Monday, April 26, 2010

Who's Minding the Juniors?

I have waited a couple days in the hopes that I had just missed the part of the furore that I was expecting, but I have heard about the apology to the Pope and the assurance that senior ministers did not see the Official document and all the back pedaling about "brainstorming," "admittedly far fetched," "young," etc. For those of you--especially my US readers--who do not have the background on this story, here's a link to a pretty good summary:

Now here's what bothers me about this whole thing:

Brainstorming is open-ended. It's meant to be non-judgemental, so if idiotic things come up, whoever is facilitating it--and someone must be facilitating it--determines if silly suggestions indicate the productive part of the session is over or whether another approach needs to be tried or abandoned.

So Question 1: Where was the facilitator?

Question 2: Brainstorming is a tool for generating ideas--only some of which are likely to be of any value. Who typed this up and passed it along? Where was the grown up for this stage of the operations?

Question 3: Why do the media seem to support the idea that only Catholics, including the Pope are offended by this? I'd like an apology over a gross waste of time and energy, mismanagement of intellectual capital (I give the brainstormers the benefit of doubt here).

Question 4: Why was the person left holding the can for this only "assigned other duties"? Why wasn't he/she fired? Mean-spirited humour or exceedingly bad ideas (someone actually suggested that these were not jokes, but I can only take that as a wind up.) might be enough on their own right. But circulating them and so causing humiliation for their higher ups. It seems only in government employment could someone get away with such poor performance.

Question 5: How many juniors does it take to come up with a good pope joke?

Answer: They don't know yet, but they're having a facilitated brainstorming session and an official document will be released sometime later this week.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Three Wee Heathers

I love heather, which along with a fondness for rocks, goes a long way toward making my life here more fun. Brigadoon and that lilting sentimental song "Walking through the heather on the hill" were the only items stored in the database under "Heather" until I came here. The experience is analagous to my revelation when a painting I had seen only as a postage-stamp size photo in an art history textbook was revealed to me full size on the wall of the art museum in Brussels. It took my breath away. There is no substitute for the real thing in its own habitat.
And so with heather. An individual clump of it is lovely; a hill full of it in any season, but especially when the entire hill is coloured by its flowering will stop you in your tracks. I do not really have favourites--a hill full of purple heather is certainly one of my favourites, but the little, red-tipped lipstick heathers capture my imagination.
So naturally when I saw these three in the garden centre with such names as Leslie Slinger and Tricolorifolia--how could I resist? I'm surprised I came away with only three, but the season is young yet.

The heathers and I are hunkered down inside trying to outwait the fluttering snow-hail that keeps falling out of the sky. The heather and I can be patient. We will have our season.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hope--Inner and Outer

It could not have been better timed if it had been scripted. I was wrestling with a mega-deadline and my energy has been somewhat depleted. I could not find high gear. I was trying to pretend that I was in any gear at all by making the equivalent of putt putt noises to myself. Puttering with this project and that one and putting in a load of laundry when I should have been writing. And on one of those perambulations away from the keyboard, I heard the postie slide the mail through the letter box. Of course I had to go see.

Serendipity prevailed, as she so often does for me. There were two non-bill kinds of envelopes. The first was from a friend who had wrestled through her own deadline and gave me a bit of encouragement, including a recipe for "maakin flooers". Much needed; much appreciated. I smiled and felt a little warmth coming back into my imagination.

The next envelope was from a new friend--a friend of a friend--I have not met her in person yet, but we have shared much via email so I looked forward to whatever was in the envelope. The front of the card is a photo of a standard British road sign. Straightforward, no nonsense, black letters on white background. "Outer Hope, " with an arrow pointing straight up; "Inner Hope" an arrow pointing left, or inward. I laughed out loud. The cats came to see what was so funny, but since they can't read, it was hard to explain.

With a good laugh, a recipe for flowers, and a metaphor to steer by, I was back at it. The application went in with 20 minutes to spare.

OK, for those of you wondering--according to the back of the card, "hope" is derived from Old English hop for a small cove. Other village names can be found on

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dyeing with Daffodils

It made no sense at all. I had begged off all other commitments and was hunkered down to clean house, correct my short story for tonight's writing group meeting at my house (hence the urgency behind housework), so naturally along with vacuuming and mopping and picking up odd pieces I decided to dye some wool with daffodils.

OK it makes sense if you know about this other, formerly secret side of me. I play with wool and string and sticks and things. I met a friend in the bank who is a spinner-dyer and she said dye wool with daffodils, alum, and a teensy bit of dishwasher liquid in a jar in the sun. Solar dyeing. How cool is that.

Meanwhile 20 daffodil heads were soaking in very hot (out of the tap water) in a jar. I poured this into a plastic bowl inside a glass bowl, added enough water from the kettle to warm up the water-daff mix to about the same temp as the wool/silk and plunked it into the mix--I left the flowers there.

I don't know why text went blue, but it seems a nice touch for a post on dyeing, so I'll take it as a gift--not a problem--and leave it.

Lovely yellow, slightly uneven dyeing --not unexpected. Wool may have had a bit of grease in it left over from process. Silk took less dye overall and took longer to take it in but it also is a lovely soft yellow. If I do this again, I'll do it with yarn rather than raw fibre and use my fine merino.

OK now I really have to concentrate completely on work at hand.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rock On

Ms Piggy asked for more rocks, so here is a photo of my latest pet rocks, plucked from the waves at Portskerra.

Today, fortunately, was a little grey and dampish--a mizzly kind of day. The cool grey air was almost a relief after the glorious bright days we have had. I think Caithnessians are a little like the folks Garrison Keillor talks about in Lake Woebegone: too much sunshine would be too much for our constitutions.

As I was trying to photograph these two, I was reminded of Annie Dillard's essay about trying to teach a stone to talk. It took me several tries to get a decent photo. As soon as I remembered the lesson of that essay--patience--I was able to get the job done.

Now I have to set aside my pet rocks, blogging, knitting, and all other diversions because I have heads down work to do. I'll be back in a few days.
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Fondness for Rocks

Perhaps you could live here, but I am sure you could not live here contentedly unless you have a fondness for rocks, or develop one. The weather here has been lovely--golden sun, calm water, fresh air. When this happens, we all head out to enjoy whatever can be done under this clear blue dome. The large photo above is from one of my favourite small harbours out west. I especially love the contrast of the pink and grey stones.

My first stop in our trek west was to Portskerra harbour, a perennial favourite. It is more often wild than docile. Even in quiet weather, the waves tend to have a grudge to work out with the shore. But the tide was well out and the rough-peaked rocks that usually take a buffeting were lying exposed like the unsutured ends of an old wound. Because it was so mild, I walked all the way down the slip way, watched the seaweed dance in the ripple of waves against the slipway and ventured into the water to collect two lovely rocks to come home with me--one so red that at first I thought it was a much-tossed brick. But much of this little corner of the world is based on Old Red Sandstone, so I decided this little guy was a chip off the Old Red block, so to speak.

Further west, if you have a discerning eye for rocks, you'll notice that the drystone dykes and buildings are made from rounder stones--bolls or land stones, Morris tells me they are called. I often take photos of textures and colours created by the rocks. I loved this rock-filled cranny in a rock wall--it's the gable end of an old building.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Two Larks Singing

It was bucketing rain this morning and cold. The wind was not quixotic as it has been, but persistent and so wet that the air was heavy. The sky was grey and it looked as if the very heavens were going to be wrung out and deposited on us before the day was done.

The day will clear, Morris says. I heard two larks singing. They know better than we do. I was prepared to believe in the wisdom of the larks, but I put on my heavy duty rain coat and hat in the mean time.

The larks were right. Still not a bonny day but dry now.

"Bouncebackability" is the word one of the presenters at the Age Unlimited workshop used as an important trait for sdocial entrepreneurs--which was what they were trying to encourage us to be. I'm not sure I'm a social entrepreneur, but I bounce back--that's a good start.