31 January 2011

Parachute Music Festival, Waikato, New Zealand

If you're looking for me, try Waikato.

I'm at Parachute Music Festival, unless we got rained out. The festival continues no matter what, but some of us bail out if we get cold or wet for too long.

I'm camping in George and may or may not have showered in a couple of days.

The music's loud, and most of it is good. Keeping company with Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio, Tash McGill, Belinda Franklin and the girls from my Bible study group. Well, we're old women really, but going to these festivals make us think we're girls again.

To quote a young friend from a former youth group, "I'm glad you think that about yourself."

30 January 2011

29 January 2011

28 January 2011

In a perfect world . . .

What exactly would that look like, a perfect world?

No hunger. That's a given. For it to be perfect for the animals, we'd all have to be vegetarians.

Consistent justice across all classes and colours of people.

Plenty of water and equitable use of it.

Birds & cats would defecate in prescribed areas instead of on windscreens and in flower beds.

In a perfect world would we use the American or the British spellings and vocabulary?

In a perfect world, aside from all the pain and suffering the vast majority of humans experience everyday, I'd have a green leather chair in my home library with those ladders on tracks that give access to the highest shelves. There'd be a levitating globe in a wooden cradle that I could spin to my heart's content. There'd be a breeze in Summer and a fire in Winter.

My dog would remind me to take regular walks in the garden and my tea pot would never run dry. Wind chimes would mimic my prayers, gentle tones lofting on fragrant breezes . . . .

My friends would come periodically for afternoon tea, literary discussions and lively dinners with inspiring conversation . . . .

Now let's get back to reality. Did you know that much of Dubai was built on the backs of immigrant labour from whom passports had been taken so they could not leave or complain to the authorities? Yep, saw it on the BBC news. Wonder how they'd describe a perfect world?

Reality check. Rude really, but that's how my mind works.

• freedom • choice • safety • a bed • cool water • flush toilets •

27 January 2011

Making Sense of Life, and stuff. Pt 2

"What I'm most interested in is how we make sense of life."
When we get a curve ball unexpectedly, when our plans turn to custard, when the wheels fall off the bus, how do we respond?
  • Sometimes we just get on with doing the next thing.
  • Sometimes we sit down and try to make sense, to understand what has happened.
  • Sometimes we just sit down.
How do we factor in the new data with what we've always known, and coming up with a result that makes sense? Another question arises, "How much control do we have over the new"?

Whether struggling with the death of a loved one, a job loss, an addiction, personal economic chaos, a relationship gone wrong, an illness that's not likely to get better ... making sense is

Sometimes causative questions are asked: How'd I get here? What could I have done differently? Quite often things just are, and there's no one to blame or no decision to retract.

Emotions roll through ... or may just
come to a halt as numbness kicks in to save us from overload. Anger, grief, remorse, anxiety, frustration ... they are both part of the picture and they take their toll. Emotions are part of being human. We are feeling animals as well as thinking animals, with deep seated senses of right and wrong and normal and balance.

We like to make sense, to know, and we'll often exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of that goal. It's about having power over our situation, or choices within it. Even if it means a retreat or a dignified surrender, we like to be cognizant, to have made sense.

Some will argue that this autonomous desire to understand is rebellion against a sovereign God who will protect His people from all ill and harm.

Look around. Christians get sick, die, go bankrupt, divorce and get caught up in chaos around us. It happens. Intelligent confidence maintained within suffering speaks volumes.

Marrying the natural order of things with God's role in the meta-narrative aids the sense-making process. Jesus followers often keenly see the order in God's universe and are attracted to it because it makes sense. It's the disorder that irritates, the bit that's been distorted or corrupted and throws everything else out of kilter that threatens our sense of sense.

Believers should never check their brain at the door. It ought to come in to the conversation, along with the heart, liver and eyes.

I thoroughly enjoy conversations between sincere and humble scientists who seek truth and order. Its a joy to watch those who know God's part of the equation learn from those who are skeptical, and vice versa. The battle is not against God, but for how to make sense of what we observe. The battle is not in the labs or lecture halls, but in the hearts of every human.

As you try to make sense of what's happening in your corner of the world, in your soul and your brain, you might consider conferring with someone who can look at things from a distance or through a different filter. Getting additional input might complicate things in the short term, but it might bring clarity in the long term. Choose that person well though, or things could become more distorted.

Remember too that their answers do not necessarily fit your questions. You'll have to discern your own unique answers that fit your situation, and with which you can move forward with confidence that you've made sense of things ~ for now.

26 January 2011

Making Sense of Life, and stuff. Pt 1

While I'm no Foucault, Emerson or Bacon, I do know that knowledge empowers us. Even more than that, understanding often comforts us. It is in the understanding that we can know what we are dealing with, good or bad, and begin to make sense.

"What's our situation?"

We humans like to make sense. We like to be coherent in our communications and in our thinking, to understand and to be understood. A little more of that and there'd be less declared, and undeclared, war.

But let's domesticate it a bit. When I woke up this morning I first tried to make sense of my surroundings.
  1. It was light out (Summertime in NZ!).
  2. I was in my familiar bed.
  3. A car was starting up outside.
  4. I wasn't late for anything.
  5. I didn't need to move immediately.
  6. I chose not to turn the radio on.
  7. Nothing much hurt.
  8. So far so good.
Other times I've woken up in strange places with lights flashing outside and unfamiliar noises echoing off brick walls. No, it wasn't a police raid. A friend and I had made a quick trip to Chicago and we got a room right beside the flashing red sign that advertised VACANCIES.

Making sense is a normal human response to new data or unknown factors.

We tend to live conscious of underlying conditions of reality and make our choices on the assumption of those conditions being static. We think of those things as truths. Sometimes they are scientific truths.
Other times they are relational or cultural. They are the paradigm or frame within which we make our choices based on the sense we've made of what's happening around us.

By now, I think the philosophers are laughing at me and many other readers are thinking I'm talking around in circles. This blog is called Conversations@Intersections for a reason. Please join in and set me straight, or elaborate or confirm. I'd be most pleased.

What I'm most interested in is how we make sense of life. When we get a curve ball unexpectedly, when our plans turn to custard, when the wheels fall off the bus, how do we respond?

25 January 2011

Word Smiths? ... or Joneses?

Comments which are repeated often come to the foreground of my focus. I've often taught that in interpreting any type of writing. If a word, theme or phrase is repeated, pay attention.

So when I've heard similar comments of late, I've noticed. Words come fairly easily to me. Whether in speaking or in writing, I can often craft a sentence or a story in a way
that flows and follows and informs. Sometimes I get things jumbled and have modifiers in the wrong places or leave things dangling where I ought not.

But in general, words have been my tools for many years now. How much of that is embedded in my DNA, a design that was intentional or could have a genetic trail back to . . . ? I don't know. I have a totally unproven theory. If you can substantiate it, please do so and let me know so I can speak with authority on the subject instead of theorising.

I think it had to do with having literate parents and grandparents. My family held good grammar up as a value. We always had shelves of books in our home, and even this week my dad and I were talking about what we were reading and planning to swap books, even across 12875 km (8000 miles). Distance Calculator

Words do matter, even if they are evolving and may have nuances or multiple meanings that lead to misunderstanding or offense. The original meanings matter and grammar gives language its skeleton, it's structure. Using the wrong word, or using a word wrongly, can change the understanding of the sentence entirely. See the pig.

Anyway, I've been told recently that I word things well. I can find a way to say difficult or potentially offensive things in ways that are more palatable than they might have been.

My dad has funny sayings that tend to appease situations, until the person realises what he really said. By then, my dad usually plans to be long gone. "South end of a north bound cow" and the like . . .

My mom too ran PTA meetings and other club functions, with aplomb. She could turn things around to highlight positives or progress, while deferring the contentious until logic could be employed more effectively.

My point in writing this is not to laud my skill, but to highlight my theory. If language skills are caught as well as taught, parents and grandparents might want to invest more time in conversation, books, software and games that enhance vocabulary, curiosity, reading and writing.

At the risk of being a total geek, when's the last time you played a rhyming game in the car to turn energy in a creative channel rather than bickering battle? When's the last time you played word games, the alphabet game or tried the kids' hand at crosswords or word search?
Most of these options do not require batteries or power cords.

Teresa Plowright suggests the following:

The Alliteration Game This one can be funny. Find alliteration words for their name, or a friend's name. Make them as funny as possible. Or use names of animals. For example, "loud little Louie" or "silly Sammy Snodgrass" or "leaping Larry lizard." When your child gets the hang of it, they will take off on their own.

Straight Face This one can be very funny. One child is "it" and the others pick a phrase for him. Try "the cat's tail." The others ask him questions, and he must answer with "the cat's tail." Other children ask him questions like, (copied as is, with grammatical errors)

  • What do you brush your teeth with?
  • What is your favorite breakfast food?
  • What would you write with?
  • What do you comb your hair with?
When he laughs, it is someone else's turn to be "it." And you pick another phrase. Some phrases might be "My monkey's moustache" or "Six smelly sneakers."

Another fun game might be to make up names for characters in a book, like Plowright, or to work as a group in writing a story.

Does every child you love have a dictionary, with pages, in which they can look up interesting words?

21 January 2011

Writing used to be about grabbing a pen . . . .

While I have not had much to say so far in January, I am organising my thoughts so when they start rolling out, they'll make more sense.

In doing that, I've been exploring Evernote, DropBox, EndNote, Pages, Scrivener and the features Google offers for free. I found the following and thought I should share it with you.

You may have instructions for winding your grandfather's old clock, a recipe of your aunt's, a warranty, menu, lyrics or who knows what . . . that you'd like to scan and make searchable and editable.

The optical character recognition
(OCR) software in Google Docs can do that for you. See what DIY Ivory Tower wrote on the process. It's not hard at all if you have a digital camera, even on your phone.

Follow the link to see diagrams and the process written out step-by-step.

OCR in Google Docs makes transcription simple

Now to see if EndNote is compatible with Scrivener or Pages.

14 January 2011

Leadership: Define it or Do it?

“The Arts of the wise leader” by Mark Strom, http://www.artsofthewiseleader.com

“Wisdom is like love: it’s about engagement, not definition. So is leadership. Love has as many faces as the personalities of those who love, but we know it: we know it when we see love, when we experience it, and we feel when it is absent.

It is a work of wisdom, common sense, intuition or a word from another that helps us distinguish love from its imitations. So is it easy to define love in all its manifestations? No. Is it necessary to define love in order to love? No. But ought we to love? Of course, and to love well. And nobody loves well from a dictionary or a recipe book. It’s the same with leadership. Definitions are not nearly as important as doing it well.”

09 January 2011

What'd ya get for Christmas?

While I might be a little old for that kinda question, the one about your take at Christmas, but it is an interesting conversation starter.

I've asked a few kids, "What did you give for Christmas?"
They are taken aback, look at me intently and then try to assemble an answer. Some of them gave nothing. Others gave, but without much thought, or it was so long ago that they've lost that info in the overwhelming season.

When I was a kid, Granny gave me jobs to do to earn money so I could buy gifts with money that meant something to me. I'd earned it. Therefore, when I spent it on others, it cost me something.

What did you get for Christmas this year? Something homemade? Something uniquely you?

Do you suspect, or know, that you got some re-gifts?
Anybody get a goat, chicken or toilet given to you, but physically present in a developing country?

What did you give this year? What was the most satisfying gift you gave and was the response what you expected?

Talk to me.

06 January 2011

It's George's Fault!

The question here is, "Where's Rachael?"

It's summertime in New Zealand and a group of us tend to wander and find geocaches. This photo was taken in a campervan named George.

The sporadic posts on this blog are attributable to George as he distracts us from working at desks and in offices, as long as the sun is shining.

So, if you wonder where I am, I'm possibly up to no good as I enjoy the terrific, but brief Kiwi Summer.
Rachael, not pictured, is the 4th part of this geocaching team.