31 August 2008

Zimbabwe: Godwin looks at Mugabe Pt. 2

Peter Godwin, in Vanity Fair, September 2008

Not long after this conversation, back in Zimbabwe, I attended the Harare International Festival of the Arts—another of those jarring juxtapositions. It came as Zimbabwe awaited the results of the first round of voting in the presidential election—and as Mugabe’s militias were raining violence upon the land—but at the opening, men and women gathered in formalwear and sipped champagne.

The festival began with a musical revue called “Dreamland,” by the South African director Brett Bailey. It had a single scheduled performance, in a downtown park, and given the nature of the show, it would not have been granted a second. No amount of metaphorical distancing could disguise its meaning. It started with a gigantic figure, the tyrant king, wearing a bloated, blood-red mask and a white military uniform, who made his way out to the end of a lonely ramp that jutted into the audience. “A long time ago, in a beautiful land far from here,” the narrator began, “there lived a king who had bewitched his people.”

Onstage the members of a choir, dressed in striped pajamas, were beaten down by baton-wielding hyenas in military fatigues. The singers vomited votes into ballot boxes, then fell into a trance. “The king swallowed the songs of all his people,” the narrator continued. “And the only sound to be heard in that beautiful land was the drone of the king’s voice.”

The tyrant king remained on his lonely perch. The narrator went on: “But in that time there were songs that the king could not reach. These were the people’s most precious songs: the songs they sang in their dreams.… In the dry valleys of Dreamland the silent choirs sang their songs: The battered men in forgotten jails. The broken women on foreign soils. Families resting in unmarked graves. The hungry, the lost, the landless. And their songs rose like thunderclouds over the land.”

Then, suddenly, a choir of children began to sing “Over the Rainbow” in pure, piping voices. The prowling hyenas came up behind them and, one by one, pulled rough hoods over their heads and hauled them off, until at last there was only one little girl left onstage. She made it to the last line—“Why, oh why, can’t I?”—but before she could finish, she, too, was hooded by the hyenas and dragged away.

All around me in the packed arena Zimbabweans wept for their country. And so did I.

Native Zimbabwean Peter Godwin is the author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.

30 August 2008

Zimbabwe: Godwin looks at Mugabe Pt. 1

by Peter Godwin, in Vanity Fair, September 2008

The true Mugabe plotline differs from the accepted one. It goes like this: From the very start his default reaction to any political threat has been a violent one. During Zimbabwe’s first democratic elections he kept his guerrillas in the field, where they spread a chilling message: Vote for Mugabe or “the war goes on.” In the early 1980s, when he encountered opposition in Matabeleland from remnants of his former ally Joshua Nkomo’s forces, he sealed off the province and, as noted, laid waste to it. He called the action Operation Gukurahundi, using a Shona word that refers to “an early rain that clears away the chaff.” Estimates of the chaff vary from 10,000 to 25,000 dead. Through all this Mugabe got a free pass from the West. During the Cold War he was seen as pro-Western. Mugabe was also able, as a leader of the so-called Front Line States, which opposed white-ruled South Africa, to leverage the specter of apartheid. If you attacked Mugabe, he immediately painted you as a pro-apartheid apologist. That changed when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, in 1990; Mugabe had to play second fiddle. Mandela later made light of Mugabe’s predicament: “He was the star, and then the sun came up.”

By the late 1990s, Zimbabwe’s economy was in a shambles—corruption, misrule, and a disastrous military intervention in Congo had all taken their toll. To buy favor, Mugabe resorted to expropriating land and giving it to his supporters. The full story does not bear repeating here; land reform was certainly overdue and had been stalled for many reasons. But Mugabe did what he always does when there is something he needs: he employed brute force. And because the first victims were white—farmers who had their property jambanja’d (seized and occupied), and who in some cases were assaulted or murdered—the Zimbabwe story suddenly piqued the interest of the Western media. This is why the year 2000, when the farm seizures hit the headlines, is mistakenly seen as Mugabe’s watershed—the year he went bad. The truth is he had been bad long before that.

. . . The most recent World Values Survey shows that Zimbabweans are today the world’s unhappiest people. Their economy has almost halved in size in the past 10 years. The unemployment rate is more than 80 percent. About half of all Zimbabweans are reliant on food aid. Officially, some 20 percent of the population is afflicted with H.I.V./aids. Zimbabwe today has the world’s shortest life span—the average Zimbabwean is dead by age 36 (down from age 62 in 1990). As a result the country now has the highest percentage of orphans on the planet.

I first moved to Zimbabwe in 1984. I missed most of the bloodshed and only saw a country trying to look forward, though there were often stories of fond remembrance told me by older Africans.

29 August 2008

Expectations

Have you ever waited a long time for something?
Did the waiting inflate your expectations to the point that reality could never compare? Or did your waiting enhance the fulfillment of your plans or dreams?

Expectations are funny things.
Unexpressed expectations. Unfulfilled expectations.
Are your expectations usually of yourself or of others?
Not quite fair if they affect others who don't even know about them.

What brought all of this to my mind has nothing to do with disappointment or frustration from unfulfilled expectations. I'm just thinking along with you here, so my conclusion may not even fit with my opening direction. You OK with that?

I've been accused of both lowering my expectations and maintaining too high of expectations; different areas of my life and different people commenting.
If we lower our expectations, life may be more satisfying, but . . . not sure that's the way to go.

Contentment can come from the simplest of lifestyles, the smallest of pleasures.

Meditating on a drip of water, both before and after it plops into the puddle, can bring insight and calm. Considering the colour of New Zealand's grass these days is almost too spectacular! A layer of yellow under a bright green would almost capture the essence and light . . . but not really.

The laughter of a child or the smell of one wrapped in a towel after a bath . . . . or the comfort of am old dog leaning on your leg as you read . . . a cup of hot tea with milk, cupped in your hands . . . .

Expectations. Frustration. Contentment.
Just a choice we make, or too much influenced by outside factors?

What's worth waiting for, without inflated expectations, but with an anticipation that keeps the heart ticking and the eyes bright

28 August 2008

The Funniest Thing in the World

-Read aloud for best effect-

The funniest thing in the world, I know,
Is watchin' the monkeys'at's in the show!
Jumpin' an' runnin' an' racin' roun',
'Way up the top o' the pole; nen down!
First they're here, an' nen they're there,
An' ist a'most any an' ever'where!
Screechin' an' scratchin' wherever they go,
They're the funniest thing in the world, I know!

They're the funniest thing in the world, I think:
Funny to watch'em eat an' drink;
Funny to watch'em a-watchin' us,
An' actin''most like grown folks does!
Funny to watch'em p'tend to be
Skeerd at their tail'at they happen to see;
But the funniest thing in the world they do
Is never to laugh, like me an' you!

James Whitcomb Riley, A Hoosier poet from a place called Greenfield.
My grandmothers, both of them, had his books on their shelves and
quoted him to me from the time I was young.

27 August 2008

Personalities and tendencies

Wonder what kind of personality profile someone could put together on me from just these posts alone? Even my profile is a bit eclectic, a little quirky and yet somehow, staid.
I like to anticipate events or visits or good things.
I like to consider decisions, gather information and make a plan.

Even though I am spontaneous, see previous posts, I think half the fun of a trip or an event is the planning!

I wouldn't in any way describe myself as a detail person. Small children might not be fed if they were left in my care, though I suppose the noise level would be an indicator of a pressing need. I like kids, I just don't eat according to the clock.

I do pay my bills, but I can put off form-filling and filing for weeks! Applying for immigration or mortgages or warranties, dealing with insurance claims departments, while I think those all important . . . it's the paperwork that is daunting.

I do not fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants with international trips. Those are planned well as the surprises should be in the scenery and bazaars, not at the airport or front desk!

So, I'm a planner who is spontaneous and doesn't like details. Something not quite right in that. I'm thinking it depends on my motivation, my expectations and the expectations put upon me. Hate to let others down when I've said I'd do something. I'd better get Allie Mooney's book and see if I'm normal or confused.

26 August 2008

Why some comment, and some don't

Problogger says Only 1 out of every 100 Readers Comment on your Blog

Jakob Nielsen’s latest study finds that 90% of online community users are lurkers (read or observe without contributing) with only 9% of users contributing ‘a little’ and 1% actively contributing.

So 1% of your blog’s users are actively engaging with your blog and the rest are at best occasional contributers.

The study isn’t just on blogging so the actual numbers could be more or less than these and would no doubt vary from site to site anyway - but the principle is true. The vast majority of readers leave a blog without leaving a comment or contributing to it in any way.
Are you a lurker or a contributor?
Is it too hard to navigate the Comments set up?
Let me know what your feelings are or if you comment elsewhere, but just haven't joined in here yet. Knowing who my readers are would undoubtedly enhance the conversation, or not?

Planning a trip!

How do you plan your trips? On the floor with an old National Geographic map spread out? Is yours an anthropological approach or adventure oriented? I've been known to just look in my purse and calculate how far that amount of money would take me! When I lived in Knoxville that sometimes meant to the nearest Burger King!

I will hardly leave the country, whichever one I happen to be in when planning my trip, without checking out Lonely Planet's guide to my destination. They give all kinds of useful information, some of which is subject to change with time, but the most useful tips are often the most credible local tourist websites and what to read before I go.

I know, I'm a bit of a freak, but I like to understand a bit about a place before I go there. I'm more likely to understand processes, time consciousness, values and frame of reference if I've read some works, even fiction, on a place and culture. While it's not serious anthropological study, it's interesting and cause my pleasure in travel to begin even before I get on the plane, or boat or train. Right now I am reading Holy Cow!, one woman's insight into being foreign in India. I have three others on my bedside table.

Another site I like is Trip Advisor. They have reviews from those who have been there recently, or maybe from owners of the hotel or tour company, but overall, a good source of info from on the ground.

Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Forums is another good source to hear from people who are there or who know about the places you're interested in. It's where the LP travel community get together to exchange travel information, advice, hints and tips.

For photos, have you been on to Google Maps and seen where travellers have uploaded photos and anchored them to the locale on the maps? I actually got warm looking at those lovely beaces in Thailand yesterday! Just click on MORE near the top of the map and it'll give you the option to show photos.

Luggage Online suggests 50 or so sites.
Times Online UK suggests 50.
CNN lists their top 25 complete with picking the best seat on the plane Seatguru.com and a currency converter Xe.com so you can plan your budget before you go.

What about you? Even if it is the local bus timetable, where do you go before you go? Share your tips!

25 August 2008

How spontaneous are you?

I'm spontaneous. Some of the best times I've had were spontaneous!
The one when Anna, Belinda & Rebecca and I went on a road trip, flipping a coin at every junction to see where we would end up. Fortunately that coastal town did have accommodation available for us that night.

The others when friends just popped round and we ate out of the pantry and everyone was happy because no one had any expectations at all.

Or when I got stuck overnight in LA due to a flight delay and I ended up at Venice Beach as per a recommendation from the porter at the hotel. I had asked for the beach most handy to the bus route. I guess that was the one he knew his way to! Odd bunch of people there.

I do tend to collect brochures . . . and file them. I just sorted through the box this week and have heaps of paper for Thursday's recycling collection. But how many times have people called me up, locals mind you, and asked where to take their visitors or for a special day out with that individual they want to make a good impression on!? I could name names, but I won't because the relationships haven't ALL made it. Not my fault. I gave them good advice, including, "Don't have spaghetti on a first date! Thanks, Pop!

People often respond "How do you know these things?"
Well, I read. Yep, my secret's out. I read.

Yep, when I was a kid, I didn't do well at math because I had mono/glandular fever and my tonsils out in 3rd grade. Missed most of the multiplication tables. By 5th grade, Mrs. Ayers discovered it and suggested I be banned from pleasure reading until I caught up. Banning a kid from reading!? What nonsense!
Anyway, I proceeded to read road signs, packaging, cereal boxes, of course, anything I could get my hands on. I should possibly have counseling cause I've more or less continued in that vein all these . . . well the past few years.

So now I read to gather info so as to make better choices when I'm faced with them. Yes, my hard drive does get full, but instead of emptying it I just anticipate the malfunctions that happen. Like when I get place names mixed up between the various countries in which I've lived. Harmless and quite amusing at times. I've yet to end up, or send anyone else to Waikikamukau.

Not PC! Mac Pro Tips

30 Power Tips for Mac users.
I do not mean to alienate my PC readers. You can easily jump to the next post. Note: some tips are for Leopard only. I'm not quite there yet.

24 August 2008

WELCOME AHS, Friends of Jay!

I cannot believe I just welcomed AHS Alum to my blog! I'm a proud graduate of Highland High School, the last of those who went there from 7th grade through to 12th(Class of 1980)!

Anyway, I got a Vote of Approval and encouragement from Jay and I sure appreciate it! You never know who is reading and I don't throw my e-address out much cause I can't keep up with the good folks in my InBox as it is.

I've enjoyed writing this blog and hope to continue. It's good to write, to think, to think of how to discuss things with other people especially those I know might have a totally different opinion from mine.

I have readers who are not Christians.
I have readers who no longer think I'm a Christian.
I have readers who don't think in such narrow categories. I prefer to say I'm a Jesus follower anyway and that can be a bit different from being a Christian. Unpacking that comment is a whole series of posts, me thinks.

I write about more than faith, more than spirituality, though taking a walk and using a fountain pen both have elements of spirituality in them. As does gardening, art, dinner with friends, cleaning, etc . . . . My profile blurb ought to tell you some of my interests and Past Post titles will tell you where we've been. In the near future you'll hear a bit more about traveling, India, Thailand, and other topics that grab my interest.

Anyway, keep the comments coming. The commenting process is not arduous and it really pays off as we can then have a conversation! Click on that little link below this post and have your say! The more the merrier! It can be anonymous, but if you do actually know me from a present or former life, do try to let me know who you are.

I try to include clickable links to sites of interest. While those links will take you away from Conversations@Intersections, I think you'll benefit from going there or I wouldn't include them in the first place! I have no proprietary claim on your time or attention. I do hope you'll return and will try to provide interesting, helpful or quirky content to encourage you to do so. My spelling will be a bit different from what they taught me at HHS. That is due to the fact that I try to think in the language and culture of where I am. The same applies to my references to time of day or seasons of the year.

Also, consider subscribing to this blog on RSS feeds so you can keep up with Conversations@Intersections and all your favourite blogs and websites without actually having to go there each day. An RSS feed is a Rich Site Summary: a format for delivering regularly changing web content.
I use both NetNewsWireLite and Google Reader, though I usually just save pages to my Live Bookmarks in my browser of choice, Firefox,now. Always learning new tricks* keeps me from being an Old Dog! It's as simple as clicking on that RSS icon up there by the URL address and following the instructions. See my other posts on RSS.
NOTE* Technological tricks . Note 2 The orange icon is what I see in Firefox. Safari is blue.
NOTE 3 The real dog above is my Dad's Dodger. My dad and grandparents are all proud AHS grads!

23 August 2008

Prayer Beads, my versions for now.

I've encouraged you before to consider different ways to approach prayer. Maybe you want to talk a walk, kneeling is too distracting. Maybe you prefer kneeling, the posture reminds you of who is sovereign, and who is NOT.

Maybe you're a list person and tic things off as you go.
Are you more about praise or petition, intimacy or intercession?
Are any of these right or wrong?
Might I venture that God is more concerned about whether you converse with Him than how you go about it?
So here you go, my version of prayer beads, a prayer tool that is shared by various faith traditions over centuries of desire to communicate in a meaningful way with the Creator and Sustainer.
The longer string of beads has names or needs attached to each one, but only in my memory and mind. The circular set remind me of 12 attributes or characteristics of God which I would do well to keep in mind if I want to process life & faith with integrity and consistency.
Such a memory or focal tool may be of help to you as you pray, but it could be bread fasteners with initials inked on them or shells you've collected from the beach or bits of drift wood that represent the tides of life rubbing your edges off and leaving their marks here and there.
You may be doing just fine with an intangible approach, just you and God, arriving at certain places and times and finding sweet communion.
We have access. We underestimate.
Approach Him. Wait for Him. Seek Him. Give it a go.

22 August 2008

What Makes for a Good Blog?

Written by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders edited a bit.

As I think about the blogs I’ve returned to over the years — and the increasingly few new ones that really grab my attention — I want to start with, ironically enough, a list. Here’s what I think helps make for a good blog.

1. Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?

2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?

3. Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.” A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There’s a story here. Ethical “via” links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words.

4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not spewed. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated . . . If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.

5. Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation. Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity — rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more.

6. Good blogs are weird. Blogs make rude noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored or taking new medication.

7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog. This is good. It means you care.

8. Good blogs try. I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.

9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules.

And, yeah, you should disagree with potentially all of this. It’s because I have an opinion, and so do you. It’s why you probably have a blog. See? The system works.

43 Folders is a family of websites about stuff like personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better.

21 August 2008

Friendship

Old friends are the best! They know you and love you anyway.

Neglect: Plants, Friends, Houses.

My potted plants have been neglected.
It can hardly be deemed my fault as we had 28 days of rain in July! Who wants to go out and talk to plants when rain is dripping down your neck and splashing up on your ankles? And, here in Auckland, it often rains horizontally. While these windy conditions are good for sailing, they are not good for gardening!

Other things show signs of neglect.
Friendships can be neglected. Some of them will survive, easily picked up and renewed after a gap of time. Others seem to drift beyond our grasp. While we often meet so many people that we cannot possibly maintain every relationship at the same level of intimacy and interdependence, attention on friendships over time, and distances, is a sign of maturity. People are not expendable, disposable, easily replaced.

Have you ever driven past a house that has been neglected?
Some homes just need a little love, just a some attention and TLC. Whatever their price range, neglected homes take on a look about them that speaks volumes to those passing by.

I have rooms in my house like that.
My office sometimes becomes a collection point for all the things I bring in, set down with full intentions of sorting through and filing properly. The dust tells a different story.

I think that such piles, such neglected places in my home, can often reflect what's happening in my heart and mind. Things sometimes accumulate, are not sorted through and processed properly, and they can tip over or trip me up.

Such "piles" are a sign to me that I'm over extended, out too much, not taking the time for order and deliberate good choices.

My car's dirty too, but washing it won't make any difference in this weather.

20 August 2008

Dead by Midnight?

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again.

Og Mandino, The Greatest Miracle in the World

19 August 2008

Foreigners: Why does that sound like a bad thing?

My Iranian refugee friends are settling in to their new life in West Auckland, though challenges face them everyday. We had 28 days of rain in July. They have no car. Getting the kids to school or the mom to doctor’s appointments, let alone the grocery shopping and other errands we all run each week, has been a wet and dreary process.

Imagine too, going to a supermarket or into a pharmacy and asking for something you need. You don’t know what it is called here. Your vocabulary is limited and your accent thick. Sometimes the people behind the counters treat you as thick though you are not at all, just foreign.

Imagine being foreign. I have been foreign for much of the last 23 years, but mine was by choice for a cause I think worth the discomfort and fatigue of always being alien to my surrounding culture.

My Iranian friends did not choose this. They were just born of the wrong minority group in a region with security issues and power struggles. They are Kurdish and therefore, expendable.

18 August 2008

What does one pack when going to Thailand and then India?

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, a long way from India.
This city is having a Boobs on Bikes Parade on Wednesday.
Sorry to be so crude, but that's nothing compared to what will
be cruising right down the main street in the middle of the afternoon! Seemingly no modesty. What a contrast!

So, I plan to go to India thinking it is going to be hot and I'll need to cover up a bit. They value modesty! You know, I'm thinking this is the perfect chance to do some shopping . . . there!
If I just buy what I need when I get there, I'll look a bit more the part and less foreign.
Of, I may still be one of the few with curly hair and pale skin.

I'll take two books. Only two books. I'll have to check in with you later to see if I've stuck to that commitment. My journal does not count as a book. A good pen!

I'll take a few basic medications that might come in handy and a personal torch/flashlight.
I'll take some gifts from New Zealand to my hosts. I'll plan for the talks I'll give there and will print out some notes on various issues I may want to review as I go.

I hope to find a cache too, so that means I need to take the GPS. Why didn't I get a smaller one?
And a camera and sensible shoes and sunscreen and . . . .

What would you be sure to take on such a trip? The one to India, not down the main street.

17 August 2008

Connection Issues: Technology

My internet connection stopped connecting me to the world this past week. As I was going away for a few days I did not jump to resolve the disruption, hoping it would sort itself out.

Upon return, I did all I know to do then called my internet service provider who then proceeded to give me the run around. While I could use some exercise, I didn’t want a run around from them. I wanted efficient service and a reestablishment of my service. That’s why I pay my bills on time.

Upon thorough investigation, they noted that there was a disruption of service, not only to my address, but to the entire exchange. Resolution should come soon.

It’s been a few days now. I now know terminology about networking, mostly in acronyms, that I don’t really want to know. I like wireless. My computer, a faithful Mac, asks me if I’d like to join a network and I say, "Yes!” and I’m on. That’s how it is supposed to work. It works in hotels and cafes and some airports. Why is it not now working in my home?

After four calls to my ISP, receiving different information and advice each time, I’m taking a risk of $80 for them to send a technician out to see where the fault might be. I am totally at their mercy. They can say it is within my sphere of responsibility and I’ll have no way to refute it. That’ll cost me $80.

They may say it is their fault. In which case, the man, Allan, may say sorry, but probably not because he’ll be employed by a subcontractor who tidies up after the big teleco. The mobile technicians are not at fault. They are just the meat in the middle of the sandwich.

They may say there is still a fault in the exchange, possibly a result of over 28 days of rain in July, and they may have no estimate of the time it’ll take to resolve the issue. They may then think I have issues because this is NOT why I pay my monthly bill on time.

Yes, I can go to a café that offers wireless access for the price of a cup of tea. I did that yesterday and had the Olympics in the background as a bonus. The commentators are running short of adjectives for Michael Phelps. They should’ve paced themselves earlier on!

But our lives, many of us anyway, are very much linked to the internet. We look up tide times and exchange rates and TV schedules and bus schedules and recipes and blogs and news and do research and try to find things we need to buy or places we want to go . . . . and, being so far from so many friends and relatives, I like having that email link. It bridges the great divide and lessens the distances sometimes.

Technology. I can live without it. Have done. On the other hand, used as a tool and not allowed to become a tyrant, technology is a very handy thing to have on hand.

16 August 2008

Correct, Real & Significant

Just returned home from a film about Miss Pettigrew, a governess with scruples who gets to the bottom of the heap and enters into a world of pretense disguised with glitz, fame and stardom.

On a rainy night in Auckland, it was a feel good film with a good moral.

We often undervalue the things of importance and overestimate things of temporary interest. How to keep our priorities right, without being too intense?

Laughter should be a priority.
Frivolous afternoons of walks on the beach or time spent over a cuppa tea.

I read a quote about a man walking through a woods, doing apparently nothing, being considered of no use, while a man who bulldozed it all down in the name of subdivisions and progress was labelled industrious. Hmm, maybe, but who says industrious is good?

15 August 2008

Inconsistent in integrity

I speak often of integrity.

I think I lack integrity in doing so.

I have heaps of ideals,
but I'm inconsistent in living them out,
in realising them in everyday situations.

I say that I celebrate grace, gratitude and generosity.

Gotta ask it!
Am I gracious?
Only to a point.
Then I get all these conflicting messages in my head and I ge confused!

Am I grateful?
Well, sometimes, but real gratitude is more than a glib "thank you".
Real gratitude would result in no complaints, no half-empty cup, no sighs of dissatisfaction.

I'm often a cranky so-and-so in whome no one would easily see gratitude!

Am I generous, of spirit?
Do I give the benefit of the doubt and not judge when someone does something differently than I would or when I could possibly have misunderstood them?

It's easy to talk of love and generosity and grace.

The only thing in which I am consistent is my inconsistencies.

Thus the need for continual conversion, for continual renewal, for continual reflection on Christ and my need for Him. I if could do it on my own, I wouldn't need Him, now would I?

1 Corinthians 13, NLT

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

14 August 2008

Dog

One reason a dog is such a lovable creature is his tail wags instead of his tongue.

Quoted from an unknown source.

Expectations. Disappointment.

What to do with disappointment?
It follows me around like a cloud.

We've had 28 days of rain in July.
Not a good set up for a long anticipated event.
Out of balance and needy.

Expectations. Phooey!
Rewind the tape and play it again, but differently this time?
Think it through and learn,
valuable lessons, vital truths.

Move on, with grace and generosity of spirit,
humility and a soft heart.
Prayers of blessing and a realisation of what really matters.

Trust in good intentions and hope others do too.

11 August 2008

Dear God, . . . .

Prayer as a letter to God, or a sleep potion?

10 August 2008

Geocaching Background Article

Social experiment turns into growing phenomenon

JOSH NASH / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Bryan Roth, left, Jeremy Irish and Elias Alvord, the creators of www.geocaching.com,
display one of the geocaching containers at the Seattle headquarters.




For the past seven years, Jeremy Irish, Bryan Roth and Elias Alvord, the founders of Groundspeak Inc., have watched geocaching grow from "75 caches to more than 490,000 worldwide," said Roth. "The amount of activity taking place around the world is staggering, in a truly incredible way."

Located in Seattle, Groundspeak Inc. is the company that runs www.geocaching.com. Worldwide headquarters for the geocaching movement, it's part of a triad of pilgrimage points that include the Project Ape Cache, a huge rocket box left at Snoqualmie Pass by the producers of the 2001 movie "Planet of the Apes," and the first-ever geocache, placed by Dave Ulmereast of Portland.

Posted to a news group, that first cache was found two days later by Mike Teague, who started his own page documenting the locations.

At the same time, Jeremy Irish heard about it. He brought his Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, found a cache, and since he was a Web developer, decided to build the Web site, a database to make it easier for people to enter in caches.

He talked to Teague, who passed on the baton, and the site launched in September 2000, with 75 caches that Irish had to hand-enter. "I was reviewing caches myself for the first year, year and a half," Irish said.

For the past seven years, Groundspeak has developed and supported "location-based entertainment." It has a staff of 23 and more than 100 volunteers around the world.

A large touch-screen computer at the entryway to the office tracks people logging in their experience finding a cache. "We're getting about 1.4 million logs a month," said Roth. "Every 30 seconds, we pull the newest one and show it."

Irish calls it "a social experiment turned into a small phenomenon."

The initial idea of placing a container in the woods for somebody to find and write in their own experience, has been amazing. It now connects a legion of people who, after connecting online, actually connect offline as well.

"That was the biggest surprise," said Irish. "People actually wanting to get together and talk about their experiences, and these organizations that have been created around geocaching."

Roth calls it "a great community of people. There are geocachers everywhere, and they're taking enjoyment from this game."

It's also popular in other countries: Germany is geocaching's highest growth area, and has doubled its amount of caches since 2000.

09 August 2008

I'm in Australia. On holiday.

What do you expect from an Australian cartoonist whom I met at an arts festival in Titirangi, Auckland, new Zealand.

Michael Leunig is a treasure not to be missed. He is 5th generation Australian, in his early 60s now, something of a national treasure among Australian progressives.
He has a very interesting website of his own, with writing about his work and his politics. A well-informed admirer, who maintains a Leunig appreciation website called Curly Flat, has described Leunig as follows: Though his profession may be listed as "cartoonist" on his tax return, Michael Leunig is much more. Although his work is at times incredibly mirth provoking he is not so much a humorist as an observer, philosopher, commentator, historian of the absurd and catalyst for free thinking. Born in East Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) in 1945, Leunig subsequently evolved in Footscray, an eclectic inner industrial suburb, until his success as a satirical political cartoonist afforded him the means to escape the city in favour of the gentler ambience of nearby country environs. From his early work in the 60's when he was published in such diverse journals as Newsday, Woman's Day and the controversial London Oz magazine, Leunig developed his distinctive pen style and eye for the ridiculous which led to publication in 1974 of his first book The Penguin Leunig (see elsewhere on the site for a complete anthology). These days he lives somewhere near Melbourne where he is a regular contributor to the local daily broadsheet The Age and fridge doors all over the country. While most Australians are familiar with his work, few could tell you anything about the man and yet through his cartoons, know everything about him. By all accounts he is indeed shy, gentle and pensive, and his work reveals him to be cynical, witty, sensitive, deeply spiritual, emotionally precarious, at times depressed and always insightful. A dysfunctional genius perhaps. Michael Leunig simultaneously defines and defies most Australian stereotypes, and I, for one, am thankful.

07 August 2008

Symbols of God's Attributes

Have you made your list yet? The list of people or things about which you care deeply and would like to take regularly before the throne of God for His attention?

Not that He's not paying attention anyway, but He likes to discuss things with us, often changes our perspective and brings clarity and change.

After you've made your list, and assigned each one a colour or texture or image of some sort, then you can choose your beads or emblems or symbols to attach to each prayer point.

Making a string of prayer beads does NOT make you more spiritual, does NOT make God listen more fervently and does not create magic that then obligates God to answer the way you want.
He is God. You are not. Vital point to remember.

I've made a new string of prayer beads; each bead denoting something of the character and nature of the God I love and who loves me. This bracelet of beads is way too big for my arm, but it is also showing me how big my God is.

So maybe you'd rather make a list of the attributes of God that encourage you or remind you of the many facets of His identity. Then fossick out symbols of each one so as to illustrate the God who cannot be drawn or framed or limited to any one image. Our efforts of symbolising Him too are inadequate, but the process is a good one. Think outside the box of religion or church and consider the God you worship.

See earlier post on Prayer Beads

06 August 2008

Geocaching: sport, hobby, obsession

On the last day of last year I learned a new trick. Actually it's a hobby. No, it's a a sport. It can be an obsession, especially for gadget freaks who like to go for walks.

I've taken up geocaching, (pronounce it Geo-cashing, like cashing a check) an activity spawned by the opening up of the satellites to recreational users. Anyone can now buy a GPS and figure out where they are, or where the cache is!

Not sure if it was the chicken or the egg, but of course, someone turned it all in to a game.

One guy hid some stuff in the woods and then put up a notice online with the coordinates. His buddies took it as a challenge and went in search of it. Upon finding it, they signed the log book and sent him a message online. They then proceeded to hide some stuff too. Let the games begin!

Now there are podcasts for geocachers, special gear, events and websites.

Read on and then let me know if you are interested. I love it and it gets me out exploring areas I wouldn't otherwise have gone.

FAQ's

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.

What is the meaning of the word Geocaching?
The word Geocaching refers to GEO for geography, and to CACHING, the process of hiding a cache. A cache in computer terms is information usually stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve, but the term is also used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.

What is a GPS device?
A GPS unit is an electronic device that can determine your approximate location (within around 6 - 20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Latitude and Longitude.
Each GPSr receives signals broadcast from GPS satellites. A receiver needs to read signals from at least three satellites at a time to calculate its general location by a process called trilateration.

With signals from four satellites, a GPS receiver can get a more accurate fix that includes altitude and the exact time, as well as latitude and longitude. The more satellite signals the receiver reads, the more accurate the position it reports to you.

You gave me coordinates to a specific cache location. Seems pretty easy.
It is deceptively easy. It is one thing to know where a location is shown on a map; it is another to actually try to arrive at that location. Sometimes you cannot navigate directly to a cache by going straight in the direction your GPS receiver points - there might be a river or other obstacle in the way.

What are the rules in Geocaching?
1. If you take something from the cache, leave something of equal or greater value.
2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
3. Log your experience at www.geocaching.com.

What is usually in a cache?
In its simplest form, a cache always contains a logbook which contains information from the owner of the cache, notes from visitors and can contain much valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information. In smaller caches, a logsheet may be used.

Larger caches may contain a items which turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the owner or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy. Remember, if you take something, it is only fair for you to leave something in return. It is recommended that items in a cache be individually packaged in a clear, zipped plastic bag to protect them from the elements.

Quite often you may also find a trackable item.
A Groundspeak Travel Bug is a trackable tag that you attach to an item, and which travels from cache to cache with the help of people like you. Each tag is etched with a unique code which the finder can use to log its travels on this website. Every Travel Bug has a goal given by its owner, so if you think you can help it along on its journey feel free to take it with you. Geocoins are special trackable coins created by other Geocachers to commemorate special events or as a signature item to leave in caches.

05 August 2008

Just breathe: in . . . and out.

Does it get anymore beautiful than this?
We can argue about elections, who should be coach, why we fight a battle in one country but not in another with just as much cruelty and corruption . . . .
but sometimes we just need to go for a walk in a peaceful place and breathe.
Listen to the waves lapping at the shore.
Hear the birds' wings whooshing overhead?
And the salt; taste it?
Just breathe.

Taken by Jill Shaw on Abel Tasman track, Nov 2007 with Catherine Tagaloa.

04 August 2008

Nature or Nurture: Climate Change?

Got some valid information that argues the other side?
Shoot me the links. It's hard to sort out all the expert opinion. Ethically, we must care and do our best whether our efforts change anything or not.

"Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate" - NIPCC


Thursday, March 06, 2008

ny08webAd You've no doubt heard about the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the IPCC. The IPCC is a group of government-approved scientists convened to provide a UN-approved examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of man-made global warming. Their reports and their 'Summaries for Policymakers' of these reports are widely reported and, according to a new group of scientists called the NIPCC, highly selective.

The NIPCC is an international coalition of scientists under the title of Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, who met recently in New York in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, concluding the conference by issuing the Manhattan Declaration which declares "'Global warming' is not a global crisis,"

That world leaders reject the views expressed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as popular, but misguided works such as “An Inconvenient Truth,” [and]

that all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith.

The NIPCC was "convened to provide an independent examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of climate change in the published, peer-reviewed literature – examined without bias and selectivity. It includes many research papers ignored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), plus additional scientific results that became available after the IPCC [last] deadline of May 2006." The NIPCC scientists argue that "The IPCC is pre-programmed to produce reports to support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming and the control of greenhouse gases."

The 1990 IPCC Summary completely ignored satellite data, since they showed no warming. The 1995 IPCC report was notorious for the significant alterations made to the text after it was approved by the scientists – in order to convey the impression of a human influence. The 2001 IPCC report claimed the twentieth century showed ‘unusual warming’ based on the now-discredited hockey-stick graph. The latest IPCC report, published in 2007, completely devaluates the climate contributions from changes in solar activity, which are likely to dominate any human influence.

The foundation for NIPCC was laid five years ago when a small group of scientists from the United States and Europe met in Milan during one of the frequent UN climate conferences. But it got going only after a workshop held in Vienna in April 2007, with many more scientists, including some from the Southern Hemisphere. The NIPCC project was conceived and directed by Dr. S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.

The NIPCC's Summary for Policymakers was released at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change held in New York, and can be downloaded here: 'Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate' (pdf). Chapter headings offer a fair summary of the contents:

  • Most of modern warming is due to natural causes
  • Climate models are not reliable
  • The rate of sea-level rise is unlikely to increase
  • Do anthropogenic greenhouse gases heat the oceans?
  • How much do we know about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
  • The effects of human carbon dioxide emissions are uncertain
  • The economic effects of modest warming are likely to be positive

MSM coverage of the conference can be found at these sources:

Natural Forces, Not Man, Causing Global Warming, Scientist Says Crosswalk.com, VA
Cool View of Science at Meeting on Warming New York Times
Hundreds of experts assert 'alarmists' in climate debate 'have had ... WorldNetDaily
Global Warming Skeptics Insist Humans Not at Fault Washington Post
Analyze this, ye warming believers: Peter Foster National Post
Hundreds of experts assert 'alarmists' in climate debate 'have had ... WorldNetDaily
Courts Confront Climate Change Hawaii Reporter
Amazing Climate Predictions Revealed—Climate Models Reviled Reason Magazine

And from some of the blogs there's Voices of Sanity on the Climate from Power Line, and of course The Reference Frame, whose author Lubos Motl is one of the authors of the NIPCC Summary.

Got some valid information that argues the other side? Shoot me the links. It's hard to sort out all the expert opinion.

03 August 2008

Jesus was a refugee.

Jesus was a refugee.
Our Lord, the one who died I your place.
He was a refugee.
He wasn’t out to take anyone’s job or place in school.
He was just born into a situation that wasn’t very . . . stable.

We judge people by all kinds of things.
By how they dress or speak or hold themselves.
We also judge by the colour of the skin or shape of their eyes, by their accent or height. . . . all things no one can really control.

Jesus was a refugee.
He had to flee to another country, as a baby, because of the choice of a powerful man who was scared of losing his position.

God the Father provided, through a refugee, the blood which was needed to cover my sin.

God created all things, matter, different cultures, senses and love.

For God so loved the world that He sent a refugee, for whosoever would believe on Him, would not perish, but would have life without end.

We have some in our midst, on the Shore and scattered throughout our city.
Many of them don’t know Jesus.

How would it be if we contextualised the gospel by explaining the success story of a refugee who escaped death as a baby, only to embrace it, for their sakes, and ours, as a man?

Sometimes all you know is where you stand.

Sometimes all you can know, is where you stand.
You don't know why your shoes don't actually match.
You don't know if you have the strength to take the next necessary steps.
You may not know why you started down this particular path.
Nor might you know the way home.
Even if you are not really sure where "here" is,
"here" you stand.

02 August 2008

Life Improvement in 5 Minutes or Less!



Five is the third smallest prime number...
The atomic number of boron...
Five musicians are called a quintet...
The number of oceans in the world...


What are some ways you can improve your life in five minutes or less?
LifeEdit suggests these:

  1. Listen to Your Favourite Song - especially effective if you're in a slump and need a little energy, listening to an upbeat song can get you back on track and give you a little extra juice to keep going throughout your day.
  2. Floss Your Teeth - something as simple as flossing can improve your smile, make your breath fresher, and even help lower the risk for some health issues.
  3. Have a Cuppa - for those of you who drink coffee or tea, it will give you an extra perk as well as provide you with some nice health benefits as a side-effect!
  4. Update Your Calendar - take advantage of a few minutes of downtime to update your calendar with any crucial events for the upcoming week. Five minutes of review and updates daily can make your life more organized and give you a better picture of what needs to be accomplished.
  5. Give or Get a Hug - whether you hug a child, an animal, a friend or even a complete stranger, this contact will send all sorts of feel-good emotions through your system and help you feel better connected to the world.
  6. Eat a Piece of Fruit - Whole fruit is much better for you than juice - you get the added fibre, which takes your body longer to digest and gives you a longer energy burst. Grab a apple or an orange (or any easy-to-eat fruit) to keep hunger pangs at bay and energy levels high.
  7. Drink a Glass of Water - a lot of us become cranky and tired when we are not properly hydrated. To ensure that you are getting enough water, fill up a glass (add some lemon or cucumber if you'd like) and get sipping!
  8. Pick Everything Up Off the Floor - depending on how ambitious you are, this could be one room or several. Dirty clothes, in the hamper. Loose papers, filed away or thrown away. Garbage, well...we know where that should be, and it isn't on your floor.
My additions:
  1. Throw something away - make sure it is yours, but look around. You can eliminate some chaos, and stress, from your life if you have less to manage. Simplify.
  2. Ring someone you love- We're often busy with the things on our list, but what about those things, or people, who never make it on our lists? Dial it in. Call 'em!
  3. Get a view - Gaze on something beautiful or inspiring. Art is good. Gardens are nice. Sunsets, ocean views or mountains refresh our souls. What's nearby that you can reach and enjoy in 5 minutes?
  4. Breath - Deeply. Consciously. Be aware. Expel beyond reason and then take in a breath slowly.

01 August 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Join the conversation with Stephen Covey.

The chapters are dedicated to each of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:

  1. Be Proactive. Here, Covey emphasizes the original sense of the term "proactive" as coined by Victor Frankl. You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you respond to certain things. When you are reactive, you blame other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Being proactive means taking responsibility for every aspect of your life. Initiative and taking action will then follow. Covey also shows how man is different from other animals in that he has self-consciousness. He has the ability to detach himself and observe his own self; think about his thoughts. He goes on to say how this attribute enables him: It gives him the power not to be affected by his circumstances. Covey talks about stimulus and response. Between stimulus and response, we have the power of free will to choose our response.
  2. Begin with the End In Mind. This chapter is about setting long-term goals based on "true north" principles. Covey recommends formulating a "personal vision statement" to document one's perception of one's own vision in life. He sees visualization as an important tool to develop this. He also deals with organizational vision statements, which he claims to be more effective if developed and supported by all members of an organization rather than prescribed.
  3. Put First Things First. Here, Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at short-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear not to be urgent, but are in fact very important. Delegation is presented as an important part of time management. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed upon in advance, rather than prescribed as detailed work plans.
  4. Think Win/Win describes an attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought that satisfy the needs of oneself, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in rejection of that advice. Thoroughly reading out your own autobiography will decrease the chance of establishing a working communication.
  6. Synergize describes a way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
  7. Sharpen the saw focuses on balanced self-satisfaction: Regain what Covey calls "production capability" by engaging in carefully selected recreational activities.
7 Habits Self Scoring Profile