Sunday, 17 September 2017

Temperature Scarf : Update #5

Winter has been very cold this year, and that's been reflected in the scarf. In fact, I've even hit a bit of a snag, as I've run out of grey wool! (Grey represents 10-13oC.) I will have to take a scrap with me to the craft shop tomorrow and hope that I can find a fairly good match. Unfortunately it's not a good time of year to buy wool. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

You Might Also Like...
Temperature Scarf : First Update

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bonsai Shop Haul

About this time of year, I always get an urge to go to the Bonsai Shop and stock up on pretty little pots. I love the shapes and the glazes. Apparently all of the sizes, designs and glaze colours have their own names in Japanese. I would love to learn them one day. I also got some decorative gravel.

The large round pot at back right is earmarked for Doris, my first succulent and the one that's had the most babies. She's put out a couple of branches that seem to want to grow horizontally and put down roots, so hopefully a wide, shallow pot will facilitate that. I'll share Doris: The Re-Potting in a future post.

This time, I also purchased a couple of live plants. My experiments with bonsai have been a bit disappointing in the past, but I guess I'm feeling optimistic at the moment. The plants at the bonsai nursery mostly don't have labels, and I forgot to ask what these were. I think the one on the left might be an azalea or grevillea, and the one on the right is a pine of some sort. I'm not sure if I'll try turning them into bonsai, but now is the right time of year for it, so I'll have to decide soon.

In retrospect, photographing green plants against a green grass background wasn't such a good idea!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Hello Spring!

This is the second in my experimental series of posts greeting the seasons, the first being Hello Autumn last April. (Oops, I forgot to say hello to Winter. I'm not going to apologise or feel bad for not being consistent. I suspect I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder but I'll write about that another time.)

Spring comes early in Australia. We first feel its effects in the middle of August, when cold days are interpersed with a sprinkling of sunny ones, with a hint of a warm breeze wafting the scent of magnolia through the air. By the end of August, the wattles are in full bloom, buds are starting to appear on the fruit trees, and bright green new leaves are peeking out everywhere.

What things am I looking forward to in Spring?

While we are lucky enough to get some flowers throughout most of the year (with the height of Summer probably being the exception), Spring is the time when the flowers are most plentiful and beautiful.

I also love the wildflowers that grow on infrequently mowed lawns throughout the neighbourhood -- and yes, that includes ours!

working with plants
Spring is the time to re-pot potted plants, and plant new things outside. My succulents have really taken off and most either need to be transferred to larger pots or divided up into even more new little friends.

baby birds
This photo isn't the best, but it shows one spot under the eaves where doves nest every Spring. Every year there has been at least one bird come into being and grow up in this spot. It makes me proud!

Wearing them, decorating with them -- just having them everywhere!

Not my table, unfortunately!
{Picture Source}

{Picture Source}

Not my bedroom, unfortunately!
{Picture Source}

Spring treasure box
This time I chose a pink Lavshuca eyeshadow, a floral scrunchie, and quince-flavoured tea from Daiso. A cute comb to replace the boring old one in my backpack kit. There's also a Spring-themed pond decoration for my bedroom, but I've had it for several years and a few bits have fallen off, so I'll probably spruce it up a bit.

Aside from the Spring Equinox, there are the Marimo Festival on 8th-10th October, which I celebrated a couple of years ago. Later is Halloween / Samhain / Dias de Muertos, and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in November.

and another thing
I've decided to try another experiment, this time inspired by a small challenge we were set at school. We were asked to make a list of goals for the next term (terms run for 6 months from equinox to equinox). It was quite an easy challenge to do, but it got me thinking about that sort of thing. The end of my first 101 Things in 1,001 Days is in June next year -- that's only 9 months away! Plus there are all the other things I want to do in my life, too. I need something to motivate me that's a bit more short term. 6 months is a good time period to think about doing things school-wise. In the spirit of the Slow Time course I'm doing at the moment, I like the idea of having each season as a natural time division. 3 months seems more realistic than 6 months, but less scary than 1 month! I'm still thinking about how this will look. Having goals that tune into the seasons really appeals to me, though.

That reminds me, I've been meaning to write a post about how there are 6 seasons in South-Eastern Australia. Or even 7 according to one Indigenous culture. This could get messy!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Anime -- Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear (くまみこ) is a 12-episode anime created in 2016, based on the manga of the same name. Machi is a 14-year-old girl and miko (shrine attendant) of a shrine in a small, remote village. The shrine is no normal one, however -- it is dedicated to kuma (bears) and uniquely, is attended by a talking bear, Natsu. Machi has no immediate family or friends and Natsu acts as her friend, guardian and protector.

Machi is sick of her life of constant ceremonies, dances and the practice for them. Her life is dictated by the structure of tradition and the whims of the villagers that she serves. In one episode the villagers even create a selection of new shrine maiden outfits for her, each more risque than the next. Then there's her cousin Yoshio, who works for the local council and is passionate about increasing tourism to the village. He manipulates Machi into ever more awkward situations in the name of promoting the village.

Machi wants to get away from all this and go to high school in the city. Natsu is understandably worried that she won't cope, and devises a series of challenges for Machi to complete. These include buying clothes from a department store and buying a DVD from Village Vanguard. Other endeavours that she takes on herself, such as using a rice cooker, also end in disaster.

There are lots of cute details and funny moments throughout the series. The people and situations found in a remote town are parodied. Imagery of food and mountain scenery was plentiful enough to satisfy Mori folk and others who like this aesthetic. The depiction of the miko lifestyle and Shinto religion was also interesting. The episodes veer between different genres and defy categorisation as a whole. One episode focuses almost entirely on Machi's creation of a cold rice dish for dinner, turning it into a slice-of-life recipe story. Another has Machi trying on scanty outfits shown from angles reminiscent of a schoolgirl anime (close to being panty shots but still tame enough for younger viewers). The opening and closing songs are cute and catchy.

I loved this series and wished it didn't end so soon. The relationship between Machi the miko and Natsu the talking bear is so unusual and sweet; I found it very memorable. I had the theme song stuck in my head for a long time afterwards. I can see myself watching it again one day.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Happy Melbourne Day!

Today is Melbourne Day. 182 years ago today, the city of Melbourne was founded.

This year Melbourne has again been chosen as the world's most liveable city, and I'm proud! Sure, it's not perfect: gentrification of the inner suburbs is squeezing out cultural and artistic individuality, and high house prices have led to increasing urban sprawl. As sad as it is, that's happening in most places. On the other hand, the crime rate is relatively low and public transport has vastly improved recently. I've written here about why I personally love Melbourne (though I haven't gotten around to writing that elusive Part 2 yet!).

Unlike many people who can't wait to move away from the place they were born, or wander from place to place never feeling like they fit in, I'm extremely lucky to be living in my home: the place where I belong.

Happy birthday, Melbourne!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Slow Time

Recently I purchased Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rythm of Life by Waverly Fitzgerald. It had been cropping up in recommendations for a few years now, so I thought I'd give it a try. The book is based on the author's 12-week course on time and our perception of it. From what I've read so far, there seem to be two aims:
1. changing our relationship to time to bring more peace and calmness to our lives;
2. creating personal rituals to acknlowledge and celebrate the passage of time.

I've always been interested in time, calendars and festivals, so my interest was piqued straight away, and I could always do with more calm in my life. As soon as I began to read the book, I knew that there was something important about it. I spent some time nearly every day reading it and working on the exercises (which are called 'Time Plays' to be less intimidating). I've been making sure to really take the time to let each section sink in before moving on to the next. I guess the concept of the book is having an effect on me already!

I completed Week 1 earlier today. Tasks for Week 1 included a reflection on my relationship to and beliefs about time, and how these have developed in my life. Another task was to think about how I want my relationship with time to be. I thought the most interesting task was to imagine that time was a friend, and write about your relationship with that friend: what you like about them, what you argue about, etc.

As well as the exercises designed to stimulate you to think differently about time, there are also observations about different cultures and how humanity's perception of time has changed. I found these very interesting and I'm looking forward to continuing.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

My DNA Analysis -- Part 3

See Part 1 of this series to find out what I knew about my
family background before having a DNA test done. See Part 2 of this series for the results of my first test.

As I mentioned in my previous post in this series, I eventually decided to get my DNA tested again through a different company. It was a difficult decision to make -- the cost was even higher and, to be frank, I think Husband thought I was a little mad. But I had to know.

The second analysis was done through 23andMe, a company based in the U.S. The process was exactly the same as the other test. Because the kit was sent to me and sent back via courier, it was actually much faster than through AncestryDNA. The kit arrived at their lab within 3 days, and I had my results 3 weeks later. The analysis from 23andMe has reports from 4 different areas, not just my ancestry analysis, so I was interested to see what those were, too. (U.S. customers have access to health reports too, but these are not available for Australian customers. Some kind of annoying legal thing, typical...)

Here is my summary result:

And my detailed result:

British & Irish: 55.5% (includes U.K., Irish)
French & German: 15.2% (includes Austrian, French, German, Belgian, Dutch, Swiss)
Scandinavian: 0.8% (includes Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
Broadly Northwestern European: 27.8%
Broadly European: 0.6%

North African: < 0.1% (includes Algerian, Bahrani, Bedouin, Egyptian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Moroccan, Mozabite, Palestinian, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Emirati, Yemeni)

Broadly Sub-Saharan African: < 0.1%

Native American: < 0.1% (includes Colombian, Karitiana, Maya, Pima, Surui)

If you've read my previous post about my results from AncestryDNA, you'll notice a few differences!

There is no Caucasian or South Asian DNA in this set of results. There's a lot less British, and barely any Scandinavian. There is no trace of Finnish or Russian in this set. However, there is African and -- a huge surprise -- Native American. However, remembering what I learned from my previous test, I reminded myself that these results are all probabilites, not definites.

The way the analysis is done is different too. My DNA is compared to samples from 31 regions, rather than 26 with AncestryDNA. The regions are split up differently, too -- British and Irish are one entity in this set. "French and German" is broadly equivalent to Western European in the other set, but the boundaries are different. My DNA was compared with 10,000 samples, which is more than Ancestry's sample size of 3,000, and of course the sample set comes from different people, so therefore the results could be different.

When I started looking deeper into these results, I saw that the way probability was handled is different. My data is displayed in the form of a 'Chromosome Painting.' I can choose the probability certainty of the results using a slider: from 50% through to 90%. 50% is the default, and this is what was displayed when I first saw my results. It means that for every piece of DNA examined, there was a 50% chance that it matched with a specific regional group. Actually, 50% doesn't seem a very high percentage to me! When I played with the slider, things looked very different.

Here is the slider set to 80%:

Now, the percentage of British & Irish DNA has dropped to 16.1%. The broader categories have risen. All of the lower-ranked regions have been relegated to the 'Unassigned' basket. Even with the slider set to 60%, the Native American portion of my DNA was shunted over to 'Unassigned'. It took a little while for this to sink in, but eventually this fact clicked in my brain:

Less than 1% of my DNA could be Native American, and
of that less-than-1%, there's a 40-50% chance it's from somewhere else.

And where that 'somewhere else' is, nobody knows. Perhaps I should be upset by this vague and unlikely result, but I'm not. It just confirms how difficult it is to pin down our DNA heritage.

This series of posts isn't meant to be a review or comparison of the two different tests. Both have different criteria, and different ways of displaying the results, neither of which is better than the other, I think. This website has a very comprehensive page on all the companies that offer genetic testing (currently 5). All offer slightly different services, so it's up to the individual to decide which one to choose. Apparently some hardcore genealogy fans have had tests done through all five!

Having a DNA analysis done is an experience that's hard to describe. It's a very emotional experience. Perhaps the emotions are different depending on whether you get along with your family or not, but they're there nevertheless. There's a chance that your DNA heritage could be different from your cultural heritage, and this could impact on your relationship with your family. There's also a financial component -- the test costs between $180 and $250, depending on the company. It's a big investment, and you want it to be worth it.

If you're thinking of having a DNA analysis done, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

* Decide what kind of results you are looking for first: genetic testing, genealogy research, getting in touch with relatives, etc. and choose your service based on this.
* Don't expect precise results. DNA technology can't (and probably won't ever) be able to give you answers beyond a certain probability.
* Let go of any expectations. You may not be what you thought you were. Treat the analysis as a fact-finding mission, not a confirmation of what you think you know.

I, according to the results, am more Neanderthal than most people: