in which people are met, stories revealed

…and not much else.

I am willing to accept that I may be in the minority of people who are not completely enamoured with Mitch Albom’s novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but I must tell it like it is, and that is how it is. It is reassuring, however, to find that I’m not the only person to think that this was just ok, and nothing more (based on GoodReads reviews).

Apparently TFPYMIH spent over 90 weeks as a number 1 best-seller. Yes, that sounds excessive, and I’m not sure if the source was correct or what list this was, but either way, it has been a best-seller for multiple weeks, which is no small measure of astounding to someone who thought it was just ok.

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Saint-Saëns

Before I started listening to classical music on the radio, I’d never heard of Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. I think most people probably don’t know who he was, which is a shame, considering he was a very remarkable composer and musician. I mean, most people know who Beethoven and Mozart were, even if they don’t like or don’t listen to classical music.

I was actually going to publish this post last week, but when I was doing some reading about him, I learnt that his birthday is actually today, so I thought that today would be better. I also learnt that he was a bit of an over-achiever, and was performing concerts by the time he was ten years old. He was also a genius of sight-reading music, and could play the most complicated pieces at first sight (something I could only dream of doing).

Saint-Saëns apparently started composing music around the age of six, but I think his best work (that I have heard so far) was one he completed in his early fifties. Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 — also known as the “Organ Symphony” — is also one of my favourite pieces of classical music, and almost always catches my attention when it’s played on the radio (provided I’m not too absorbed in some task).

I actually never thought the sound of the organ was particularly pleasant, but I think this symphony would not be as good any other way. Perhaps the problem was that I’d only ever heard the organ on its own, not together with and amongst other instruments.

To me, the Organ Symphony sounds majestic, regal and uplifting, and is something I never get sick of hearing. The first few times I heard it, I thought it sounded like something from a movie — maybe Lord of the Rings or something epic like that. But there’s a certain part of the symphony that’s very distinct, and I realised it is actually used in Babe, that delightful movie about a pig who becomes a sheepdog (or sheep-pig), which you might consider epic in its own way.

If you have time, I think it’s worth a listen. If nothing else, it makes for excellent background music.

space and beyond

Last week-end I finished reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, a book about the African American women who helped launch America’s first astronauts into space. If you’ve seen my previous posts, you’ll know that I’ve been quite engrossed in this book, which is about something that I thought I had next to zero interest in.

Don’t get me wrong — I have a reasonable interest in maths, science and historical events; and the age-old question of what is really out there? has some portion of my curiosity, but space exploration has never rated very highly on the list of things I’m interested in enough to actively and independently research. (What would be on this list? Sounds like it could be a whole other post on its own, but probably stuff that affects my day-to-day, or stuff about why things are how they are. But in truth, I don’t think I’ve done much non-fiction reading, web browsing or other “research” since finishing formal education.)

I guess space exploration, to me, was always something a bit pie in the sky compared to immediate problems like climate change and poverty in developing countries. Shetterly even mentions in the later chapters of her book that the space race left some African Americans of the time quite disgruntled, wondering why their country was so concerned about getting into space (and spending millions of dollars on it) when there were Earthly troubles to be addressed, like why they were still being treated as second-class citizens.

So why did I read this book?

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under-informed

Some time ago (has it been weeks or months? I’m not entirely sure. Timelines have become something of a blur, and perhaps not always relevant), my department was granted access to a new lunch room at work. We have been segregated from the main pharmacy since April (?) so we cannot use the kitchen space there. This new lunch room has the added perk of having a TV, so in my lunch breaks I sometimes watch TV.

Sometimes I watch the news, or a random cooking show, or some snippet of a random movie (SBS shows “world movies” during the day). If I can’t be bothered watching anything, I just put on the radio (ABC Classic, of course). Initially I browsed a lot, and I discovered that ABC have a channel dedicated to educational shows for primary and secondary school students, covering a broad variety of topics from physics and chemistry to history and social sciences. Often I watch this channel because I find it is more informative, interesting and useful than the news.

The other day, the program that happened to be on while I was having lunch was Lest we forget what? — a short show about the WWI Gallipoli campaign. I almost didn’t watch it because it is something that I was taught a lot about throughout school …or so I thought.

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managing care

I have been in middle management for about a year and a half now, and there are still times when I wonder if I’m doing this “managing” thing right, or if I’m really cut out to be a manager. But I guess the day I stop wondering how to do things better is the day I stop improving (and there’s always something that can be improved on).

When new people start work in my department, there are a few things I tell them, regardless of their role or their previous work experience:

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