Friday, August 21, 2009

This little pig stays home.

Iris diagnosed with influenza, probably swine flu, this morning, Dr says Hazel probably has it too. This afternoon I went to sleep in the middle of a paragraph I was reading to Hazel, awoke to her telling me I was hot and when she took my temperature it was 38.5 (102ish). I'm such a joining-in kind of person.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oh, and that state I was thinking about is flow; Csíkszentmihályi's Flow to be precise.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Starting to think about sport.

I know very little about sport. Two years ago my New Year's resolution was to enjoy playing backyard sports for a healthy body and to avoid passing my sporting neuroses on to my kids. Today, in Sean's parents' backyard, I threw a Frisbee and played badminton and volleyball, Hazel played cricket. I didn't play cricket because I got anxious and I didn't feel I knew how to join in. I'm getting there; I enjoy backyard sports and my children do too but the neuroses aren't yet all gone. Besides, I wanted to play badminton; I'd suddenly remembered absolutely loving the shuttlecock floating over my cousins' backyard in 1983's English summer.

As I spend more of my scarce and precious time playing Ultimate Frisbee my analytical mind starts to try to understand sport; I know very little about sport so I'm doing research.

"What's sport for?" I asked the athletic-looking young man at Sean's work's Christmas do. He replied with a sharp smile, sparkling eyes, and declarative certainty "winning."
"But how can that be? What's good about winning?" I asked.
"Oh, winning's not good. Winning's a vice."
I think he's got something there, but it's not the only thing.

The next day Housemonkey said perhaps I should read this, and until I finished it I found it hard to do anything else, "this" is The Meaning of Sport by Simon Barnes. Among other things, Simon Barnes is the Chief Sportswriter for the Times. He, who happens to have spent most of his working life writing stories he finds in sport, thinks that sport manufactures the need for people to call upon extremes of character, all the better for making stories out of. I love stories and before I played Ultimate my favourite sport was cricket. Cricket is very heavy on the stories and a test takes long enough to tell quite a few.

Barnes also thinks sport is metaphorical and mammalian. Team sports are metaphorical battles, one-on-one sports are metaphorical duels, and races are metaphors about predators and prey. The thesis for which I was awarded my MA was called Mimesis and Make-believe: How We Use Art, and one of the things I wrote in it which I still think true is that other creatures play make-believe. Barnes's mammalian sports and my animal make-believe are the same phenomenon: pouncing on string and other kitten's tails, batting newspaper about, play-fighting. Other mammals' sports are about hunting and dominance whether they are make-believe, metaphorical or both.

At the moment, what I love best about Ultimate is that it can occupy my whole being; a lot of the time that I am on the field I am not multi-tasking at all, I am not even directing my thinking. My self is wholly present in the moment, senses and understandings united; intuiting and acting in a dynamic and embodied way. To be so concentrated is utterly luxurious, mystical and animal, it is how I am when I am pushing a baby out, when I orgasm, and the more of the game I can do it for the better I play.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Likely as not.

You know that probabilities multiply, right? Of course you do, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

For our first child there was a 50% chance of having a daughter, for our second child there was a 50% chance of having a daughter, so our chance of having both children be daughters was only 50% * 50% = 25% (Arthur and Corwin, Arthur and Iris, Hazel and Corwin, Hazel and Iris ftw!!!)

If you have to roll 7 or less on a d10 for your character to succeed at, say, climbing a wall, and you have to roll two times because the wall is high you only have about half a chance of success because 70% * 70% = 49%

So, as it happens, two 70% chances having to both succeed in order to get complete success (not falling off the wall) is about 50% and so are three 80% chances and six 90% chances.

70% * 70% = 49%
80% * 80% * 80% = 51.2%
90% * 90% * 90% * 90% * 90% * 90% = 53.1441%

In Ultimate we are often faced with a choice between a shorter pass to someone no closer to the zone than the thrower or a longer pass further up the field which may well have a smaller chance of success. If a pass fails then there's a turnover and we have to get the disc back off the other team or they score.

In order to avoid the other team getting the disc from us we are often advised to use short safe passes and listening to team-mates' commentary we often seem to feel that throwing a good pass that was only just missed is somehow morally better than throwing a less sure thing that was caught. Yet six 90% passes are mathematically only as good as one 53% pass, so if your not-sure-thing hugely reduces the number of passes needed to get a point it may be mathematically as good as using shorter passes and more dump options as they take more passes to get to the other end of the field. Shorter passes that make less ground also makes it more likely the disc will become the other team's nearer their end zone.

What chance of success a given pass has is not just about how much of the field it flies over. Long passes are not necessarily more risky than short: a 10° error looks bigger further away from the thrower but a catcher who is further away has more time to read the disc and get to the place the disc is coming to. Chance of success depends on the weather, the thrower's current condition, skills and abilities, and those of the catcher, the markers of both, and what all the other people on the field might do. There are too many variables changing too fast to tell what percentages to assign to two passes as we choose between them, nor would numerical values be useful. We have to just do it; kinesthetic tasks are best performed using the evolved and embodied distributed intelligence of the human animal rather than trying to organise responses from some sort of analytical central point-of-view that calls itself "I".

In conclusion: perhaps short safe passes aren't the only good option and it might be me to whom you throw it long and I love the running and the disc flying and floating and reaching out to snap it out of the air.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Flashy moves ftw, or not, they're still good to watch.

At the beginning of November it'll be a year, I've learnt a lot and I've decided I like playing Ultimate.

I very much like playing in a team of people who are kind and some of whom do flashy stuff because I also like to watch. I love it when I do flashy stuff! I have hit discs out of the air, caught them while jumping, and thrown perfect throws to the zone! I rock!

At the moment I find being told what to do while playing confusing (though I take non-verbal cues better), and I don't yet want to theorise, strategise, critique the team-play or only have a good time if we win quite a lot (though I'm normal enough that I'd be quite pleased if we didn't come bottom of our league for the third time in a row).

I'm trying to turn 30 Ultimate players into 2 C-grade 5-a-side teams, 1 B-grade 5-a-side team, and 1 Social 7-a-side team. People have mostly told me which grade and size they want to play. I'm a Consequentialist and I'm working for the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

I've been wondering if I should have asked them different questions as well, like
  • Tell me the names of four other players with whom you love to play, I will try to put you on the same team as at least a couple of them.
  • I like playing in a team of people who are kind and some of whom do flashy stuff, what are your favourite things team-mates do and who does those things?
  • What would you most like your team mates to appreciate about you?
(Hey Creatures, if you read this feel free to tell me the answers to the questions, or other things you want me to know, the teams aren't quite final yet).


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I won a prize!

At Ultimate Frisbee tonight I won the female Most Valuable Player prize!

At the end of each game both teams nominate a Most Valuable Player (or in this last league, one of each sex) from the other team. I got nominated at the end of games than any other female player in the C-grade part of this first Indoor league. We usually nominate people who played well and were useful to their team, and whose general demeanour made our game a better time for all involved. Flashy dives and gorgeous leaps, speed and doggedness on defence, and smiling all helps.

Our team (Dirty Creature) also won the Spirit Prize. At the end of each game both teams give each other a "spirit" score, which is not about whether you win or lose but how you play the game. We play beautifully.

Did you get that? I won a prize! For sports! Not an A for effort, an A for acheivement!

And when I told my mother she said "Congratulations!" and "Wow."

It is of course possible that the other people on my team have had something to do with this. Dear sweet Repton-Infinity and his patient coaching, long-leggity Cpt Sean and his encouragement and rewards scheme, graceful housemonkey who expects me to lift my game, generous Stephanie who congratulated me each time I got MVP, heroic Queneva who keeps on throwing discs around with me even though it's dangerously unpredictable at times, serene Andy who throws me discs I can catch, and Milites of infectious enjoyment who started playing a few weeks after me and I keep trying to keep up with.

I'm so happy, I rock.
La li la li la li la.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Baggage claim.

My lovely physiotherapist said I wasn't getting better enough and referred me to a podiatrist so that if I was doing something in such a way that I kept re-injuring myself he could help me fix it. I am and he is. I've been running wrong, of course I've never been taught and I don't do it in order to annoy anyone, frivol ACC funds or even to make my team lose because our women are slower than the other teams' women, but it's still wrong both injurious and inefficient.

So I have work to do, it starts with exercises. I'm supposed to run while I do some of them. It transpires I can't think about my exercises in the game, I'm too busy thinking about the game. I also break into sheer stage-frighty panic at the very thought of doing them anywhere public. So I'm trying to fool myself into doing them around the barriers of my sports-phobia and my tendency to avoid effort in situations that may lead to failure.

I throw the disc to the other end of my lawn, I quickly look around to check no-one's watching, I run, slowly and awkwardly, thinking of all the instructions I'm trying to follow, to the disc, I pick it up furtively glancing around to see if anyone's started watching, I throw the disc to the other end of my lawn, I glower around to check no-one dared watch, I run, fuming at my incompetence in following this kind of instructions, to the disc, I pick it up and pull it viciously into the bushes at the other end of the lawn... after I while I get sick of myself and jump to the disc, trying to use my bottom as if it had muscles in it, Iris jumps with me, she gets to the disc first, grabs it and runs away from me laughing; effortlessly and visibly using her beautiful glutes.
I swear, "Bum!"
She falls to the ground giggling.
We start again.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Parenthood is not a sedentary occupation.

I walked through the bush over Tinakori Hill to have morning tea at Fords, I walked back up to get the car, picnic, togs, wetsuits, and inflatable floatie duck and frog so I could collect Anne, Hazel and Iris from the Bolton Chapel and take them to the beach. We ate our sausage, avocado and strawberry rolls, climbed a rock, swam in a beautiful pool that wasn't all that freezing cold considering, and then went for a fun visit to Anne's storage unit (if your mind is flexible enough most things are fun). I then popped out for a quick spot of disc throwing practice at VUW.

Am I going to sleep well tonight? Oh, yes indeed.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I took housemonkey to Emergency last night after he'd leapingly caught a disc with one hand and landed rolling his ankle off a shoe. The new easy-to-find location and airport-styled waiting room have not changed the experience significantly since I broke two metatarsals, a finger, and sprained my own ankles about three times in the seventies and eighties. We arrived before 11pm and didn't get out until after 2am but, compared to my imaginings of doing the same thing for Hazel or Iris, it was a pleasure. Fey humour is much easier to listen to than shrieking, and if he thought I should have been magically making it better instead of just sitting there he was too polite to say.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Priority inversion.

Hazel wants to go to Tumble Tots very much (and whatever I think of their modeling, the kids' sheer enthusiasm for the programme won out in the end). So she started getting dressed early, which is good because while Hazel needs to get dressed before she can go to Tumble Tots, Hazel wants to get dressed in private. Hazel decides in order for her room to be private it needs a sign on the door. Hazel is not yet five, she writes very very slowly, after an hour's work the sign says "CEpOtDAng" which means "Keep Out, Danger" it is a huge achievement and she has to celebrate her new sign before she gets dressed (in the public playroom).

Iris also wants to go to Tumble Tots very much, she also needs to be dressed before we can go to Tumble Tots, unfortunately, just after she manages to become willing to take off the beautiful nightie that Anne made her that says "Sleep well Iris" and has a kiss in the pocket, she finds the bag of fabric scraps I was given yesterday and gets the urge to design clothes made out of them that would be perfect for Tumble Tots. I do not have time to sew her new clothes before Tumble Tots.

Susan would prefer the children go to Tumble Tots than to pass the day with grumpy children who missed out. In order to go to Tumble Tots her children need to be dressed. She could spend her time putting the fabric scraps away again, stuffing her children into clothes suitable for Tumble Tots and writing Hazel's sign, or in a consultancy role: talking them through making their own choices and surfing the web.

Oh well, so much for time management skills, I guess it's time to start modeling working well under time-pressure.

Want more? See Wikipedia on priority inversion.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bother that Paris.

My achilles tendon hurts.

The physio said I can't play Ultimate for a week (it'll be fine and fairly calm on Saturday and Tuesday, you can plan around that), alas.

Last night's game was the first official one I've played in (hasn't the weather been awful on Tuesdays), it was fun and we won convincingly because we played better, even I helped, so not being able to run for at least a week is rather saddening.

I am still allowed to play catch though, and I got to do that tonight.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hobby horses.

Last night Hazel liked the mop so much she mopped up after Iris missed the loo so she could ride it back to the cupboard.

If anyone said "Hey Susan, do you want to run after a frisbee in the rain?" I'd be so there.

I made up a person, it's just a game you know.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Frisbee in the wind.

The little aliens who pilot my flying saucer are called Trixie, Sparki (with a heart over the i), Hunny (she likes Winnie-the-Pooh), Nina and Fay. Trixie likes to fly vertically, rolling through the air and giggling wildly. Sparki gets distracted by the talent, discussing the grace of the catchers she flies farther and faster away from them hoping they'll run or jump. Hunny tries to make the others throw up with her sudden changes of altitude. Nina starts fights over the controls and then someone will bring out the jelly and it all turns to custard.

Today Fay was behaving for me though, she might be setting me up for something, but anyway, she flew spinny and flat through the wind like the grown-up pilots other people have over and over again.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


Yes! I caught a frisbee in the endzone.

I even caught it and didn't throw it to the ground during the game. I threw some nice catchable throws to receptive-looking people and that's an improvement. I'll work on eliminating the ones to people who aren't my team next time.

Last night at the Playcentre dinner I was sitting between and Half-pie when the person opposite turned the conversation to meeting people over the internet. He reckons it's odd. The person you meet could be anything, and how can you think "Phooarr!" about an email anyway? He reckons that if he were single he'd go places where people go to meet each other; the pub, a tramping club, maybe pick up a mixed sport.

I'm a woman who role-plays and I did Philosophy at university, I never had to think about where to meet people, I had men of imagination and mental agility with me wherever I went, including the internet.

But I have just picked up a mixed sport, and having done so I'd say it was an almost opposite set of information to what you find out about someone from an on-line interaction. On-line you discover how your new friend uses words when they have the time to do it carefully, what they think is funny, how they think and some stuff that's important to them. At Ultimate I find out how people use their bodies and space, how they deal with failure, pain, stress, and success, how they communicate under pressure, and whether they care about winning.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Break out a case of cheerleaders.

"How long have you been playing?"
"This is my first game." I say, shyly.
"Oh!" double-take from the A-grade player, "in that case you're playing really well!"
I'll keep her; what a sweetie.

Ultimate was off last night as the grounds were closed, but 28 people showed up all unknowing and so we played. Like the school dances of my teen years (we couldn't call them discos: that would have been so seventies), it was really fun considering I was anxious, confused and only touched the frisbee in passing a couple of times.

Transferable skills:
  • Marking? It's like supervising a child in a shop of breakables really; you let them go where they want to go but don't let them do anything.
  • Throwing when the person's in your face and counting "Stalling one, two, three..."? It wouldn't really be pressure unless they were also pulling your shorts down and hitting your team-mates.
  • Keeping an eye on the frisbee, the gaps, team-mates, and trying to get away from my marker all at once? Well, it's not like I'm good at it yet, but it does seem rather like getting out the door when we have a baby-sitter.

New Things:
  • On defense: watch your person. On offense watch the frisbee and look out for gaps.
  • When the frisbee falls on the ground everybody runs past it and the last person of the newly offensive team picks it up and throws it to where everyone has got to now.
  • A surprising amount is done without touching the frisbee. Stopping my person from what seemed to be her job of being able to catch the frisbee in the endzone. Making the other team think I might be a threat and run around after me.
  • I'm fitter than I expected.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Help me in deliberating.

Should I try to throw a frisbee today?

I'd usually ask Sean but he's at his parents' with the kids.

Factors -
I've been sick since Tuesday and haven't thrown a frisbee since Saturday, when I did it badly enough I felt like curling into a small ball for the kids to pour sand down my neck and I was well then. Now I am probably significantly more feeble than usual and it's windy again.
Assuming the weather would be bad again I've arranged to go to Brick if I'm not going to the practice.
Is the practice even on? There's this huge rugby thing at Ian Galloway Park starting tomorrow and I have a feeling it's closed for ground preparation, if that's true is there a practice at Martin Luckie Park instead? I suppose I should wait until a little later in the morning before trying to find out by phone.

But if I don't go will I ever go?

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ta. I should have asked you to wish me good weather.

Today is windy in a way the US wasn't, so my upwind throwing was much worse than I expected when we were just practicing that, and then everybody melted like they were made of sugar when it first got a bit damp despite the fact the wind dropped. So we didn't even start to play a game.

All that stage fright and rehearsal and the play was postponed.

I guess (with the slightest encouragement) I might try to play on Tuesday as I don't suppose weeping will help with throwing in the wind as much as keeping on trying will.


Friday, October 20, 2006


Get up in front of a crowd of 70 people of any age and entertain them with a story? Sure, I'd happily hop up and start making it up. You want to get married in a week and you'd like me to write and perform the wedding ceremony? I'd confidently start typing. Do the section on baby-feeding for your ante-natal class? I'd be there, breast in hand. Write 200-5000 words on a topic of your choosing? Oh, yeah. Run a creativity centred team-building exercise? Love to, I've got some ideas I'd like to try. Sing acapella in front of a group? My voice would waver, but I'd have a go. Need a brave friend to deal with a white-tail, challenge your basic assumptions, or tell you an uncomfortable truth? I'm your woman.

But I have been a craven girly dweeb when it comes to sports.

You might not remember but my new year's resolution this year was to enjoy playing backyard sports for a healthy body and to avoid passing my sporting neuroses on to my kids. That is, I decided that it was time to get over my fear of organised physical games with rules and success conditions and I started off okay.

And then, this winter, Sean was invited to come along to Ultimate by Housemonkey, Fraser and Mash. They and a whole group of role-playing friends that we've been wanting join played in Karori and practice on Ian Galloway park and it all seemed so nearby and friendly, and I felt like I could imagine the team, with its clever and argumentative women, including me and not being a strange and pitiable token feeble wierdo they'd taken on as some kind of charity mascot. And they're all so encouraging yet blackly humourous, just the kind of people I like.

So I started working through some stuff to get to a point where I could join in a practice. I played tag with Hazel while they were playing (I can run where people can see me do it), I watched bits of games and helped my kids keep score (I can follow the basics of what's happening in a game, even without commentary), and we threw a frisbee to each other almost every day of our holiday (I can throw and catch).

So tomorrow, weather permitting, I'll have a go.
Wish me confidence.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Today was a good day. I fell in love with a polar bear.

The polar bear was swimming in Central Park, huge and beautiful beyond belief. It likes to push off the glass with its perfect feet.

Iris was sticking her bottom out and pointing at it despite a polite request not to,
"Put it away!" I yelled at her across the park,
"She doesn't know where it goes!" said Hazel.

We threw the frisbee to each other once we got to Sheep Meadow. We were totally outclassed by three groups of frisbee throwers close by. I was totally outclassed even by the return throw from the poor bystander I almost hit with it, but I'm feeling pretty good about my catching, and Sean reckoned my throwing wasn't bad. On Gillian and Dave's lawn in Pennsylvania I caught it after having slowed it down with the bridge of my nose (now slightly bruised) and bouncing it off my head. Today I slowed it down with the end of my nose but didn't catch it. I don't know which was better. I hope I won't make a lot of experiments trying to determine this.

I came to New York City eleven years ago and twelve years before that. It's a lot cleaner now. The Brita pitcher (water filtering jug) only has a few dots of black when I go to refill it. My skin hasn't got a tiny black dot where each pore is. This is a big difference.

I bought a DVD today, there's a guy hawking them outside the movie theatre on the corner. He directed, produced, and starred in it apparently. I bought it for luck for The Great Snail Chase (the movie my cousin Edward's making at the moment.

I also bought Anansi Boys again, and some other things, including the DVD and more new sandals for Iris, but no birthday or wedding presents. It seems that one night we set off to drive from Gillian's to our hotel with one of Iris's sandals on (rather than in) the car. The replacement sandals wore a hole in her heel, despite their beauty and Manhattan requires a lot of walking.

I wonder if I'll do some of the driving tomorrow. I've not done as much as I thought I would. It's been more like going back to being a beginner-driver and less like trying to drive while balancing a cup of water on my head than I expected and I've found that a bit nerve-wracking.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Things I've done while in labour.


  • Eat at a restaurant (early stages of a long slow part of labour)
  • Take my eldest to our local playground while hanging off trees and yelling during contractions ("Mummy tummy working hard?" "YES! Mummy tummy working VERY hard!")
  • Drink castor oil (didn't seem to speed up the slow one)
  • Machine quilt (brought the sewing machine to the hospital)
  • Eat chocolates
  • Moan, grunt, growl
  • Breastfeed my eldest
  • "I don't think the baby will come tonight but you may as well ring the support people just in case, but tell them to bring their books." (Denial)
  • Bathe (great!)
  • Gaze at a lit Christmas tree
  • Hide my head in a pillow
  • Visualise pushing a truck up a hill with my support people beside me, cheering me on but not helping
  • Bite
  • Demand acapella singing, reading aloud, acupressure, no - different massage, food, drink, ice, cold cloths on the back of my neck, silence and distracting conversation.
  • Move around
  • Wish I could still move around
  • Try not to push
  • Wish I'd mentioned to my midwife that I'd prefer any vaginal exams on my hands and knees
  • Push
  • Poo
  • Bleed on things
  • Forget what people were saying during their sentences
  • Have a baby (twice)
  • Enjoy the boneless sliding of the placenta on its gentle way out (twice)

Both my babies came out fast once I was dilating, the first was late and I didn't start dilating for 10 days of on-and-off-again patches of labour (and having been through "real" labour I can't call that "false" because it was the same). The second was early. I birthed both kneeling, though I wanted to get into a different position for my second as she was part way through and I just couldn't get up. Both were natural and pretty much drug free (I had a little gas when my midwife broke my waters for the first, late, baby. It felt stupid, like why would I do recreational drugs when I was busy having an important baby). The first was in hospital, the second at home. The home birth was fantastic, the hospital birth was fine.

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