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A quick update

The silence, it is broken...

Been having trouble sitting in front of a screen long enough to post. I've been trying to put my website together at long last, and it's taken up all of my computer ration. I only figured out last night that I would feel much better if I attached a keyboard to my laptop and sat about a foot back from it. Eyestrain suddenly disappeared. Who knew?

So last week was notable for some wildlife encounters. One night we were up late and wasps started buzzing around the big bedroom. Not just one or two, but four or five. When we managed to capture them in a glass lamp and put them outside, another half-dozen flew in. We knew something was not right.

Upon calling the exterminators in the morning, we found out that we had a huge nest right under the window, and the inhabitants were only days away from punching through the ceiling below. They duly sprayed it with poison and the wasps died in their droves. At some point we're going to have to get someone in there to remove the nest and repair the damage.

Not more than a couple of days later, the House Cat brought in a mouse - that was still alive and kicking. It looked dead at first glance, and we thought it was - until it vanished in between the time of its entry and the time of being approached with a piece of newspaper to remove it. It seemed to shoot under the sofa (of course), and the cat duly started poking her nose under it. When we moved the sofa, the mouse was not there. This didn't keep the cat from poking her nose under the sofa. It was at this point that her hunting skills began to show their serious deficiency.

I went to bed before the situation was completely resolved, but I am told that the cat subsequently achieved complete failure in that she failed to notice the mouse, which had by then circled round behind her practically close enough to nibble at her tail. It was a real "when housepets act stupid" moment. Too bad nobody had a camera handy. At which juncture catvincent lived up to his nickname and caught the rodent nonlethally prior to evicting it from the premises.

We're all still mocking our benighted feline, who ignores us as usual.

As for me, I managed to set up an energy healing session with a client living nearby - a house call, to be sure. She seemed to enjoy it and asked me to come back before I even mentioned it. This time, she will pay me, too, so that's a win. All I need are about 20 more people like her and I might quit hemorrhaging money for a little while. :)

Random access from the friendslist

An excellent explanation of some common Chinese-English mistranslations, thoughtfully provided by dakiwiboid...

...along with some cute and some disturbing pictures of a pet capybara now living in Texas!

Rabid vampire bats attack in Peruvian Amazon

Orgies or beer: choose one - dubious pop-evolutionary psychology to sneer at

Steps toward a vaccine for pathological stress

And the Bulwer-Lytton bad writing competition results are in!

Thanks to catvincent for the foregoing entries.
The deer butchery course I signed up for on 4-5 Sept is in danger of being cancelled. Half the people have dropped out and unless they can be replaced it won't happen.

If anyone out there is interested in learning how to get from a deer carcass to lovely jerky and sausages, please get in touch with me or Martin (the organiser) asap. We'll be camping on site near Templecombe, Somerset; the cost is £200.

If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass this on. I really am looking forward to this course!
I found out who sent me the Jesus texts. It was indeed a friend, dave_devereux, whom I happened to catch in a whimsical mood yesterday. Turns out he had upgraded his phone while I was in Peru and I didn't have the new number. This doesn't explain why it didn't turn up in anyone else's phone, though - maybe I made some kind of mistake when I read it out to them.

I am still keeping his number under the "Jesus" name, though.

In other news, today I got pretty impressively lost trying to get to a meeting of my long-standing healing group. To be fair, it was not held in the usual venue, since it was a healers-only meeting where we were set to discuss how the group was running. But I failed to see a street sign because I was on the opposite side of the road, and this resulted in a detour of about 2 miles. This is significant when walking, at least it is to me when I'm trying to get somewhere by a certain time. I missed the business stuff, being about 45 minutes late, arriving in time for food and chat. Maybe this was a good thing.

Note to self

Just because my teacher in Peru uses nettles to reduce inflammation, this does not mean that I should pull them up from the garden with my bare hands and proceed to smack them into more than 25% of my exposed skin surface area.

When I would do this in Peru, it would sting for maybe 15 min and that would be all. When I tried it yesterday, it stung for about 15 min and then everywhere I'd nettled felt like a cross between a sunburn and pins and needles. I spent part of the day at the spa in Bath, mostly in the steam rooms, and now the nettled areas are mostly just itchy. This was perhaps not my smartest move ever. fragiletender said I should have tried a test patch first. But hey, then you all wouldn't get to point and laugh!

Though there is some research now confirming the technique of urtication....

My own personal Jesus

I received several messages today, as it has been my birthday. The strangest by far was a text from a phone number that my phone didn't recognise.

From (unknown number): Happy birthday from all here!

Me: Thanks! I lost many of my contacts several weeks ago, so I don't know whose number this is, but you're clearly a friend.

UN: This is Jesus, and Heaven celebrates with you this day. Enjoy the light show, Dad says it's on him.

Me: Excellent. I had been waiting to hear from you but had thought it would be in a ceremony. You sure do get around!

UN: Pete's got this bee in his bonnet about diversification, says we have to do the new media thing. Apparently burning bushes are bad for our carbon footprint.

I told catvincent and fragiletender about this, and we checked our phones to see if the number belonged to anyone we knew, and it doesn't seem to. Certainly someone could have changed numbers without our knowledge, but we don't know for sure. I've decided I'll call the number tomorrow and ask for Jesus (who is now listed as such in the contacts on my phone).
Just got back from the optician. I need new glasses/contacts. AGAIN. The last time was in March. The time before that was in December (in Peru). It's great that I'm fixing the thyroid, and in turn improving my vision, but damn it's getting expensive.

I asked if there was some kind of frequent buyer scheme, and there isn't, of course. The clerk suggested becoming a Mystery Shopper and specialising in opticians... don't know if this would work or not. I could always check it out I suppose.

Eyecare insurance at best would cover one pair of specs or contacts a year. I wonder if I can get a gig testing new lens technologies or something?

Science snacks

Neuromarketing - they have ways of making you buy - I first heard about this at a neuroscience conference years ago, and I got up and asked if there weren't better things to spend precious scanner time on. A couple of people applauded and the rest just looked at me and said it was a way to subsidize the important stuff.

Low-fiber diets lead to digestive havoc - especially when combined with lack of exercise, I bet

Artificial bee eye could improve robotic vision

Tools to assess bias in standardized testing are... biased

Having a lot on your mind could make emotional expression harder

Thanks to catvincent for the previous two links!

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subtitle: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World

A fantastic look at the results of runaway positive thinking: unwarranted optimism totally resistant to actual data, from American foreign policy to the financial meltdown of 2007 to blaming those who fail to recover from cancer because they "aren't positive enough". Well worth your time and energy. If you don't have a lot of time, check out the 10-min video.

Edit: A fuller review may be found here.

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Notable books read in the last few months

The Glass Mountain, Jessica Rydill - sequel to Children of the Shaman and just as good

the Lincoln Rhyme thrillers by Jeffrey Deaver - variable; The Vanished Man, The Broken Window & The 12th Card were my faves

Rats: a Year with New York's Most Unwanted Inhabitants, Robert Sullivan - fascinating until he goes a bit nutty from spending too much time with the little buggers towards the end

The Compassionate Carnivore: or, how to keep animals happy, save old MacDonald's farm, reduce your hoofprint, and still eat meat; Catherine Friend - chock-full of useful information, told with vignettes from the author's organic farm

Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939, Virginia Nicholson - told by a great-great niece of Virginia Woolf's, a bit shy of critical analysis but loads of fun

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - fantastic story of ordinary people during WWII-era Germany. A long book that reads like the wind.

Blonde Roots, Bernardine Evaristo - alternate history in which Africans enslave Europeans. I liked the idea but this story puts British and other European slaves to hard labor in tropical settings (where they wouldn't have lasted long enough to be worth the trouble) and the map still puts the northern hemisphere on top. A half-assed job, often seen when non-SF writers tackle SF themes.

Brasyl and Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald - compare and contrast to the above. McDonald does his research and really reflects what life is and could be like in South America and India respectively.

Avalon, Anya Seton - 10th century historical romance from a once-bestselling US author who has undeservedly sunk into obscurity.

Drood: a Novel, Dan Simmons - Wilkie Collins narrates the last mystery in the life of his more famous friend, Charles Dickens. A long book - starts slow, heats up in the middle, and sags at the end. Got me interested in Collins, whom I hadn't really known anything about previously.

Under the Dome, Stephen King - I love King as much as anyone, but this seemed like a remix of "The Mist" and The Stand without the charm of either. Readable but I don't need to own a copy.

Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood - Oryx and Crake's more interesting sequel, with weird eco-cult competing with capitalism gone gaga.

Transition, Iain Banks - Interesting premise - a secret organisation of people who can travel between dimensions with the aid of a special drug meddle in politics across the multiverse - but I found the ending disappointing.

Still Life with Chickens, Catherine Goldhammer - quirky memoir of a woman who starts keeping chickens at a time of other major changes in her life. Probably only fully appreciable by those who also keep chickens, but still a fun read.

Reindeer People and Wolf's Brother, Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb) - Good portrait of how a bad shaman can screw up everything around him but still manage to train a good shaman.

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