a tale of two hands (and a toothbrush)

I think there are certain things that we do all the time that we never question, or never stop to wonder about. For me, I’m quite likely to question and wonder about these things eventually. It might take years and years, but one day, maybe in a half-awake daze, I’ll wonder, “why is it that I do this like this?”

One such habit that has come under scrutiny is the way I rinse my toothbrush after using it. (Can you tell this is going to be a riveting post?)

Firstly, a bit of background: I’m right-handed. When I was a kid, I tried to learn to be ambidextrous, but that proved too hard. I can write very slowly with my left hand, and also use chopsticks left-handed, so that’s something, but I generally leave everything up to the right hand.

That is, everything except rinsing my toothbrush.

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from compost to fruit

Somewhere toward the end of last year — perhaps in October — we buried some pith and seeds in the compost heap, not expecting it to do anything other than decompose and rot like everything else in there (apart from the pumpkin seeds, which really don’t need much encouraging at all in order to sprout and grow).

Weeks passed, and we added more food scraps to the heap, forgetting with every addition what was already in there. But then, in the second half of November, something sprouted near the edge of the heap — something that didn’t seem like a weed (or at least not like the weeds we were familiar with). We left it there, sprouting out of the compost heap, to see what it would become.

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I hate ants

Yes, I hate ants. 

Ok, sure, they have an important ecological role, but I’m still allowed to hate ants, aren’t I?

I wouldn’t wish to eradicate ants from the world, or even from my neighbourhood, but if they are in my home, I must get rid of them.

In Australia, I think it’s inevitable that you will get bugs in your home now and then, no matter how careful you are. It wasn’t until a friend of mine went overseas on exchange for a year that I discovered that not everywhere in the world has ants everywhere. And flies and mosquitos and spiders.

The other creepy crawlies I can kind of understand — I don’t think I ever really expected them to be everywhere. But ants — ants! I thought ants were so ubiquitous that they would be found in and around every corner, city, and country, all over the world.

I think the problem with ants is that there’s never just one or two ants. If you see one, there’s probably masses of them not too far behind. And ants are equal parts foolhardy and cunning. Leave a crumb in the middle of the floor, and they will find it. Sit down at the park to eat lunch, and they will try to eat you.

In primary school, my sister had an ant farm for a while as part of some kind of science experiment. They were fascinating to watch, but it gave me nightmares about ants crawling all over me while I slept. Thankfully the ant farm (and the nightmares) didn’t stay around too long.

I wish I could finish this post on some kind of philosophical platitude, but I can’t really think of how to turn this around, and, besides, I just wanted to write about how much I hate ants.

To be fair (if “fair” is the right word here), I hate other bugs too — mosquitos are always annoying, and wasps are scary.

home time

I was going to write a post to round up the year, and lead into the next one, but it feels like there has already been so much contemplating, reflecting and philosophising throughout this entire year, that maybe one more is superfluous. I think it is normal to see a surge in these reflective posts on the blogosphere around this time of the year, which is completely fine, but I think I’ll leave it to other bloggers.

As I started writing the previous draft of this post, I realised that there were only a few things I wanted to mention.

First, that it would be wonderful if I could just stay at home all day, like I have been over this long week-end, and just learn things (piano and Russian being the main subjects of study at the moment, along with the Napoleonic wars, which I’m inadvertently learning about from reading War and Peace). But, alas, one must have an income to support these hobbies (not to mention sustain life), so I’ll be back at work tomorrow.

Second, is that my partner has got me back into computer games. I haven’t played — as in, properly played — a video game of any sort for a very, very long time. Those little mini games or apps don’t count, and I don’t play those anyway (there are no games on my phone). I think good games need good storylines with interesting characters in order to captivate me, and make me feel like I’m not wasting time. The ones I’ve been started on — Dragon Age: Origins; and Spec Ops: The Line — certainly deliver on intriguing stories.

Initially I felt incredibly uncoordinated with the controls, having become unaccustomed to the movements of gameplay, but I’d like to think I’ve gradually gotten better. Yes, I’m playing on the easiest settings, but it’s challenging enough for me. Besides, if it was too hard, I wouldn’t have energy to appreciate the stories.

And so, as we approach the end of a year that most would probably rather forget (or bury as far down in the depths of memory as possible), I think ending on a quiet note is not a bad idea.

a nose by any other name

A few weeks ago, I started reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I have been making slow progress (due in part to a lack of time and wakefulness, and in part due to my slow grasp of who everyone is (the first several chapters are at a soiree, and there are so many characters introduced)), and there is a long way to go, but I’m quite excited to be finally reading it.

Being such an epic novel — both in actual length and in literary importance — I knew at the outset that I would occasionally need other reading material as a break from War and Peace. It just so happened that today my partner showed me a video of a scene from Dmitri Shostakovich’s first opera, The Nose. In this particular scene, there are a number of people (maybe ten or so) dressed as large noses, and they tap dance around the stage.

We were both very baffled by what was going on, and wondered what sort of opera could feature such a strange act. In the interests of edification, as my partner moved on to other things (i.e. work), I Googled it myself, and found that it’s actually based on a novella of the same name. As it so happened, it was written by Nikolai Gogol, one of the other greats of Russian literature.

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quick post, slow lane

On my drive to work in the morning, when traffic is starting to get bad, I’ve noticed that I’ve developed a habit of tracking my progress relative to the cars in the next lane. I think I’ve always had a tendency to read other people’s number plates (being the compulsive reader that I am), but it was just out of interest to see what words or phrases I could come up with, or to see what personalised plates people had.

But in the mornings, after I enter the freeway, I commit a few number plates to my short-term memory, and try to figure out if my usual lane is faster, or if I should switch (and then switch back when needed). Often it’s a bit of leap-frog, and I think the overall difference is not significant enough to warrant manoeuvring through traffic when so many other cars are already jumping between lanes. Sometimes I think that I should have changed lanes, but sometimes I’m quite glad I didn’t.

In recent weeks, when I notice that I’m doing this progress tracking, I stop myself and wonder why I do it. Is it just my competitive side coming out? Is it my need to analyse everything, perhaps with the intent of making my commute more efficient? Or am I just trying to make this repetitive trip more interesting?

Sometimes when I get to these questions, I stop looking at the number plates of other cars, and I just tell myself that I’ll get to work around the same time either way — just relax and enjoy the ride.