Cherry on the top

My work meeting finished at 4pm. I still had minutes to type but was also due to meet a friend for dinner and the theatre at 6:30pm on the other side of The Bridge.

Anybody who lives in Sydney knows that trying to get across the Sydney Harbour Bridge by car into the city from 5pm onwards gobbles time. So I made the journey at 4 and typed the minutes here. A lovely way to end the work day.

Look Up

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Concealed in the sameness
the faded blue suit
Clark Kent by day
Who cares, who cares to look?

But out there
when darkness falls
it’s kite-flying breathtaking riddles
out of dayshadows, an infinite teasing
of zetetic minds
unphysics exploding:

The Universe
ultimate mystery man.


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Ugg Boot Face-off

To find oneself, at 50-something, studying astrobiology (under duress) as a subject in a Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics) degree is a little discombobulating, to say the least. Particularly if your last contact with the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics was some 30-odd years ago (and geology, never). But the university at which I’m studying crawling through my degree has a rule (which only came into effect after I started) that every undergraduate student must complete a Planet unit and a People unit outside of their stream in order to complete said degree.

So, every week this semester just past, a very grumpy band of Arts students, including me, would huddle together in the prac room, muttering furiously over concepts such as chirality; and biomarker composition; and whether the lump of rock before us was sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous; and whether another lump of rock before us was a stony, iron, or stony-iron, meteorite; and whether the earth was oxic or anoxic when another lump of rock before us was formed.

On the opposite side of the room, sat a bunch of engaged, aspiring astrobiologists, scientists and geologists, who spoke in a language even the polyglot Arts student doesn’t care much for. We were strange bedfellows; almost different species.😀

What a discomfiting experience.

But, it blew my mind!

I learnt so much. About how far (and not) scientific knowledge has come since I was at school; why the exploration of our solar system (so what’s the big deal about a bunch of dead rocks and gassy balls in the sky?) is deeply interesting; the mysteries of the vast and strange universe that we find ourselves in; and, most fascinating of all, the extent of the microbial and extremophile world around, beneath, on, and in us. I even had a bit of fun with the Design-a-Lander-for-Titan assignment (the tutors mentioned that they were looking forward to the Arts students’ designs. Yeah, I thought, some comic relief).

There is much value in seeking out our opposites and differences in knowledge, beliefs, philosophies and interests.

What have you learnt recently that has broadened your mind?


Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary People


I’m in a city of 14.50 million

souls. I know no-one

here. I’m a nano-human, a speck

in the smog. I make myself big

riding the subways with no-one

with light-coloured hair. No-one notices

the gweilo; the ghost-person, I think,

until I step into the deluge at Shanghai

Library, and a dark-haired

girl steps in time beside me, her umbrella

banishing the rain, her words, my ghostliness

“Where are you going?

Can I take you there?”


“They’re irresponsible”, my husband says, “sending you there on your own.“

“It’ll be fine. I’ll be careful”, I say. I have an unspoken list of no-go countries for work, but China’s not one of them; my 8-year-old self has waited a lifetime for this. From a young age through most of my teens my dreamscapes were exotic places far from my home in Africa, in particular, somewhere intoxicating called the Far East. There…

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I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Shanghai twice in the last 6 months for work. On my most recent trip there, I was lucky enough to be shown around by wonderful hosts, and so I got to see the some of the incredible architecture in the Pudong area for the first time.


This is the interior of the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel from the top floor, a view not for the fainthearted.

Evocation of Art

‘Anti-mimesis is a philosophical position that holds the direct opposite of mimesis. Its most notable proponent is Oscar Wilde, who opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis “results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.”.

What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. As in an example posited by Wilde, although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects…They did not exist till Art had invented them.” ‘                                 Wikipedia


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Nature creates art in the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

I don’t agree with Mr Wilde; surely the fact that artists painted the fog is because they saw its beauty in life, and thus art imitated life in this case (chicken vs egg). But I concede that art provides us ways of seeing and appreciating life from a number of different perspectives which we may not otherwise notice.