Monday, 4 February 2013

Farewell for Now

Well, since it has been almost 12 months without any activity on this blog I've decided to close it down.   When I started the blog I remember reading somewhere that around 90% of blogs begin and end in the first year of its running and this one has more-or-less fallen into that category. I can't say how much I really appreciate the people that took time to read my ramblings and get involved in the conversation.

I've decided to use my talents elsewhere and start a new blog that documents the environmental and seasonal changes in my local area. The nature of my work means I see the detail in our plants, animals and ecosystems that others do not see and I want to share this with people. This blog should be a little less controversial and have a more positive outlook on the world. With the help of my new shiny camera I hope to document the ecology of my surroundings in 'The Ecology Diaries'.

See you all there!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Dumbing Down of Society

I don't want to sound like an intellectual snob (which I'm well aware I do sound like that sometimes), but has anyone ever noticed how the content in mainstream and popular media is just so freaking stupid? You only need to turn to TV on in prime time to see the most recent garbage reality show or walk past a magazine rack and notice that the Kardashians are doing something (who knows what they actually do) or the exclusive photos of the latest footballer's wedding. Vomit.

It seems that because TV ratings and selling papers and magazines is all that really matters, it means that journalists/producers need to provide content to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Basically, if you create an artwork that doesn't pull in millions of viewers or sell millions of papers, then it barely sees the light of day. Because what's the point if it's not making money?

A good example of this is the short-lived but excellent comedy sitcom, Arrested Development. It was complex, very witty and had clever little story lines to follow through each episode. It was pushed around to stupidly late time slots and at irregular times throughout the week. This meant that people lost interest and it became the funniest show that nobody watched. Unfortunately, this has made way for other shows to infiltrate the prime time slot. Like Two and a Half Men, which has desensitised everyone into laughing at blatant sexism and alcohol abuse. "Ha ha ha, soooo funny!" No, it's not.

Fashion/gossip magazines are a disgrace all on their own. Guaranteed to cover the latest celebrity bitch fight or weight gain, they barely have a shred of dignity. The magazine cover below shows a severely photoshopped image of Jessica Simpson claiming she is on a 'revenge diet', whatever the hell that means. I can't imagine wasting my money or time on this utter bile.

And then there are current affair shows that act as the trashy magazine of TV. Shows like this spend their time informing viewers about the dangers of bruised apples at supermarkets, the annoyance of young people, the plight of hard-done-by pensioners and the disease that is dodgy contractors. Perfect viewing for anyone who has switched their brain off for the evening.

The media has incredible power to influence what we think. It's a propaganda machine that tells you what to eat, what to wear, how to look, who to vote for, who to like and who to hate. And while there is civil unrest in Syria, car bombings in Iraq, ever increasing control from banks and breakthroughs in science, everyone is sitting back watching Grant Denyer read the weather and talking cross-promotions while paragliding.

But, there is a glimmer of hope with the ever-increasing internet use for news outlets and journalism blogs. Instead of sitting through an hour of the news on TV, I can pull up a news website and click on the stories I want to read, filtering out all the other rubbish. I can easily search for topics that I'm interested in and read other people's opinions on blogs and not just rely on the one or two biased media giants that own all publications. The internet is freedom and I, for one, am very thankful for it.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Night Owl or Morning Lark?

"Blessed are the owls, for they shall inherit the mystery and magic of the night" - Hilary Rubinstein
Photo credit - Link
I identify myself as a night owl. You know, those people that are highly efficient and buzzing late at night. Unfortunately when forced into the structure of the working week, night owls are often hurrying to get ready in the mornings and skipping breakfast in favour of an extra five minutes of sleep.

Morning larks are those (slightly annoying) chirpy people that leap out of bed in the morning with the vigour of having an ice bucket thrown over them. They are the ones that go on early morning walks and do yoga before breakfast. It looks great in theory and designer sports wear, but convincing my semi-conscious brain to rise earlier to meditate in front of the sunrise just isn't going to happen. However, larks can also be the people that turn into slouchy pumpkins and toddle off to bed at about 9 pm every night.

Photo credit - Link
Night owls are often confused as being lazy as they snore away the morning hours while Miss Chirpy goes to the gym, reads the paper and vacuums the floors, all before work in the morning. But research has shown that there are distinct differences in the natural circadian rhythms (body clocks) of night owls and morning larks. Some research even suggests that genetics may play a role to pre-determine our owlish or larkish tendencies. 

I always thought that senior school and university had turned me into a night owl. Staying up late to finish assignments and almost dying trying to get up the next morning to hand them in. But this pattern has extended into my working adult life. They say that our owl/lark preferences do influence our work choices. Interestingly, I work in a job that can have quite varied work hours and even late night field work. People will say "Oh, I can't understand how you can traipse around in the bush at night", and my reply is usually "No, it's great! It's quiet and cool and you don't have to worry about sunburn" (a lack of large predators in Australia makes it a bit safer too).

So, whichever you are, chances are you were naturally built for either the morning or the evening. Which one are you?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Report Card for Summer

Dear Gaia,

We are writing to you to to inform you of your daughter, Summer's, performance over the last season. We are concerned that over the past few months, Summer has not been providing us with the hot weather we usually come to expect of her. Although we have been experiencing the odd sunburn and thunderstorms in the evenings which are characteristic of Summer, temperatures are not reaching much above 26 degrees celsius on average during the day and the nights are still relatively cool. Light jackets are still required at night in February. Additionally, Summer has brought with her this season an unprecedented level of rain, which although is good for the garden, isn't good for normal outdoor activities like boating, sports and picnicking. This is not the sort of behaviour we expect to see in December, January and February.

We have reason to believe that Summer has been greatly influenced lately by another element, La Nina, who tends to be a bad influence on many seasons resulting in cool and wet weather conditions. Summer's long-term friendship with El Nino, which resulted in the warm and dry season we have come to expect, appears to have ended and we are concerned that this new friendship with La Nina is affecting her ability to perform the necessary tasks required for the season.

We would appreciate your cooperation in discussing our concerns with Summer to help resolve these issues. We look forward to an improved performance by Summer next year.


The people of eastern Australia.

P.S. Please find attached an image of what we would like to see from Summer next year.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Laman Street Update

Some of you may remember my previous posts about the Laman Street figs in Newcastle here and here.

Well, here's an update:

Common sense lost out.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Unwritten Social Laws

Anyone who watches Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David knows there is a world of unwritten social rules and conventions in which most of us abide by. Unfortunately a lot of the time these rules are simply made up by us silently as we revel in someone else's rudeness.

Here are a few I can think of:

  • Don't tell someone they look tired. Although they probably look like they could go for a three year sleep, there's no need to state the obvious. Usually people are very aware when they look tired or worn-out and if they don't it's not like it's good news to them. Nice way of telling someone they look like shit, really.
  • Don't just hang up the phone if you have the wrong number. Why do people do that? "Hi, I'm looking for Sharon" "Sorry, you must have the wrong . . ." SLAM. Lovely. A simple "Ok, thanks" would suffice.
  • There's no need to test your phone's ringtone in public places (over and over). I see it mainly with teenagers on public transport. Running through their entire phone's memory of Kanye West and Justin Bieber ringtones. Kill. Me. Now.
  • If there are more than two toilets in the restroom, don't choose the one next to the one I'm in. It's like people that sit right next to you in a movie theatre when there's a million other seats to choose from. Although toilet time is meant to be somewhat private. Seriously, go to the other end and leave a bit of space between us. Thanks.
  • No soppy love or self pitying messages as statuses on Facebook. No need to illustrate this one. We all know someone, if not many, who do this.
  • Clear away your food rubbish after eating at a fast food restaurant. Although the young teenagers that work at these places are paid to maintain the premises, it shouldn't be up to them to clean the scraps of food and rubbish left behind because you can't be bothered to walk two metres to the bin. Wouldn't hurt to burn 5 calories of the 5000 you've just consumed doing that, would it?
  • Cyclists, keep as far left as possible and use a cycleway if there is one. Please don't cycle so far out onto the road so that I need to risk my life by veering on the wrong side of the road to protect your lycra-covered arse. Very annoying when there's a cycleway available to you on the side of the road.
  • Stop sniffling. We live in a first world country with an abundance of tissues everywhere for your use. Stop abusing my ears and sending me insane by sniffing mucus further up your nostrils only for it to run down again and continuing the sniffing cycle.
  • If you are eating a particularly juicy fruit, do so as quietly as possible. Nothing quite grinds my nerves more than hearing someone slurp and slop their way through a pear, nectarine or peach. It's just as annoying as eating with your mouth open and it makes me want to rock back and forth in the fetal position whilst covering my ears with my hands and screaming "Make it stop!".

Some of many. Does anyone have any more to share . . . ?

Here is one of my favourite Larry David unwritten social rules. Ice cream sample privileges:

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An Aussie Christmas

As many (probably four) of my readers are from overseas, I thought it would be nice to give you a glimpse into what the Australian Christmas entails. I imagine it would be rather different than the cold Christmases of the northern hemisphere. While you're huddling around the open fire, we are searching for ice cubes for our drinks that haven't evaporated yet.

Here are a few things that I think would be different:

Carols by Candlelight

As Christmas in Australia is usually characterised by sweltering heat what better way to celebrate the occasion by gathering in a park after dark and singing along to Christmas carols? This happens all over the country from small local productions to massive crowds like the photo above. Popular with families and young children the night includes guest singers and fireworks at the end. I imagine if this was done in the northern hemisphere you would all freeze your little butts off!

Cold Meats and Pavlova

Another weather orientated tradition. Because it's so freaken hot outside there no chance that we'll be cooking a hot roast for Christmas lunch/dinner. Instead we have cold meats like ham and chicken and seafood, accompanied by salads and bread rolls. Best of all, dessert is pavlova. A fluffy meringue full of sugary goodness with fruits and cream. Doesn't matter how much food you've eaten, there's always room for pav!

Christmas Crackers

Simple tradition, but one of my favourites. When everyone sits down to Christmas lunch or dinner, they take a Christmas cracker (or bon-bon) and pull it apart. The one who gets the large end gets the prize. Usually some useless figurine, a lame joke and a paper king's hat. It is very normal to see everyone having lunch all wearing these paper hats. Maybe not the dog though (just an excuse to post a cute puppy photo).

Boxing Day Cricket

After an exhausting day of dividing yourself between multiple family events on Christmas Day, there's nothing better than spending Boxing Day (26th December) getting up late, eating left over Christmas food, putting your feet up and watching the Boxing Day test match. Doesn't matter if you like cricket or not, this is what you do.

I'd be interested to hear what others do over the holiday season . . . .