And one of the cutest creatures on earth.  It has become quite the symbol for New Zealand – indeed the people are referred to as Kiwis. But this is not the sum total of the country.

New Zealand is an infinitely interesting place.  Well, at least the bits I saw in my week-long visit.

Waitomo  – which I was told means water hole.  (Quite coincidentally at that same time, a friend had a flood in their kitchen which lead to a hole in their floor. I felt very worldly to share that they have a tomo in their floor made from wai).

The claim to fame of Waitomo is the glow worms that live in the caves (holes) made by water (wai) over the billions of years the island has existed.  You can’t actually see the worms, but when the caves are dark, a million pin pricks of light give the illusion of a star packed night sky.

Also in Waitomo was the strangest animal farm I’ve ever visited. Upon arrival, and handing over your $22, you receive a little bag of food pellets to feed the animals and asked to not feed them to the young goats because it affects their….output.

This animal farm had deer, ponies, donkeys,

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lamas, horses, strange small pigs with pug faces,

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ducks, rabbits, enormous roosters, cows, and of course the goats (Sean, you’re right. Their eyes are creepy).

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I’m not usually afraid of animals, but feeding things with big teeth with my bare hands is unnerving. It’s amazing but something I was told when I was very small came back to me in the moment – flat hand. Keep your hand completely flat to avoid the animals from accidentally biting your fingers.  That neuron had been dormant for at least 30 years! Walked away with all of my fingers and a freshly flexed neuron.  Good day!

Another destination on my tour was Rotorua. A place known for its natural hot springs, geysers, mineral mud and natural beauty.  And the smell. I’ve heard of many other places described as the asshole of the earth, but this is definitely where she passes gas. The best way I can describe the smell is the day after a pickled egg eating contest. I specifically went to Rotorua to try a mud bath. I wanted to know what it felt like to sit in thick and goopy mud. Turns out they just put a bit of the mud into the hot water. So it felt like a bath.  I know what a bath feels like. I didn’t need to spend $105.  Yes, $105.  I was duped. The highlight of Rotorua was the giant redwood forest. I had no idea that giant redwoods grew here.  It was a thick, lush forest with soft paths of fallen leaves and a thick coating of moss.  Look! It’s a Snufalupatree!!!

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I loved New Zealand and it is a damn shame that I only had a week.  I’ll definitely go back (perhaps not to Rotorua). If for no other reason than I heard an ad on the radio for a dentist that offers a cleaning, check-up and x-ray for $60.  For that price, I can afford the flight!

Fa Fa Fa Fa Fashion

Posted: March 8, 2014 in General Rants

When I was in grad school I had the misfortune of teaching a research methods lab at 8am. Every morning I would look at my group of bleary eyed, dishevelled, sweatpant wearing students.  Except one.  I can’t remember her name but she looked like a supermodel.  Not only was she naturally beautiful, she had clearly styled her hair, expertly applied her make-up and chosen a very nice outfit right down to the shoes. I remember thinking, “What time do you wake up to accomplish this and still get to class on time?”

In my world, very little trumps sleep. And you need only look at me to see this.  I am also blessed with not feeling the need to look beautiful for many of my regular activities be they in the privacy of my own home (e.g. scrubbing the floor) or in public (e.g. grocery shopping).  I see university – as a student – as another activity that really doesn’t require one to dress up, let alone glam up. (Who am I kidding, I can hardly be bothered to dress up for university as a lecturer.)

But this week, the first week of semester, I have been continually struck by the efforts that students are going through to fancy themselves up. I saw one student, teetering up the stairs to the book store in stiletto heels that most strippers would balk at.

It isn’t that I don’t think fashion and academia mix. I don’t think you need to be dowdy to be smart. What I don’t understand is the obvious suffering when it isn’t necessary.  Well, I don’t understand that at the best of times, but anyhoo. You will still learn what you need to learn regardless of what you’re wearing. And possibly you’ll learn more if you’re not in pain.

I don’t know if I will ever understand the polished, preened and podiatrically adventurous. Especially in instances where it doesn’t seem even remotely necessary.

It’s funny ’cause it’s sad

Posted: February 6, 2014 in General Rants

I saw this ad on a news website.  I have highlighted the critical word – friend. Singular.

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Ratsheep

Posted: February 5, 2014 in General Rants

According to this article, rats could grow to be the size of sheep.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/21250849/huge-rats-could-evolve-scientists-claim/

The argument is that as other, larger species become extinct, the rats will take advantage of the job opening and grow to fill it.  I suspect that this article will be quite alarming to some, but when you think of it – Why?

What makes rats creepy?  They live in dark, dank places like sewers and basements and rubbish bins. But if they were the size of sheep, that would no longer be possible.  They would have to move above ground or risk plugging up the works.

There are already rodents as big as sheep.  The Capybara is native to South America and are pretty darned cute (I took this pic off the internet from a Huffington Post article).

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I mean come on.  It’s so cute it hurts.

Another large rodent that is near and dear to my own heart is the noble and majestic beaver.

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Who could be afraid of this??? Clearly sweet and god fearing and praying… (Picture also lifted from the ever giving internet).

I suppose the biggest downside would be their unsuitability for laboratory studies. We’d have to use hedge mazes to test them. Although, we already have giant hamster balls for them to play in (currently being used by people with hamster sized brains, again, picture totally pilfered off the net).

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But since animal testing is growing less and less acceptable, this drawback is unlikely to be an issue by the time ratsheep  arrive.

So, people of the earth, fear not the rodents of unusual size. Unlike most animals, they seem to get cuter as they get bigger.

Every Once in A While

Posted: February 4, 2014 in General Rants

My crumbling faith in human kind receives a bit of fresh mortar.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/21259292/charitable-twist-to-neknominate-craze/

Thank you Brent Lindeque of South Africa

Scaredy Chaps

Posted: January 31, 2014 in General Rants

Further proof that women are the dominant gender – men are afraid of the weirdest stuff.

If you ask a man to grab something out of your purse for you, he will bring you your purse. Ok, maybe not always, but probably 99% of the time.  I don’t know what kind of hand mutilating snare you think is in there, but I assure you there is nothing that can hurt you.  One guy actually said to me, “There could be female product things in there.” Again, I don’t know how you think they work, but if we use them in our most vulnerable region, they certainly won’t cut, pinch or abrade you.

The other day I encountered another situation illustrating a pathological male fear.  The ladies washroom.

Our washrooms at work have motion sensor lights. I’m not sure why, but the motion sensors never sense me. I can tell you it is slowly wearing down my self-esteem to be so blatantly invalidated.

I had one foot propping the door open to let in light and was waving my arms like a fool trying to get the lights to come on when a man came out of the mens washroom across the hall. Not wanting him to assume I was a raving lunatic, I explained I could not get the lights to come on.

He came over and suggested that perhaps if I walked further into the room, the lights might come on. He held the door as I went all the way to the far wall, still waving my arms like a hysterical orang-utan. He suggested maybe if I waved my hand under the air dryer, the lights would come on.  Adding salt to my wounds, this second device also refused to acknowledge my existence. I was about to suggest the power to the whole washroom might be out when the man took a single step into the washroom, but then immediately stepped back out and gave a tentative meerkat glance into the washroom.

Um. If there is someone in here lurking in the dark, we have more to worry about than you being spotted in the women’s washroom.

And thanks for sending me into the deep dark corners of a washroom that may be housing the kind of super-villian that would lurk in a dark ladies room!

Chivalry? Dead.

I am not so sure why men are so afraid to go into a women’s washroom, but I’ve witnessed this before.  Women may avoid mens toilets, but that is mostly because we expect them to be urine soaked cesspools of bacteria. But we certainly have no problem bypassing the inevitable queue to the ladies room and heading into the mens when needed.

Why we are not ruling the world is beyond me.

Funny

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

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It’s not easy being green and having a speech impediment.

Earth in Love

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I always assumed Mother Nature was married to Father Time. If they are the romance has been rekindled, and if Martha and the Vandellas are to be believed, Mother Nature is in love.

I’m melting. Melbourne is currently the hottest place in the known universe. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m pretty sure this is what hell feels like.

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Here’s another potential explanation for all of you climate change activists. It isn’t carbon pollution. Mother nature has just hit menopause. And these 5 day heat waves are hot flashes on a planetary level. My menopause theory would explain the global hormone fluctuations seen in the catastrophic weather events. Think about it people. Floods are like random crying jags. Earthquake like anger erupting.

Whatever the cause, I need it to stop. My 15 minute walk to work has become abject torture. And not just because of the searing heat – heat that makes your skin prickle within seconds of stepping outside. But also because in Melbourne, on garbage day, people put their rank, rotting garbage bins, out on the front streets.

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The olfactory assault is unprecedented. I have a very sensitive nose and I’ve smelled some pretty disgusting smells, but this..this actually stops my breath. As if my diaphragm has kindly decided to spare my nose and just stops inhaling, mid breath. Its kind of like being punched in the nose and the solar plexus at the same time.

As you know, I chose my apartment for its character. So needless to say, it does not have air-conditioning. So after struggling home, skin prickling, nose burning and diaphragm spasming, I arrive to a very large pizza oven. The only thing that got me through the evening?

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I seriously need to take more care in choosing where I live next time.

I cannot believe I have 2 more days of this to go. My urge to get Mother Nature onto some HRT is only quelled by the increased cancer risk – in earth terms, more humans.  And I like earth too much to do that to her.

What’s My Age Again?

Posted: January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

This morning, as my bones creaked and groaned getting out of bed, I started to think about my age.

I’m 43.  I’ve never felt the need to lie about my age. Well, at least not to make myself younger. I cannot deny that I have considered saying I’m older than I am, just to hear someone say “You look fantastic!”

I’ve done a great deal of research with older adults and it seems that very few people feel their age.  I recall asking one woman at what ages she thought a person became old. She replied, “As soon as they think they’re old”.

Age, like everything else is relative and I think the experience of age is quite fluid. Take for instance an interaction with my young neighbour. He was telling me he would be having friends over for NYE drinks. I think it then occurred to him it would only be polite to invite me as well. I’m sure he was relieved when I declined with “That’s very kind of you, but I try not to hang around with people too much younger than me or I just feel like someone’s mom.”

I move between worlds that really mess with my sense of how old I am. At the university I am surrounded by young people who make me feel very old. Even compliments can have a backhandedness to them. Once among a ream of anonymous student evaluations I found such an example, “Marry me Dr. B.  I’ll take care of you in your old age.”  I suddenly felt like the old dog at the RSPCA. I moved from being the object of desire to the object of altruism in 13 words.

But then I go and work with older adults in my clinical and research work and I feel quite young again.  I’ve been complimented on my beauty (could be cataracts, but who cares? I’ll take it). I’ve been told my hair style is very modern. And I’m nearly always referred to as a girl, “Ah, you’re the girl from the university.”

This term is in turn completely counteracted by the comment of a pimply faced youth at the record store (although my age is pretty apparent calling it a record store) who viewed my purchases with surprise and said, “Nice choice lady.” Which as we all know is equivalent to, “Nice choice, grandma.”

So back and forth it goes. I suppose that is why this is called middle age. The interactions hover around the mean and I have not had experiences at the extremes – no one has invited me to a rave and no one has offered to help me across the road.

I don’t know if I feel 43. The only 43 I’ve ever felt is my own. I’m sure my aches and pains are due to my mattress and not my age. And I’m even more sure that making such excuses is not a sign of getting older.

Anthropomorphising is the attributing of human characteristics to non-human objects. Ranging from objects that are similar to humans, such as animals, to those that are decidedly not, like lamps.

One of my favourite tv commercials of all time is one from Ikea, which illustrates this phenomenon brilliantly.

Some might argue that the music and staging with the depressing rain creates the sense that this poor lamp has feelings.  But consider this short video clip.

I use this video clip in talks I give to various groups and people from 8 to 80 are able to articulate the story that they see. They are able to attribute personality traits, thoughts and emotions to the characters. This is truly astounding when you consider the actual content of the clip – lines and shapes moving about on a screen!

Humans are exceptionally good at anthropomorphising because we are painfully egocentric.  This is the way we are, therefore everything under the sun must be too.  We don’t actually know the experiences of other things, so we project our own onto them as our best guess. Dogs, creatures that don’t even understand not to look at your hand when you are pointing to something, through the absurdity of anthropomorphisation have deep and complex thoughts about the world.  Even more strangely they can be quite critical if they spy you doing something stupid.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had a cat roll her eyes at me.  The mind boggles at what she could have been thinking. Whatever it was could probably be summed up with “stupid human”.

The truth is, we’ll never know what cats are thinking. We don’t even know if they think as we define it – their brains are the size of walnuts for pity’s sake!

Well, I’ve taken this absurdity one step further.  I’ve attributed a tree with abilities that even humans don’t possess.

Telepathy.

Yes, telepathy.

There is a tree I pass every day on the way to work.  A very strange tree, of the like I’ve never seen before.

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It has very rough, splintered bark.

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In the winter, when it had no leaves, I had the thought that it was ugly.

And then I felt guilty. As if it could read my thoughts AND feel hurt by them.

To this day I feel a little bad when I walk past it. I tried to think better of it as spring arrived and it grew leaves and blossomed with strange, white, puff-ball flowers.

It is absolutely absurd to think the tree could possibly know that I thought it was ugly, let alone care! And that I mentally tried to make amends.

And if it did, it would take one look at me and think “Whatever, have you seen your hair?”

Further proof that I am indeed crazy.