Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hair today

Walking to work this morning, feeling frustrated with my appearance, I decided not just to have a hair cut today but a radical change.

So my hair which has been brown most of my life with occassional episodes of orange or red highlights is now white blonde.

(Photo taken by me with my phone at work hence strange composition and expression as I couldn't see what I was doing.)

This is in part a tribute to my sister.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tutuing with unexpected penguins

I just found out about Google Scholar which is a very nifty thing and so I was tutuing* about with it and searched for "penguin" and came out with First Measurement of the Rate for the Inclusive Radiative Penguin Decay b→sγ which made me curious about what kind of penguin they were on about.

The answer is that there is a kind of feynman diagram for performing calculations in quantum field theory called a penguin diagram. This lovely picture from Wikipedia shows why:

For more information about feynman diagrams and this picture in its natural habitat check out this link.

* tutu is a verb meaning to fiddle or play about with something which I first encountered in Whangarei. I have only met it from New Zealand English speakers from Hamilton and northwards although it is spreading south. It is mentioned on this New Zealand English site and there are a couple of other examples of it being used here.

As a Wellingtonian I am slightly embarassed that a word which might be associated with Auckland has colonised my vocabulary but I feel the word's derivation from the Maori for trouble-maker makes up for that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I can dream of being cool

One of my dreams is to visit Antarctica.

I've been to the glaciers in the South Island and they were fascinating, impressive and beautiful.

I worry about the ethics of going as a tourist to somewhere I do not want polluted by tourists.

I know some people who went on an 'ecotour' but their report didn't cheer me. They said that there were troughs of disinfectant to step through to wash their boots when they went on the ice and subantarctic islands but it was very cold and sometimes there were queues so some people would just walk past the troughs. And people went much closer than they were supposed to to take good photos of the birds (which don't care about people).

Then I think well at least I would be conscientious and maybe that would take a place away from some egg tromping, infection spreading lout.

And imagine the ice and the penguins and the phenomenal otherworldliness of it all.

One day, one day I'll go.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trying to find the silver lining

Today I fell over on the way to work.

I grazed my hands and knees and slightly bruised my nose and dignity.

But there were tui and I didn't graze my face.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A tui a day

When I was growing up in Wellington in the 70s and 80s I saw about one tui a summer. Usually perched on the flax flowers near our letter box early in the morning.

Now if I walk to work I see at least five tui. When I walk around the block to creche I normally see one.

This is almost entirely because the Wellington Regional Council has been reducing the number of possums in Wellington.

Every time I see a tui they have my heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beauty is in the smitten eye of the beholder

Before my daughters I thought:
  • innie tummy buttons were better than outies
  • pink was a colour to avoid.

Now I have been convinced that:

  • the two most beautiful tummy buttons in the world are both outies
  • pink is a attractive colour which suits three year olds.

The other side of this equation is that I really enjoy having two people who are completely convinced that I am the most beautiful person in the world.

Friday, August 11, 2006

World breastfeeding fortnight

I meant to post something about breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week but I just discovered it officially finished on 7 August. However I'm sure that it is in the spirit of the thing to extend it by a week to accommodate busy mothers (as if there was another kind).

I am proud to have continued breastfeeding through my battles with milk supply (for more detail read the third part of my birthstory here), proud to have breastfed my twins as long as it worked for all of us and proud that that turned out to be just around their third birthday. I also have to confess to being sneakily proud of having met my secret goal of breastfeeding longer than any of my sisters in law (i.e. over six months).

I am deeply, deeply grateful to my sister for donating milk so that H & K were exclusively breastmilk-fed for their first two weeks.

As a working mother I found breastfeeding particularly precious, at times it felt like the only still moments we had together. From when H & K were about a year old I breastfed twice a day, first thing when they got up and last thing before they went to bed.

3 Wishes for the Good Breastfeeding Fairy:
  1. May all women be able to comfortably breastfeed their babies as long as they choose (good fairies, I'm sure, understand that comfortably includes adequately).
  2. May pleasant, comfortable places be available to breastfeed in whenever needed (when designing parenting rooms they should have windows so you can watch the world, sofas so you can tandem feed twins and smell nice).
  3. May breastfeeding women be saved from embarassment, harassment and offputting looks.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

10 lies about Wellington's weather

  1. There is dust everywhere, in everything. It blows in all the cracks until even inside all the surfaces have a fine layer. My house looks like a film set from a ghost town. My eyes are gritty, my nose is lined with dust and I can still feel it in my throat since I unwisely opened my mouth outside to call to a friend, just visible through the haze across the street.

  2. The mounds of grey unmelted snow look like an elephants graveyard, slumped beasts who have lost their bulk and now the skin hangs in arcs from bone to bone. Snow looks so pristine when it arrives and becomes the trap for the all the city's filth.

  3. The air is so dry my lips are chapped and my hands itch. I have to be carefully what I wear so as not to get too much static build up and the resulting shocks. But at least the plastic wrap really sticks!

  4. The weather has been the same for weeks. You don't need a weather report here, just a calendar.

  5. My eyes itch with smog. Even if you look straight up the sky is not clear blue, where it meets the hills it is brown. The sun sets spectacularly but never touches the horizon.

  6. The path outside our house has become a crevasse through the snow that I have to clear every morning. The outside world seems like a myth from inside the quiet and warm womb of the drift which has consumed our house.

  7. I'm used to the constant sweating, the prickle on my forehead, the slow trickle down my cleavage. But at night I toss and turn, no sheet - cooler but nothing between my sweaty limbs - or sheet - hotter but some relief from the hot, sticky feel of limb against limb.

  8. It has been still for weeks, the flags hang lifeless on the poles, the smell of the city hangs around it like a blanket - car exhaust and cooking fat, seaweed and sewage.

  9. It is tornado season, when the thunder clouds build, towering over the hills and the sky starts, almost imperceptibly at first, to turn that eerie green, I watch with dread and anticipation, trying to balance the urge to hide and the need to watch these most spectacular forces at work. The lighting forks down from the sky and each bolt is a curse.

  10. I love the monsoon. The water comes to quench an unimaginable thirst, the anticipation of the arid land building month by month, week by week, day by day until - suddenly there is nothing dry, nothing wanting. Water is everywhere, an overabundance, a deluge, a flood. The streets are rivers and buildings are islands. The thick warm rain is so unlike any other time of year and yet so right.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I woke up in the morgue

I saw a documentary about catalepsy called "I woke up in the morgue", a name so awful that defies belief but the documentary was OK.

It said cataleptics who collapse when they laugh or experience strong emotion have a defective part in their brains (which I can't remember the name of right now). In most people this part produces stimulants when we experience strong emotion.

Which made me think about:
  • laughing so hard you can't stand up
  • asking people if they are sitting down before giving them bad news
  • other times one feels weak at the knees (she said discretely)

The brain has to actively prevent us collapsing when we experience strong emotion and the surprise is not that some people do collapse but that the rest of us do so rarely.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I am inordinately proud of being published or acknowledged in print. So this is a list of my credits:

  1. Author of this birth story first published in three parts in the Wellington Multiple Birth Club Newsletters, September, October and November 2003, re-printed by the Kapiti Multiple Birth Club and Birth Wise, who put it on the web.

  2. Co-editor of sky falling, an anthology of entries from the New Zealand Poetry Society's annual competition, 1995.

  3. Co-editor of The old moon and so on, an anthology of entries from the New Zealand Poetry Society's annual competition, 1994.

  4. Acknowledged in "Population studies of yellow-eyed penguins : 1993-94 progress report" by Murray Efford, John Darby, and Nick Spencer. Science for Conservation 22, Dept. of Conservation, Wellington 1996.

  5. Acknowledged in the New Zealand Radiocarbon Database.

  6. Acknowledged in history, philosophy, geology and biochemistry theses, 2 for honours degrees, 2 for masters and 1 for a PhD.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Confessions of a know-it-all

Yesterday I went out to dinner with my best beloved, D, to a Greek/Cypriot restaurant named for the muses, Moyses Taverna.

The menu gave a list of muses not unlike this one from Wikipedia:

Calliope (epic poetry)
Euterpe (music/lyric poetry)
Clio (history)
Erato (lyrics/love poetry)
Melpomene (tragedy)
Polyhymnia (sacred poetry and geometry)
Terpsichore (dancing)
Thalia (comedy)
Urania (astronomy and astrology)

Upon reading it D commented on the number of kinds of poetry. At which point I launched into an explanation that poetry was what people of the time wrote and therefore wanted muses for. I went on to explain that the reason poetry was fashionable is that it is more easily memorised and that in a society where many people are illiterate and writing materials are expensive that is important.

Now the confession I have to make is that although that is all very plausible and I expect it is true - I made it up.

I think I need some help from Clio.