

The Gallipoli campaign had been a fiasco and it was one of many reasons the army became known as "lions led by donkeys".

[four interesting hours] little bit of shop

Generally we don't blog about our work because it's not … well … interesting to others. This time though I'm going to report on the past few hours.

I saw a formal debate earlier between two teams of girls. What was unusual about this is that even though girls can generally talk the paint off a wall, they don't often, in my experience, like formal debating.

It's a bit like geography. For some reason, it doesn't often gel with girls. This one today, on the topic: "It's all right to lie if the truth would hurt" was fabulous.

The protocol was observed to the letter, they were erudite and it was in English. Points of order and information were used well and they understood the three speaker system.

In point of fact, I had to keep them from each others' throats and some of the comments were as scathing as anything I've posted here. But best of all was that they asked if they could do it again.

In a good mood, I wandered back to the ministry and the Min told me something very interesting. You'd possibly know they were in London two days ago for the economic forum and the PM and my Min were actually allowed onto the floor of the Lords in session, where they observed the debate.

I had no idea this was possible for foreigners but the description of events was pretty exact and I'm sure he wouldn't be telling porkies. He also told me you people had sunshine and about 20 degrees over there.

We, on the other hand, are about to have a gi-normous thunder storm. The sky's almost black by now.

So, an interesting few hours.

[anzac day] gallipoli, 1915

Today is ANZAC Day and a post will appear this evening.

To the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians meanwhile, our thoughts are with you today on this most special of days.

Also, in the early hours of the 26th, some years ago, my father died. That's tomorrow morning.

[old poll down] new one up

Old poll

Did Atlantis, as a civilization:

# exist 85%

# not exist 12%

# comprise something else 3%

34 votes total

Well, that seems pretty clear, Tiberius. Still, the minority has been right before.


Posted by Lord Nazh on April 22, 2007

The Micean culture will probably (one day) end up being what we think of as Atlantean.

Posted by Dave Petterson on April 21, 2007

I think that there was a group of people at one point that called themselves Atlanean. I don't think they had special powers or advanced technology. The simplist things can be blown out of all proportion and that kept their names in history.

New poll

Politics and religion should be kept separate

# fully agree

# one can try to separate

# they're interwoven

Poll is in the right sidebar.