Saddam Hussein

They've just confirmed that Saddam Hussein has been executed for crimes against humanity. I must say I don't know how I feel about this. He did some terrible things, there's no denying that, and it's unlikely that a fine or imprisonment would have stopped him or his followers. But still... was killing him the solution? And what is it that we're trying to 'solve' anyway? Murder of innocents? Plenty of that has been done in many, many wars but it's only ever the losing side that's tried for these crimes. I just feel strongly that murder is not the solution to murder, and it's no deterrent. If executions worked there would have been no dictators after the Nuremberg trials, but of course there have been dictators and corrupt governments all through history.

Anyway, one corrupt leader has died today. I don't know if he remained unrepentant or if he turned to the living God at the end. Probably not... and if not, that's the truly terrible thing about his death.

Ripped off (Christmas) joke #4

It's Christmas Day in a busy hospital. Twins are born - a boy and a girl. The proud father says, "Because it's Christmas, we're calling them Noel and Carmel." The doctor says, "I can understand Noel, but why Carmel?" The father says, "From the song... you know - 'O Carmel ye faithful...' "

Fun and games

I visited some friends last night for dinner (pizza, as they moved house three days ago and haven't unpacked yet). After dinner we played a game called The Settlers of Catan. I do love board games and this one was great... a bit competitive but not cut-throat (although in different company it could have been), some strategy, the ability to come back from last place, the ending not a foregone conclusion... it was loads of fun. My (soon to be) new housemate was there and he said he owns the game too so we'll be able to invite people over to play - yay!

I'm looking forward to moving to the new house and being able to have people over... although I need to remind myself that I am supposed to be studying and this is an important year. I keep thinking "great, I can invite X and Y and maybe Z too, and another time have a barbecue and... oh wait, this isn't one long party... !!" This year I barely emerged from my study except to get more books and growl at people; why should next year be any different??

Ho ho ho...

I blame television - especially Hallmark made-for-TV movies. Why else would we have such high expectations of warm, cozy family Christmas celebrations? I mean, nothing in my family experience has led me to expect a TV Christmas, yet every year I'm disappointed because it's not like that. This year has been a doozy, though, as the fights started before we even laid eyes on each other. A few organisational e-mails have been going back and forth... who's bringing the salad, who's bringing dessert, that kind of thing... and suddenly they degenerated into vicious attacks for no good reason. Well, no good reason other than the fact that the attacker was almost certainly drunk when he wrote the e-mail and possibly thought it was funny. It wasn't. There has been a half-hearted, almost apologetic e-mail since then, although the word 'sorry' was never used. It made things slightly better but I'm still rather dreading Christmas lunch.

I've been thinking about the old 'you can't choose your relatives' thing, which led me to wander over into thoughts about my Christian family. Sometimes I think I'm closer to my Christian family than my actual (blood-related) family, but of course that's taking a very narrow view. I'm very close to the Christians I know well, who love me and whom I choose to love, but there are many more Christians in the world and they're my family too. Like my blood family, some of them annoy me. I disagree violently with some of them. I vote differently. I don't like the way they dress, or eat, or the way they behave in public. Sometimes they embarrass me. But like my blood family, I am compelled to love them, care for them, pray for them and accept them - because we are family; united in Christ. Forgive me, my family. Happy Christmas.

Avian penthouse suite



I just walked into the garage for something, looked up and saw this nest. Pretty clever actually, since it's in the shade and well out of the way of predators... and the bird obviously doesn't mind the door going up and down every day (it's nesting on the thingy that controls the door). What a world when even the birds are living the inner-city, apartment lifestyle!

Ripped-off joke #3

This has done the e-mail rounds dozens of times but it still makes me laugh...

It started out innocently enough.

I began to think at parties now and then -- to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone, to relax. That's what I told myself though I knew it wasn't true.

Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?" One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss.
"Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."
"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"
"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."
"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as university professors, and university professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money."
"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some John Raulston Saul.
I roared into the parking lot with ABC on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors...

They didn't open. The library was closed. To this day, I believe that a Categorical Imperative was looking out for me that night. Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for some rational empiricism, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I took out a subscription to the Telegraph, started to watch the news on Ten.

I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.Life just seemed... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

Today, I joined the Liberal Party...

Inspiring...

O Holy Night
(J S Dwight & A C Adam, 19th Century)

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night divine, O night, O night divine!

Holy folks

One of my sisters rang me yesterday and told me she'd seen Jesus dolls in K-Mart. I thought she was joking, but no, it's absolutely true. And not just Jesus... I particularly like the Mary doll, holding the maniacally grinning baby. Somehow she doesn't strike me as the same Mary whose soul magnifies the Lord... and of course, like all good cartoon characters, they only have four toes. Yeah, way to confuse the kiddies.

New home!

We found a place to live! Actually, not "we", as I had nothing to do with it - my future housemate found the ad, rang the owner and sweet-talked her (all from interstate, I might add). All I had to do was show up, see the place, smile sweetly and look like a responsible tenant. And I know you're reading this, my friend, so this is your public recognition - excellently done and you have much gratitude from me!

The house is much bigger than anything I've seen thus far and is definitely underpriced. It's a private leasing arrangement, which normally worries me but not this time. The owner has had two long term tenants in this place and one long term tenant next door (to whom she has already introduced me) so she's obviously a good landlady. No one stays 7+ years in a place with a bad owner, no matter how great the place is.

Our lease starts from 1 January - a good start to a new year. I'm excited! (And completely broke, once the lease and first month's rent is paid on Tuesday, but hopefully I'll have enough time to save up some money for a removalist... not worrying about it yet.)

Packing

Once again I am packing to move house. I haven't actually found a place yet but decided to get a head start on the packing... and have been reminded once again how much I hate the packing/unpacking process. You would think I'd remember, having moved 8 or 9 times by now... wait, let me count... okay, it's 8 moves and 9 addresses, so this one will be my 9th move since 1991. Fortunately I have a great capacity for feeling at home wherever I am and don't tend to spend too long feeling displaced. I suppose part of it is having familiar things around me - not sure how at home I'd feel if all my possessions were lost in a fire! Anyway, I'm looking forward to the move, and to having a bit of elbow room. I've been boarding for nearly three years, living in one room with 95% of my stuff in storage. Should be fun to unpack it all and reacquaint myself with it... although I did sell a fair bit of furniture before I moved and I can't remember exactly what went (ie, what needs replacing). I'm pretty sure I need a desk, a microwave and some bookcases but I know there was other stuff. Oh well... guess I'll find out once I start unpacking.

Now to find a place to live...

Star Trek and religion

Look, I know that Star Trek isn't real - I do! - but I watched an episode today that had me absolutely incensed. It was a TNG episode, Klingon-centric, where a character called Kahless (not sure of the spelling) returns after hundreds of years. He was a warrior who promised to return to unite the Klingon people, and he returned at that particular time because of the faith of his followers. So, like a very hairy, aggressive Jesus, I guess. Anyway, the leader of the government doesn't want to give up power to this guy claiming to be Kahless, so some investigation is done and it turns out Kahless is a clone, although given memories of the original, long-dead Kahless, so in fact he thinks he's the real deal.

The part that made me so angry is that they decide to appoint him Emperor, even though he's a clone, and let him work side-by-side with the current head of government in order to maintain peace. Someone asks what they should tell the faithful followers and is told (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "We shall tell them the truth. It doesn't matter that he's a clone; the important thing is that they have something to believe in." Star Trek is well known for disliking religion, and thus making sure that any examples of true faithfulness are only shown in non-human or 'backward' races, so it's obvious this episode was aimed at Christians. Actually, even if it wasn't, the idea that any religion would be happy with a FAKE deity, just so long as they have someone to worship, is so offensive. Faith is not about the rituals or the need to believe in something; it is (in the case of Christianity) about following the true and living God. It's about turning away from all of the fake stuff, not about accepting anyone who happens to have the right smile and appropriate leadership qualities.

Okay, maybe I take this stuff too seriously, but it alarms me how this kind of thinking is taking over. If people think WE are willing to follow anyone or anything then it sends a clear message that it doesn't matter what people believe. If it's all about the faith and not the object of the faith, then you can believe anything you like, and everyone is right. However, MY religion says that there is a God, there is a heaven and there is a hell, and the only way to reach one and avoid the other is by accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. Not by being good or by performing rituals, just by faith in Jesus. If YOUR religion says that it doesn't matter and all roads lead to God, then clearly one of us is wrong. If I'm wrong, that's no problem because my road will lead to God just as surely as yours. But... what if I'm right?


An unusual event...

People who read this blog regularly will be amazed to realise that I've managed to go a whole week without adding a complaint or a whine... and this entry will be no exception, because I've had a great week and a good day today.

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but I applied for a part time checkout chick job a week or so ago, and found out on Friday that I was successful, and start in January. Obviously not my ideal job but perfect for a student - this store prefers to put people on as part-time staff, not casual, so I'll get regular hours and be able to accrue holiday pay. I think I'll be casual for a little while, though.

Today I was invited out for lunch by the same family who took me out last week, plus another member of their family. It was fun and relaxed... and just nice to have some social time with people. I've missed that so much.

Finally - or perhaps, primarily - partly as the result of listening to a song, of all things,* which really spoke to my 'behind-thinks' (to paraphrase a character in John Wyndham's The Chrysalids), I realised this week that I don't have a heart of stone and I do, in fact, long for heaven just a little bit. This may not sound like a big deal, but for about 5 years I have wanted nothing to do with God (despite behaving like Super-Christian); in fact I have been seriously angry with him, for a number of reasons. Long story which I won't go into here... but anyway, God has healed me of that in a way that I can only call miraculous. I keep wanting to walk up to strangers and say, "Hey, guess what? I like God!" I feel like a new person... although I guess I've just been reminded that I am already a new person, and should be living like one. Praise God!

* (I say, "a song, of all things" because it is totally outside my experience to be so affected by a song - even a Christian song - that it would cause me to change the way I think and behave. I like music, obviously... but this was different - which shows that even ordinary things can be life changing when God wants to use them.)


Unobservant?

I was reading John last night, from chapter 11 to the end. There were a number of details I swear I've never, ever read before. Not enormously significant things, but still... after 19 years of being a Christian, is it even possible that there are things in the Bible I haven't read? Particularly one of the gospels, which is more likely to be familiar to me than, say, Habakkuk.

Birthday - part 2

I love having sisters who are so similar in personality to me, and who know me so well. One sister sent me the 2-disc edition of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the other sent me the fake travel book San Sombrero (very funny) and the first series of Extras. These are exactly the gifts I would have bought them, and exactly the gifts I would have bought myself. I love having the kind of relationship where we don't even need to speak in full sentences to have full communication. I think it drives my brothers-in-law a bit nuts, though...

Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday and I had an unexpectedly delightful day. I was all prepared to wallow in self pity because I am interstate from all my family and friends, but I didn't have a chance. Just as well, really... that kind of thing should not be encouraged!

I went to church in the morning and was accosted immediately after the service by friends who offered to take me out to lunch. We went to the Airstream Cafe, which had nice food (at least, my BLT foccacia was nice) at a reasonable price... not cheap, but not outrageous. Particularly cheap for me, since they generously paid for my meal. It was a nice, relaxed afternoon with lots of friendly conversation. This is a family I don't know very well so I enjoyed chatting with them about the deep and the superficial. (I mentioned the TV show 'Black Books' and they said they liked it. I thought to myself, "I knew you were my kind of people!") We wandered off down the road afterwards for coffee, gelato and more conversation. When we eventually separated to head home the wife of the couple gave me one of her CDs, which we'd been discussing earlier (I already have her other solo CDs but not this one). There was a struggle going on inside me between the thoughts, "Artists really should be paid for their work, even if they're friends" and "Woo-hoo! A free CD!" The latter thought won.

I came home to find a card from my housemate, containing a poem telling me to go look in the garage. I found a mug filled with Maltesers (yum) and another poem telling me to look in my linen cupboard. There I found a bottle of perfume and a final poem directing me elsewhere, where I found a glass serving platter. It was lots of fun and the gifts were lovely too.

In the afternoon I went to my other church, where friends approached me and invited me back to their house for cake (baked in honour of my birthday) and coffee. The teenage daughters of the family had made me a card on their computer, and they all sang happy birthday and made me blow out candles (not the full number for my age, though... I don't think they had that many...)

In addition to all this love and care I also had a number of text messages and phone calls from people in my home town. All in all, a truly delightful day!


Hospital

My Dad is in hospital at the moment, with a mystery illness that looks like it's turning out to be Type 2 diabetes. He's lost a bit of weight recently but apart from that he hasn't had any really obvious symptoms (and with two people in the family with Type 1 diabetes, we're fairly aware of the symptoms) so it's all a little strange. He was quite ill earlier in the week - dizzy and unable to balance - so Mum took him to Emergency and they admitted him that day. He seems to be fine but they haven't worked out whether he's to go on tablets or injections. I imagine that tablets would be his preference... I know it would be mine, were it me in the hospital!
Update:
Apparently he'll be coming home today (10 November) but they still haven't worked out whether he has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, so I don't know what that means in terms of injections or tablets.

Surreal

I was walking through uni today, listening to my MP3 player. It just happened that the next song to come on was by someone I know slightly from church - I only met her myself a little while ago but she's a quite well known Christian singer/song-writer. Not more than thirty seconds later she and her husband appeared in front of me. It was a strangely surreal moment which I handled in a very uncool manner by blurting out, "Hey, I was just listening to you!" (without adding, "and here you are - isn't that weird?", which resulted in me sounding like a fangirl). Heh. Anyway, now I'm wondering if perhaps my MP3 player has some hitherto undiscovered magical properties. Just in case it does, I plan to find an audio clip of Liam Neeson and see what happens...

Christmas carols

Following a discussion last week about Christmas carols, I went online to hunt down the lyrics to a couple. I came across this gem. I only wish I had the music... wonder if I could convince them to sing it in church this Christmas?

Euwww!!

My boss moved a bookcase this morning and found a dead rat behind it. Actually, judging by the smell, it was probably more like half a rat - decomposition was well underway. We knew there was one somewhere but hadn't been able to find it... I'm glad he did, but still... yuck. I left the building for five minutes while he dealt with it - there are advantages to girliness, sometimes!

Love, Corinthian style

Bible study today was on 1 Corinthians 13 (the 'love' chapter that people are always using for weddings). It's interesting to look at it in context, because if it's viewed in conjuction with chapters 11 to 14 it's far from the warm, fuzzy chapter that it's often considered. It's really an indictment on the Corinthians - "this is how you should be using your gifts and this is how you should be treating each other... and you're doing the opposite". Taken in that light, the bit about 'when I was a child, I thought like a child... when I became a man I put childish things behind me' must have been a real slap in the face for them. And for us, potentially.

We talked about some specific examples. One thing that we all seem to have trouble with is "love keeps no record of wrongs", because holding a grudge seems to come so naturally to us. Often, too, we don't even fully realise we've been storing things up until we get into arguments that quickly degenerate into accusations of "you always do this or that", rather than addressing the one thing that the argument was about in the first place. This is something with which I particularly struggle - often I let things go because I tell myself they're not worth arguing about (and they're not) but find myself stewing over them later, which intensifies my reaction to whatever it was the next time it happens. The solution doesn't seem to be to address the things at the time, because they're often really not worth discussion, so I need to work on genuinely letting go of things instead of merely convincing myself that I've let go of them.

At the end of the study someone prayed for undergrad students who are undertaking exams (of which I am one). He prayed that the students would use the time to rely on God, to pray and to read the Bible... to my shame, I have to say that's probably the last thing I'd think of doing (or praying about) at the moment. Hmmm... time to re-evaluate my priorities...

Rain!

It's raining! Proper rain too, not that ten-minutes of spottiness every three weeks we've been getting recently. What a delightful sound. Now if only it would continue in this fashion for the next week or two...
Update:
It didn't.

Cyclone economics

According to this article, the far north Queensland cyclones may have an overall positive economic impact on the affected areas, because the amount being generated through building, insurance claims and relief projects is greater than the amount lost by producers and businesses. Somehow I don't see that being a comfort to a plantation owner who's looking at empty hillsides that won't have viable banana crops for a number of years...


The year in review...

It's only as the end of the year approaches that I'm starting to realise just how stressful and generally miserable this year has been. I've spent most of the year in a constant, gut-churning, sleep-depriving worry about money, with the possibility of having to quit uni and move back interstate hanging constantly over my head. Uni itself was tremendously hard work and had its own stresses with my Latin teacher in first semester - which is not really resolved, since I'll have to deal with her next year in Honours. Church has been... interesting. I think what I found quite difficult is that with all the other stresses I really needed some support - or just someone to say, "yeah, that sucks" - but I don't have that support here at all. So I had a whole lot of stress and no outlet for it, which in itself caused me stress and made me depressed and cranky a lot of the time. Generally, a pretty unpleasant year, and I'm only realising it now as I have a bit of time to think about things. I've been pushing all this stress etc to one side all year, because there were too many things that needed to get done, but it escaped fairly often... generally in the form of bad temper and shrewishness. Nice. I'm surprised my head didn't explode some time around August.

I don't know what next year will bring. Hopefully not more of the same, although I don't expect it to be stress-free. I suppose what I need is some way of dealing with it (other than being a shrew), rather than simply hoping it's a better year. If I hadn't spent the year ignoring God it may have helped... sigh.


Essay update

I received an HD. Phew. You'd think I'd know when I've written an HD essay but I still have the occasional crisis of confidence. I'd like to say it gives me an 'edge' but I think all it gives me is grey hair and an upset tummy...

And for a complete non sequitur - I really love this painting.

Ugh

I just saw the most horrible thing in the supermarket - 'ham sticks'. Like cheese sticks, but... ham. Pink, cylindrical-shaped sticks. Of ham. HAM! Is it just me who's revolted by this? Okay then...

Staggering

As far as my university career goes (at least the pass-degree part of it) I'm about 100 metres away from the finish line, but wow - it feels like I'm at the wrong end of a marathon. I only have to submit one essay and one take-home exam (which includes a small essay), then sit a Greek test and I'm done for the year. Done forever, if I want. (I don't want, as it happens.) Why does everything feel so impossibly hard and exhausting now, when I have so much behind me? Well... that's probably the reason...



Ancient Rome and Darth Vader

I've just handed in an essay which I very much enjoyed writing. I'm not sure whether a good mark will follow, but surely enthusiasm counts for something?? The essay looked at the way America has, historically, used the idea of ancient Rome to make political or social comment. For example, it is said that during the time of the American Revolution, the revolutionaries used to write to each other using Roman code names. George Washington was particularly captivated with ancient Rome and there are a number of statues and paintings in which he's depicted in Roman military garb (eg, here).

By the time you get to the 1950s and '60s, Hollywood is starting to churn out the historical epic film (eg, Cleopatra, The Robe, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Quo Vadis, etc), partly as a way of commenting on Cold War politics - Rome became representative of evil government. Spartacus is the one I found particularly interesting, because it leaves itself open to being read in a couple of very different ways. On the one hand, it can be read as a comment against McCarthyism and the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The movie was based on a novel by Howard Fast, who was imprisoned for communism, and the screenplay was partially written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the famous 'Hollywood Ten' who were blacklisted in 1948. (In fact this was the first film since the blacklist in which he used his own name.) There are many pointed scenes in the film where characters are asked to become informers to Rome or to collaborate with Rome... very much like people who were questioned by the FBI or the HUAC. But then on the other hand the movie can be read as Cold War rhetoric - Rome represents Soviet Russia and/or Nazi Germany (communism and fascism had started to elide in people's minds at about this point) and the slave army represents the moral right who oppose them. I found it all very interesting, because the movie has been appropriated by various groups, and the character of Spartacus has also been appropriated by various groups - not just in America but all over the world, including Nazi Germany. (Obviously their take on the story differed from America's.)

What I found so fascinating about all of this is that, somewhere in there, there was a real Rome. However, the idea of Rome seems to be far more powerful than any bald facts about the Roman empire... it's as though an idea, an image, has developed a life of its own, and it moves people independently of history.

And the Darth Vader comment? Well, I read a great article but didn't have room to include it. The author talked about the way the empire in Star Wars was meant to symbolise Rome - but of course, what it's meant to trigger in the mind is not Rome, but the previous incarnations of Rome in Hollywood; incarnations that represent something entirely different. It's a 'layer upon layer upon layer' thing (for those of you who remember the old Sara Lee commercial) - Darth Vader and his cronies are meant to make us think of Rome and in doing so, because of our old Hollywood association with Rome, we are meant to recall evil and oppressive governments such as Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. So the empire in Star Wars represents fascism through the conduit of Rome. It's complicated but it works because we're used to seeing Rome a particular way and attaching specific meaning to it. It was really fascinating and now I wish I'd included it in my essay! Oh well... too late now; I've handed it in.

Still no verdict

Well, I've been attending two churches for a bit over two months now and I'm no closer to deciding whether I shall dump one. I suspect I'll continue to go to both. Church2 has a new minister so I've been waiting to see how things go there - it will take a while for him to settle in and for the church to settle in to him being there. His preaching is okay although not very meaty and he very obviously (to me, at least) holds back on some of the more controversial issues. I don't know whether this is because he doesn't want to make waves just yet, or because he takes a soft stance anyway. I suspect it's both, actually, which is a little disappointing but not surprising, given both the particular demonination and the city in which I live.

Church1, on the other hand, continues to have excellent teaching but is not overwhelming me with friendliness. I shall possibly (probably) be flatting with a friend next year - rather than boarding, which I'm doing now - so that may give me opportunities to demonstrate hospitality... perhaps they'll get the hint! Not that I can do too much of that since I'm a student and on a tight budget - plus I want to be fair to my housemate who may not want people over all the time - but a few invitations here and there might help to thaw out a few people. To be fair, 'thaw out' is not the correct term. They're very friendly when we're all at church; they're just not great at keeping in contact at other times, which means if I miss church no one bothers to see if I'm still alive or not. That kind of neglect can become rather soul-destroying after a while. I've lived here (and attended the same church) for just under three years and in that time I've been invited to the homes of three people... and apart from one lovely family, I've only been invited the once. I'm not expecting people to go all out for me but demonstrating a desire to know me as a person, outside the two hours or so they see me on a Sunday, would be nice.

Anyway... whinge whinge.

Uni update: wow, it's hectic. Classes have finished but I still have two essays to hand in and two exams to do - one with an essay and a literary criticism and the other is a Greek exam, so I'll need to put in lots of study for it. All in all, I'm very busy and feeling a little overwhelmed but fortunately I work fairly well under pressure so hopefully I'll get it all done without wanting to undertake a ritual suicide...


Celebrity deaths

Without wishing to speak ill of the dead, I have to say that I am somewhat baffled by the national mourning over the deaths of Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. Of course it's terrible for their families and for people who actually knew them or had met them, and for fans it's kind of sad, but this huge outpouring of grief from people who didn't know them at all is so strange to me. I have no desire to shed tears over someone I've never met; someone I only know from their public persona.

I'm sure if I'd been at Steve Irwin's public memorial, held in the zoo he started and which is so important to the Irwin family, I would have cried. But I would have been crying in the same way I cry at a sad movie - not because I feel grief but because I recognise the inherent sadness of the situation. I'd be crying in sympathy with other people, not as an expression of my own grief. When fans say they are devastated I wonder why they think that. Do they have to look at an empty seat at the dinner table? Do they have to pack up Steve's clothes and sort through his personal effects? Will they get to December and start to dread Christmas because Steve won't be there? I doubt it. In reality, Steve Irwin's death and Peter Brock's death - and any celebrity death - has almost no impact on the day to day lives of ordinary fans who didn't know them. There's no doubt it's shocking when a familiar figure dies suddenly, particularly when it was through a freak accident, and I believe part of what makes it shocking is that we are suddenly confronted with mortality once again - that thing we try so hard to avoid thinking about - and we may feel genuine sympathy for their families, but grief? I don't know... I feel somehow that we don't have the right to grief over strangers. To me it seems to cheapen the real grief felt by those people who are faced with a suddenly empty chair at the dinner table.

Library books and Jasper Fforde

There's something very comforting about a large pile of books. I have an essay due in two weeks and for the moment I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with it; nor am I sure if the books I have will be any use. But still... they feel like they'll be useful!

In other news, Jasper Fforde will be in town signing books this week. Fortuitously, I'll be in the vicinity on Tuesday so I intend to hang around. Of course, I don't actually have a copy of his latest book but that's only because I'm waiting for it to be released in regular sized paperback so it will match the rest of my collection! I'm interested to see what sort of man could produce the Thursday Next novels - obviously intelligent but just a little twisted too.

Living (well?) is the best revenge

I just received an assessment for a seminar presentation. It was all good - great mark and everything - but I went a bit over time, so my lecturer cautioned me to be careful about that and said that speakers at post-graduate conferences are often cut off abruptly if they go over time. I showed my housemate, who said, "Yes, that happened to me once... (thoughtful pause)... mind you, I ended up outliving the person who did it so I guess that showed him." Heh.

Church stuff

Okay, so I've had three Sundays at the 'new' church and I've just started going back to the 'old' church. What are my impressions?

Hmmm... well, it's probably still a bit early to say. At this stage it seems the teaching is better at OldChurch but I think the people may be friendlier and more welcoming at NewChurch. To be honest I'm feeling quite hurt at being so neglected by the people at OldChurch and thus I'm still somewhat resentful - this makes it hard for me to compare the two churches fairly. My decision at the moment is that I will not make a decision about anything until the end of the year. I'll keep going along to both and then decide whether to drop one... it may well turn out that I stick with two. That makes things difficult with Bible study though, and with church membership, although actually I've never changed my membership from my previous church interstate. I'm not emotionally ready to do that yet... the people there are family to me and, given my current loneliness at this church, I would really feel like an orphan if I withdrew my membership. Silly, perhaps, but feelings are not necessarily logical.

So I guess the verdict is: so far, so good, and a suspended sentence.

Treadmill video

I don't know why this is funny, but it really tickled my fancy.

Deadline

It's 3.30pm on Saturday. I have to hand in an essay by 5.00pm on Monday. I've just this minute finished reading the play on which I am supposed to write... I'm cutting it a bit fine, perhaps?? This is a combination of overconfidence because it's only a 1,500 word essay (which is a pretty easy task, overconfidence or no) and thirdyearfinalsemesteritis - a little known disease that affects countless numbers of innocent people.

Poor Pluto

No longer a planet - is this the ultimate demotion? Save Pluto!

!!!

I got the job - calloo callay!! I start tomorrow and shall be working 15 hours per week, usually on Wednesdays and Fridays although it's flexible if I have exams or assignments or whatever. Given that I've been looking for a job since last October, I'm pretty happy. The pay is $15ph which isn't huge but is about average for a casual job (and certainly enough to make a big difference to me). He wants someone who will be around for a couple of years so if I do post-grad it will be perfect for me. If I want to go to the bathroom or make a cup of tea I have to put on a safety vest and wend my way between forklift trucks, so that should add some excitement to my days...

Like-mindedness

I applied for a job on the weekend (admin, two days per week). The advertiser said he required someone with anal retentive qualities - I thought, "this is perfect for me!" His application included several questions to be answered, one of which was, "Describe how you arrange your cutlery drawer at home." (Actually he wrote 'draw' but I tried not to get too stressed about that...) That question made my housemate decide the job is perfect for me - or I'm perfect for the job - because the way I tidy the cutlery drawer drives her nuts.

I answered all the questions and included some extra information, like the fact that my books, CDs and DVDs are in alphabetical order, with the DVDs catalogued on a spreadsheet. The guy wrote back and said my admission about cataloguing my DVDs puts me at the head of the queue! Now I'm just waiting for him to confirm when he wants to interview me. I do so hope I get the job... and I hope that our anal retentiveness is similar and not in opposition.

And in other news... I went to a new church on Sunday morning. Not my usual denomination but I didn't pick up any heresy - not that I expected it. Time will tell whether it's where I want to stay. A couple of people were friendly but they usually are friendly on the first visit... the test is whether they're still friendly in 3 months. Anyway for the moment I think I'll go to this church in the morning and my 'regular' church in the evening and work out where I want to stay.

Cranky and pouty

I'm sick to death of this crappy town and the crappy, clique-y, unfriendly people in it.

That is all.

Girly stuff

Any men reading this, take note: this post addresses some strictly girly things and there's a good chance it will gross you out so I suggest you stop reading now!

If there is anyone who's still reading, I've just tried this product and it's great. I'm not really the hippy/get-in-touch-with-your-inner-goddess type, but the environmental advantages and health advantages seem to me to far outweigh the inherent ickiness of it. And it's not really that icky... just takes a bit to get used to it. There's more information (from real people, not a company) here.

Sigh

Apparently my (former) Latin teacher will be taking the intermediate Greek class next year. Just when I thought I was shot of her...

Sense of humour?

In my ancient Greek class recently we've been translating from Aristophanes' Clouds, which is a satirical comedy. I find some bits funny, but for the most part it's difficult for me to find humour in Socrates sitting in a basket in the air and talking about putting wax booties on a flea to measure the length of its leap. We tend to think that some things are universally funny but clearly that's not the case. Humour has a strong cultural and situational bias... that being the case, I shall think twice before I accuse someone of having no sense of humour.

(My disclaimer to that, naturally, is Black Books. Surely everyone finds that show hilarious??)

Recycled sewage

There was a proposal to recycle sewage water as drinking water in Toowoomba - after appropriate treatment, obviously. Scientists assure us it's perfectly safe and could ease the drought. The residents voted 'no'. And their reasons? Because they're worried it's not safe? They want further testing before approving it? No, they don't want it because they're afraid it will hurt Toowoomba's image - they're known as a 'garden city' and don't want people to start calling them 'Poowoomba'.

Really, I'm not having a go at Toowoomba; I'm sure that the vote would have been the same just about anywhere in Australia. So when did we get to the point where image is more important to us than survival?

Relief

I've just withdrawn from my Latin class and enrolled in an Archaeology subject. It turns out I need to do a language next year but I don't need to do two. The area I'd like to research for my Honours thesis is Greek-based anyway so there's no need for me to continue with Latin.

The sense of relief I'm feeling right now is enormous. I knew I wasn't enjoying Latin but I didn't realise how much of a burden it had become. Oh yes, and on top of all the stuff from last semester I've also been involved in a grade dispute. It was resolved in my favour, resulting in me (and the rest of the class) getting nine additional marks for last semester. That pushes many people over from a D to an HD, so everyone is happy... except, of course, my teacher, who got into trouble for having stuffed them up in the first place.

Now to e-mail my Latin teacher and tell her. She can't do anything about it, of course, but she has already advised me against it so she won't be happy. She basically told me I wouldn't get a job if I didn't have a good knowledge of two ancient languages... but that assertion is not supported by the Classicists with whom I've had contact. Most have a good knowledge of one language and a very rudimentary knowledge of another.

Anyway... I still feel great about my decision. This semester should be much happier than the last one!

Moan, groan

Ugh... I'm just starting a cold. Actually I've been 'just starting' it for days and I thought I was going to be lucky and avoid it entirely, but it's setting in properly now. I shouldn't really complain, since it's been about 12 months since my last cold and that one was the first I'd had in about two years, but still... I have a headache, I'm tired and I'm not prepared to be reasonable!

And of course the timing is dreadful - uni starts again tomorrow and I have both Greek AND Latin tomorrow, as well as a lecture on Renaissance Literature. It seems that all the complaints etc did no good at all, as Latin is being taught by the same person. It will be interesting to see if her style has changed at all (and very disappointing if it hasn't). Oh well... if this is all I have to complain about then I'm not doing too badly.

Fuzzy brain

I was going to chat about tonight's sermon, but it seems I spent most of the sermon staring vaguely at the preacher as my mind wandered everywhere else. I don't have the slightest clue what he spoke about. It's not like I was thinking about anything important, either... it was just useless, random thoughts.

On the one hand it's kind of funny that I can't remember a jolly thing, just a few short hours later, but on the other hand... this is no way to treat God's word, is it?

Happy birthday, Gough

Okay, I don't agree with everything he ever did in politics, but the man is an icon. I wait in vain for another Labor leader like Gough...

The NT for non-Christians

I've been looking at some devotions on the sermon on the mount in the last couple of days. One point raised was that Jesus was teaching the disciples - so what is the implication that he didn't teach them how to live until after they were saved?

This has led me to ponder just how useful it is to use the New Testament (aside from the gospels, obviously) when trying to reach non-Christians. Often we find ourselves telling people that God wants them to change the way they live... which is true, but getting into specifics seems to be almost pointless. If people are cheating, lying, being sexually immoral or whatever, there's no point changing those things if they're still ignoring God. When the New Testament addresses these issues it's most often in letters addressed to Christians, or it's in the context of talking about the former way of life of the believers. Should we even be using these passages as evangelistic aids?

Christians are so often accused of trying to tell people how to live, and I imagine there's some truth in that. It's probably easier - or maybe just more natural - to focus on behaviours and outward things, but those things are irrelevant until people submit to Jesus. Maybe it's just our desire to add more to the gospel that makes us want to talk about issues that shouldn't be addressed until later. To take it to a more extreme example, should we worry about whether prostitution and drugs are legalised, or whether people cheat on their tax returns (or their spouse)? In a way, no, because the most important issue is whether people believe in Jesus and accept God's free gift of salvation. Any other issues can be addressed afterwards - and they usually are, because repentance means a change of heart.

Just some unedited and incomplete musings...

Boring details

I'm reading...
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
Coot Club - Arthur Ransome
Vanity Fair - William Thackeray

Various Charlie Brown books - Charles Shulz
The Daily Reading Bible - published by Matthias Media
The Age

I'm re-reading...
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Galax-Arena - Gillian Rubinstein

I'm watching...
Northern Exposure (Season 3 DVD)
Desperate Housewives
Spicks & Specks
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I'm listening to...
Homer's Iliad read by Derek Jacobi
Tea and Sympathy - Bernard Fanning
Whatever Happens (songs from Philippians) - Mark Peterson

I'm also...
Knitting a baby's cardigan
Looking at my Latin and Greek books and berating myself for not studying
Working in a boring casual job for 3 more weeks

School chaplains

It's not often I support John Howard in anything at all, but I found this very encouraging. However, the fact that I see it as a positive step for a Christian influence in public schools probably guarantees it won't happen. Why is it that people are so anxious to be inclusive and supportive when it comes to religious beliefs and diversity, but they somehow manage to leave Christianity off the list? Discussions about diversity in religion should include all beliefs, not just the non-Christian ones. It makes me so angry sometimes because it seems like the quest for non-discrimination can only happen if Christians are discriminated against. I'm constantly hearing people say to Christians "You need to be tolerant of other religions" but they don't seem to realise that saying that means they are being intolerant of Christianity. This is nothing new, I realise, but it gets a bit much sometimes.

Chicken pot pie

I don't want to turn this blog into a women's magazine or anything, but this pie is delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1/3 cup butter (increasing the butter just a little gives a slightly richer flavour to the pie filling)
1/3 cup plain flour
1 chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth/liquid stock
2/3 cup milk
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
frozen peas/carrots/corn (in desired quantity - about 1 cup)
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (or home-made, if you're so inclined)

Method:
Preheat oven to 425F/220C.

Heat butter over low heat until melted. Blend in flour, onion, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute or until mixture thickens slightly. (Boil for a bit longer to thicken if you prefer the filling to be slightly firmer.) Stir in chicken and frozen vegetables, remove from heat and reserve.

Grease pie dish. Line with frozen (thawed) puff pastry sheet or home-made pastry. Pour chicken filling into pastry lined dish. Before putting second pastry sheet on top, cut two slits in centre to allow steam to escape. Put pastry sheet on top and press edges together with the tines of a fork. If desired, brush top of pie with (slightly diluted) beaten egg.

Cook in 425F/220C oven until crust is brown - approximately 25 - 35 minutes.

Annoying

What is it about 1) people gulping, chomping and slurping while they eat; and 2) people playing their iPods/MP3s loudly that is SO JOLLY ANNOYING? I'm usually pretty calm about life but I reckon after 5 minutes of those two noises I'd be willing to commit murder. If anyone ever frames me for a crime the police won't have to play good cop/bad cop to get me to confess. Just lock me in a room with a spaghetti eating music lover...

Christian love?

For various reasons (mainly uni workload) I haven't been to church for about six weeks. I have been attending Bible talks and Bible study at uni, so I've still been getting Bible teaching etc. What concerns me, however, is that no one at church has bothered to contact me in that whole time to check whether I'm still alive. Or whether I've fallen away, for that matter. It's tremendously disappointing - I've been a part of that church for over two years now and apparently I still don't have friends there, just people who are friendly. No, that's not true. There is a family who have been good friends to me, and they knew why I wasn't at church. Other than that, though... I'm not sure anyone even noticed that I wasn't there. I'm quite hurt by it and as a result I'm not all that keen to return to the church. Obviously I need to go somewhere, and the Bible teaching there is excellent, but still... the way I'm feeling at the moment it would take very little to make me leave. And I'm a stable, committed Christian - what about people who aren't? Would they find another church or would they just fall through the cracks? Or what if I wasn't the stable person I appear? It's astonishing - and very sad - that people can't manage simple care and concern. It's something I would have expected to be pretty standard. Apparently not.

Rudeness

I continue to be amazed at how people are so much more willing to be completely rude when they're online. I was on a forum recently where there was a debate raging about a contentious issue. It was the kind of issue where people have very strong views and it was no surprise that it became heated as people became more passionate about defending their opinions. However, the rudeness was astonishing. People were calling each other idiots and morons and insulting each other personally, rather than challenging the opinion. They were saying things that they would NEVER be willing to say to someone's face. Is it the anonymity that makes people brave, and makes them forget even the most basic politeness and respect?

I do like the internet (obviously) and I can see great benefits from it, but this trend towards rudeness and online aggression concerns me. People are online for long periods of time, and getting into the habit of aggressive and confrontational behaviour there surely means that people soon will start behaving this way in their face-to-face dealings. I'm not sure that there's a solution, other than trying to set the example of respect and politeness when online. Would anyone even notice? I wonder...

Stunned

I just achieved 100% on one of my essays. I didn't know such a thing was even possible - not for an essay, anyway. I'm in shock. I did think it was a good essay, but not necessarily that good. Frankly, I think the grade is ridiculous - how can an essay ever be perfect, particularly at undergrad level? The mark came from the same teacher who teaches me in Latin, where people have made complaints about her, so I suspect this is an attempt to gain popularity. It wasn't just me - three people received 100% and many others got marks in the high 90s. It's stupid... but of course I have no immediate plans to complain about that or anything...

Rats can sense these things...

People seem to be flinging themselves from the sinking ship that is intermediate Latin at an alarming rate. I ran into a student in the union building today and mentioned I hadn't seen him in class since the first exam, to which he replied that he'd dropped the subject after the exam. I said, "Oh... so it shows as 'discontinued' on your academic transcript?" He said, "No, it shows as a 'fail' because I pulled out too late... but I couldn't hack it any more." So now it's three people who were willing to blot their academic record just to get away from this one teacher.

I'm really not sure what I should do about this. The thing is, I don't have any grounds for complaint, apart from the fact that I think she takes things a little too fast, but I'm so worried about this situation. Also, given that I spoke to the teacher about things I feel slightly uneasy about going over her head to complain - particularly if I can't do it anonymously. I suppose there's no reason why I couldn't ask for my name to be withheld from the teacher. Oh dear, this is not what I need right now. I have four exams and one essay due in the next two weeks and I need to concentrate - but on the other hand I don't want to leave this unresolved until next semester. Well, perhaps it won't be resolved to my satisfaction but I need to be heard, at least.

Update:
I did go to see the School Manager to voice my concerns. She was quite helpful and surprisingly candid about the problems they've had with my teacher. She wasn't entirely aware of the post-census date dropouts and seemed a little alarmed about them. I told her I was considering post-grad study but wouldn't be comfortable doing it at this university with the way things stand. She said they'd be addressing the issue, using the feedback they've received and also the feedback from the online evaluations. It sounded like she actually meant it so I don't think it was a fob-off to get me out of her office. I suppose now I just have to wait and see what happens next semester. I really hope that the solution they choose is to take my teacher off language teaching. I don't think that's what they'll do but it would be lovely.

More Latin woes

Okay, this is getting ridiculous now. Two more people in my class have decided not to continue with Latin next semester. Both of them are doing Classics as a major so they're running around at the moment trying to work out how they can complete the requirements for the major without Latin. I asked them if they'd still be dropping the subject if either of their two previous Latin teachers were taking the subject and they both replied with a very definite 'no'.

When I was talking earlier about the Classics department drying up and dying I was thinking of a vague future date, but now I wonder if it will last more than another year. I'm not quite sure what to do... I could talk to the School Manager but I don't know her and thus I'm not sure whether she'll over-react and assume I'm making a formal complaint. I don't have grounds for a complaint but I certainly have concerns. Hmmm... I'll have to think about it for a bit.

Botanical terrorism

The following from Yahoo (AU) news: "US President George W Bush thanks Prime Minister John Howard for supporting the war against terrorism at a tree planting in Washington."

Who knew that trees were a terrorist target??

Personality quiz

I just love that almost everything in this quiz comes up as "medium". I am Joe Average!

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


Extroversion:

You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.

Conscientiousness:

You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.

Agreeableness:

You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.

Neuroticism:

You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

Evaluation

I've just had to fill in an online evaluation of all my uni subjects. I've been putting off evaluating my Latin class because of all the problems with my teacher (who also teaches another of my subjects, where she seems a totally different person and there is no problem). I want to be honest in the evaluation but also fair. It would be easy to be very negative - and there are things about which I'm very unhappy - but she's not always bad and I do accept that she's in a difficult position, having only moved to this country at the beginning of the year. Having read over what I wrote I think I may have been a bit harsh... but I'm finding the drop-out rate alarming - at least three people dropped out after census date which means their academic record will show the subject as 'incomplete' and they'll still have to pay for the subject. I fear the department will dry up and die if something is not done. I did try to be fair and I noted the areas where I thought she was good... but I wanted to be clear about my concerns also.

I also did the evaluation for the cultural subject she teaches and that feedback was entirely positive. She's really great in that subject and I think that's where her talents should be used! Oh dear, it's all rather worrying. I want to do Honours next year and I'm tossing around the idea of postgrad study but at this rate I'll have to change universities to do it. I hope the university gets its act together and does something about this situation.


I don't believe it...

I achieved 90% in my Latin exam. Normally I would be thrilled about this - well, I am, of course - but after my hissy fit about it to my teacher on Monday I'm sure she now thinks my complaints were completely invalid. I don't think they were, but... it's sort of hard to support my argument now. I guess this is the only time I'll ever be annoyed about getting 90% in an exam!

The generation gap

I attended a church social function last night which was organised by members of the morning congregation. For the most part the people at this event were in their 60s and upwards, with the exception of our little group in which the average age was early 30s - all under 50, anyway. We had an enjoyable time, but one thing I found very depressing was that the older people kept coming up and thanking us for being there. Not in a "thanks for coming" polite way, but in a way that suggested they were genuinely grateful that we would bother to spend some of our precious time with old people. That makes me so sad, and ashamed at the same time. What kind of world is this - what kind of world are we making - where older people feel so neglected that they have to thank younger people for giving them some time? And this was in a church where you would expect generations to mix... what is it like in the wider community?

Overwhelmed

Wow, I'm feeling rather overwhelmed with all the uni work I need to finish. The problem is, I'm behind so I'm trying to catch up and keep up to date with the new stuff. I fear this may be impossible...

I had a Latin exam today. Not exactly my best performance and my teacher was foolish enough to ask (innocently), "So, how did you find the exam?" as I was walking out of the room. I proceeded to snap at her about what a bad exam it was and how I was dropping Latin for sure next semester. 10 minutes later, of course, I found her and apologised! Then we had a good talk about Latin - how I'm finding it and also the general mood of people in the class. I think that was helpful, because I know some people are unhappy or feeling discouraged but no one is saying anything. Not that I named names, of course, I just mentioned the 'vibe' I'm getting from the class. I would hate to see people drop out of Classics entirely just because they're not happy with the format of the exams or the speed at which things are moving. Anyway I'm sure I passed the exam but I don't think my mark was as high as it could have been. Oh well... can't do anything about it now.

I also chatted briefly with my Greek teacher this morning because I'm depressingly far behind. I've missed the last 5 classes or so because I wasn't up to date. I'm working hard to get back on track, but there's only so much I can do and still understand and retain the information. The nature of language learning is that it's time-intensive and methodical. I'm hoping to be caught up by next week. My teacher was pretty understanding about it and apparently there are several people in the same boat. Still, I don't like missing classes because I think it's disrespectful to the teacher who has taken the time to prepare it.

So I should probably go and do some language study now... and read whatever Shakespeare play I'm meant to have read for tomorrow...

A real author

A friend of mine has just had a book published.. with two more signed up and to be published in the next couple of years. In keeping with my vow to make this an anonymous blog I'm resisting the urge to name him but I have a feeling his name will soon become familiar to many.

I'm just so happy about the whole thing. Part of it is that I know a real, live author (!) but the rest is because he has worked so hard on this for many years. It's really been his life - well, apart from Jesus and now his fiance too, but you get the idea. He is absolutely passionate about this world he's created; evidenced by the fact that he did it with no real intention of having it published. How satisfying to spend so many years on something and then see the fruit of it actually IN your hands. The closest I've ever come to that is knitting a jumper or two... satisfying, but not quite the same thing!

So (not that you'll ever read this), I wish you the very best, my friend, and I'm praying that you and your soon-to-be wife will remain strong in the Lord.

Groan

Too.... many.... Easter.... eggs....

I take it all back...

Whatever I may have thought or said about God during one of my hissy fits, I take it all back! Last week I was phoned by a company for whom I did some casual work during the holidays last winter. They have another exam marking project in June/July for six weeks and asked me if I'd be available to work. Coincidentally... it's the same six weeks I have off between semesters. I can work every day of those six weeks because all of my exams are scheduled prior to the official exam period.

I don't believe for a minute it's a coincidence... God is pretty good at stepping in at the last minute and taking care of things. I should know by now that he can be trusted, but I still seem to prefer the "panic and run around uselessly" option. How long before I'll learn, I wonder?

Hectic life and a new friend

I've been so busy with uni work lately I've barely had time to think about blogging, let alone actually do it. At the moment I'm studying for two exams (Greek and Latin), working with two other women on a seminar presentation which will probably be about ancient Greek views of the hero and how women were a threat to this, and I was going to write an essay about Romeo and Juliet, but I think I'll put that on hold for a couple of weeks and write about Macbeth instead. Anyway, it's been pretty hectic and more than a little stressful but I'm riding with it for now.

On a more positive note, I met a new friend through a forum I visit semi-regularly. She is a Christian from (and living in) America and obviously we've never met but we've exchanged a few e-mails and have been having some great conversations. It's so wonderful to meet new people and feel an instant bond because we have Jesus in common. So hello to you, my friend, if you're reading this!

Saved at the eleventh hour

Wow, talk about cutting it fine. There has been a distinct possibility that I might have to leave uni and go back to full time work - financial reasons, of course. I've been applying for jobs but I was still on a really tight deadline because if I left uni I needed to arrange it before census date to ensure that I wasn't financially penalised or left with a permanent 'discontinued' on my academic record.

My deadline was this Friday (leaving me a week to organise an intermission with the uni) and I was getting very panicky. Last night a friend rang me and said, "My wife and I have been thinking about getting a cleaner... we sort of hate to ask you, but do you think you might be interested? We'll pay you $50 for 2 hours per week." I can understand why they hesitated to ask me but I don't think they realise they're doing me a huge huge favour. HUGE. It's only $50 to them but to me it's the difference between staying at uni or being forced to leave. My goodness, I'm so relieved.

Life and death

A friend's mother died this morning. She was a faithful Christian and I am confident she is in heaven, rejoicing and praising God. That's a comfort to her family but it doesn't stop the wrenching grief and sadness for them, particularly as they've just had their first baby who now won't know one of his grandmothers.

On the other side of the coin, one of my teachers and her partner almost lost their baby this week (at about week 34 of pregnancy, I think) but now it looks like everything will be fine for baby and mother. They lost a baby a year or so ago so it must have been a fairly horrible reminder of that. I only know my lecturer through uni, not socially (ie, we're friendly but not friends, if that makes sense) but still I'm so glad for them that everything is fine so far.

What a broken world this is, where illness and death can snatch people so suddenly... I don't know how people can feel hope in anything if they don't have confidence of resurrection with Jesus. Without that, it's just an endless cycle of pain and death with a few good moments in between... and even with Jesus it can be pretty awful at times.

Ripped-off joke #2

An inflatable boy wakes up in a foul mood. He goes to his inflatable school and immediately misbehaves in class. When the inflatable Principal attempts to discipline him, the inflatable boy whips out a knife and stabs him. Panicked at what he has done, he runs off, stabbing aimlessly at his inflatable school on the way out.

The police chase the inflatable boy and eventually surround him. Seeing no other option available to him, the inflatable boy stabs himself, and slowly slips into unconsciousness.

Some time later, the inflatable boy wakes up in a hospital bed. Sitting by the side of the bed is his weary and deflated Principal. The Principal shakes his head sadly and says, "Son.... you've let me down, you've let the school down, but worst of all you've let yourself down...."

Grown up

Being a grown up is not all it's cracked up to be. Right now I need to find a part time job so I can stay at uni... but I can't work too many hours or it will affect my Austudy payments to the point where it's self-defeating. Also, I don't want to work too many hours because I will have less time to study - and what is the point of working to stay at uni if it means I barely pass because I don't have time to do reading and research assignments?

It's enormously depressing, I must say. I know I should trust that God will work it out but frankly, I just want Him to work it out MY way. It's not so much trust as a poor attempt at bullying on my part! Or begging. Really, though, I know that whatever happens is in God's hands and I guess He doesn't mind whether I'm an uni or working or doing both, so long as I am a faithful witness of Jesus; and my relationship with God doesn't suffer. Anything else is just padding... I can be a faithful Christian at work or at uni or while unemployed and living on the street or whatever/wherever.

Richard III

I've just had a most interesting time comparing two film versions of Richard III. One was the 1955 Olivier version and the other was the 1995 Loncraine/McKellan version. Both very different (eg, Loncraine's is set in the 1930s and Richard becomes a Fascist leader similar to Oswald Mosley) but both very enjoyable.

One thing I found strange was that they both omitted the character of Queen Margaret; and thereby eliminated virtually all of the curses and prophecies. I'm sure that it was partly to make the films shorter but possibly it was also to make them more accessible, since curses and divine retribution aren't themes with which we are terribly familiar nowadays. Strangely, though, I think it had the opposite effect and actually distances us from the film. Without the curses (and subsequent confessional death scenes of many characters) it is difficult to establish guilt with any other characters. Instead it remains solely with Richard and so the film becomes about life under a despotic tyrant rather than life in a society where people allow evil to happen (and Richard, while evil himself, merely takes advantage of the wider situation). Thus the themes become much narrower and it is more difficult, I think, for us to relate to films where wider societal concerns are not addressed - it makes for compelling viewing but it no longer resonates with us.

Having said that... go hire both the films! They're excellent viewing.

Terrifying

Terrifying first day of intermediate Latin. I think our teacher realised this, because the second class today was much easier and friendlier. It's also a better room - much more conducive to discussion and participation. It's surprising what a difference the room layout can make to the mood of the class.

Greek isn't terrifying yet but it certainly has potential! And I volunteered to do a tute paper on Richard III next week... one part of me says "get it over in the first few weeks" but another part says "do you know enough about Richard III to do a paper???" We'll find out next week, I guess...

Unity

Good sermon tonight on the last chapter or so of Galatians. In particular, the preacher talked about the importance of unity within the church. It was especially relevant as some elders within our denomination have just been excommunicated. His point was that there is Biblical authority for it but only at the end of a long process and only for things that are clearly unBiblical (and in this particular case the excommunication was entirely appropriate). In all other circumstances we should strive to love and support each other; in emotional and practical ways.

It has made me think about the way I support people. It's all very well to say "I'll pray for you" - and important to do it - but it's also important to do the mundane jobs like cleaning a friend's bathroom when they're not able to do it. These things should be an addition to prayer, not a replacement.

(Also, of course, I need to stop whinging that the people at this church are unloving and stand-offish, and just get on with loving them regardless...)

It's all (ancient) Greek to me

(Well really, how could I mention learning Greek without using that phrase?)

I've been trying to learn the alphabet. I don't remember learning the alphabet in my own language - surely it wasn't this difficult?? I have no recollection of not being able to read, so presumably I could read at age 4 or so... if a 4 year old can learn an alphabet, I'm sure I can!

I must say it's very humbling to learn a language from scratch. All my smugness disappears when I look at a word and I'm not even sure of all the letters, let alone what the word might mean. I'm sure God would agree that I could use the occasional dose of humility...

Allergy

Bummer - I just had an allergy test and my suspected shellfish allergy was confirmed. As were much milder allergies to rye grass and dust mites. Unfortunately, the allergist didn't feel that justified excusing me from all housework!

I shouldn't be disappointed, given that I've been avoiding most seafood for years, but still I am. I'd eaten shellfish on a couple of other occasions with no problem so I was hoping that it was just a freak reaction (the time I ended up in the emergency ward). Alas, no.

The good news, though, is that I can safely ignore the things that say "this product processed on machines that also process crustaceans". He said it's mostly a disclaimer, and even if I get a stray morsel of prawn or something it would be far too small to cause a reaction. Also I asked him about the common belief that every reaction gets worse with food allergies. He said that's rubbish! That is a big relief, given the severity of my last reaction.

On other fronts, I got to uni at 8am today and managed to get quite a lot of Latin study done before I left to see the allergist. If I can do that amount every day I should be feeling up to date by the time classes start next week.

And by the way, I'm feeling much happier and more normal today!

Good intentions and the road...

The intention: get up early, read the Bible, pray, do some Latin revision, then get ready for church.

The reality: get up early, unpack the dishwasher, have a cup of tea, stuff around on the computer for an hour ("because I need to check the weather forecast"), realise I'm late, run around trying to work out what to wear, rush into shower.

Home again

Well, here I am at home after two months staying with my family. It's rather strange... I feel like I never left and my time with the family was a dream. But then when I'm interstate with my family and friends I seem to slot right in and feel like everything HERE was a dream. I suppose it's good that I can easily pick up where I left off but it also makes me feel like I'm living two half-lives.

Uni starts again in a week and I'm not prepared. I have lots of catch-up study to do this week, in between a couple of appointments. Potentially this is my last year if I don't do Honours and I don't want to ruin a great run by being disorganised and lazy.

I still haven't decided which Bible study I'll attend this year. I am considering doing an evening course at the PTC, just to meet other Christians. My study load is pretty big though... but I suppose I could audit the course; then I wouldn't have to worry about assignments and exams.

Friendship

I had dinner with my best friend tonight. Boy, I'd forgotten how much I miss her. She prays for me and with me, she pushes me to be a faithful and godly Christian... and at the same time she's happy to loll about with me in the loungeroom and talk about nothing at all. Time spent with her is easy and comfortable, no matter what we're discussing or how deep the conversation gets. I miss the ease of our friendship; I crave her wisdom and advice; I regret not being able to develop a proper relationship with her kids; and I miss being able to pop in for 15 minutes for a quick cuppa and chat. I have friends where I live now - good, loving friendships with excellent people - but no friendship like this one.

Still, it's good to know that when we are together things are just as they were. The foundation of our relationship is Jesus and that makes a big difference. Also it's good to know that we have eternity to be friends, even when distance and time get in the way here on earth.

Displacement

It's a weird feeling to be going 'home' (ie, interstate, where I live currently) after being 'home' (staying with my sister and then with my mum and dad) for a couple of months. Even my home interstate is not a real home, since I am merely boarding with someone while I study. I have a minimal amount of my possessions there while the rest are in storage.

When I visit here I spend time at my home church - although that doesn't feel quite like my home church now since many people have moved on and there are other new faces. Similarly, my 'new' church doesn't feel quite like home either since I have fewer friends and I don't have a history with these people.

All of these things have led to me feeling quite displaced and not really comfortable or 'at home' anywhere. I guess in a way that's only natural - the Bible says our true home is in heaven and we are aliens and strangers in this world. The past couple of years have made me much more aware of what that means... that can only be a good thing, really. Being too comfortable in this world will make me want to hang on to it even harder, and not think about heaven. So, perhaps I need to stop moaning about not having a home and embrace it as a living reminder that my home is with God in heaven.

Ripped-off joke #1

(In honour of the French crepe I ate tonight...)

Three Frenchmen were defining savoir-faire. The first said, "If I come home and find my wife in bed with another man, say 'excuse me' and leave, that is savoir-faire."

"No," the second insisted, "If I come home and find my wife in bed with another man and say, 'excuse me, please continue,' that is savoir-faire.

"Au contraire," said the third. "If I come home and find my wife in bed with another man and say, 'excuse me, please continue,' and he CAN continue, then he has savoir-faire."

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