Ooohs and Aaahs

Wow.  No movie I could ever work on would be as exciting or as emotional as watching this.  The Atlantis rocket boosters blasting off the sides of the shuttle and falling back to earth. The sound is amazing.

Large Hadron Rap

The scientists at the LHC getting their message out.  Sweet!

Homeocrappy and the Bad Science Blogger

I don't want to bag on the NHS really, not while the US is in the midst of utterly misleading its population about exactly what state funded health care would really do for them. But I have to say, if I was living in Britain I would be a tad cheesed off to know that my taxes were being used for something like .... homeopathy.

I actually tried it out once. Gagan wanted me to give it a go in India when I was so sick (there's news!), and the options were very limited. He felt it had worked for him once when he was young, for a skin problem, so he wanted me to try it for migraines. I didn't know anything about it, had had great success with acupuncture in LA (which I couldn't get in Bombay) and was a bit desperate, so sure, I guess so. I wasn't enthusiastic, but I went. The doctor was awful and the experience very uninspiring, and at the end .... they gave me a small, unassuming bottle with round white balls in it. Little round balls the size you might decorate a cake with. When I asked what herbs or drugs were in it, I was told that was secret, proprietary, Colonel's 11-herbs and spices type stuff. Nope - no information forthcoming. So, fork over a considerable amount of money and take these sugary little pills. Um.... yeah.

That night I read up online about homeopathy.

I'm not sure I have the oomph to really get it all down. Perhaps a summary?

"Like cures like"  - in other words - if I can give you something that makes you feel like you have the symptoms of malaria, then I can use it to cure you. Um... wtf kind of science is that? No kidding - if you now are having the aches, pains and fevers of the illness then we're onto a cure!

These 'remedies' (that cause the symptoms, mind you) are made of over 3,000 different animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic substances. Anything from diseased fecal matter, snake venom, table salt, snot or rainwater.  If this seems at all rational, please let me know.

Not finished yet, the juju, I mean remedies, are diluted. And when I say diluted - I mean seriously diluted!  Not every one has exactly the same level of dilution, but here is where we need some comparisons.   For example, the acceptable level of arsenic in US drinking water is 8X (or 1 part per 100,000,000).  For most of the homeopathic remedies, the recommended dilution is.... wait for it.... 60X.   That is 1 part in 1 with 60 zero's after it!!  I think wikipedia has the best way to describe that:  on average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.  As one physicist put it, even a 30X solution would need a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth just to contain one single molecule.  So bearing this in mind, the science behind homeopathy is - well.... balony, and a lot of people are getting very rich.

One caveat, I am entirely intrigued by the placebo effect. I think it should be studied, explored and is a secret door to all sorts of new discoveries about how our minds and bodies work in tandem. I'm not saying that some people don't actually get better when they take this stuff, but it's just not for the reasons they think.

So, as the NHS goes ahead with its feasability studies, lets hope someone with sense can wave their hand and remind people to think with their brains.


Discussion at its very best.  (12 parts and all worth watching even if the synch is way off...grrr!)


It's been a rough few days. Not sure if harder than normal but I just don't seem to have coped very well. Perhaps when the pain is intense for many days, and the migraine drugs don't work, it all gets too much. Or maybe it's just the withdrawal from weaning off this bloody awful Lorazepam.  Things are worse at night. In the past it was migraines that were the main source of pain, but for the last year or so I have chronic neck and facial pain that rivals the worst my head can dish up. At night it feels like the pillow turns to rock and the weight of my head crushes the muscle and skin in a vice. The muscles in my neck hurt so intensely it makes me want to tear them out, and the migraines that come every morning leave me in despair. Two nights ago I realised I felt scared to even go to bed, knowing it was all waiting for me.

I made the mistake of going to work yesterday and thinking I could push through it when it was much worse than I thought. Live and learn I suppose. I couldn't do anything - sat and watched YouTube all day and tried not to think what a terrible employee I was. Every muscle hurt and every sense was painful.  I saw Gagan combing websites trying to learn as much as he could about how to help me. How helpless I felt - he is all that keeps me going and it feels so sad that he has to spend his life like this.

So today, there was a moment of discovery. Reading things that put a piece into the puzzle of this illness. It started from a blog Gagan found.  So much research to digest - but something struck a chord. The cervical myofascial pain syndrome. I searched more and found the Mayo Clinic site.

Some research suggests that myofascial pain syndrome may develop into fibromyalgia in some people. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain. It's believed that the brains of people with fibromyalgia become more sensitive to pain signals over time. Some doctors believe myofascial pain syndrome may play a role in starting this process.

As I read that, I admit I was crying at my desk. I don't even know why - like a frustrated penny had dropped.  It made sense. I had so much neck pain as a teenager, and doctors and physical therapists couldn't do anything. So many headaches, fatigue, and I was very sick even then. I feel like I can almost see the beginning of the whole thing (though who knows what actually caused it)... that if only we had known, we might have had a chance to stop this from happening.  Hindsight.  No point in that sort of thinking though. Depression lies in that direction.

I don't know if I can get any treatment for this, even though I can clearly see this is a major part of the problem. Not until we are in some other country with doctors who understand it.  Just hold on.

[Not the usual post.... but sometimes fibro yells louder than everything else.]

Can't Buy Me Love

Research by the University of Warwick and the University of Manchester finds that psychological therapy could be 32 times more cost effective at making you happy than simply obtaining more money.

Read more

Amazing Things I Didn't Know (and will forget tomorrow)

I kinda thought we knew a fair amount about the living things on our planet - but it turns out that as many as 97% of the plant and animal species are still undiscovered. That's describing them loosely, since we can't lump them into the two kingdoms ('plant' and 'animal') that we all grew up with, anymore. For example, there are worms and lichens that don't want to happily fit into those groups - but that's another story.

Estimates range at there being anywhere from 1.5 to 1.8 million known species but noone really knows at all. Lots of species are listed more than once and it seems impossible to figure that out, especially for the large groups like the 50,000 molluscs or 400,000 beetles.

I suppose most of the undiscovered creatures are on the smallish side, but I still find it one of the more exciting and encouraging things to think we've only found about 3% of life on Earth.

(thanks once again to Bill Bryson for all the info)

The Moral Human

I came to think of myself as a bit of a human guinea pig over the last year or so. I went from one drug to another - all in the search for something to 'cure' my problems with insomnia, hoping that that in turn, would help with the bigger problem of fibromyalgia. The drugs were anti-depressants and anticonvulsants that had drowziness as an added 'benefit'. I have a particular skill in being incredibly sensitive to chemicals - I can sniff out a side effect at fifty paces. It was quite an unpleasant roller coaster ride and it's lucky I'm very aware of what's going on with my body.

Being prone to depression, I certainly noticed when the drugs messed with my cognitive and emotional functions. It didn't mean it was easy to deal with and I wasn't affected - but I was really aware that something was *not right* and I was very much not *me*. Especially feelings of sudden anger, aggression, and despair.  When you realise a drug can bring this on, and you experience it first hand, it changes how you view life a little.

I don't believe our thoughts are as much 'our thoughts' as we think they are. We might be educated, opinionated individuals, and come up with unique and creative ideas - but I think a lot of it is a mish-mash of the chemicals washing through our brains mixed with the environment we have grown up in. Each moment in time, neurotransmitters are tickling our neural taste buds, and that cocktail is changing depending on any number of factors,  so what comes out is something we call 'me'. It governs how we experience the world, how we react to it, what we think is real, what we dream and how we are as a person. If the balance gets out of kilter - then it can turn us into a depressive, make us angry, make us psychotic, make us even violent. Or... it can make us creative - an artist, someone with prodigeous talents. How many creative people have I met with incredible skill but tortured minds of some kind - I always felt the two almost came hand-in-hand.

It's easy to see that the 'me' I think I am, is not as fixed or set in stone as I expected... when the knobs can get tweaked by a drug. It makes me think of larger issues... that some of what I believe is a result of chemicals reacting to the world around me (and a certain amount of stubbornness).

As an atheist, I didn't get dished up morals on a religious platter.  It was obvious to me right from the get-go that I didn't like being made fun of, or being pushed around - so I wouldn't do those things to anyone else. My parents were gentle and kind, and I emulated that - it wasn't rocket science to know that you don't go around killing and hurting fellow creatures. It didn't occur to me that I shouldn't do something because I was a girl, and I had a sense that everyone was equal. I am sure a lot of that came from my mother, though I can't remember ever having conversations about it. It was more how everyone acted - fair and kind.

I'm not going to discuss how the fundamentalists of most religions claim that people like me are not decent humans as we have no morals, but I do think that morals are a big result of chemistry colliding with environment. It's just my theory... I haven't even looked to see if there is any basis for it yet. If I had a 'do-over' I would love to be a neurologist and study this sort of thing (with no fibro hampering my efforts of course).  There is a conference (of sorts) that I am just starting to watch online - 'This is Your Brain on Morality' the title of which made me think about it in the first place.

postscript:   So I have been totally enthralled in these videos - didn't even finish the blog post! This one in particular stands out. Controversial and excellent. A scientist with the balls to say that morals have a basis in science. Oooh... I can see the sparks flying.

The panel discussion at the end is excellent. I can listen to interesting people debating their positions for hours. I love to listen  (whether I agree or not) when people talk intelligently and offer so many new ideas and research in a clear way. Quite the opposite of politics, isn't it.

Proof At Last

For all those self-righteous pricks like Gordon Ramsey who think it's acceptable (perhaps even motivational) to treat their employees like dirt - here is proof that it actually "stunts creativity, harms memory and makes you more aggressive", not only to the one being humiliated, but even those witnessing it (which is pretty alarming).  If ever we had a reason to teach people manners, and better leadership and team skills - now is the time.

To listen to an interview with the researcher - you can hear it on this BBC programme.

A Lovely Little Thinker but a Bugger When He's Pissed

This is how I was introduced to philosophy. 

I think I'm really lucky to have grown up with Monty Python.  I'm not sure anything else comes close.

Strangely, my Australian education lacked the merest mention of philosophy - funny that. I wonder if they took umbrage at the Python's poking fun at them and decided to wipe it from the curriculum. Nah - I guess they thought Social Studies, reading Jane Eyre and navel gazing of more use to our impressionable young minds.  Anyway - no matter - I'm just glad that I finally have rediscovered the philosophers, and am even getting past their drinking habits and on to what they actually had to say.


That thing I was saying about there being no original ideas? So.... at work the other day, a very long and enjoyable lunchtime conversation about life, the universe and everything (ok, so it went on for 4 hours but ssh - don't tell anyone). At one point we were discussing the beginnings of life on the planet and how amino acids have been found on meteors that came from outer space, and this has been postulated as a possible way that life began on Earth. The theory is called 'panspermia' and I said I thought that was an awesome name for a 70's style metal band. Gary replies " it is! Google it - you'll see".  

Maybe all the funny little things that pop into my head, have popped into many others' before me (after all, my atoms have been around the block), but I've searched and searched. There seem to be a few obscure bands with albums or tracks called Panspermia, but the best I can come up with is a guy on Facebook from the United Arab Emirates "In Summer 2007, My first song "Tears" was written when i was with my first "band" which was called Panspermia. This song stayed with me for about a year and a half, during that period the band was reformed with a new name and new members, without me ofcourse.[sic]"  I guess creating life and rock bands is not that easy.

You are what you eat

I struggle with the whole meat-eating thing. I really really like meat - I'm a foodie in every way. I watch countless hours of cooking competitions on TV where budding chefs concoct delish things from every kind of meat and fish, and my mouth waters.  But there are two big things hanging over my head. 

Firstly - I love animals. I love them in a big way. If I am able to donate to charity, then animals will get it every time. I sympathize with humans, but my heart lies with those who are furry, feathered, scaled and finned. So the killing thing is a big problem for me - I'm completely aware how hypocritical I am when I savour a mouthful of pork leg soup. I think they probably changed the names to beef and pork for a reason - somehow cow and pig just sound bad for marketing. Anyway... I could never kill anything myself to eat it - I'd be an instant vegetarian at that point.  It's not like I haven't seen the documentaries about fast food and the mass industrial production of food... the terrible things that happen to animals. I can't even stand to think about it - but then - I am still eating meat. To be absolutely honest, I eat more fish than meat, which might be good for me, but sure isn't good for the depleted fish populations. What is a sushi lover to do when you hear the truth about the oceans? Bad news.

Secondly, the environmental damage caused by our consumption of so much meat. It's not new - we've known about it for a while, but it's something we in the West just have to accept at some point. Mark Bittman puts it pretty clearly.

It's not hard for me to imagine eating vegetables and grains almost exclusively. In fact, although I love meat and fish, and live for the days I am well enough for us to go out, just so we can have a fantastic meal.  A great meal is a great meal - I don't have any requirements.  In fact, I actually *crave* vegetables.  I can definitely imagine having meat as a once-in-a-while treat. The bigger question is how you make a lifestyle (or foodstyle) change like this when you're living in another part of the world.

Thailand has more food than I have ever seen anywhere, but it is a seriously meat and fish obsessed country and it's not easy to eat a lot of veges (unless you can stomach a lot of extremely spicy food, which makes me very ill).  It would be better if we had a kitchen and could cook at home sometimes, but with only a simple microwave and nothing else, we aren't able to, though the supermarkets are well stocked.  So I am always always always wishing for more vegetables. I do love Thai food, but much of it is laced with MSG which is terrible, and when you can't get out too much the choice is limited.

Until we get to a country where we have a kitchen, and can control what we eat in a meaningful sense, I guess we're stuck with our horrible carbon footprint for the foreseeable future. It'll be wonderful - buying from farmer's markets again and making very clear decisions about what we eat. I'm sure fish and meat will always appear on my plate sometimes, but at a much reduced rate and, I'd like to think, from healther and more humane sources.

Meanwhile, here's some food for thought. In the distant future perhaps we won't need to farm animals for meat at all.  Who knows - according to Wiki "Many biologists assert that this technology is ready for commercial use and simply needs a company to back it". Perhaps it is like alternative fuels to the oil industry - bad for business ;)  I can't see too many of those giant industrial meat producers backing the idea anytime soon.


I saw an ad for America's Psychic Challenge on tv. "Lifetime's reality competition features 16 unique individuals from across the country who claim to have the gift of clairvoyance."  Um.... how is this fun for the contestants? ... don't they already know who won?  ;)

Excuse my scepticism. I guess they're running out of ideas for new reality shows.

Doing My Bit?

Living in India it is blatantly, in-yer-face obvious that we have a global population crisis. At least - it should be. Strangely, to most Indians, the pressure is on to marry young and then breed breed breed. It's very confronting as a Westerner, to see your friends pushed towards forced marriages and the idea that they *must* have children immediately. I'm sure I'll blog about arranged marriage at some point, (when I have the energy to tackle my ever-so strong feelings!) but when it comes to the pressure to have kids, it's very hard for me to understand how people can't see the evidence that is right in front of them. Right in front of them from the moment they step out the door and jostle with the millions in their crowded cities competing for the basic necessities of life. Right in front of them on their congested and polluted roads. Right in front of them in their underfunded, crowded state hospitals, and certainly right in front of them in the nationwide slums that seem to be around every corner, never leaving any doubt that this is India. A billion people.

But, this is a whole cultural legacy we're talking about. It takes a lot of analytical thought and willpower to fight that... to come up with your own ideas and decisions for your future. It is hard for me to imagine much of that happening in India for many generations to come. There is no tradition of personal rebellion there, not like we have. No 1960's in India's past, their youth don't go through the teenage years of finding themselves and breaking away from their parents. It's just a different way of thinking, not one I understood after two years living there - perhaps less after two years!

The contrast with China and their one child policy is so dramatic. Obviously that is a pretty tough rule - and has caused many people to sacrifice their own dreams of the family they may wish to have. It's an example of thinking on a global scale, more for survival of the masses than the individual.

This is an extremely sensitive subject. It touches at the core of human nature. Most people want a family - or think they do because of family/community expectations. I've known since I was a child that I didn't want children, so I can't really comment on that instinctual urge, but I respect that people feel it. I feel that many people go ahead and have children without much thought, and don't realise how big the life change will be. Perhaps in a perfect world only the people who sincerely want to would have children, and provide loving safe homes for all. We don't think on a species level about most things - but since we are talking about global warming and climate change and everything that might impact our survival, surely we should try to think about the part we play in this too.

It was good to see the subject brought up in a BBC editorial. Discussion is a start. Population: The elephant in the room

Hump Day

Wednesday. Second day this week I haven't made it to work... in bed kicked down by fibro and its fun-loving symptoms. A low day. Hump day? .... more like slump day.

To top it off, all this sickness is bringing on what I *think* is bursitis in my right hip. I've had pain in it at night for years - it was bad in LA but a memory foam mattress eased it and I never found out what it was. Being laid up all the time and not able to get out and walk because of the heat, is really causing it to flare into something ugly and mean and vindictive. I feel like one of those cranky old woman yelling at noisy kids - almost like a pirate "aggh, my bursitis is acting up again" ... but it's not funny and it hurts so much it wakes me up. A real gift when you have chronic insomnia and beg, steal and borrow every 'z' you can get.

Yup... slump day. I am watching cooking competitions on tv and trying not to think about being up all night. Think small thoughts. Have a better one!

Loonies 1 - Sanity Nil

A Professor of Physics and Astronomy from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates has addressed a conference organised by the British Council to celebrate the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, and made a real doozy of a claim.

"He told his audience that in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, only 15 per cent of people surveyed believed Darwin’s theory was “true” or “probably true”.

A poll he conducted at his own university showed that 62 per cent of Muslim professors and students believed evolution to be an “unproven theory”, compared with 10 per cent of non-Muslim professors."

Read the whole story

Yep... they're everywhere folks. Rational thought takes another one in the goolies.

Meritocracy and the Age of Reason

I am watching Alain De Botton's Status Anxiety. It's fascinating, saddening and gives me hope for my own personal wanderings through life all at the same time. One of the central threads is the change of our western world from aristocracy to meritocracy. It would seem to be something we would want without question, and after living in India, where a caste system still bubbles under the surface so darkly, I don't doubt that we do want it, but at last after watching his documentary, I am finally beginning to understand many of the reasons we are so uneasy with our modern freedoms.


1. an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.
2. a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced.

As Alain points out, this has to logically mean if those with ability are rewarded, those with a lack of ability must therefore be punished. If we all feel we can achieve whatever we want - that ideal of reaching the top of the ladder or the great American Dream (wherever we are) based on hard work and skill and ability, what does it mean when we fail? That is why the richest people in the richest nations are so unwilling to give - because they feel those who are at the bottom have not worked hard enough and have somehow deserved their lot in life. Just look at the fight over health care in the US.

I am not going to paraphrase everything De Botton said as he puts it much more concisely than I could, but there are definitely problems with a society based on limitless ideals of success based only on (for most of us) unattainable goals. Maybe we should be rewarding people for their striving rather than their outcomes, telling the garbage man that he is really important and we couldn't do without him, paying him well so he doesn't feel worthless or endlessly wish for something 'better', and can concentrate on more meaningful things in life. After all, *someone* will always have to be the garbage man.

Totally unrelated to all this, I have been noticing that a great amount of the major scientific discoveries (geology, chemistry and physics etc) during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries came about mostly because of young and independently wealthy men (no women of course - not until Marie Curie perhaps!). Obviously the average person back then was just trying to feed their family, and keep both the ruling class and the church happy so there wasn't much time or money to get an education or think about anything else. It's no surprise that the rich were the ones with the time, money and ability to indulge in science and philosophy. Regardless of these socio-political undercurrents, we have reaped the rewards from their amazing insights and moments of sheer brilliance. It is quite incredible to read the tales of their discoveries - many concepts which were, at the time, considered almost heretical. Deciphering the age of the Earth, the edge of the Universe, the structure of an atom, or the theory of the natural selection.

Changing from an aristocratic to a meritocratic society has brought change to the scientific world too. Corporations decide what field is worthy of research - big business dictates much of scientific discovery. At universities, scientists have to fight for grant money, hoping that their field of study is deemed worthy. Perhaps even bring fame and glory (and money).

Even with these challenges, most of what we do know about our universe both macro and micro has been discovered in recent years. We know so much more than we did, and just enough to realise we know hardly anything yet. If only the money spent on defense was put into research imagine what a world of discovery this could be.

Our modern world is certainly not short of fabulously wealthy individuals (just like the brilliant minds of the past) what of them? It seems to me they are mostly the Donald Trump's and (gasp) Paris Hilton's of the world. Not exactly the most educated, or likely to come up with ideas that could change knowledge of life on this planet, are they? But, you could say they are living examples of success as defined by meritocracy, are they not? I admit that thought depresses me. I think I'll hang my hat of hope on people like Alain De Botton, also born into wealth but who chooses instead to ask questions about life and how we lead it, and lives only off the proceeds of his own writings. Otherwise, it's really up to us anyway.

Smoke and Mirrors

Some people do come up with original ideas! :)


For easy YouTube videos of some of the mirrors, which I think may play a little easier than the Quicktimes on his site, go here

An Atheist's Christmas

I can't even remember when I last looked forward to Christmas this much. Obviously it must have been when I was quite little - maybe 8? I haven't even celebrated it for the last umpteen years. It's not much fun in LA when you're alone. Most people were doing the 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' thing that felt uniquely American to me - the mass stampeding to airports for red-eye flights to small towns in the Dakotas or New Jersey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sitting in my apartment, no urge to cook for one person, (when I never cooked any other time), with two cats who hadn't thought to wrap a present for me and lacked the opposable thumbs to pull a cracker, just sapped me of any Christmas spirit.

But this year seems really something special. Gagan and I are heading to Canada. The cold climes of Vancouver Island in December, a lovely apartment with Mum and Dad and four cats (including our two terribly missed Tufty and Pippin) and a whole month of food and conversation and my own culture. I haven't seen them in a long long time - is it two years already? And we haven't been all together for the festive season since I can't tell you at all.

Is there a big question mark in your mind at this point? The atheist 'thing'? :) Well, my whole family are thinking people (as I put it) and there was never religion in the house (only the discussion about it). But we always had a fun Christmas, which consisted for us of a decorated tree (no angel at the top thankyouverymuch! I can't remember what was up there), presents on Christmas morning (and stockings when we were very small), and a wonderful tasty delicious meal cooked by Chef Mum (which I am drooling thinking about). In Australia, it was often a cold Christmas lunch on those 40+ degree summer days, which was still tasty, but never as fun as the idea of a turkey. Anyway, we made it into our own thing - a day of family and enjoyment. Dad had some problems - sad memories of his childhood added a tension that I picked up on even when young, but it was still nice. Once I grew up though, I lost any urge to put effort into it. I didn't realise until living in India with Gagan, that I was missing it. I just like the idea of a day where you have the people you want together (family or friends or whoever you choose), give some presents (size is not important, but something that makes each other smile) and share some great food, laughs and conversation. You certainly don't need the guise of religion to provide that... Festivus anyone?

Gagan has never seen a western Christmas (and I think an atheist one is just dandy - no superstitions and fear-of-god hoohaa to mess up a good feast!). Enjoying it with him and my parents together will be just lovely. Twinkling lights in gardens, frosty winter paths, breathing dragon breath with rosy cheeks. I could even enjoy some Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs while sipping egg nog :) Yessirree ... it's going to be a good-un!

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays

After most of the weekend in bed, and barely any decent sleep for about 5 nights, Monday rolled around with its bible-seller grin and clenched handshake of conviction. My body's reaction was to turn its mouth down at the corners, set off alarm bells and spread out the welcome mat for a migraine hoedown.

I did my best to shoe away the party guests, roll down the drapes and put away the cheap plastic tableware set up so hastily for the shindig. I ate breakfast and had a hot drink, thinking the food would help. I got dressed and primped and preened, and put on my face all ready for work. Face cream and perfume; mascara and toothpaste. Everything was done. Even pigtails - the illusion of Youth! Surely *that* would send the hangers-on away, even as they grabbed at the punch-bowl and made towards the karaoke stage.

And so we headed out the door on our way to work. I was sure I had succeeded, and if any plastic cups were left to be tossed, or paper streamers to be swept away, I could have a cup of the All Healing tea at work and that would do the trick.

But I was naive. You would think I might have learned by now. You can't just send the party away... it just sets up outside! When we walked into the Bangkok morning, the wall of heat hit me like a constipated dump truck (think about it). After 5 minutes I was not in a good way and all bets were off. I could hear the karaoke machine starting up and see the queue for the port-a-loos. Already they were running out of potato salad and the smoke from the BBQ was making me nauseous.

Yup, the Migraine Hoedown was on! Naught to do but curl up in bed, step aside and get carried into its madness.

See What A Million Does?

Stephan Fry has a million followers on Twitter. I think he's rather chuffed ;)

Big changes

I am reluctantly trying to come to terms with the fact that the job I have now is the last one. Doing visual effects/computer CG is basically not compatible with fibromylagia - not in today's business world anyway. I am very lucky that my boss (and friend) here in Bangkok indulges my health problems and lets me work as much or as little as I can, but I very rarely make it through a 40 hour week, and in movies working *only* a 40 hour week is a rarity. When we get to move back to the West, I can't see any way that I'll be able to continue this career I dreamed of since I was an 8 year old Kiwi kid watching Star Wars in a downtown Auckland theatre.

That is a big concept to wrap my head around. So many things to adapt to. I am not used to the thought of not working - not having that place to go to and being productive and earning money, however little. I hate the thought of being the 'little wifey' at home, even though I know Gagan wouldn't think of me like that for one second (and gets angry at me saying it). Then there are my subconscious hang-ups about the automatic lack of expectations of an Indian family-in-law - that my career wasn't important anyway, and so obviously him supporting me is just expected and the norm. I know that is not how *we* are as a couple... in the core of our 'us-ness', but as a modern (feminist) and independent person for so long I have to find a way to change my feelings about it. I wanted to prove that it was normal for a woman to have an excellent and 'successful' career. Firstly, I have to realise I can't change the thinking of a culture, and secondly, it doesn't matter.

Then there is what other people will think - or shall we say my 'perception' of what they will think. We define ourselves by our job, especially if it is something we enjoy and are proud of. The thought of that moment when people say 'what do you do?' and... I say nothing. Logically I know I shouldn't feel that way - that it doesn't matter what people think, but in reality it's not that easy. The CG industry is full of over-achieving brilliant people with more than their fair share of ego, and I can't say I have reached the enlightenment of not caring what people think yet. Perhaps the act of putting it into words here should make me see how useless it is to worry in the grand scheme of things.

Lastly - there's how I will actually find new meaning in life. I can't begin to answer that yet. We'll see. We're not even close to facing this yet and being lucky enough to move, so all of this is just theoretical right now. But it is coming.

Anyway... all this is a long laboured intro to a wonderful talk by Alain De Botton at TED. His amusing and insightful thoughts struck a chord with me, and I think it's something I will need to live by in the future. What it means to be successful. Not defining success as climbing the career ladder, but having success in life, as a human. What will that take so that I can feel fulfilled and not have regrets. And I don't think it should take a monumental life change for any of us to ask these questions and discover our own answers.


There is a famous quote that goes "There are no original ideas. There are only original people." Well, a few days ago when I was considering blogging again and the reasons why I wanted to write, the name of this blog just popped into my head. Sure enough, contrary to what I thought at the time, I wasn't the first person to make this play on the words of the movie title. Google is enough to sober anyone of the idea they might have come up with something unique ;)

(Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, whose quote that is, also happened to say "I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna Fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.")

Something on your Mind?

This TED talk literally blew my socks off :)

Amazing Things I Didn't Know (and will forget tomorrow)

The sun burns 25% more brightly than when the solar system was young. This should have caused Earth to warm up a whole bunch, which would be rather catastrophic for life as we know it. Amazingly, it's hardly affected us. The reason is.... life! Life has saved us from overheating. Squillions of tiny marine creatures in the oceans are capturing the carbon in the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide enters the water when rain falls, and the tiny organisms gather it up and turn it into their shells. By locking it away in their shell homes and not releasing it back into our air, they save us from a build up of even more greenhouse gas than we have! Obviously it's happening on a massive scale.

Eventually, when they pop their clogs and sink to the ocean floor, the shells all accumulate and compress into limestone. Those beautiful White Cliffs of Dover are all just tiny little marine creatures storing carbon. A 6-inch cube of Dover chalk holds 1000 litres of compressed carbon dioxide. If only I could be as useful to the planet - alive or dead....and I am a lot bigger than 6 inches!

Thanks to Bill Bryson for these incredible facts.

Searching for a Lighthouse

When you live in a fibro fog you're always looking for light. I think I have regular tiny sparks of clarity - and they come at the most inopportune moments. In the middle of a sleepless night, sitting on the loo, in a taxi gazing into space, ... never when I could actually make the most of it.

This has been a remarkable year. I could never have imagined I would have one quite like it. Almost something of an experiment. Gagan and I have been in a little bubble. Tucked away in a city where we don't speak the language, surrounded by incredibly kind people who are sweet and polite but can't communicate with us beyond a few simple niceties. So - we are isolated to a degree I have never experienced.

The heat and humidity is punishing and has made my severe fibromyalgia much worse, which has brought on waves of depression with ups and downs like a roller coaster. A good day - a bad one. I have learned immense amounts about drugs and my body's response to them. Even more about my brain and how fickle it is - how quickly I can go from a smile to a tear.

But - through all the external difficulties of spending way too many work days and weekends in bed, a most interesting thing has been happening. Being confined inwards has actually forced me to turn outwards. I have been reading again, and watching amazing documentaries and radio boardcasts online. TED talks, Richard Dawkins, Douglas Adams, Bill Bryson, Alain De Botton - the world of science and philosophy and analytical thinking has opened up to me and given me such a will to grow on those darkest days. Gagan and I read out loud to each other... talk endlessly about things we never knew. Discuss what it means to truly lead an analysed life - and how we can try to apply it to the things that make us so unhappy and frustrated every day. We are so far from achieving it... but just to even have these thoughts is like going from a black and white world into full glorious technicolor.

Not that this doesn't come with its own problems. The fibro fog means that it doesn't really matter how turned on and tuned in I get to these fantastic ideas. I can read all these amazing scientific concepts of the Big Bang and gene theory and particle physics, but by the next day - whatever part of my brain was hungrily digesting it like there was no tomorrow, has heartily spat it out and moved back into its usual alzheimer-like Mist of the Vague Unknowing. I have no details or facts at hand anymore, I just know that I read something really cool and - what was it again?.... What I do retain is all the emotion and feeling that I felt about whatever it was I read - but no details. I think that is interesting and worth studying, as obviously two separate parts of the brain (left = facts and right = emotions?) are being employed when I learn, and only one is then being screwed over by the fibro's startling ability to toss out short term memory (due I imagine to lack of any decent REM sleep and memory building). But why do I remember the emotions? What is the relationship between memory and emotion vs memory and facts/figures? Anyway.... I ponder this, as if I had my druthers I would swap the two. I'd rather remember the facts so I could carry on a barely coherent conversation and sound like I wasn't an idiot! haHA!

Anyway... as Ronnie Corbett said... I digress. This is merely the beginning. The year has been one of desperate thinking with depression taking hold, not knowing how my health would cope. Despair as health care options ran out in the country we are in (lovely though it is). We are now just going it alone until somehow we find our way back to the West and doctors who truly understand about fibro. That has made for dark moments - and looking for ways out of them. I find it interesting that as some people blindly turn to religion, I couldn't be more comforted by the wonders of science and nature and the unknown. Not believing we are the centre of it all is of great relief to me - I don't even understand why there is a need to ask the question 'why am I here?' We just are... the same as an ant and the same as an atom.

Turning 40. Perhaps that has triggered more thought as well. I didn't like it much. Maybe because the constant sickness is making me look much older so suddenly. I never felt old and now I do. A young husband is a good thing! We laugh and are very immature and that feels nice. This closeted life is something to cherish in a weird way perhaps. It feels like a strange pretty prison sometimes. But one I shouldn't take for granted. If I am well enough to read and learn - then I am growing. I just hope the times I can solidify some thoughts I can get them online as well. Musings are always good for a laugh when you look back on them!


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism