Share Your World – Week 39

September 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Posted in Australia, Nature, Reading | 4 Comments
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These are the latest questions from Cee Neuner – getting to know each other on Share Your World.

Did you ever get lost?

Nope, never been lost – not that I remember, anyway.

Who was your best friend in elementary school?

I don’t remember even having a particular friend in primary (elementary) school. I guess I was rather a loner when I was young.

Since the new television season has started in the US, list three favorite TV shows.

I rarely watch TV, though there are a few programmes I will watch when they come on. Most of them relate to historical aspects. I love the British Time Team with Tony Robinson, though we are several years behind on getting them here in Australia. I also love the Australian and British Who Do You Think You Are? which trace back the antecedents of well known people. That’s pretty well all I watch on a regular basis – when they are on free to air TV. We don’t have pay TV.

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

My hubby will be watching TV –either war histories or aeroplane crash investigations usually. I will be either working at my writing on my computer, doing some scrapbooking, or reading.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

We have had the last few days away, camping at a place where there was no mobile (cell) phone reception or internet reception. It has been a time of relaxation and enjoying the country and wildlife.

In the next week, I will be getting into my writing group activities again.

(c) Linda Visman

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Share Your World – Week 38

September 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Australia | 3 Comments

Here are my answers to Cee’s latest Share Your World questions:

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I would be an Australian eucalyptus tree. It will re-grow after being in fire; it survives drought and floods. It is a survivor!

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for one hour, what would you have them do?

I would have them cook for me. I dislike cooking, but I love eating good food.

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Potatoes, I think. Cooked in any way.

What was one of your first moneymaking jobs (other than babysitting or newspaper delivery)?

My first job where I made money was at a news agency. I had quit university, aged eighteen, because I couldn’t handle being away from home for the first time. I held that job for about nine months, before going to Teachers’ College, where I could live at home.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

It was so good to see four of my sons and their families and spend extra time with some of them. They live far away, and I don’t see them nearly often enough.

Coming up, we have birthdays in my husband’s family, and will see most of them, and then we will have a little time at home to relax after all our travels.

(c) Linda Visman

Campfire Magic

September 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Experiences, History, Nature, Philosophy, Society | 9 Comments
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I wrote this a couple of evenings ago as my husband and I camped by a creek in the Border Ranges between NSW and Queensland.

IMG_0638 IMG_0639

There is something primitive about sitting by a campfire in the wilderness. That’s where I am tonight, and the experience takes me back to several different pasts.

I imagine the ancients huddling close to a fire they have only recently tamed, building it high to keep away the fearsome and ferocious predators that would otherwise prey on them.

I feel their awe as they gaze into the roaring flames that hungrily eat up the branches tossed into them. I feel their fear of that hunger if it should escape. How easy is it to imagine their veneration of this awesome power, a magical force which they have managed to harness for their own protection.

Campfire 01

What were their thoughts as they later stared into its dying embers, watching the occasional flicker of a flame as it flickered and died? Did they wish they had collected more fuel to feed the fire? Or were they relaxed enough to ponder their own next meal, the mate they would lie with, or how the hunt had gone that day?

A campfire from a less distant past also comes to mind. One set up by a river or in the bush, or by a huge monolith in an isolated southern continent. Images of the wondrous vault of the sky, undimmed by any city lights, filled with uncountable stars. Thoughts of indigenous people sitting by their clan fire. I see them as self-sufficient and self-reliant, yet filled with awe as they contemplate the unknown and create their Dreamtime origins.

Later, I see the early European explorers by their campfire, uncertain of what is out in the darkness, yet eager for discovery of what is to them a new and unclaimed land.

Campfire 03

It’s not just the far distant past I see in my campfire this night, as I remember my own experiences in isolated Central Australia, knowing that I could walk hundreds of miles in any direction and not meet another human being.

I also wonder how many children today and in the future will experience the thrill of their own campfire. Will they ever feel the thrill of the unknown, the fear even, of a night far from home. Far from their electric lights, TVs and computers, from the comfort of their soft beds and the security of their four solid walls?

It is sad that so many of them will miss out on that more primitive experience of life. That they will never see a campfire flare and flame, as the darkness presses against their frail light, then flicker and die to embers. What a loss that is.?

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 37

September 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Family, Mental Health, Politics, Society | 2 Comments
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Here are my responses to Cee’s latest Share Your World questions.

List three pet peeves.

  1. Politicians;
  2. “Tossers” – those who leave their rubbish for others to clean up;
  3. Splashing water around when washing the dishes.

What makes you unique?

Just about everything! There is nobody in the world who is just like me – in appearance, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. I am the only one of me.

What would be your ideal birthday present, and why?

My ideal birthday present is being taken out to dinner; a day without having to cook or prepare any meals myself.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

The toilet paper definitely goes over the top! If I find it the other way, I change it – no matter whose bathroom I am in.

There are several reasons for that. The first is that it is easiest to find the end when it is on the side next to you. The second is that spiders and other creatures sometimes hide under the paper if it is hidden behind the roll against the wall (I’m not afraid of them, but who wants to be startled by a spider?). And the third is that if the roll is right against the wall, it can be hard to get hold of – and if the wall is a brick or stone one, then you can scrape your knuckles against it – which I have done.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week, we had several beautiful sunny spring days when it was a real pleasure to work out in the yard.

I am looking forward to travelling interstate this week to visit some of my kids and grandkids.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 36

September 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Culture, Society, Writing and Life | 3 Comments

Here are my responses to Cee’s questions for week 36 of Share Your World

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Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?
I usually read fiction, and my tastes are pretty wide, but I love looking through picture books of historical photos. I like to see people in them mainly, and imagine myself in those times, in that life. It’s probably the reason I like to look at cemetery headstones. I also love well-written memoirs and biographies – more those of ordinary rather than famous people.

What is your biggest fear or phobia? (no photos please)
I don’t have any phobias, thank goodness. My greatest fear is that my grandchildren and their children’s world will be an extremely difficult one.

What is your favourite cheese?
I love almost any kind of cows’ milk cheese – apart from the really smelly ones; the blue vein types. My favourites range from the soft camembert, through tasty cheddar to extra-strong tasty cheddars. I also love fetta cheese with its strong tangy flavour – tastes best eaten with dark olives.

What is your favourite month of the year?
I don’t have a particular month which is a favourite. Every month has its own attractions, including winter. However, I do love the months from September to November, when it is spring in Australia and before the really hot months. That is where we are now, wattles in golden bloom, happy wanderer creeping through the grass and over wire fences, tiny purple and yellow flowers.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
I am thankful to see the writing critique groups I initiated 6-7 years ago are going strong. It is wonderful to see the development in their writing skills, and to have a part in helping them achieve that.

I am looking forward to travelling interstate to see some of my kids and their families. It is hard when they live so far away, so a trip to see them – and our beautiful country – is always a treat.

Making a Spectacle 1: History of Fireworks

September 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Culture, History, Religion, Society, Special Occasions, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | Leave a comment
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Clipart fireworks

Bamboo Bangs

Fireworks of a kind were used in China over 2,000 years ago, well before the discovery of gunpowder.
These early ‘fireworks’ consisted of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. As air pockets inside the bamboo heated, they exploded, creating a frightening noise. They were used to scare away bad spirits, and it became part of a ritual to scare away the evil spirit Nian at the start of each new year.
Gradually, the green bamboo bangs because part of other celebrations like births, weddings and coronations. They were used thus for the next thousand years.

Heating bamboo

Invention of Gunpowder

There are several references to a Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, who is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. There are other stories of an accidental explosion when an alchemist was heating a mix of chemicals.
What is known however, is that somewhere between about 600 and 900AD, Chinese alchemists discovered a particular mixture of chemicals that ignited with a flash and a bang when heated over a fire. The records show that they were advised to shun this mixture of sulfur, saltpetre (potassium nitrate), honey and arsenic disulfide.
However, some alchemists continued to experiment with it.
They discovered that explosions resulted when the mixture was heated inside bamboo tubes, and that flames, smoke and sparks erupted when it was ignited in an open container. The more saltpetre added to the mix, the more violently it exploded.

Chinese soldier launches fire arrow

What we now call gunpowder became a useful as a military weapon around the 10th century, though initially it was only used to frighten and confuse the enemy. Later, it was it used also to inflict injury.
Bamboo was gradually replaced by thick paper tubes and fuses, made from gunpowder wrapped in long thin pieces of paper, were developed.
As well as for military applications, firecrackers continued to be used in China at important celebrations.

The main components of gunpowder and their ratios, developed over 500 years ago, are still the same as are used today:
1) Saltpetre 75%
2) Charcoal 15%
3) Sulphur 10%

Chinese wiring on black powder

Firecrackers go to Europe and Beyond

In its early years, the important part of exploding black powder was the light and sound that would scare off the spirits. Even when fireworks came to Europe and spread across the world, it wasn’t the colour that mattered. It is believed that Marco Polo brought firecrackers back to Europe from China in 1292. The Italians loved them. Three hundred years later, with the arrival of the Renaissance and the era of exploration and experiment, they developed a greater range of fireworks; especially skyrockets, fountains and spinning wheels.

The French and Italian Collections. Pen and ink drawing with watercolour wash from a treaty on fireworks. Late 16th century

The French and Italian Collections. Pen and ink drawing with watercolour wash from a treaty on fireworks. Late 16th century

These were refined and expanded over the years, and their use spread throughout Europe, where monarchs and other rulers used them (especially rockets) to demonstrate their power and majesty.
As exploration of the world proceeded during the 16th to the 18th centuries, the use of fireworks spread to new lands. Soon they had become a common element of major celebrations throughout the world.

Fireworks Become More Colourful

For almost 1000 years, the only colours in fireworks were orange and white (from black powder or metallic powder respectively).
By the 1830s however, knowledge of chemicals and their properties was greatly expanded. During that decade, fire masters in southern Italy were able to add reds, greens, blues and yellows by the addition of metallic salts and chlorinated powders. The discovery and use of electrical energy and hydrolysis meant that the chemicals could burn faster, hotter and brighter, and displays, especially aerial ones, became even more dramatic.
Fireworks can be classified broadly by whether they are used for ground or aerial display. Not until the last 200 years did the magical display of coloured sparks become the real focus of a fireworks show. Modern fireworks are also called pyrotechnics, and the experts who develop and stage them are known as pyro-technicians.

Fireworks

As well as science, there is and always has always been an art and craft to development and use of fireworks. Modern fireworks have a myriad of different effects depending on their chemical composition, strength and containment.

Fireworks on sale in a Chinese shop/

Fireworks on sale in a Chinese shop/

China is by far the largest producer and exporter of fireworks in the world. During the 20th century, the mechanics of mass production gradually brought their cost down considerably. Eventually, fireworks became cheap enough to be available to ordinary families, and they could be more personally involved in national, religious and cultural fireworks displays.

……………………………………………………..
Further reading
General history: http://www.pyrouniverse.com/history.htm
Use of fireworks by European monarchs: http://io9.com/the-first-fireworks-displays-were-terrifyingly-huge-1600541130
Depictions of fireworks in Europe from the 16th century: http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/06/25/picturing-pyrotechnics/

(c) Linda Visman

Keeping a Journal 5: Quotes from Famous People

September 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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Dear diary

Many people well-known, famous, infamous or unknown have kept journals. Some of them have even commented on them. Here are a few of their words:

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”
—Joan Didion

Journaling inside out

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.
The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”
—Susan Sontag

“The diary taught me that it is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. I learned to choose the heightened moments because they are the moments of revelation.”
From Anais Nin’s essay “On Writing,” 1947.

“People who keep journals have life twice.”
—Jessamyn West

Journal quote Martina Nav.

“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.”
—Natalie Goldberg

“I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot… and memory is important.”
—Judy Collins

“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.”
—Robin S. Sharma

“So far you truly have been a source of great comfort to me, and so has Kitty, whom I now write to regularly. This way of keeping a diary is much nicer, and now I can hardly wait for moments when I can write in you.”
—Anne Frank, to her diary, from the Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition

quote-if-you-must-keep-a-journal-for-purposes-of-sanity-adopt-an-illegible-hand-r-bryan-love-284531

“My diary is almost a year old now, and judging by past experiences, it’s now worth $500 — at least.”
—Stuart C. Covington, in The Author and journalist, Volumes 32-33

“For me, my diary is my life, my comfort, my second existence.”
—Ramon Gil Navarro, from The Gold Rush Diary of Ramon Gil Navarro

“My journal is my constant companion. It is never far from my reach … It is a front porch of solace and retreat when I am tired and weary.”
—Nicole Johnson, from Fresh-brewed Life: A Stirring Invitation to Wake Up Your Soul

“My journal is a storehouse, a treasury for everything in my daily life: the stories I hear, the people I meet, the quotations I like, and even the subtle signs and symbols I encounter that speak to me indirectly.”
—Dorothy U. Seyler from Patterns of Reflection: A Reader

Quote re keeping journal

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 35

September 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 5 Comments
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Here are my responses to Cee’s latest questions, where we get to know each other better. And, I think we also get to know ourselves better.

Have your blogging goals changed?

The answer to this is “yes” and “no”. When I first began blogging four and a half years ago (where has that time gone!), my aim was to create a habit of writing regularly. That aim has largely been successful, and I am pleased about that.

If I waited till I felt like it

I had intended the main focus of my blog to be on the topic of writing. I have indeed posted a lot of entries about writing, but I have posted more on other topics. When I look back, I see that many of my posts, especially over the past year or more have been on history and, specifically, on my family history.
To me, that is still about writing. It is about writing more of my family history and putting together a book for my children and grandchildren to read. I want them to know something about where they come from, and about some of the wonderful ancestors who have had an impact on the development of my side of their heritage.

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

Acrobat

I cannot imagine ever wanting to perform in a circus but, if I did, I think I would like to be an acrobat. If I could physically perform those twists, turns, leaps and balances, then maybe I could also do them mentally.

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 18 what advice would you give yourself?

I think I would tell myself not to rush into the things that others say you should do. I would say to look at what is possible, and don’t be limited by their expectations. I would say that you are capable of much more than you believe, so stretch your imagination and realise that anything is possible.

What is your favourite comfort snack food?

Chocolate

Like so many people everywhere, I think it would have to be chocolate. It tastes good, it has caffeine and thus gives a boost in energy, and it releases endorphins to make things look more positive. I just wish it wasn’t so darned fattening!

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Last Sunday, we went on a six-kilometre walk along the Sydney coastline, from Coogee to Bondi. We went with friends who belong to the same sailing club we do. It was fabulous; the cliffs, the rocks, the sea, all bathed in beautiful sunshine for the last day of winter.

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Coming up this week is the launch of the fourth book by local author Jaye Ford. Jaye writes psychological thrillers, and the latest is Already Dead. I have read and really enjoyed the first three books and am keen to pick up a signed copy of the latest.

Already Dead Jaye Ford

(c) Linda Visman

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