Archive for May, 2007


it’s all about the boots
Originally uploaded by deepwarren.
An early example of office stretches on desk.
Sort of.
Actually it was about the shiny boots,
but you get the idea.

My back is a bit screwed up, mostly as a result of using computers for long periods of time since I was 7. I am aware that one of the best ways of fixing it is through regular stretches and movement, but sometimes it’s easy to forget. Hence I do them at work.

People from FOLT will remember the little animated man that used to pop up on my desktop and instruct us in stretches for office workers (if you need an RSI blocker program, it’s the best one I’ve found, and it’s freeware). I’ve now been in my new job long enough that it’s becoming de rigeur to see the product stewardship and data teams stand up at 11.00 and follow me through a series of movements. The favourite being “stop in the name of love” and just swinging your arms around. It’s not quite office yoga on the floor at 4pm, but it’s a good thing

This morning I realised I could add another stretch to the list. Simply placing my feet on the desk and attempting to gently straighten my legs. My hamstrings are so tight that this is painful. it’s nice, easy and low impact enough that I just might do it frequently and start to fix that other issue.

So for all you other office type people, do you move often enough??

In other news related to a difference version of stretching I want to go to this exhibition “Design for the other 90%” (from this post by No Impact Man). Definitely not this one from the Museum of Creationism (from Larvatus Prodeo).

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I’m having an attack of the zeitgeist. It’s essay season so I am reading many things. The stuff that I need to do my essays, and the stuff that I read to avoid doing my essays. There is a theme emerging which gently smacked me in the head at lunch today.

Some of the items that feed into this theme:

What is the insight that all of these items are giving me? What is the theme? There are a couple of aspects.

There’s the importance of social sustainability as an important part of creating a better lifestyle/livelihood for everyone (post on this later). The realisation that my fundamental beliefs had not been subsumed in recent years and that they are starting to re-emerge. The fact that all of my reactions in the 6 months prior to easter and for the bit just after can actually be explained as part of my theravadan buddhist approach to life (see explanation below). Unabated consumption is the root cause of many of our problems, and simple lack of awareness and thought is perpetuating this problem. Economic growth is a paradigm that needs to be tempered, if not discarded, in the face of a finite planet and with the realisation that society is not getting exponentially happier as we get exponential growth. Finally that these themes are all linked

The actual paragraph that gently smacked me over the head is from E.F. Schumacher’s “Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered”. I have not yet read this book, the quote was from “Pathways to a Green World”.

“[a traditional economist] is used to measuring the “standard of living” by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is “better off” than a man who consumes less. A buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption… the less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of economic activity” (my emphasis)

The buddhist thing? It’s not been a driving force in recent years, and I thought I’d forgotten it, but it’s now becoming important again. A few years ago if you’d asked me what my religion was the answer would have been theravadan buddhism (the monks in the orange robes, not the red and yellow tibetan ones, or the grey chinese ones). This was the direct result of my experiences in Thailand, where I got to be part of a culture that had used buddhism as the basis of its value system for over a thousand years. I really felt at home there, and the ethos really fit with my sense of justice and the world.

Further reading back at home continued this thought, as well as discussions with Thai expats and attending the wat (temple) in Annandale. I liked that the Buddha is not a god, and that while there is acknowledgement that the gods may or may not exist, in reality they are unlikely to affect your life[1] so get on with living it and being happy/fulfilled. I like that he told his followers to take his teachings and apply them, and any other teaching that they came across, and if that teaching does not give them insight into the reduction of suffering[2] then discard it. I like the concept of non-attachment, i.e not being attached to ideas, objects and emotions that are bad for your well-being. I like the idea of simple happiness. These things I find to be truth and good.

Anyway, there was a point to this post, not just to eulogise about buddhism. The book by Ajarn Brahm was one I wasn’t planning to purchase or read, but was exactly the right book. The first third of the book was full of stories and parables about guilt, anger, relationships and grief. Each time I read one it resonated with my thoughts and actions, something to the effect of “ah, so that’s why I have reacted that way, I was practicing non-attachment” It was fantastic to realise that I’d not stopped being buddhist, just that I’d not given it a label for many years.

“Your money or your life” is the first book I’ve come across that tells you that money is just an idea, a concept. Saving madly and trimming budgets so you can get more stuff is not the solution, rather the solution is to establish what is “enough”. What is it that you need that will create “enough” for you in your life. This is wealth, happiness and abundance, peacefulness and prosperity. Not some bizarre fetishisation of owning as many new shiny big gadgets and items as you possibly can. Happiness is not the next pay rise or the new car, it’s time spent with friends, time spent making things, time spent reading or relaxing.

The other items all talk about aspects of sustainability, some more urgently than others. How we need to be more conscious in our lives and the impacts that we have on the planet. How we need to change things, and some practical ways of doing so.

The ultimate realisation/zeitgeist thingie? It’s all connected, and that paragraph from Schumacher made me realise that. My buddhism, and personal goals to have less impact are tied in with the broader structures of changing the way we live and creating a more sustainable society. Sometimes it’s nice to be gently smacked over the head and know you are on the right track.

Might be time to visit my wat again. le tum boon duay la

[1] I don’t believe in an interventionist god… yay, Nick Cave
[2] It will take forever to explain all the facets of suffering but it’s not just physical, also emotional and mental and existential

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I was reading the paper this morning, and came across the article about drenching rain in western NSW and across Victoria. Hooray! While reading the article I had something tickling the back of my brain and I finally realised what it was. My parents are currently travelling outback South Australia and NSW, of course it’s raining!

During my childhood we spent every Easter holiday and some winter holidays driving through western NSW and NE South Australia. I’ve been to Tibooburra more times than most people (which incidentally had the highest recorded rainfall yesterday, 44 mill. In a place where the kids are sent home from school if it rains) I’ve jumped across all the states at Cameron’s Corner, I’ve mined for rose gypsum on a sheep farm past Broken Hill and I’ve had a semi-tame wedge tail eagle land on my back and give me some serious scratches. I’ve travelled the Oodnadatta track and the Birdsville track, stayed underground at Coober Pedy and almost been bogged in Lake Ayre. I’ve seen more miles of red sand than anyone ever should, and when my department recently insituted a photo based screensaver of some of the work we do, including shots of various national parks I was able to say “been there” to most of them.

The thing we never managed to achieve in all of these trips was to make it to Cooper’s Crossing, where Burke and Wills died. Never. We tried many, many times. Why? Floods.

Every time we went outback it flooded. Really serious flooding.

The Nyngan floods that were up to the second storey? We almost got caught in that. We only just made it out of the town and across the bridge at West Wyalong before they closed it. I can still remember the volume of water splashing up around the car.

My grandfather was a country boy, he grew up in Cobar and lived most of his early adult life in Griffith. He was with us on the trip where Nyngan flooded. This is the grandfather that told stories of catching rabbits during the depression, who would regale us with tales of wongas, fierce creatures that hid in the bush ready to pounce on children while bushwalking unless we carried a strong walking stick with us to beat them off (he even explained the cut out piece in his ear as where some wongas had got him early in life. I later found out it was a skin cancer). He had a tale to explain the flooding. “Someone ran over the Rainbow Serpent” was his explanation, gave it a good squishing and now it was grumpy and was dumping lots of rain on us.

It was a fun explanation. I miss him and his stories.

What did the rest of us think? We just figured that every time the Taylors went outback it was going to rain. The evidence is still holding up. We stopped the outback trips around the time that the drought started in 1996ish, and only started going back in the last couple of years. It’s rained every time Mum & Dad, or my brother have gone out.

I wonder if we could sell our services as rain gods, a la Douglas Adams’ “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul“. I suppose I could do my bit, as long as we don’t have to play “spot the first spinifex” ever again.

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Pirates! Reprise

Mouse, Tops and I sat down last Friday night to take the ships on their maiden voyages.

Round 1: Collect the treasure
Round 2: Carnage on the high seas, with tricksy moving fog banks.

Lessons learned in this game:

  • Games of carnage require big ships with many masts for a wonderful broadside effect.
  • Fire pots are fun
  • Fog Banks are not. Except they make the game more interesting
  • Sons will take after their fathers (and their mothers of course, but she’s not in this photo).

topsy and son

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