Thursday, 31 January 2008

While I was out today, standing around waiting for my dad to come out of a bank, a girl I don't know made eye contact, and came over to talk to me. I wasn't sure what she was after. She didn't look like a homeless person, at least, she had a watch on, clean clothes, and a mobile phone in her hand. I gave her some of the bread I was eating, though, on the off-chance she might need it. We made really stupid small-talk for no good reason.

I think she wanted to steal my handbag, but she had no chance anyway, because my dad came out of the bank then. That was my dad's worry too, and when I think about it, she was standing on my handbag side, and my bag was open. I don't know how she would have done it, though, considering my bag strap was over my opposite shoulder. If she'd got out a knife she could have threatened me or cut the strap, but cutting the strap would have taken some work, and it was out in the open with plenty of people around. When I thought over it, I figured I'd done what was right in chatting to her and giving her some of my bread. But probably foolhardy. I also turned away from her to point, at one point, and she could have pickpocketed something then, I guess. But she didn't.

However, she probably feels rotten. Even if she wasn't out to steal anything, she'd accepted food from a stranger, despite not being a beggar. That worried me a little, that she might find that painful. She wasn't there when we came out of the supermarket.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Internet anonymity

I got my sister to pick an internet pseudonym the other day. My real sister, that is, not Tie. After I explained why it was important to me, she chose April. She doesn't have much of an internet presence at the moment, but I do, and I guess I'm doing it to protect her as well as me.

It's gradually become quite important to me to keep this identity separate from my name. I put a lot of myself into the angel Jean, and I've started really thinking about how to control the links between this and my real life.

Ideally, I want the flow to be one-way. I want my real name, address, place of work etc to be private, while this blog and my internet identity are completely public. And I'm happy for friends of mine to come here knowing who I am.

But I realise that you can't keep factual information secret, and so my personal information is probably out there on the Internet somewhere. There is probably a list or a web-page that links my name to my occupation and place of work. My address is on the Australian electoral roll. If you know my name, you could probably look up my phone number in the Yellow Pages. All of this information is available to people who don't know a thing about who I am. (I know this because I get telemarketers asking for me by name. :P)

What I really want to avoid is people going from my internet presence to my real life, without my control. I know for a fact that they can; a dear friend of ours that Smith and I know through the MUD once sent flowers to Smith's place of work - and as far as I know he hadn't told her where that was. Now, with her, I don't mind at all, but still ... it can be done. And all because she knows his full name and some facts about him.

And, as I've become aware over the years, if you put enough of your personality out there, you will engender dislike. I like to think of myself as inoffensiveness personified, but of course it's not true. You may also encounter envy, obsequiousness and stalker behaviour (I have). All of which make it a good idea to limit access to my personal details.

Part of this is because yes, I do, and always will put my personality out there. As the angel Jean, I talk to people I would never otherwise meet. While some people come from similar social backgrounds to mine, I have also talked to former street kids who are stealing internet access from their neighbours, working mothers both struggling and settled, members of military organisations, and people established in middle- and upper management of large corporations. I'm a story junkie, so I listen to everyone. When it comes to message board forums, I happily chat to strangers and express my views. And I link this blog. But I don't want all these people to know how to find me, and so, I take very good care not to use my name or my picture.

I also protect the identity of my friends, as well as those who might comment here. I can't really insist on pseudonyms, I guess, all I can do is encourage them, but I do try very hard not to use people's names. There's an extended rationale behind this, but it's somewhat questionable in itself and full of hypotheticals, so I'll just say for now that that's what I do.

Anyway, please be mindful of this concept at least, if you decide to post here, and maybe as you travel the internet. And I recommend the Internet itself - there are lots of stories to be had there!

the angel Jean

Thursday, 24 January 2008

You know your husband's a geek when...

Shamelessly copy-pasted from my post in the xkcd forums.

*watching TV, and at a random pause (dinner was ready)*
*Smith looks at the paused screenshot, which happens to be itself a screenshot, of one of a character's many computer monitors*
Smith: Ahh, source code!
*Smith inspects the screen carefully*
Smith: This could be the GDK libraries.
Jean: Ahh, at least it's, umm...
Smith: Open source?
*Jean nods*
*Smith considers some more*
Smith: No actually, this is the OpenGL libraries.
*Jean giggles, and runs off to post in the xkcd forums.*

I love my husband.

For reference: Moonlight Season 1 episode 12, about 5 or so minutes in.

Monday, 21 January 2008

I've been cleaning!

*does a happy dance* I'm so proud of myself!

Okay, as you can see by the washing corner in the bottom picture, I'm not a clean freak. And from the previous posts you can see that I do an average of one chore per day. This is despite being at home with nothing to do.

Yes, I have lots of things I could be doing, and no particular duties. What I end up doing: playing Insaniquarium and reading the Internets.

In fact, Smith is the tidy one in this household. He hardly puts things down out of place (except that his end-of-the-day clothes pile is next to his computer chair. I can cope with that.) If anyone does chores in this house, it's usually because Smith noticed they needed doing, and it's usually Smith that ends up doing them. Or he'll set aside a weekend and we'll do them together. Sometimes he'll say 'Can you do the washing today?' before he goes to work and that'll be what I do that day. But today...

Today, I set myself more than one chore to do. The dishwasher needed doing again as there were no clean bowls, and Smith mentioned that he'd like the washing done. I know that the floor needs vacuuming, but I hate it, so I said to him (apropos of nothing) 'I don't want to vacuum.' He agreed to do it (sometime) and I said I'd tidy the floor so he could (sometime). Also, as Smith was sorting through the clean clothes pile looking for socks, I said to him on a whim, 'Today I'm going to tidy up that pile.' (It was in front of the wardrobe in the third picture, and took up nearly all the floor space you can see there.)

Well, I didn't really have a timeframe for that, other than 'today' for the washing, dishwashing and the clean clothes pile. And I didn't start out in a housework mood, either. We went for our walk, which was lovely. I told Smith one of last night's dreams along the way, and he talked about Dark Angel. After our shower, I just felt like going back to bed. So Smith helped me towel my hair, and I hopped back into bed.

I lay there for a little while, before thinking 'Now that I've exercised and not eaten, if I sleep now it'll be tough to get out of bed later.' So I hopped back over and got a peach, and a book (I've been looking for a particular quote. Still haven't found it) and snuggled back into bed.

After I'd finished the peach, I started reading for a little while, looking for that quote. Then Smith left for work at about 8.30, and I figured, okay, I'd eaten, had my goodbye kiss, I could sleep now.

Lay there a little while longer, and then thought, hmm. I'll just put the washing on, and then I can sleep. Got out of bed to put the washing in the machine.

And as I was sorting the washing pile, I thought to myself, this wasn't so hard. And I realised that my body wasn't actually tired. My mind was, though. Perfect time to do something mindless, like housework!

And then ... while sorting the washing ... I saw a mosquito. In my bedroom. I hate mosquitoes with a passion, they are one of the few living things I can't tolerate. I get a huge (2-3cm) reaction to a mosquito bite within five minutes, although it will gradually die down if I put cold water/soap on it. And they always bite me, not Smith. (Either that, or he just doesn't notice.) So if I see a mosquito in my room, I will hunt it down and kill it.

This one went and hid in my bookshelf. (They like to hide on wooden surfaces, sometimes in plain sight if forced to land.) When I moved the books it flew out, just within reach. I smacked at it inexpertly, and hit it with one of my hands (the other didn't connect in the right place). I think it fell down somewhere, stunned. But I don't know where! I moved some things about on the floor (there was a little bit of visible floor) but it wasn't enough, I didn't find it. That was when I decided that today, I would tidy the whole room. I opened the window, let the natural light in, and after I'd put the washing machine on, I set to work on the clean clothes pile.

I think it was while I was doing that, that I noticed how dusty the plastic horizontal blinds were. (Or maybe I noticed it while I was in bed reading, before I closed the curtains to sleep. Anyway.) Now, normally I don't dust. It would, in fact, be more accurate to say that I 'grime' - that is, I only remove dust with a wet cloth, when it is in quantities that would count as 'grime'. But ... I'm allergic to the house dust mite. Having a blocked nose used to wake me up 16 times an hour at night (or something. I don't know what the number actually means.) We now have hypo-allergenic pillows, pillow protectors, a new vacuum cleaner and two nose sprays, and I sleep much better.

Anyway, while I was picking up dusty clothes with the window open, and sneezing, I was thinking, 'The breeze is nice, but the dust from the blinds is blowing all over my bed.' And when I went and looked ... it was grime. It's amazing how much dust two humans can generate, and that window doesn't even get street pollution grime because it's mostly closed.

Luckily, I had a set of bed-sheets that needed washing, so I slung them under the window to protect the bed and the floor, and set to work with my wet sponge. Note to self: sheets, ready to be washed, make good dust-protectors when cleaning. After a little while I had to make a face-mask out of a tea towel to protect my nose, too, but I got the job done. Boy, were they yucky. There was now less dust in my bedroom!

Of course, I still had to clean the floor, so I'd done it in exactly the wrong order, even if you're supposed to clean top-to-bottom. But, as you can see in my photos, I succeeded! I didn't even have to hide stuff in other rooms - most of it stayed in the bedroom. There was one set of clean sheets that went out into our storage cupboard, but apart from some other little bits of rubbish, that was about it.

Eventually it became a game of 'what can I clean up so that I can take a photo to show Smith'. (I'm going to teach my kids that game.) And now the bedroom floor is clean, and ready for vacuuming! All in all, it took less than two hours. I was done by 10.30; since then I've hunted for the camera, taken photos, worked out how to transfer them to the computer, put the dishwasher on and written this blog. 12.30 and I've achieved all I wanted to, today. No, it's not a lot. It's a lot more than this time last week, though.

My mind also gradually woke up as I was doing the mindless stuff, but now that I've written all this hopefully I'll be able to take a rest. Off to find something for lunch, and then sleep, I think.

I never did find that silly mosquito, though.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Meditation session

Tie and Smith's mum and Tie's dressmaker friend are coming down today to buy fabric for Tie's wedding dress! They should be here in about an hour. I'm pretty much ready, I've got the towels in the wash and they'll be ready to hang out before they get here, so I can write about stuff until then.

I didn't end up sleeping well last night, after all. Probably something to do with the fact that I took a nap in the afternoon, plus reading all those forums. I was going over and over the arguments in my head (yes, xkcd forums are my new addiction). Finally after a while, I decided it was as good a time as any to try and meditate.

I haven't actually managed it in years. Last time I tried, a few days ago, I ended up falling asleep. But since I wasn't tired last night, I made a good effort, and ended up doing okay.

My session is based on a tape that an English tutor gave me, long ago. It involves progressive relaxation, descending into a meditative state, and focussed visualisation. I dunno whether it works in achieving all that it's supposed to, but at least it's good at making my mind calm.

The first part is the progressive relaxation. I've always been pretty good at this bit. A knowledge of anatomy does help a little :P Anyway, the way I do it is to slowly relax each part of the body in sequence, then to become aware of which parts are still tense, and relax them more. And breathe slowly the whole time. After that, if I've done it right and I'm not asleep, I'm usually happy not to move for the next hour. (Sleepiness tends to interfere with this step, because I start moving around involuntarily trying to get into a comfortable sleeping position rather than my meditation position.)

It does take some concentration when your mind's racing, though. For these occasions, I have an unspoken mantra. I don't expect it to do anything except push all my other thoughts out of the way, so I chose something I'm happy with: 'Love Smith' (except I use his real name). First word on the in-breath and second word on the out-breath. If I can focus on that for long enough, my mind gradually becomes emptier.

The next step is supposed to clear your mind even further. It involves slow visualisation of the colours of the rainbow (I don't know, I took it off the tape). It goes something like this: 'Now visualise the colour red. Red the colour of (something, I forget). Now visualise the colour orange. Orange, the colour of (something else).' I lost the tape years ago, so last night I just tried naming the quality of my thoughts as I went through each colour. It ended up like this:

Red, the colour of concentration. (It took me a very long time before I was content with the quality of my red last night, and I took a while over each colour before moving on.)
Orange, the colour of worry. (There were worrying thoughts about.)
Yellow, the colour of analysis. (I was analysing my own thoughts.)
Green, the colour of nature.
Blue, the colour of eternity. (I dunno. Eternity is blue, for me. It just is.)
Indigo, the colour of concern.
Violet, the colour of calm.

I didn't entirely succeed last night. When I've done it properly in the past, I can hardly feel my body at all, and my senses are muted. Last night sensations intruded quite often, sounds and my body telling me it still existed, and the knowledge that Smith was lying beside me asleep. But my mind was pretty calm.

The next visualisation step is to make your mind comfortable. The tape just kind of says 'Okay, visualise a garden ... make it as detailed as you like' and gives you a couple of minutes. I think last night I took 20 minutes to get it right, and even then I didn't feel like I was really there. I tried everything: the feel of damp grass under my back, the shape and textures and scents of the various trees and bushes I put there, the personalities and habits of the animals there, the layout of the garden and direction of each item in relation to me lying there on the ground. In the end, I could get up and move around there a bit, but it was still difficult to 'see'. I was pretty happy with my surroundings, though.

The last part is to imagine going into a room and using it to sort out your thoughts, visualising each one. I dunno whether it works, but I tried it out. The choice of room was easy:

The sunlight streaming into this room wraps itself around you like floating gossamer. It does not seem inclined to touch your skin, content to simply warm and welcome you. Several wicker baskets, each overflowing with orchard fruits, lie gently bathed in the glow. Nearby, a few fluffy clouds of carefully gathered radiance drift around a mahogany desk. Its centrepiece is the figurine of an elf leaning forward in a cushioned chair. One hand is draped over the shoulders of a much smaller elf who sits at his feet, her head resting comfortably against his knee. He gestures with the other hand towards the middle distance, both elves smiling at his unseen observations.

I just kind of experimented with putting notes into various drawers, and turning concepts into various shapes, including glowing auras. One I wrapped around me, and I turned the concept of 'energy' into green balls of light that I handed out to various friends. I don't know if it works in organising my mind, but it was worth a try.

Then I reversed the process - going back out into the garden, then visualising the colours in reverse order, and finally feeling out my body and what it wanted to do. In the end I was calm and ready to sleep.

I guess I've got to practise a lot more to get in the habit again. I'm pretty happy that it worked, though.

That's all for now,

the angel Jean

Thursday, 17 January 2008


I wrote about last night's dreams in the xkcd forums in the 'What were your dreams last night?' thread.

Off to have more dreams!

Random things...

That new post I started in the xkcd forums, the one about argument styles, seems to be getting a bit of action. I'm not a very good arguer myself, tending to avoid arguments and simply give explanations and listen to other people's reasons, but it's interesting discussing the theory. Of course, there has been a little bit of sparring going on, especially between two of them (who have been sparring elsewhere). Reading it this morning made me a little frustrated, as I knew they would never agree, and it wasn't helping me understand what was going on. I ended up asking for clarification and going out.

Smith doesn't seem to be on MSN today; neither does the other guy at his work who I'm in contact with. Wonder what's going on there. Anyway, I normally tell Smith what I've been doing during the day, because it's lonely here and I like him to know if I've been achieving things, or if I need pushing (he's good at pushing when I ask him to). I might just write it here instead, along with all the other stuff I've been meaning to write.

Today Smith and I went for our walk twice around the block. I set the pace, and I didn't go too hard. Was quite nice outside, cool and overcast with a small breeze. We mused on various inconsequential things as we walked. Was fun. When we came back we had a shower, and breakfast, and Smith left for work.

I did manage to do one household chore today: I finished filling the dishwasher and put it on. We now have dishes for tonight. Don't know what I want in terms of food, though.

After reading the forums for a while, and getting frustrated at the arguments there, I figured it was time to take a break. It was 11.30 by then, and I figured it was time to set off for yoga class at the fitness club - the first I'd been to there.

Yoga class was interesting. Putting your body through lots of positions, with interesting names for some of them, and trying to figure out what to do by watching everybody else. I seem to have developed some stability and strength over the past couple of months of training - in my lower body rather than my upper body, my upper arms in particular are still quite weak. Anyway, for me a lot of the positions just required some concentration, even though I'd never done them before.

My general impression was a feeling that my body had been worked. No spiritual aspect (I didn't even get the calm, my mind was still analysing at the end when we were resting), no particular strengthening exercises, nothing focused like I get with my trainer, no aerobic work. Not that much repetition either, so no real chance to practise anything. Just an overall stretch-every-muscle/work-every-muscle at least once. I was so thirsty at the end of it, though, from breathing hard. There hadn't been a break. I guess I might go again for the exercise, although I don't really see much point other than that.

Afterwards I headed for the hospital, and ate the cafeteria lunch they have there. It's reasonable stuff - I've eaten a lot worse when it comes to hospital food. Good, clean textures and tastes, the right amount of salt etc, even though it's pretty simple food. Today it was ricotta cannelloni with choice of vegetables (I got peas, pumpkin and mash). And, since I had made it out of the house and gone to yoga class AND eaten lunch, I treated myself to a Weis bar. (Ice cream!)

I really should eat lunch every day, it's just hard to get the motivation to make it. When I'm working, I always get lunch from the cafeteria - it's only $6.50 for staff, and there's *just* enough variety during the week to keep it interesting. There's also choice each day, but I stay away from the 'broiled meat in gravy' tray (today's was lamb) or the 'miscellaneous in curry' tray, and I prefer cooked vegies to chips. (The chips there are okay, though.) At home, I have a generally poorer diet. If I'm really hungry and motivated enough, I might make myself some raisin toast, or a sandwich if there's normal bread in the house (rare), but that's not often.

I did one more thing today while I was out - I informed the admin lady at my work about my improving health status and the Medical Board's decision to continue my registration as-is. (More on that later.) I've been trying to get ahold of her for ages, whenever I call she's busy, and she never has time to see me. Yesterday when I called up, I got put straight through to her! And she told me she didn't have a term for me yet, and she asked me to tell her what the Medical Board had said, to show her their report - and I realised I hadn't told her any of what had been happening so I promised her an email. Today at hospital I handed her the report to photocopy, and then I wrote her an email with all the details about my health, how I'm ready to go back to work and feeling so much better now. (She didn't have time for an actual meeting - it's Orientation Week for some of the staff so she's probably frantic.) And she told me I looked well. :) *crosses fingers* maybe I can go back to work soon!

When I left it was raining lightly, and then it started raining more heavily. And my umbrella was back at home, sitting in the bath! Luckily, I had a towel with me, because I thought I might need it in yoga class (you need a towel in Pilates class, apparently. And I often get sweat pouring off me in my training sessions). So I hid under my towel on the way to the train station, and on the way from the train back home. It's funny, as I left the house this morning I was carrying it over my arm, thinking 'Hey, Douglas Adams! Look, I've got my towel with me!' Hehe. Now all I have to do is wait for it to grow mould that Smith and I can use as sustenance if we ever have to evacuate Earth in a hurry. :P

Anyway, that's my day so far. I think that after all that, I deserve a nap! Besides which, Smith's probably already left work by now.

Oh, before I go, here's another thing I wrote on the xkcd forums, encouraging a young programmer who dreads the idea of corporate life, and is thinking about fulfilling careers (like medicine).


the angel Jean

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Before I sleep...

I will shamelessly link a thread I have started in the xkcd forums, where I have been having an interesting discussion.

I'm going to the gym at 7am tomorrow, though, so I'll sleep now!

the angel Jean

I've been debating...

whether I should shamelessly re-post my own writing from other areas. Specifically comments I've made in response to forum posts. But I've decided that it's okay, because linking stuff you find interesting is legitimate blogging, right? So here's some of what I've written on xkcd forums in the last couple of days. And besides, after I copy it here, I might have more to say.

Some beautiful pictures of lacelike paper snowflakes constructed by somebody called miles01110 (link to profile is behind their name there.)

I found them in a thread on xkcd forums, which can be found at
The post in the xkcd forums shows the construction for the second one I've shown here, and the pictures are much better - go look!

I've been wanting to know how to make curves interact like that for a while, as I'm trying to design lace of my own ... miles01110 makes it look so simple, you just touch the curves to each other. Now I'll have to go and try it myself.

I also posted to a couple of other places in the xkcd forums, but I think I'll dedicate them posts of their own. But if anyone reading this is a nerd, a geek or into science, language or romance, go read xkcd. And the forums.

the angel Jean

Friday, 11 January 2008

Well, I did say I'm interested in everything...

Since I've been moping for a couple of days, I made a list this morning of all the things I could do to occupy my time. Here it is:

When I'm bored...

Clean house

Super Mario Galaxy!

Write about PuTTY commands

LOTRO (although I'm pretty much over that)
Make shawl



Text Tie

Arm exercises
Chinese lessons (I'm writing lessons for Tie)

Email Borkn


Tidy my room



Email mum

Adjust my posture

Write blog

Watch David Attenborough DVDs

Creative writing

Go out

Email a friend

Finish Christmas cards

Go to the post office

Design project

Pixel Puzzles

Make lace

Yeah, I'll never be bored again. Just unmotivated. :P

I did the washing, time to go stretch and meditate for a little while. (Haven't done that in ages.)

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Well, I've been moping around all day, so I figured I might as well write something.

It's actually been a pretty busy couple of weeks. There's plenty to write about, so I'll just put down whatever comes into my head.

Yesterday was my mum's birthday. She, my sister and I went out for lunch in a shopping centre nearby. There's a restaurant on the ground floor, but oddly enough I've never really noticed it; it's open for lunch and morning/afternoon tea. Maybe it's because at lunch time we're usually at some kind of food court, eating take-away.

Anyway, when we arrived it was packed, which is why we noticed it. We took a look and decided there were quite a few items on the menu that looked interesting - almost too many to choose from! The food turned out to be very tasty - I had an asparagus and corn fritter with smoked salmon, mustard and cream on top, with salad greens. My mum and my sister liked their choices as well, we'll definitely go there again!

We rounded out the afternoon with some window-shopping - my mum bought a couple of nice tops at Country Road for herself. I might have mentioned that I hate shopping, but my sister has good taste, and we didn't spend too long. It was a pretty good way to spend the day.

I was pretty tired at the end of the day, and needed a nap. I'd gone to the fitness club in the morning, walking there and back (25 minutes each way), and then when I went out with my mum and sister, I was wearing slingbacks with two-inch stiletto heels (my first ever pair) and concentrating on standing and sitting straight. My posture is normally pretty bad, I slouch something horrible, so I've been working on it for a couple of months. It still takes some concentration, especially sitting down, but I'm getting there.

The fitness session was pretty good, actually. I have a personal trainer - an expensive luxury, but it's the only way to motivate me to get to the club at the moment. Luckily for me he specialises in posture and core stability, plus he's working with me to improve my stamina. It's really helped - after the first few weeks I really felt like a normal person again. The past couple of days I've needed a nap in the afternoon again, though. Can't go back to work with energy levels this low :(

And today ... I haven't really done anything much. After much nagging Smith to get more exercise, he's decided to go for a walk every morning before his shower. I went with him today, not yesterday as I had to get ready for gym. Went round one of the big blocks here at a decent pace, so we were good and sweaty afterwards. Next week we're going to go round that block twice each morning, and maybe soon we'll be crossing under the train line to the places with the nice gardens.

I had to have a shower afterwards, though. I normally like to shower in the evening, so that I can go to bed clean, and be ready to get dressed when I get out of bed. There was no help for it this morning, though, I felt manky. Maybe I'll have to switch to morning showers like Smith. With the water restrictions in Sydney, I can't do both.

I had breakfast and worked on a small project I'm doing for an hour or two, but after that I had to sleep. And then I had nightmares, to the point where I was moaning when I woke up. I guess there's a few reasons I'm feeling a bit down today, but I wasn't expecting that. Normally I only get nightmares when I'm depressed. Ahh well.

Time to keep myself occupied until Smith gets home. He's not coming back for dinner tonight, they're having a bug-fixing competition at work, and providing dinner! They're giving out some pretty good prizes, too. There's a draw for a $300 voucher for 'non-physical goods' - which I assume means computer games or software. They get points for each bug they fix, and every 10 points gets you a ticket in the draw - Smith had earned himself 55 points last I heard, so he'll get at least 5 tickets. Also, if you find the cause of their most urgent bug, there's a $200 voucher on the line. If any team gets 500 points, they all get to go out to the movies. Finally, there's an ipod touch for whoever impresses the boss the most. It all sounds pretty cool. Smith's great at finding and fixing bugs, so I think he'll get a prize! But I have to have dinner by myself.

Hmm, time to take a short break, and then maybe I'll write down all the things that have been bugging me.


the angel Jean

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year everyone!

Best wishes to you all for 2008!

It's been a hectic few days, and I'm not really in the habit of writing down everything yet. I've never been really good at keeping a journal. Not that I don't have anything good to say about things that have happened, just getting the motivation is the hard part.

Last night was New Year's Eve Sydney time, and as usual, we went down to the waterfront to watch the fireworks on the harbour. It seems to be a tradition in Smith's family, we've been for several years. This year, as well as Smith's mother, brother and his brother's fiance (I call her my sister for short, that's what we'll be in seven months! but here I'll refer to her as Tie) they brought one of their friends, who was pretty cool. Smith, his brother and the friend (I don't know how to spell her name, and haven't asked what to call her here) went down to the harbourside to reserve a spot at midday, while Tie and I went shopping for food supplies to tide us over. Smith's mum had to pack for a trip to Melbourne so she joined us later in the afternoon.

Shopping with Tie was fun, as always. I seem not to have inherited any fashion sense, but I'm surrounded by people who do have it - my dad, my real sister, as well as Tie and Smith's mum. I also generally hate shopping, but it's nice to have a guide who knows what she likes and how to really look around. Yesterday afternoon after buying salad, vegetarian luncheon meat and other goodies, and insect repellent and sunscreen, we shopped for sunhats. It was interestingly hard to find them. We thought we'd see them in the dollar stores, and sometimes they have them in pharmacies, but there was no luck there. Finally we found a bunch of them in Sportsgirl. Tie, Smith's brother and I wore our white sunhats all day!

Then it was down to the harbourside for the long wait 'til the midnight fireworks. We had a sunshelter tent set up, with folding chairs inside and out, and sat reading and chatting all afternoon and evening.

Although the fireworks were beautiful, I really need a year's break at least between such occasions. I'm naturally a quiet and introverted person, and I don't enjoy crowds or noise. While initially we had a relatively large space to ourselves, after a while the crowding was very tight, and there was alcohol flowing freely and contributing to the noise. After the nine o'clock fireworks there were even more people arriving, to the point where there were people standing directly behind my folding chair with their knees touching my back - for two hours while waiting for the midnight fireworks. And this is despite the fact that we had chosen a position with our backs to the path.

I sorely wanted to tell them to just go away. I wanted to get away from the noise and the crowding ... and the smells. The scent of tobacco is pleasant for a minute or so (I grew up a smoker's child, so I'm slightly used to it) but after a while it hurts; the additional odours of alcohol, the diesel engines on the boats, perspiration, spiced food, crushed greenery and magnesium sparklers all worsened the headache. Come there on a normal day and all you can smell is saltwater (and smog, I guess) - I guess that's the level of scent I'm used to, and too much is just overwhelming. Even the perfume section of a department store is difficult for me.

It didn't help that I was reading a book called The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron. It describes people who find subtle things more stimulating than others, to the point where they easily become distressed by situations they find overly arousing. It's been a very interesting book, but one I have to read in sections before I can really take it in, as it requires a lot of thought.

My personal jury is still out on whether I belong to the 20% of people you can categorise as Highly Sensitive People (or HSPs). I picked up the book because I've often experienced the kind of distress you get when too much is happening, and there are so many times I've been too frazzled by stress to function or even sleep. But the descriptions of the trait are very detailed and don't exactly match me, so I'm still thinking about it. I'll probably write a little more about it later on.

Even the sensitivity to scent that I've just described may be normal. Our sense of smell is very closely linked to the emotional centre, after all. I guess most people can walk through the perfume section of a department store without their stomach churning, though.

It got to the point where I quietly asked Smith if we could skip the occasion next year. I love Smith's family and Tie, and I'm sure they will want to come again, and they can stay in our apartment as they did last night, but I'm not sure it's worth it for me to go with them next time. The fireworks were indeed beautiful, as they always are, but I've seen fireworks on the harbour many times before. I guess we'll see next year.

The whole occasion brings to mind one of my early memories. My family live near Manly, and one evening when I was about five we went to what must have been a Sea Eagles game at Brookvale. Anyway, the field and the spectator area were actually pretty small in those days (still are, I hear), and it was very crowded.

Before the game started there were fireworks. Now, even then I had always loved to watch fireworks on television, especially on New Year's Eve. We had also taken trips up to the nearest high lookout to watch the harbour fireworks from a distance (several miles). But this was the first time I'd experienced fireworks in person. I screamed at the noise of the explosions, and bawled at the crowds, and made such a fuss that my dad had to take me right out of the park. I don't remember if we even got to watch the game, I seem to remember we didn't. (I must have been a real brat.)

I am still a Sea Eagles fan, although not a real football follower, and I have always remembered that occasion with regret. But it's things like that, that make me wonder if I'm one of these HSPs. I guess I'll read more and we shall see.