Thursday, March 31, 2005

My little water pump

The old-fashioned little water pump (runs on electricity!)

The lawn behind... definitely needs a good haircut.

This English weather...

One day it's so warm that it feels like summer - then quick as a wink, it's back to winter... on the same day! Yesterday was rainy and miserable, today it's foggy but chill and dank. No wonder all the weather reports on TV try to cover all bases - something like "This week the weather could be warm when it's not freezing, it could be windy in some areas some of the time but also still at other times, there might be some scattered rain but also sunshine, so it's time to wear those shorts again, but the rain could also drop the temperature to winter levels so dont forget to take a raincoat, a big umbrella and a fur parka when you go sunbathing."


What bugs me most at the moment is that I want to do some gardening but cant. All those bulbs, seeds and plants, the two big bags of compost, the many pots and planters - all of them are piled up in the conservatory. The three rose bushes (just beginning to grow after the winter pruning) that I managed to transfer to bigger pots are probably drowning after all the rain. My daffodils (those that survived my ex-dog's determined devastation) have been beaten down practically into the ground. There was hail yesterday amid all the rain - thank you, weather god, for being so supportive of my fledgling gardening efforts!

On a positive note, though... the conservatory is looking quite nice with the old-fashioned water pump feature and some new plants. Oh, and I have a total of 12 different herbs growing in pretty pots and little planters. My favourite herb at the moment is chocolate peppermint...

Yep, chocolate peppermint the plant. I'm not a real gardener (I just potter around hoping that things will grow inspite of my efforts to help), so I just dont understand how mint leaves can taste of chocolate... I know some growing things can be grafted onto others to make a hybrid third. But chocolate isnt a growing thing. I wonder if chocolate peppermint happened naturally. Maybe the plant has been around for centuries, with the taste waiting to be discovered - waiting for human beings to invent chocolate (and, eventually, chocolate mints)... and eventually realise that Nature had created the flavour first! Who knows!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A thank you to my blogger pals

What would I do without friends? When I started blogging, I didnt imagine that I would soon pick up a string of people whose blogs I would obsessively check every day - just because it's fun to see what they've come up with. I didnt know they would become friends sight unseen, quite literally in many cases. Learnt a lot about them from their blogger details and their posts and comments - and learnt a lot FROM them as well.

But I have two bloggers to thank specifically - Magix and Ferrari - for their ready and solicited and unsolicited help with adding extras on my blog, for HTML code and how to implement it and various other things. The latest trick I learnt was from Ferrari (who pointed me to a page on Blogger Help) and that was... to do this. :) Thanks, Ferrari! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Just a random thought

I saw a movie yesterday,after quite a long break. In fact, the last one I saw was probably Shrek 2 (I think), last year. Yesterday's movie only happened because a couple of friends came by and suggested Pete unstick his posterior from his workchair for an hour or three. It proved to be an excellent suggestion on their part, and I'm deeply grateful.

The crowbar that they had thoughtfully brought along proved useful in more than one way. Apart from being an indication of the not-violent-yet-but-things-can-escalate-if-you-dont-get-up-NOW-Pete sort of friendly persuasion, it was also handy as a lever to pry apart the chair and Pete (only slightly exaggerated). Rolly 3
So. The movie was
Hostage, starring Bruce Willis. It was actually quite good as an action movie because by GOD there was every sort of action-movie staple incorporated in the two hours it took from start to finish. Lots of blood, cute kid, sexy spoilt teenager, psycho killer, good-brother-bad-brother duo, masked men, burned-out hostage-negotiator-turned-smalltown-cop, guns, crawling-about-in-ventilator-shafts, hi-tech luxury home - the works. Definitely a thriller. Dont miss it. Oh, and Brucie-Boy's real-life daughter, Rumer, plays his daughter in the movie. She looks too much like her dad to be beautiful, so I really hope she gets to be a good actress. I gotta say that she played the role of sulking, rude teenager to the hilt.

And that brings me to my random thought - which is, teenagers in Hollywood movies. They're not particularly nice people, are they?

Every Hollywood movie (or even any American TV show) that features a teenager in the storyline portrays them as sulky, spoilt, loudmouthed, selfish and shockingly rude anti-social brats. Of course, by the end of the movie they reveal their well-hidden hearts of gold. For me, though, that usually comes too late, because by then my dislike of them is thorough and no amount of good-deeding helps.

Well, the laws of probability indicate that there must be SOME American teenagers who are polite, well-behaved, kind and thoughtful in real life. I only wish Hollywood would feature some of those in reel life.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I'm addicted

Playing Scrabble - only, it's called Literati on Yahoo Games - is addictive. I find it especially fun because you can play against real people, real-time. Playing different games against the computer is one thing, but to pit your skill against human beings is the best way. On Yahoo Games, there are different levels and leagues and tournaments, but I have to admit I'm still only at the beginner level.
The thing is, even at that level, there are some awesome players... I can only imagine what the competition and skill levels are like at the tournament or league levels. I've never ventured into those areas - not even as an onlooker.

Also, I cant decide which plays the bigger role in winning - skill or luck. It takes skill to form words that garner the maximum points, it takes experience to spot and make use of the best openings, agreed. But it also is very much down to luck because you never know what sort of letters you're going to get. You might have letters with high individual points, but if you dont have the humble, single-point vowels to use along with them, you're sunk. On the other hand, too many vowels, and if at all you get to make any words, they dont really help increase your score by much.

I've been lucky enough sometimes to get the right mix of consonants and vowels... but even then I've been beaten by somebody who's better at spotting the best openings and making the most of them - so that DOES involve skill. And then again, I've ended up nearly crying with frustration because my opponent gets all the juicy letters and chances while I struggle to make a word - ANY word - with letters like N N N N D H G. Or possibly V X Q (terrible letter, that) R R G M.

Once, when all I had was 6 vowels and one consonant, and I could only make one-syllable words like "do", "one", "ma", my opponent asked me - at the end of the game - if I was actually an adult! I didnt know whether to laugh or cry at that point. (I may have done both, because Pete asked me why I was braying.Dismay)

Still... episodes like this dont stop me playing Literati. Because there have been glorious occasions when I could do nothing wrong, when I scored bingo (that's when you use all 7 letters at one go) more than once in a game. I've picked up some tips here and there from the better players (the only plus in losing!) on how to shoehorn in one letter that makes two or three words. The points add up then, believe me.

But what I really need to learn - even more important than Literati skills - is how to be ruthless. When I'm winning too easily, or if I keep getting "good" letters, I feel guilty about it, and unobtrusively leave chances open for the other person to lessen the score gap. And sometimes they make use of it and leave me lagging behind. Which is very annoying because then I feel that they're taking advantage of my generosity! I mean, they should be polite enough to close the gap, but not cross it! (Ok, contrariness is built into my very DNA itself.)

However, I've noticed that the best Literati players are the ones with no compassion. You might be lagging 150 points behind them, but they wont leave a single window of opportunity (so to speak) for you to catch up. And if THEY cant use a 3word-score box, they make sure that you cant use it either.

THAT'S how I need to play.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

My achy breaky head

I'm a migraineur.

Sounds impressively like an enterprising businessperson, doesnt it? Huh, I wish! All it means is that I'm somebody who gets migraines. Those agonising killer headaches that can happen suddenly, at any time, without warning... the ones that feel like some little monster with an oversized hammer has taken up residence behind your eye or in your skull, and is now banging away at the rate of a thump a second. When that happens, all I can think of is to swallow whatever headache/migraine tablets are around until the headache subsides.

In my sane, non-headachey times I know that indiscriminate popping of over-the-counter headache pills is going to ruin my kidneys/heart/brain/whatever/everything in the long run... but try being rational when the whole world recedes to the sound of discordant drums in your head! Fellow migraineurs will know exactly what I mean when I say that during a migraine attack, the short run is all that counts. ANYTHING to stop that pounding NOW.

I know of some factors that definitely give me a headache - too much time outside when it's hot, red wine, squinting against bright sunshine, a crying jag... these are definite triggers. But there are days when I get a headache for no reason that I can see - it's usually like "oh no, i feel headachey", and then BAM! the headache's on at full blast.

Various doctors have, over the years, asked if I "feel" anything before a headache. Apparently some people smell oranges (even when there arent any around), or see flashing lights or dots, or hear a buzzing in their heads, and so on. But I have never heard/seen/felt anything that tangible. It isnt anything I can describe, I just KNOW that a headache is going to happen. I only wish I could "know" a few hours earlier, rather than a few minutes or seconds. It doesnt give me much time to brace myself for it. Or take preventive medicine.

But the kind of headache that I hate the most are the ones where I go to bed completely headeache-free - and wake up in the middle of the night to the realisation that I have what I call a "heavy-metal" migraine. Painful noise, in other words, of the kind where everything in sight is being thumped at random. Those are the worst kind... sometimes they dont go away for a day or two even if I take more than the recommended dosage of ANY headache medicine. Then the only thing to do is shut out all sources of light and sound, and suffer in solitary silence. Sleep is not an option because of the thumping that's going on. But neither is getting up and facing the world, or making even the least movement... it's just unimaginable.

Despite having suffered from inexplicable and sudden headaches all my life, nobody has been able to discover WHY I get the damn things. My first memory of headaches is me at about 8 years, when we were living in Tanzania. I was lying on the dining table and crying in agony, with my mother hovering helplessly around, unable to stop the pain in any way. After that, I was saddled with spectacles. A pleasant surprise at first, because I could suddenly see the blackboard in school again. Not so pleasant in other circumstances because they kept falling or slipping down my nose. They also didnt stop the migraines.

Anyhow, until recently I hadnt realised that migraines and headaches had been
classified and pinned down under various sub-titles. In fact, strange to say, I hadnt even known that there was such an organisation as the International Headache Society. I dont know why I didnt really bother researching headaches - I suppose the thing is that when I'm suffering with a migraine, it's impossible to care about anything. And when I DONT have a headache, I literally forget about it. It must be something to do with not remembering pain once it's gone.

That cliched description of child-birth is a good example... no woman would have more than one child if the memory of childbirth incorporated the actual physical pain every time. Although I havent been through childbirth, I can see it's true because when I think about the headaches I've had, I know they've been agony but I cant duplicate that agony until I actually HAVE a headache.

Enough of that, I think. Anyway, after reading about the headache classifications, I wondered if I should evaluate my migraines. When I googled the topic,
this came up. Too bad that after reading it, I nearly gave myself a headache trying to define the kind I got. Best leave dormant migraines alone, methinks...

Headache FAQs

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thank goodness the neem is still Indian!

I was never so pleased as when I heard that India had won a case in the European Patent Office with regards to knowledge - and use - of the neem's medicinal and various other properties. The company that had tried to patent the neem's pesticidal properties was - but naturally - an American multinational, WR Grace. It's such bloody CHEEK of the Americans to extol themselves as saviours of the world's poor on the one hand, while on the other hand, they're quietly trying to swindle them!

Consider this - the Americans dont acknowledge traditional remedies and medicines of other cultures, even if the remedies are 5,000 years old, if they've been passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. If that knowledge has not been published in a journal, according to the Americans, it is not considered as "prior existing knowledge". In effect, it's more than okay for the Americans to patent it because, as it has not been in print, nobody knows about it. A billion Indians who've known about the properties of the neem for thousands of years dont count.

Very convenient for the USA, no doubt. I'm sure they've been coolly stealing traditional and folk knowledge from everywhere - but then that's what they excel in, I guess. Only not this time. THIS time, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) successfully fought off WR Grace's
patent claim - although it took 10 long years. More power to those who successfully resist the supposedly irresistible and show them that they cant always get their own way! Hip-hip-hurray!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Stretching my patience very thin...

First bloody Doodleboard changed to a paying site without so much as a word of warning. They could have been decent enough to give everybody a heads-up instead of abruptly making the doodleboards disappear from everybody's blogs! Anyway, so I decided to change to Tag Board which, though not as convenient or nice-looking as Doodleboard, was at least a bit of software that COULD be used to leave messages. But for the last day or so, Tag-bloody-board has been playing up as well. Grrr

I'm wondering if they're gonna go the "pay or stay away" route as well. Whatever, I've now gone on to their English is a bit weird in places, but I guess that can be forgiven for it's a German site. It's not THE ideal message board, to be frank, but it will do. Let's hope the Germans keep it usable for a long time to come!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Roadkill" candy - in very bad taste

Wasnt planning on the pun, but it happened anyway...

Talk about something being in bad taste, though! Kraft, the American food giant whose name is synonymous with cheese, also makes candy, aimed at children. And their brainstorming idea at some point in the summer of 2004 was fruit-flavoured sweets called "Roadkill". Yep, Roadkill.

Unbelievable, but they actually thought it was a good idea to market candy that looked like the poor animals that die under the wheels of cars and lorries on motorways. Nice, huh? So they produced flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels with tyre markings down their back. Whee, what fun for kids! Not.

Naturally enough, animal rights activists protested strongly, saying that it gave the wrong idea to children and encouraged cruelty. At the very least, I'd say, the company showed a complete disrespect for the random killings of harmless animals. What's more, it also trivialised the ugliness of such deaths. Be that as it may, after all the protests and boycotts, Kraft agreed to take Roadkill off the market.

What completely floored me was what the company's brand manager, Jim Low, said about the whole thing: "We understand how this product could be misinterpreted, and we respect that point of view." COULD BE misinterpreted??? "Roadkill" is not a word that lends itself to any sort of misinterpretation... unless we're talking Redneck country, in which case I guess it could be interpreted as "food". But to normal people everywhere, roadkill means dead animals on the road with their innards squashed out, being pecked at by crows! Sorry to be gruesome, but that IS what it's about.

Not to Kraft. They interpreted "roadkill" as "fun sweets for kids". Boy, it really makes you wonder what sort of people are being grossly overpaid to come up with such ideas aimed at the kiddie market! Very likely those with a warped imagination.

Read about it here