Thursday, September 29, 2011

Enough to feed a chihuahua

Actually more painful weight loss diaries.

i eat a lot of leftovers, i take them to work when i am on the afternoon shifts. i kind of collect them in small containers. Last week i made some fish pie (go Cheryl!) and put my leftovers in a small plastic container labelled Tigger. i'm not normally one for mixing human and animal dishes but this is a really old container and hasn't had Tigger or his food in it for some years. Tigger, btw is my beloved chihuahua cross. He is 13 years old, and on four different meds at different times of the day. His food is now half medication, poor wee thing. He is also on a special non-allergenic diet of lamb and rice, which i cook myself.

My husband saw the container with Tigger on it, and fed him the fish pie for dinner. As you do. Makes sense. Except that Tigger had a non-medicated dinner and i had no dinner at all.

Because, nowadays, 4 months after lap band surgery, i eat the same amount of dinner as my chihuahua.

i have lost 15 kilos and now fit into normal person clothes. i am more agile and i have started running at night. i can reach further and higher and twist around. i have a better level of fitness even without exercise, just because i am not carrying so much around with me. i have more energy. And i have hip bones and elbows and knees i had forgotten about! i am becoming all sharp and edgy! And i look at ads of TV for junk food and it all looks enormous and inedible. It's not repulsive, just impossible.

It's not all great. i have trouble with the port, which gets a bit sore, and that's not supposed to happen. i had the band too tight for a while and was uncomfortable, and i fart like a cart horse. i have occasional constipation. My skin has crapped out, but i expected that to happen. People laugh at my funny little container meals. Overall however, it was totally worth it.

60 kgs is possible for me and when i achieve it i will go to an interesting indie fashion store. Then i will consider some sort of fitness goal like a (so called) 'fun run' or a more demanding form of exercise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fame is useful however: kakapo and penguins

On the weekend i drove for five hours and spent two nights in a motel in order to see Sirocco, the celebrity kakapo. It was totally worth it.

Kakapo are the world's bigest and probably rarest parrots. They are flightless, as is much of the avian fauna in Aotearoa, and their defence method is to freeze when frightened. They remind me in that sense of the dodos. When dodos heard the sound of other dodos being slaughtered, their response was to pop out of the burrows and have a look. They became extinct within a very short time. Kakapo have escaped extinction only by their adorable whiskers. There is a vigorous kakapo breeding programme and the numbers are current up (yes, up!) to 131.

Sirocco conspicuously failed at the breeding programme, because he had imprinted on humans and had no interest in other kakapo. Attempts to collect his sperm also failed. Sirocco was also aggressive, ambushing rangers on their way to the long drop toilet on the predator free offshore island where kakapo live. What to do with an adult male kakapo who was useless to his own species?

Then Sirocco became famous for his attempt to mate with a noted zoologist on Stephen Fry's TV prgramme Last Chance To See. This is worth watching on Youtube for the expression on Sirocco's face as he drew blood. Fame is useful however and Sirocco became the Conservation Department's official spokesbird. i follow him on twitter and facebook and marvel that there is somebody whose job it is to post updates and tweet on Sirocco's behalf. Sirocco has even tweeted me. i am dead keen on Sirocco. And lately he has left his home on Codfish Island for a nationwide tour, at selected eco locations.

I visited him at Orokanui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin, in a specially built cage where he can waddle along logs and ladders. He really likes people. He worked the room. When children tapped the glass he went over to them to interact with them. He indicated he wanted to be weighed (he gets a macadamia nut when he is weighed) and sat happily on the shoulders of Karen, his minder. He is a very cool kakapo.

Sirocco and his kind are controversial among conservationists. There is a strong argument that says why put so much effort into saving flagship species (especially the cute and cuddly) when less attractive species are ignored, and when there is little effort put into the whole picture of our whole environment and its whole future. Does a visit to Sirocco inspire anyone to make any choice at all for conservation? How does 'raising awareness' translate into activism, or consumer choice, or votes?

Another recent example is that of Happy Feet, the hapless Emperor Penguin who washed up on the shores of Aotearoa and had to be saved from ingesting sand. After being operated on, he was kept at a zoo, and transported to the southern oceans on a ship. He was released back into the sea, and only days later his transmitter had stopped working. He was feted throughout. There was a live TV feed to his den at the zoo. The website Our Far South covers his progress still. Thousands visited him. All up, he cost about $30,00 from the public purse, an amount not recoverable from zoo passes and merchandise. Some notable conservationists slapped their foreheads in frustration. But the zoo management felt that Happy Feet's story was great - boom time for them, but also great for raising awareness about our own wildlife. Hundreds of parents and children agreed. Happy Feet was adorable.

i think, for argument's sake, that both sides conflate two issues - the issue of animal rights and welfare, and the issue of conservation. Many animal rights thinkers understand this one well. For some vegan activists, the killing of any animal, for food or even because they are noxious pests, is wrong. The principles of animal rights and overcoming speciesism override the pragmatism of trying to get the environment to work. Meanwhile conservationists may be happy to wipe out pest species. They want to look after the environment and may hold the view that without a working ecosystem, there will be no individual animals to be principled about.

Sirocco is about conservation. He became a 'spokesbird' because he was unfit for more conventional kakapo purposes, namely making more kakapo. His story is carefully managed in order to publicise the kakapo breeding programme and the Department of Conservation. He lives as naturally as possible, on Codfish Island. He is a native New Zealander.

Happy Feet is about animal rights and welfare. Once he landed on the beach and swallowed a bellyful of sand, we would have been less than our best human selves if we had left him to die. Of course we want to make the positive difference for the one animal that is in front of us, the animal we can relate to. i agree with the conservationists who say that the Happy Feet experience will not encourage one person to work in conservation. But if we have more compassion, if we learn a little about one species that isn't our own, that could lead to more openness and thoughtfulness and care. And maybe then our world gets a bit bigger and we get to think about more of it and then we start to wonder how it works and then work to care for it and protect it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adventures in X Space

A while back my daughter and i were holidaying in Central Otago, near Alexandra. It wasn't the easiest of times. My father was terminally ill and he was raised in Alex. i picked wild thyme and flowers from the house he had lived in, to give to him. The landscape there is startling, red dust, schist and mica, lizards. It was hot at 30 degrees. Under this red rock ... I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

We went looking for Dead Man's Gully. We drove down narrower and narrower roads and across one bridge where there was room only for the car, the wheels were on the struts that held the bridge up. One brief swerve and we would have been in the waterless ditch. Occasional cyclists would stare at us. There was no vehicular traffic. The air was still and mirage-hot. The sky was a blue silence.

There we were, at the Crossroads. Whoahh, we went. We both knew where we were without a shadow of a doubt, in the same way true psychic phenomena is as real as read, and nothing like being spooked by scary thoughts. We took a photo of it.

You will know the story of the great bluesman Robert Johnson. He wrote everything. Every rock song ever made is the ghostly whisper of his Come on in My Kitchen, or his Love in Vain. Story has it that he was the worst guitarist ever; he was booed off stages all over the South. Then he went to the Crossroads at midnight and the Devil tuned his guitar. He came back from the Crossroads and was suddenly able to play this layered, doubled up sound that no one had ever got from a guitar before. He wrote Crossroads Blues of course, and the legend was born. Actually, i think that the Devil just told him to stop being such a wally and go home and practise, but i am a middle aged white woman and can only dabble in the blues. And his is the better story.

Thing is, every cross roads is connected to every other cross roads in the multiverse by a special twist in the space-time continuinuinum called X Space. Terry Pratchett and others discovered L Space - library space. You know how really big libraries have obscure aisles of books where no one ever goes and you can get lost and you need a ball of string to get out. i used to work in a university library. i spent time up ladders shelving nineteenth cerntury German literature in gold bound Gothic script, fabulous stuff nobody even knew was there - even back then i knew i was on the edge of an alternative reality. Walk around the corner of the shelves and you end the Bodleian, or in the Beyond section of Bed Bath and Beyond, or in a worm hole.

X Space is like that. We knew we were there, and we were anywhere, we were in Robert Johnson's world, we were solid gone. What could we do? The only thing we could. We drove on.

i tumbled to the fact that we were drving our car along the Otago Rail Trail. This is a famous cycle way that is closed to cars and not at all suitable even for off roading most of the way. i am amazed we got as far as we did. We had surely strayed. We stopped on a trail so narrow we could not go on and we could not back up, because we had gone way too far. We had to turn. Bear in mind the trail was almost the width of the car. There wre dry ditches either side. i drove and my daughter directed me. She has superb visual spatial ability and i totally trusted her, as i embarked on a six million point turn, edging the car round inch by inch.

We emerged relieved, retrospecitely scared, and slightly trippy with triumph. The only causalty was the car window, which was jammed open by red dust.

And we thanked the cosmic guardians of X Space for keeping us safe. Thank you Robert, and all those of preside over Weird Shit, and all you Rocknrollers.