• These Top 14 Astronomy Pictures from 2010 are incredible – I particularly like shots of the moons of Saturn, and the dunes of Mars.
  • A couple of very thought provoking posts about intellectual property.
  • I really liked this post by Flinthart about lifelong learning.
  • A couple of interesting videos from TED – Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability, and Dan Gilbert’s talk on happiness.
  • The podcast The Marketplace of Ideas has some very varied and interesting interviews in the archives.
  • From Brain PickingsAround the World in 80 Diets, and Your Brain on Love.
  • Studies in Crap, a look at books found in second hand stores, makes me cry with laughter – examinations of books like Unicorn Vengeance (which contains neither unicorns, nor vengeance, but does contain possibly the worst sentence ever written), and The Living Animals of the World from 1901, which says of koalas, “These animals make a peculiarly plaintive cry when molested in any way.”

  • Reverb 10 – Days 1 to 4

    I signed up to get daily prompts during December from Reverb 10 (an “online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next”), as I thought it might be an opportunity to write a bit more, despite the words “manifest” and “reverberate” making me wince a little. But I’m not that good at actually writing in response to daily prompts, particularly during December, so here’s a couple of responses all in one post.

    December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

    The ‘one word for the year’ is a bit of a thing among those vaguely new-agey self-improvement circles online – and it depends on my mood as to whether I think this is a valuable or pointless idea. I actually did choose a word for this year, back in January, which was “rhythm” – it connected with a couple of goals of mine, such as playing more music and being more organised. And while I did play a lot more music (and learnt to play a new instrument) this year, the more organised thing didn’t really happen. I still put things off far too long – if anything, this year has kind of carried me along with it. So if I was going to select a word for it – let’s go with “floating”. And a word for next year? Summit. As in, climbing towards it. I’d like to be less carried by the current.

    December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

    My writing is so sporadic that I don’t think it even deserves the term “my writing”. And as for what doesn’t contribute to it – I don’t contribute to it, by not devoting enough time to it. See above tendency to put things off.

    December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

    The way I review my year is my scrolling through the 2010 folder on my photo hardrive, each folder within that one labelled with the date and vague descriptions that drive the husband insane. (“What the hell is ‘pumpkins, self portraits, cake’?” he says in exasperated tones. Why, exactly what it says.)

    One of my most vivid alive moments this year was playing at the world record attempt at the Cairns Ukulele Festival – being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of other people strumming and singing and smiling, the press of people who loved music and the instrument. My fingers hurting from playing 7 minutes of the same chords over and over. The bloke on stage singing the verses of Achey Breakey Heart over and over again in a relentlessly cheerful way. And it was a fantastic moment nevertheless – a great vibe.

    December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

    Walking towards our house at night and looking up to see the stars and the moon spread out through the dark silhouettes of the trees.  Singing gospel. Getting out of my comfort zone and seeing new things – amazing musicians, and very intense sci-fi fans.  Capturing little bits of life with my camera.

    Septic tomatoes

    A little forest of baby tomato plants have sprung up around our septic tank. Given that flourishing verdant patches are not the usual result of my lack of intervention regime in the garden, I am rather pleased by this. I even weeded around them. My dedication knows no bounds.

    However – and despite my mother’s stern and encouraging words about the widespread use of human waste as fertiliser – I am a little leery about actually eating any of the tomatoes they produce. If you’ve ever lived with a septic tank, and the occasionally interesting smells that they produce, I’m sure you’ll understand my hesitance. But I’ll keep weeding around them. I love the way tomato plants smell when it rains.

    In the trenches

    Last weekend we spent our time digging a trench to extend our phone line. A rather difficult task, through the impacted earth over the driveway, although we eventually made quite a neat tunnel and layed down some pipe we’d welded together (using the word ‘we’ in a rather broad sense with respect to the welding).

    We rested occasionally after bouts of mattocking, lying back on the drive and watching flocks of lorikeets up in the trees, and I reflected on the carefree life of birds which does not include digging and trying to mattock through rocks.

    Down she comes

    A few weeks ago, Mum and Allen came to visit – and when they weren’t in holiday mode, they were at work in the garden. Such useful guests. I was in charge of the coffee machine and taking photos of other people working hard.

    After this week’s storms and high winds, I’m glad we took down this big dead tree at the back of the house – now that I can finally see the place in daylight over the weekend, I can see that the garden is covered in little eucalypt branches after all those windy nights.