Friday, February 25, 2011

Tabby lost and found

FOUND: skinny, hungry young tabby. How did this divine creature get to be all alone out at the beach?

It's friendly, house trained and a very civilised houseguest, polite, purring, intelligent. Strong abyssinian features, long in legs and body, a muscly powerful animal. Did I mention hungry?

What a fine cat! has the agency sent us our new Tabby? Well, we thought so until he went out onto the sandflats and harrassed a flock of oystercatchers (they breed in the paddocks behind our house) making them scream in alarm and all fly off in a cloud. What if he did that to the godwits? What if he went for the young ducks and swans?

Who would dump a hunting cat here within a few kilometres of albatross and penguin chicks?

And he seems to be looking for his home. I hope we can find him a home, if not the one he has lost. Somewhere a little less close to vulnerable wildlife.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I seen the little chick

Otago Daily Times photograph: Linda Robertson

The ODT headline says it: Female pairing raising chick (9 Feb 2011).

This I gotta see, I thought. Like many a local, I rarely stump up actual money to visit the tourist attraction at the albatross colony I live only minutes away from.

But lesbian albatrosses raising a family, now that is something worth a pilgrimage. You go, sisters!!

So I wandered over to the Royal Albatross Colony, Pukerua, Otago Peninsula and paid my 30 bucks in hopes of catching a glimpse of one of the couple of dozen or so chicks that have been born in recent weeks, in one of the best breeding seasons ever at Taiaroa Head.

At least three chicks are on nests within easy viewing of the observation post. This is the "guarding" time, when the adult pretty much obscures the chick except when feeding or when the mate arrives from foraging out at sea, to take over the babysitting duty.

Luckily, one of the chicks was easily visible, fluffy adorable little thing. Well worth the trouble and effort.

And if I didn't already live there in wonderland, I'd have been absolutely blown away by all the other attractions I see on a daily basis - the views, the other birds and wildlife. Well, I'm not immune to that glory, I hope I'll never be blasé about that. But the shaggy baby albatross being sheltered by its impressively giant parent was really something to see. Lovely.

(Our proximity to such rare and wonderful wildlife is one of the reasons the Tabby Household is currently Tabby-less. Will have to wait for a return to the city before we get another cat. Have to admit, they're just murderers. It's a paradox for a cat-and-bird lover.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Maori Jesus by James K Baxter

"I saw the Maori Jesus walking on Wellington Harbour"

I was walking on the Wellington waterfront and I saw a quote from Hemi's poem 'The Maori Jesus' seemingly floating in the Wellington Harbour.

Wellington Writers Walk

It's a good poem, thought-provoking, a historical piece. Most literate New Zealanders should already have a familiarity with Jim Baxter's poetry, but in any case maybe it's in Paul Millar's recently released anthology Selected Poems of James K Baxter (AUP 2010):

As for 2011, I was walking in Wellington and I saw the Maori Jesus.
He looked like... Hone Harawira!

A Significant Birthday

Today is the birthday of one of my all time heroes, Galileo Galilei.

I was quite young when I first read about him, and I have always been inspired by his courage in the face of impossibly powerful bullying and even imprisonment.

Not to mention of course, the extent to which he contributed to the march of human knowledge and understanding. He didn't just think up new things (and promote the discoveries of others); he also fought against the suspicion and ignorance of his time, and suffered for it. He wasn't stupid, though. When threatened with torture, he renounced his "heresy" that the earth moved around the sun. Legend has it that he muttered under his breath, "And yet, it moves."

Eventually of course, he was vindicated, and there's the hope for all who have the confidence to uphold an unpopular position.

"Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds." ~ Albert Einstein

I'm particularly grateful for his brilliant innovation of developing and turning the telescopes of the day, until then used for military purposes, towards the sky.

Thanks for the telescope, dear friend separated from me through space and time. Happy birthday!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Fine Romance

It was a glorious Valentine's Day morning.

Schroedinger and I were setting off on the scenic journey from our seaside cottage to the city.

PC: Shall we take the high road or the low road?

Schroedinger: It depends on the auguries.

PC: Well, you read the chicken entrails while I pick up the newspaper at the village store.

Schroedinger: If there are chicken entrails, that could in itself be a bad sign.

ADHD kids get 'shoddy' diagnosis

That was the headline in the Sunday Star Times yesterday. Good to see criticism of over-diagnosing and misdiagnosing of fad disorders.

The main factor seems to be that an 'easy' diagnosis is done by observing a few stereotyped cliches of behaviour, making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, and negative evidence is overlooked.

Would be good to see a focus on the blatant misuse of the term ASD as well (autism spectrum disorder). At the flakiest edges of the autism cult, every single human being is on the so-called "spectrum". If 100% of people have it, how useful a term is 'ASD' to those of us who have a loved one who is really affected by autism?

Food for thought, alternative definitions:

ADHD = Already Diagnosed by His Dad

ASD = Anyone Slightly Different

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Release of Bound

Vanda Symon at the launch of her 4th Sam Shephard novel, Bound.

University Book Shop, Dunedin, 2/02/2011

Vanda Symon's third novel Containment was a finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best NZ crime novel for 2010.

I can't wait to read this new instalment. The launch was crowded out, not only with friends and family, and the Dunedin literary set, but also with a flying wedge of forensic scientists whose brains Vanda has apparently been picking (in a manner of speaking, maybe... or maybe not!)

The speeches were revealing indeed. We learn that Vanda is not as innocuous as she may seem, that perhaps it is her proficiency at the sport (or art?) of fencing, that gives her such insight to the way a sharp blade travels through flesh...

We were told that Vanda has recently returned to university and added first class postgraduate qualifications to her pharmacy degree, and is on the verge of launching into PhD research on "the forensics of Ngaio Marsh".

I, like so many other Vanda Symon fans, am saddened to hear that Bound may be the last Sam Shephard novel. Is Sam hanging up her badge? What is to happen to her? Is she OK? (We do worry for the poor lass sometimes, she doesn't always make the wisest of decisions!)

Then I was relieved to hear there is another novel underway... That is good news. Vanda writes well and has an uncommon ability to create believable characters. She has been moving around Dunedin and outlying areas too, and populating it with horrific crimes. In fact, you could say that Dunedin itself is one of Vanda's characters.

I've read enough of this new novel to see that it opens in the small seaside community of Seacliff, North of Dunedin. Fascinating - I have lived in several spots around that area myself and couldn't help wondering which was the house with the gates and the long driveway....

And what a priceless line this is, in describing the derelict site of the old psychiatric hospital:

"In its heyday they'd incarcerated many a poor soul there, including our world-famous writer Janet Frame, who was put there due to the fact she was creative and different. Nowadays they gave you fellowships for that, not lobotomies."

From the Tabby's point of view, quite the nicest thing about this novel is that the author has dedicated it to her beloved cat. It is hard work being the muse asleep near the computer, purring loudly (some might call it snoring!) and it is nice to get a bit of appreciation sometimes...

Link: NZ crime fiction blog Crime Watch anticipates the release of bound.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farewell Tiger

For Pablo Neruda, the tabby cat was the "minimal drawing-room tiger" (line from 'Oda El Gato').

The year of the Tiger was more than a tame pussycat for me, it was a roaring beast and a wild ride. Oh I hated most of it. Am I wiser? Am I more balanced? Did I learn from my mistakes. and has merely surviving the horrors of it, made me a better person, has it given me a sense of achievement and triumph? Hmmmm...

Might be too early to tell. For now I'd rather say good riddance you nasty clawing monster 2010. Hello cuddly bunny big-ears! Welcome!

Chinese astrological Horse that I am, apparently the Tiger year is meant to be an up and down time of reversible fortunes for me, and so it was.

I remember back to the last time there was a Tiger year 12 years ago, and, is it my imagination? Was it just as crazy? Just as awful? Didn't I have appallingly bad health that year too, but didn't I also soldier through and reach success, as well as the occasional sudden prominence - unfortunately attracting the most vicious envies and resentment, as well as personal betrayals and unfair public attacks?

Sure, there were fabulous things that happened, high profile things, for good and ill. I had a guest spot in a New Yorker blog, surely a high point for a mousy-coloured tabby... but on the other hand the NZ Listener and National Radio's Kim Hill both enabled some well-plotted slanderous attacks on my good name... But there was high profile support and praise too. Quite a roller coaster. I didn't deserve any of it. Just leave me alone all of you, I need to lick my wounds.

Swings and Roundabouts. And it just goes to show, don't get a swelled head when it's going well, and be don't be destroyed by vindictive personal attacks. I believe there is a Kipling quote that fits the bill. I quite like Kipling, he is always helpful when conditions are extreme. I wish I could afford to be snide about his platitudes, that would mean I was having a quiet year...