Friday, January 27, 2006

The time has come....

The removal van is in the driveway, and its time to pack up our PC.

I'm not sure when we'll have internet at our new house - the previous tenants didn't cancel their phone line so we have to wait for a week before BT can start a new contract. Our internet company take 10 days to transfer, so its going to be quite a while before we have broadband (oh, the agony...)

Anyway, so updates from me for a while.

Play nicely in the blogosphere kids :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I survived....

I survived my final research group presentation yesterday. I'm quite impressed with myself. I was unusually ill-prepared - usually I do everything for presentations at least several days in advance. This allows time to practice in front of the bathroom mirror and to iron everything out so it runs smoothly. However, the curse of writing up my thesis and needed to do some more analyses before I prepared my presentation meant, ended up sitting up to 4am doing my slides (with animated statistical models - oh yeah baby) and working out how to present quite a mess of results and wondering if I was doing it right.

Anyway, we have the vice dean in our research group - one of the most famous researchers in the country, internationally well known. So well so, I'd heard of him long before I started my PhD. Anyway, straight after my presentation he congratulated me on a very "mature" theoretical rationale and approach to my statistical analyses. From Professor Stats himself - this man is a stats genius. I nearly cried - what a relief.

I finally feel like I can pull myself together and start the final lap of my PhD. My thesis will be done within the next couple of months. I'll submit and have my viva.

Wish me luck :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Go, the British army!

Yeah, I do still attend Quaker meetings ;)

I have heard on the grapevine that the British army hope to recruit clinical psychologists to work with soldiers who have been traumatised in conflict situations.

Whatever, we feel about the current gulf conflict, or war in general, I think we should welcome this move. I hope it goes through.

However, I heard this on the grapevine via someone who knows someone - if anyone knows where I could find out more, please let me know :)! I see a career prospect - wonder if they'll be employing at assistant level....

There's a whale in the Thames


There's a whale swimming in the Thames in central London, apparently it was spotted outside the Houses of Parliament.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dr Martin Luther King Day - the Northern Irish Version

We don't celebrate it in the UK but this Monday was Martin Luther King day in the States. I discovered this last year when I was working in New York and I arrived in work, dutifully at 9am in the morning, to find the doors locked and the lights off :(. I was most disappointed, but did find other ways to amuse myself for the rest of the day. Although I was somewhat peeved peeved that my coworkers hadn't told me it was a public holiday. Maybe its like showing up for work on Christmas day in the UK or something.

Anyway, Peterson's blog is well and truly on form at the moment with this little offering about an African-American lesbian mother and grandmother.

Regina D

Her father sexually abused her relentlessly.
He referred to queer people as "those goddamn faggots!"
He cursed her for being lesbian.
He died in bitterness and alcoholism.
Regina never liked him.

But Regina's mother sat her down this past November to set the story straight.

"Regina, when you told me you were a lesbian, you may have wondered how I took it all so well," her mother began then dropped the bomb.
"Your father liked men."
Seems all his homophobia was aimed right at himself as part of his own self-loathing.
He never hated Regina because she was lesbian; he hated himself.

In spite of the mess she was given, Regina speaks of hope and healing and love.

Regina: "If we are not real, it will kill us and we will take other people with us."

Regina: "I want to expand the meaning of the phrase, My People."

Regina wants to include more than just other African-American Lesbian Women in her group. She seeks to embrace among "her people" all queer folks, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Disabled, more and more, a wider coalition of humanity that she calls kin. "Everywhere I look, I need to see my people."

I like this line "Everywhere I look, I need to see my people". Too much damage is done when we don't see people as our own. In Milgrim's infamous study, "teachers" were less likely to give a high shock to someone they identified with. If they were told the person they were shocking was from the same town as them or the same school as them, they were prepared to resist demands to inflict pain on them. In short, they identified with them.

Back home I have heard Protestants say, 'She is one of them' or 'He is not one of us' meaning that said person is Catholic. Catholics say it about Protestants too. My family are Protestant, I remember moving to a mainly Catholic area when I was 9 years old. Even so young, other kids saw me as different. Kids whispered in the street and said, 'That's her, she's the one' and then asked if it was true, 'Are you know, a Protestant?' Then they'd kind of giggle and say, 'Well our mams say we have to be nice to you anyway, but is it true you don't go to mass? And there are no nuns at your school? Do you not believe in the Virgin Mary? And your church services last an hour and a half - do you not get bored?' Actually, on that latter question, maybe they had a point ;)

Of course, having never been exposed to Catholicism I was just as ignorant - I mean I didn't even realise that Catholics were Christians. 'So is it true you dress up and get loads of money for your first communion? And your priests wear big dresses? And they're not married? And you have statues in church? And nuns at your school? I wouldn't know what to say to a nun - what do you say to a nun? Do they all wear them funny outfits and are they really strict? And when you have communion, they put it right in your mouth - ewwwww. Is it true you pray to Mary - we don't, only to God. And really, you believe in Jesus do you? That's interesting, so do we...'

~Come on lads, shake hands - you're both my people even if you do, lets me frank, act the eejit...ahem.

But I wonder, how much conflict could be avoided, how many friendships formed, how much violence and injustice eliminated if we could just see more people as our people.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Contemplating Activism...advice please

Hmmmm, I am in a dilemma and as so many of my lovely blog readers are both more thoughtful and experienced in matters of activism than I am, I wondered if I might pick your brains.

I am on an emailling list for Christian psychologists. Admittedly, I'm more of the latter than the former these days, but no matter. This is a mixed group of qualified psychologists, psychology students, trainees, people who want to be psychologists and people who have some association with psychology in one way or another. Now, someone posted asking for an organisation to whom they could refer a Christian with same-sex feelings. I recommended Courage as a potential avenue to investigate, having recently met Jeremy Marks (albeit very briefly) and knowing their stance that gay relationships are not inherently sinful or dysfunctional. Perhaps I was a bit quick of the mark to make a recommendation.

Since, several other people have posted recommending True Freedom Trust and saying how they are a wonderful organisation. I have to beg to differ. It is my understanding that although TFT don't offer reparative therapy, they do see same sex relationships as inherently dysfunctional, they see homosexuality as a result of problems in early bonding and the formation of a "defensive attachment". This is not the position of any mainstream psychological or medical body - indeed, they (the BPS, the APA, the BMA and the AMA) are all clear that same sex attraction is not a psychological or biological dysfunction.

Now - my question is this. Should I say anything or invite discussion on the issue? And what should I say and how should I say it? It bothers me that people in positions of power may refer someone to an organisation that will tell them that their sexuality is pathological in some way. People are entitled to their opinions and to express them, and adults are entitled to seek help from whatever organisation they wish, but it is my opinion that people should know if the organisation they seek him from is not endorsed by mainstream bodies. It bothers me, but sometimes I am unsure what the best way to invite discussion might be.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I popped my cherry....

Ha - bet that got your attention, didn't it.

Well, it finally happened. I just could not resist any longer. It was a long, slow, dull afternoon and I couldn't help myself.

I... on ebay for the first time ever AND I WON!!! Partner dude's been going on for ages about how much he would love a super nintendo. We both used to play Mario in our early teens and we've been dying to play against each other. So I bid on one - a right bargain. It should come some time in the next week.

How am I ever going to write my thesis with a snes in the house....Doh!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Putting the T in LGB

Over Christmas, I stayed with partner dude's family for a few nights. Someway, somehow conversation turned to transgenderism. His family said they could not understand why "T" was included in LGBT because "Ts just like to dress up." Which isn't really accurate, but anyway, the conversation went along the lines of, 'That's really wierd, that's really freaky' while I squirmed in my seat wondering whether I should say anything.

So I said, 'How many transgendered people to you know?' I wasn't surprised when everyone said none. So I said, 'We have friends who are transsexuals. I think if you met them, you wouldn't think it was so wierd or freaky after all.' Which they did admit, was probably true.

Today on Peterson's blog there is a guest article by Diana who is transsexual. Diana also has her own website, which not only explores trans issues but also contains some beautiful photographs and interesting looking recipes.

One of the things she talks about is the need to put a face on the abstract. I admit that until I actually met people who were transgendered, I didn't understand and thought it was a bit wierd. But when I met people who are transsexual, it didn't seem wierd at all. They were my friends and they had hopes, plans, ambitions, relationships, feelings just like I do. To me, transgendered people were no longer some peculiar, foreign and exotic outside group, they were the people I shared my life with. When one of my friends who is a transvestite invited my help to remove hair from his legs the first time he decided to go out as she, we actually had a lot of fun. What is more, when the process was over my friend had much smoother legs than me - meh. Not fair :(.

I am thankful when people "come out" as gay or trans or something else. I am glad their journey has brought them to a point where they are proud of who they are and willing to share that with others. I am also grateful, because when people stand up and be who they are, especially when they must risk the rejection or scorn of others to do so, I think they start to liberate others also. They broaden our view of the world and of ourselves. It is in friendships with people who are gay that I have learned a lot about my own sexuality. In seeking to understand and value friends who are of a different religion to me, I have come to rethink and discover my own faith. In sharing with friends who are black and asian, I have come to understand a little more what it means to be white.

Anyway, please read Diana's piece on Peterson's blog and her website with an open mind and an open heart. When we live in a society where people are considered "wierd" or "freaky", it does us good to listen to their stories and be reminded of their humanity, and to realise a little bit more of our own.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I really enjoyed this passage from The Buddhist Blog.

I like how it explores the tensions between the need for experience, and how ideas an dphilosophies can act as a vehicle for that experience, or, act as dogmatic barriers and cause unrest between people. I hope James does not mind me borrowing this from his blog. Its definately worth a read if you have a few spare moments and are interested in Buddhist thinking. James has a real knack for putting together teachings from Buddhism and placing them in the context of his own experience which really helps to bring them to life.

The following conversation was between the ascetic Dighanaka and Gautama the Buddha from the book Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Dighanakha asked the Buddha, "Gautama, what is your teaching? What are your doctrines? For my part, I dislike all doctrines and theories. I don't subscribe to any at all."

The Buddha smiled and asked, "Do you subscribe to your doctrine of not following and doctrines? Do you believe in your doctrine of not-believing?"

Somewhat taken aback, Dighanakha replied, "Gautama whether I believe of don't believe is no importance."

The Buddha spoke gently, "Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, he loses all his freedom. When on becomes dogmatic, he believes his doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open."


Dighanakha asked, "But what of your own teaching? If someone follows your teaching will he become caught in narrow views?"

"My teaching is not a doctrine or a philosophy. It is not the result of discursive thought or mental conjecture like various philosophies which contend that the fundamental essence of the universe is fire, water, earth, wind, or spirit, or that the universe is either finite or infinite, temporal, or eternal. Mental conjecture and discursive thought about truth are like ants crawling around the rim of the bowl -- they never get anywhere. The things I say come from my own experience. You can confirm them all by your own experience.


My goal is not to explain the universe, but to help guide others to have a direct experience of reality. Words cannot describe reality. Only direct experience enables us to see the true face of reality."

Dighanakha exclaimed, "Wonderful, wonderful Gautama! But what would happen if a person did perceive your teaching as a dogma?"


I must state clearly that my teaching is method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. An intelligent person makes use of the finger to see the moon."

Monday, January 09, 2006


I hate goodbyes :(. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to the young Friends group we've been attending. We only meet once a month, so yesterday's meeting was the last one we were able to attend. My first foray into Quakerism (16 months ago) was with our current meeting, so leaving seems really sad.

Soon, I will have to say goodbye to my work colleagues. I am not looking forward to that. I met some of them on my first day in Southampton and we've been together through many ups and downs since then.

I can't help but bear in mind that this move is temporary. With any luck it will be until September/October. But, my work contract is only 6 months. If I get on a clinical course to start in September/October, I will stay put and work for a temping agency if they're not able to extend it an extra couple of months. If not, I'll be on the job-seeking treadmill again. Life seems so up in the air.

However, on the bright side. We found a fantastic Thai restaurant that serves papaya salad - something I attempted to make myself a while ago and which was absolutely yummy. However, it looked nothing like the picture in my Thai recipe book so I think I did something wrong. I'm curious to see what the real thing tastes like :). We also intend to attend a new Quaker meeting. The interior of whose meeting house looks like this picture.

I think I will have to try to see this as something of an adventure. I'm grateful to have partner dude moving with me. This would be a tough move to make alone as there is no obvious way to make lots of friends. We need to:

*Find an arts cinema
*Join a gym
*Find some completely random group or activity to join where we can have fun and meet some new people
*Meet an internet friend from a psychology website whose fault it is I have this job. (It was her old job and only advertised locally so she put a tip off on a psychology website - had she not, I wouldn't have seen the ad.)

Any other ideas for moving to a new place and making friends, meeting people?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

We're moving....again....

We found a new flat yesterday :) Its a really nice place - an old house that's been converted into flats so the rooms are really big. The bedroom especially is so airy and sunny, which is fantastic. Our current one is pretty small and pokey which is quite annoying sometimes. We even managed to get a place with a spare room (a miracle that we could afford it so close to London) so we'll have a study/guest room for visitors. So anyone who wants to visit, let me know. We're just half an hour from Marylebone :).

One of the things that irritates me about flat living - actually, living in suburbia in general, is our uncanny ability to not speak to our neighbours. When I was growing up, I knew most of the neighbours in our street, even the one's who didn't have kids. My mum was always sending me next door with a little bowl to ask the neighbour if we could borrow some sugar as we'd run out. At Christmas my gran bakes boiled cakes for most of her neighbours. I remember there was rioting in the streets where my gran lives (I promise Northern Ireland isn't that bad a place to grow up), and my gran would be exhausted from watching it from the window. She watched in case a petrol bomb landed itself in the house of an elderly neighbour, known as wee May (because she was called May and was really tiny) so she would be able to make sure she got out. As a young adult, I see very little of that kind of community any more.

I don't even know what most of our neighbours are called. I hear the people who live in the flat above us often enough - but only because they are so fond of arguing loudly in Chinese when I am writing my thesis. Anyway, perhaps I will have to try to break this silliness and pop next door sometime and invite them in for a cup of tea. Maybe it can be our new flat resolution or something.

Now, to sort out moving...again!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Still waiting...

Let's not forget the hostages, Norman Kember, Tom Fox, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden still held in Iraq.

My thoughts are with Pat Kember, whose peaceful demeanour and calm dignity in the face of what is for most of us, an unimaginable terror, are humbling.

My thoughts also turn to the people of Iraq. Since the new year began, over 240 people have been killed and 280 wounded. Violence continues to rage in Iraq, but it is much less reported on our televisions. I remember talking to a friend of mine before the Iraq war began. He is in the British navy and was worried that he may not be able to complete his MSc before getting called up. I asked if he was worried, he said, 'No, if we go to Iraq now, we'll nearly all be home in 6 months and it will all be over.' It would appear things have not gone according to plan.

Pat Kember still has hope, but for many Iraqi citizens and many American and British troops, they already know their family and friends aren't coming home again. How much we need more people like these four hostages to work for peace. Let us not let Iraq slip to the back of our minds.

(In case you're wondering, the pictures are from the American Friends Service Committee's 'Eyes Wide Open' exhibition, highlighting the human cost of the Iraq war. Each set of shoes represents a soldier or civilian killed in Iraq.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random music buys

I've enjoyed Rufus Wainwright's music ever since partner dude bought me a few of his CDs last year. It seems his younger sister is equally talented.

My thanks to music sales in Virgin :)

Classical sounding music, French lyrics, folksy spunk and a "caution, explicit lyrics" sticker. Amazing, I can feel intellectual, cultured, artsy and naughty all at the same time. :)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy new year!

Happy new year everyone :)! I have no time for much of an update today as we're having a friend round for lunch to celebrate that I got the new Jamie Oliver Italian cook book for Christmas. Woo Wooo! I've just made a giant tiramisu and it looks incredible!

Anyway, before I go off to toast the new year dieters with a generous portion of sherry and coffee laced marscapone and chocolate goodness, I thought I'd start 2006 off with a nice inspiring quotation:

I'm not trying to counsel any of you
to do anything really special
except to dare to think,
and to dare to go with the truth,
and to dare to really love completely.

R. Buckminster Fuller – 1895-­1983