I want to be made of flowers too, not just covered in them or wear them, I want to be the flowers: the petals

the stamens and the pistils, the thorn and the fragrance

I want to bloom and spill out into the wider world

I’ll give my all for a few days, to the air, the bees, the insects that eat me, and fade away,

my petals fall

and my half death becomes fruit

In my half death I still feed and nourish and the seeds inside me will live on in a larger life

My life will be endless

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Embroidery and Stuff


The essence of embroidery is constraint, whether by the lines we draw as a guide for the needle, the hoop that confines the fabric at the same tension

The tension varies, you can stab the needle through the fabric at will, or glide it through, soothe or strain

Freeform embroidery asks the needle to paint like a brush with greater precision and less delicacy

Here the  needle and thread paints, draws the boundaries, leaps from the fabric taking the form of the object represented

threaded water hills mountain grass

fabric nets of tendrils an molecules taking their own form


Inspired by


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The Bookish Top Ten

Craig Hildebrand-Burke tagged me to list my Top 10 most influential books. I’m not that well-read and some of the books came to me late, and it’s more about the authors, but it’s a start.


Here they are in no particular order


1) To Kill a Mockingbird

Who hasn’t read this in High School? It was everyone’s first taste of institutionalised hatred on a scale many had never encountered – including myself as a small brown girl who’s managed to escape racism until high school.   The year I read it was the year four police officers were found not guilty of brutally bashing Rodney King and our TV failed in the face of the LA Riots.  It is impossible to follow on from a book like that, Harper Lee never published another. At least it was the beginning of my interest in American history and culture.


2) Les Miserables

I feel like a fraud putting this down as I have only started to read it recently. There was an excerpt in a reader that my aunts had for their schooling, one of the few things I got to read in the curfew times in Sri Lanka when I was 10-11.  In that excerpt, Collette is found carrying water by Jean Valjean and looking at a china doll.  He buys the doll for her later. Everything about the tiny Cinderalla story broke me and created a visceral fury at injustice it created in a very spoiled, self-absorbed little girl.


3) The Lord of the Rings

I wanted high romance, I got it. I wanted adventure, I got it. I didn’t allegory, I didn’t get allegory. I got a whole new world, pretensions to traditionalism, it lead me to the Silmarillion, truly the “creative equivalent of a people.”  I  grew out of it.


4) Macbeth

Polanski gore, reading Shakespeare for the first time, relishing it.  Thanks, Yr 10 English coordinators.


5) A Suitable Boy

Gloriously Victorian, gloriously anachronistic, filled with these curiously Wodehousian Indian characters (who read Wodehouse), a huge symphonies saga to introduce the age of the popular Indian writer.  I love it. It meant everything.


6) No Logo


Nuff said.  Although Naomi Klein totally mistook my question and activistplained.


7) Jasper Fforde

I am a nerd.  I want his alternative reality to be reality. Nolan once said that he basically “plays along the canon” and it is exquisite.

8) Schrodinger’s Kittens

This was my only way of understanding quantum mechanics and therefore, reality. Did you know that the outcome of the diffraction experiment is determined by the observer? So everything in the universe is subjective.  Blew my mind. Changed me.  Hinted that space time was a thing, reality was evolving.

9) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Do i have to explain it? Surely it’s self evident. I’m religious, but it’s the secular bible.  Everything makes sense after you read it


10) Labyrinths (Borges)

This is really about Borges. I heard of him when I was a snobby science undergrad and joined the Reader’s Feast discount club. A collection of his work was advertised in their newsletter. I bought it. I did not understand it. I returned it. I thought I would benefit from revisiting it when I had er..done some more reading.


So years..a decade.. passed and I joined twitter and someone said, you should read Borges, it is totally your kind of thing.


So I bought The Aleph because he had called me The Aleph and I bought Labyrinths. And I read it in that way where you discover something so perfect you can hardly bear for it to be over, you’re aware of reading each word, turning it over, the passage of time etc etc I sometimes don’t want to ever sully metes or my mind with anything else ever again. It’s the distillation of all literature and culture


So yeah. Feelings.


Um yeah. 

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I love how at the end of a rainy day, the sun shoots through the breaking clouds, just above the horizon, just below the gun metal grey clouds, just touching the tops of the trees.

I drove down Springvale Rd after a long time, I’d forgotten all the landmarks. On the Freeway  the sun finally escaped and lit the clouds gold from behind. I twas so beautiful I nearly swerved into other lanes for the sake of a photo from my dying phone camera.  Handover meeting for my role a a Youth Coordinator for a service organisation I’ve been part of since I was 17.  I was late, it was ok, we sat on a silk carpet in a house I’ve been coming to for years, the home of one of the future coordinators.  17 years I’ve been part of this youth group, milling in and out of it when I pleased from that time, when it began as a small meeting of a few people with a beloved family friend heading it up.  I’ve watched it grow, I’ve watched it change, ebbing, flowing: the best seemed to be in 2003 when we began to come into our own.  The zenith was 2006, though we didn’t know it then.  2010 was a final thank you.  But a glorious one.  We’ve struggled to hold it together for two years, the most difficult time for the organisation. It’s someone else’s turn now, a new generation.  Good luck to them.

Why is it you only work out how to do something when it’s over? It seems to be my curse.  I’ve been sheltered by this group since i left high school, never fully escaping, never full growing up.  I can’t imagine being too old for it – the cut off is 35 – but it’s already past my time.  I found myself crying at the thought of leaving. Most of my peers, those my age have moved on already, marriage, children, whatever. I don’t know what adulthood looks like without it: one of the best things I have ever worked for: truly purely free of politics, the pure will of young people to do the right thing for the right reasons, by the best means. There was no argument and jostling for position – well, maybe there was – but the atmosphere, the outcome, the desire and execution was perfect. I will never see its like again.  It is the provenance of youth.  And now I sound very young 😉

I didn’t expect to be doing this at 35, I thought I would leave sooner – drop in and out of the wider organisation. But here I am still treading the same paths. I didn’t expect this to be 35: I did not expect to spend so much of my life alone.  That still surprises me, that there was never anyone long term to share parts of my life. I have always travelled alone, only a few trips overseas with friends, even then I still spent most of it alone.  I wonder if I’m too fucked in the head to ever form a real connection with someone.  I worry about being too old for it, I worry about missing chances – I gave up a few – I worry about being 40 and childless. Yet I know that our worst fears will come true if we entertain them.  I am better at not thinking about it now.

I feel like I sleep-walked my life and now am waking up. I wish I had recognised my self-esteem issues sooner, I wish I had seen a psych 10 years ago. Perhaps things would have been different.  I learn my lessons slowly and to me it seems, always too late.  But I also feel like things come in their time.  Things I hardly dared to dream of I’ve done. I am grateful. I am grateful I could travel while I could afford it.  I’ll never be done travelling.  But so many trips were perfect – Norway and London at 25, Vietnam with my oldest friends, Hawaii, the place where you can watch the sun rise and set on the ocean.  And America.  Brooklyn’s dusty streets, lined with Senegalese immigrants, being taken to a Carribean take away with a journalist friend, meeting Teju Cole in a beautiful bookshop, wandering New York for the first time and thinking it was my true home.

Got to buckle down now.  It’s just work and home and work and will be for a while.  But one has to try and enjoy it. That was what I got wrong all this time – you have to make a routine for yourself every day, and enjoy it, enjoy the minutes and the hours.  Haphhazard chaos and spontaneity  don’t cut it, long term.


I don’t know what life will look like a few years time I don’t dream too much now, but I am not too scared to face it as much. There’s no time left to be scared.

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Real Scientists – Launch!

Today, Bernard, myself (@upulie) and @DrYobbo are pleased to launch the @realscientists account!  We’ll be starting off with Dr Rachel Dunlop (@DrRachie).  With over 10,000 followers on Twitter, Dr Rachie is no stranger to communicating and advocating for science.


Here’s some background on Dr Rachie, which just goes to show that you don’t need to start out in science to end up in a lab.

Dr. Rachael Dunlop is a medical researcher, science communicator and
campaigner for science-based medicine in Australia, with a special
interest in the anti-vaccination movement and alternative medicine.
Rachael started life as a fine artist and graphic designer but was
seduced by the secret world of viruses and tropical diseases and was
lured to university to study science. ImageAfter 8 years of study in both
Adelaide and Sydney, she surfaced with a PhD and an interest in
diseases associated with ageing. Now working in medical research she
is currently focused on the environmental triggers for motor neuron
disease with a special interest in toxins found in blue green algae.

Rachael is a Fellow of the Institute for Science in Medicine, a Fellow
of The Society of Biology, and member of Australian Science
Communicators. She is a reporter for The Skeptic Zone Podcast and has
appeared on ABC local radio in The Dirty Disbelievers with Maynard.
Rachael writes for the Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh, The Conversation,
The Punch, The Drum, Mamamia, the last two of which she has also been
a guest on their television shows. She is also a vice president of the
Australian Skeptics, and a member of Mystery Investigators science
show for children.

In 2010, Rachael won the Shorty Award in the Health category for the
most interesting health and science information on Twitter. You can
follow her on Twitter @DrRachie.

As an ex-graphic designer and copywriter, Rachael enjoys combining her
love of science, art and social media as a means of communicating
science to the public.




We’d like to thank @diva_ex_machina and @therevmountain for designing the artwork for us.

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In the South

Morning starts early in the dark, pre-pre-dawn.The noises begin first, in a set pattern of succession. First the occaisional truck.Then bicycles.Then cars and buses. Gradually, all are driving, riding frantically. This is 5am.


I wake up automatically. I was once a morning person.The morning was lit by dim electric lights and a small portable kerosene lamp: a wick in a bottle. “We used to study by those,” Dad would say.


Crisp white uniforms were pressed.The van would come by on its epic route to school. It was still dark. We were farewelled and sent off.The van maximised the trip to Galle, going through rural back roads.There was a pink house with a large tree in front against rice fields.There were houses with baskets for sale out the front.There were rice fields, we watched the sun rise over them.Sometimes there was a mist.


The traffic had gotten busier. We arrived at school, dropped off along with other girls who came from families so traditional they came by bullock cart, driven by a very, very old man.There was s till a trek to school.The boys went to Aloysius. Some of us girls went to the Convent. The rest went to Mahinda and Sanghamitta. Sanghamitta was my mother’s school.


Galle Convent was a grand old school: parquetry, a black and white tiled entrance hall, pass though to the main courtyard which was surrounded on three sides by four and five story buildings. The tuck shop nestled against them.  Detached classrooms lay on the other sides. Ours were in a pink building even further away. I went to school for a term before all the schools shut down for months and the country went in and out of martial law.When I returned some months later, having been promoted to high school proper, we got a classroom in the multistory building, up several flights of stairs with a proper glass window instead ofe concrete vents. We could see the nearby men’s prison from the window, and the house of the very elderly lady who lived next door to it, who, it was reputed, was very fond of the palm sugar we someimtes used a a sugar substitute. The morning assemblies had prayers after the singing of the anthem, and in this Catholic convent, the majority of students were Buddhist and would remain in the courtyard while the rest of the relgisions – hindu, muslim, christian – went off to their separate prayers. 


The building was full of nooks and crannies which delighted the Enid Blyton reader in me. We would walk over to a gorgeous science lab built many decades before: dark woodgrain benches, wood panelling. Our teacher burnt a bit of copper in a bunsen burner, turned a concoction of hibiscus juice dark blue with acid. We walked back, slightly startled by a tableau; five students kneeling, sitting on chairs, praying on a landing, with two nuns. Eyes closed. Light from the window on them.


I only went to that lab once but I have never forgotten it.


After school we gathered at the meeting place: someone’s front garden, loaned out to the van drivers so that the kids they delivered could have somewhere to wait. Once, the lady and daughter of the house spoke to me and i fumbled, no t knowing what Sinhalese to respond in. They switched in English and asked me to feel free to sit in the antechamber any time I was waiting. I was nearly fed at that point.


We drove back through a slightly different route.I don’t recall it now. Home by 1.30pm, for lunch.White uniforms were hung outside. The heat of the day was intense. We stayed indoors. The cooking of dinner began, women grinding the spices on a flat stone with water.  Day crawls to a close as dusk settles in.That’s when you really feel like studying. If the lights went out, we studied by lamplight. It was rare for that to happen but somehow, fun when it did. We tumbled into bed early. The road’s cacophony continued late into the night, but we didn’t hear it.

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From something I wrote..two years ago


I grew up in Tasmania and Sri Lanka. I lived in my father’s village for six months during one of the most violent times in Sri Lankan history.We were isolated in a rural, remote idyll where the whisper of what was going on outside barely reached us.We knew the schools were closed.That was all. There was no electricity.We had a TV that ran off a car battery and a hurricane lamp for evenings.


It was an amazing time though, for a ten year old, swinging from tedium to fascination. Everything was new and novel and something to get used to. I didn’t go to school for about three months and I think I’ve felt like I spent the rest of my teenage years catching up.


It was a small white house, with three bedrooms, two of which were apparently an extension tacked on in the years my father was in Tasmania. An unpaved drive led to the house. Two coconut trees had a swing strung up between them by my father for the two of us. Behind it were two smaller trees with pepper vines.


In the morning, before the heat sets in, we walked down the steep hill to the granite-lined well to bathe.I’ve never had such crystal-clear, sweet water since. The hill was  a rubber estate in perpetual twilight.


Breakfast was usually some sweet bread from the small shop up the road: buns and plaits with raw sugar sprinkled on top.It was the first thing I ate for breakfast on my first morning in Sri Lanka, when I awoke to the cacophony of birds and a dead huntsman swinging in the breeze of a thread on the roof.


Later my father, aunt or mother would walk me to Mr A’s house to my tutoring session. The road was hardly paved, the monsoon rains had washed away all the tar to leave the jagged, rocky base.


There was only one road. We would walk past the school where my father and his siblings studied, past the Principal’s house. They were UNP people, and it was whispered around in the strongly SLFP village.  Their tiny white-washed house was set against a dark copse of trees, eerie. In time, as the JVP troubles increased, they would leave their house, with a defensive placard out the front. It was a time when you dared declare no allegiance, to neither government nor rebel.  


Past my father’s relatives, the house with a white cockerel and the monkey-tail trees downt he precarisouly path of stones.  There was a small rubber-rolling hut on the natural stone amphitheatre where people brought their set and smoked rubber to roll.  A turquioise house that has stuckl in my memory and invokes severe deja vu. There was a man growing a vanilla vine nearby.  Past houses and rice fields. Houses cling to the sides of the hills.  In the distance are the limestone cliffs.


Past the Tamil church and the house with tea bushes out the front, a faded turquoise. Further down are some graves with water lilies.


A turn off and we were at Mr A’s house. It was a quaint, classically Sri Lankan house, with wooden fretwork and carvings. The garden was semi-formal with a multi-grafted hibiscus tree that I used to walk around during my breaks. The ante-chamber/covered verandah led onto the sitting area. Here, at the cane table, i sat with Mr A, who formally regaled to me the content I had just read from my reader. Reading and comprehension. Then there was a mathematics lesson.Then a break, where Mrs A would bring me something to eat, usually a a sweetmeat, with strong, hot sweet tea, and a bowl for washing my hands, all daintily laid out on a tray.There was even a dishcloth.I would sit on my own and eat, eyes wandering around the room, to the fretwork, to the framed picture of Lord Buddha meditating in a cave above the curtained door that led to the rest of the house.


Mr A would tutor me three times a week.Someone was always sent with me to take me and fetch me. On the last day he ever tutored me, before we headed south to my mother’s family home, he served us coffee from beans from his own coffee trees.  The last time I ever saw him, he had an almighty piss-up with my father another six months later. He was an alcoholic.


After lunch, which my grandmother spent the morning preparing, we would sit on the porch and watch the scenes unfolding across the way. Across the way was a massive monolith rising from the ground, a dark brown massive with clusters of leaves.  It looked closer than it was, a good 5km of winding road away. At its feet were terraced rice fields and coconut trees.We would sit and watch the sunlight glistening off the waving fronds of the trees.Every afternoon it was the same.


As the year wore on,the colour of the rice field would change from electric, unmatched green of young rice to green-gold to gold.The grain was harvested in traditional fashion,we watched from a distance like tourists. The sheafs- and English word for a form of wheat, what would be the rice equivalent? – were laid on the stone ground, and bullocks were tied to a harness and walked around on the rice to remove them from the husk. I never understood how they collected the rice afterwards. I never saw it close up.


Sometimes we would go for a walk in the later afternoon, if we were lucky we went out to the rock.Once a black snake with green markings crossed the road quickly in front of us. Once we stumbled upon a clearing, a green clearing with tendrils falling from trees and a perfect turf, mowed by goats. Once we walked out after rain on an exploring mission through bush, picked fresh oleander seeds. Once we visited distant cousins, clambering over rocks to the distant hillside their house clung to and ate green-skinned, whiskey-sour oranges. Once, we took a picnic and finally walked up the rock with tis 45o inclines. It was like walking a rather wide razor’s edge and I couldn’t bear to look down.The white markings I always thought were waterfalls were not. Scrubby trees grew in patches. We reached a relatively flat spot. We ate bread dipped in sugar. Around us was a perfect 360o view of teh surrounding hill country in all shades of green and gold against a hazily pink sky. It was perfect.


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