Moving House

Bear with me a while – my blog and I are moving house. Hopefully we’ll find ourselves a location with a sunny outlook for winter and shade for the summer. Wish the blog and me luck, and we’ll be back soon!

And in fact we have moved house, although I haven’t finished unpacking and the place looks very bare. This will probably be my last post here, as far as I can see: my regular viewers and any occasional visitors are more than welcome to visit me at the new address of

So far there’s just an introductory post and no photos at all, nor have I got a profile up yet. I’m about to leave the house, but rest assured, when I come back I’ll be working on changing the appearance of the new blog and setting it up the way I want it.

You may notice some advertising in the margins eventually: bear with me here, they’re offering me occasional small change and I’m in no position to say no. Think of it as your way of giving me positive feedback: if you are interested in something I write, why not right-click the ads around it into another tab, then if you’re really not interested in looking at them, closing off those tabs? That way, you will give me a bit of positive feedback that I will appreciate.

Feel free to keep the comments coming, too – I really enjoy them.

So I hope to see you all over there shortly!

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The Science Tarot – Review

The Science Tarot, brought into being by a motley crew of three co-creators (Logan Austeja Daniel, Martin Azevedo and Raven Hanna) and five artists, one for the Major Arcana and one for each of the suits (Tammy Stellanova, Shari Arai DeBoer, Kristian Johnson Michiels, Kristy Whitehouse and Janelle Schneider), is quirky and delightful. I’ve known and loved many decks brought into the world by collaborative teams and usually the pattern is one conceptualiser and one visual artist, occasionally one conceptualiser and two visual artists, one for the Major Arcana and one of the Minor Arcana. This is the first time I have seen a deck where a crew of eight have worked on it, and surprisingly, it works rather well, being more cohesive than I would have thought.

It is, however, slightly, twee, just slightly tongue-in-cheek. Having used it consistently for a while, I have to admit it functions very well and its colourful, almost cartoon-like illustrations are fresh and appealing. The other day I was sitting with it in a cafe, and a crusty Elder Gentleman at the next table was quite charmed by it.

It is presented in a two-piece, box, sturdy and appealing in olive-green and white with a simple reversible design of two intertwined microscopes on it, which also turned out to be the design of the backs. I loved the renaming of the suits in line with scientific equipment, and I didn’t need to read the accompanying booklet to realise that Scalpels were Swords, Beakers were Cups, Bunsen Burners were Wands and Magnifying Glasses, by analogy, had to be Pentacles. Each suit has its own coloured borders: Scalpels are brown, Beakers are blue, Bunsen Burners are deep-red, Magnifying Glasses are yellow, and the Majors are a beautiful forest-green. The booklet with it is larger, sturdier and more informative than your average LWB, tending towards the recent trend towards booklets that aim to provide the user with more information than a LWB could, squeezed into something that can be boxed up with the deck unlike a regular accompanying book.

In keeping with modernity, the Court Cards, portraits of famous scientists, have been renamed: Kings are Visionaries, Queens are Storytellers, Knights are Innovators, and Pages are Explorers, all of which broadly and generally fit their older roles. They all have the first two letters of their original court titles on the cards, for us old-school Tarotistas who may have difficulty with the changes. I was amused to see that each and every “Queen” is a man, and each and every “Knight” is a woman, along with the Pages. In going through the Court Cards I obviously came across some scientists whom I knew of quite well, like David Bohm and Marie Curie, but it was a pleasure and a delight to find women from previous centuries, when we might have thought they wouldn’t be allowed to do anything outside of the home, like Maria Sibylla Merian and Caroline Hershel, lurking in the shadow of her more famous brother who doesn’t appear in the deck, and it was also a delight to encounter people I hadn’t heard of before but probably should have, like Otto Loewi and Jabir Ibn Hayan. The new ones to me were in the minority, and even though the booklet gave me enough information to appreciate the cards, I spent a very pleasant few hours reading up on them away from the deck, time very well spent.

The three cards that are real stand-out favourites for me are all Major Arcana cards: 10 – Schroedinger’s Cat – Wheel of Fortune, 12 – Potential Energy – the Hanged Man, and 13 – Phase Transition – Death. The Wheel of Fortune shows the box in cross-section, with the nuclear toxin and the sadly half-dead cat, its front half skeletal and its rear half perfectly healthy, hanging in a sky of boiling blue and purple clouds, the only wheel-like circle to be seen being an all-seeing eye in the clouds, astrological symbols in its iris.

The Hanged Man has its Potential Energy on show as a huge rocxk in an orange desert carefully balanced on a fine point, a dark bird landing on it. The shadow it casts on a distant cliff behind it, cleverly, is the traditional shape of the Hanged Man in Tarot. Tse base that it is poised on has the equation E=U on it.

And my third favourite is Death, Phase Transition. We see a skull, but a skull of ice, a solid, phase-transiting into water as its jaw melts, surrounded by steam as the water evaporates. This symbolises the lesson of this card very well: all the water remains, but as it changes phase from solid to liquid to gas, the “information” in it, then shape of the skull in this case, is lost forever.

I am delighted by the amount of algebra and formulae hidden subtlely in the backgrounds of the cards, I am somewhat less delighted that almost every figure in the deck is wearing a white coat, as are the entire creative team in their publicity photographs on the website. This seems really, really twee and artificial to me: now that jeans and jackets have pockets in them, most scientists that I know or that people I know know, work in jeans, tee-shirts and sometimes jackets. They are wearing white coats not because that is their work-gear, but because it brands them as scientists to the masses, pretty much the way a stethescope draped around the neck brands someone as a doctor even though the doctors I know don’t regard medical equipment as items of apparel and would tend to keep it on or near their desks whilst working rather than draped around their necks. It’s just all a bit precious and a bit artificial.

After all this, does the deck work? Hell, yeah! The creative team knew their stuff, and married the scientific symbolism to the archetypal energies of the cards very well. And for those who don’t have the scientific knowledge to see that relationship, the accompanying booklet does a great job of elucidating each card. I am very happy with it as a working deck.

As far as I know, the deck is slowly becoming available through other retailers, but is most easily available through the creative team’s website,

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Extending Life Through Smoking and Not Exercising

I just had a thought. Conventional wisdom says that if we exercise, raising our heart-rate and respiratory (breathing) rate, we will live longer, right?

Buddhists believe the exact opposite: that we will live longer and be healthier if we spend more time meditating, with our respiratory and heart rates lowered!

I’m pretty happy to side with the Buddhists here, but not for Buddhistic reasons. No, for reasons of pure science. Think about it: from the moment your heart starts beating in the uterus to the moment it stops beating at death, each of us has a finite number of heartbeats. This number is unique to each of us, and it may be a very large number,  but it is finite.

When you exercise, you accelerate your heart rate, and more heartbeats are crammed into the same time-interval. That means that, whatever your final number of lifetime heartbeats, you have used more of them up, and thus lessened the number you have left in the future. That means they will last less long, with an end-effect of shortening your life.

I wickedly ran this argument past my doctor once, and she was completely silenced – she didn’t have an answer. I pointed out that, in recommending more exercise to me, she had been deliberately and knowingly shortening my lifespan. She giggled – what a strange woman!

On another occasion I ran another idea by her, too, that c igarettes are actually good for you. I have a philosophical theorum to support that one, too. You see, apparently for every cigarette we smoke, we have five minutes less lifetime in the future. Now, I know for a fact that it used to take me six and a half minutes to smoke every cigarette when I was still a smoker, even when I had had a lot of practice and was very, very good at it. When you smoke, that is six and a half minutes out of your life, six and a half minutes when you are doing nothing else. If your life is shortened by only five minutes, therefore, it is mathematically evident that there is a net-gain in your life expectancy of one and a half minutes for every cigarette you smoke.

Hmmm. Let’s think about that for a moment. I smoked fifty a day for just under five years. How many cigarettes is that? Quite a few, I think. And if I gain one and a half minutes of life out of each of them –

Hang on, folks – I’ll be back to do some more blogging later. Right now, I think I need to leave the house and go buy myself a pack of smokes and a lighter …


(Note: The views expressed in this article are entirely satirical and humorous only. At no point am I suggesting that I believe a life of smoking and refusing to exercise is likely to be healthier than a life of exercising and refusing to smoke, nor do I intend to start smoking again. In fact, I run a quit smoking program for residents of NSW’s Central Coast to help them give up much easier and far more painlessly than I did – feel free to contact me about this at any time.)

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But You’ve Already Got a Tarot Deck!

Twenty-something years ago, when I found myself buying a second, third and fourth Tarot deck, I initially felt like a bit of a freak. Why – wasn’t one set of archetypal images enough for me? I found very quickly that I could read well and happily with a number of them.

And after a while, I stopped giving myself grief over it, and just bought the odd deck every so often if it appealed to me. I was reading professionally at the time in Sydney, and it pleased me to have more than one deck with me when I was reading, so that if the client really didn’t like the look of whatever deck I picked up, I could use another.

When I had about eight decks, I got a regular gig in a venue as the residential reader back then. It pleased me to have all eight decks on the table with the same Major Arcana card showing, and asking the querent to choose the card that appealed to them most. I rationalised this by saying that by doing that they would choose a deck that they were in tune with and get a better reading that way and there was a large element of truth in that.

But if I were strictly candid with myself, I would have to admit that back then there was also an element of vanity involved. It’s like cars: some are more or less powerful, easier or harder to drive, larger or smaller, easier or harder to park, or just more or less likeable. Tarot decks are pretty much the same: some are more or less likeable, easier or harder to read with and so forth: I liked the frisson of vanity that having them all on offer gave me, that I was capable of and willing to use any and all decks with any and all clients.

I was a late bloomer: it took me until the middle nineties to really get serious about collecting, and by then my brush with extraordinary prosperity was over. Nonetheless, from then on all my luxury-money was channelled into Tarot, easily done since at the time I had just started reading out of a new-age shop with Tarot decks – not all of them to my taste – on the shelf, and probably once a month I’d give back some of my earnings to the business and come home with something new. A decent collection developed.

A year or so ago, something happened that left me both amused and a bit bemused. I don’t inflict Tarot on my friends, but I don’t hide it, either. And I was friendly with one of the teachers at my teenager’s school – let’s just call her “Mary” for the sake of convenience.

Mary took me shopping because her daughter had been staying with us – the groceries she funded which were more than ample were at once a way of not feeling guilty that I was feeding her kid, and saying thank-you to me, and I was quite happy about it.

I was – well, I *wasn’t* expecting a parcel from an on-line Tarot seller, because the main parcel had already arrived. However, they had mailed a part of that consignment separately to me, the Blue Moon, a slim 22-card deck. Firstly, it was sent some time after the first parcel, then when it was reasonable to assume it might have arrived, I had a house full of teenagers and assignments for my course to do, so I didn’t get around to going to the post office.

So when Mary took me to buy groceries, I jumped at the chance to pick up my parcel. And it was there. I was delighted. I was jumping up and down, saying “My parcel’s arrived! My parcel’s arrived!” Mary was smiling indulgently at me. As soon as we walked out of the post office into the sunlight, I was ripping into the corner of the parcel. The person who wrapped it had sealed it very, very well. Mary told me to calm down, I’d know what it was soon. I said I already knew – it was a Tarot deck.

She looked completely flummoxed.

But you’ve already got a Tarot deck, haven’t you?” she asked. She simply couldn’t wrap her mind around wanting another one. She still can’t.

I shared this encounter on an internet Tarot community, and there was laughter and hooting all round, really. Collectors with many hundreds, even more than a thousand decks more than I had, fell about at the idea that one deck was somehow sufficient. Did my friend, they asked me, have more than one CD? More than one tee-shirt? More than one pair of shoes? More than one DVD? More than one book? More than one pair of undies? More than one photo of the person or people she loved? Does she eat more than one food-item?

Having more than one Tarot deck is just the same: a different artistic style will appeal more or less on different days. One deck will work better or worse for certain kinds of inquiries, one client might like or recoil from a different deck to another client. Each deck is archetypal and will work for everything, but each deck will do so through a slightly different filter.

Some authors are best at writing murder-mysteries, others at writing science fiction, others at high literature, others at stage-plays, others at romances, for heavens sakes. Is one book identical to all other books? Does owning one book mean you’ll never want to read another?

Some time before that incident, Mary had introduced me to a friend of hers. Her friend and I swapped readings a few times, mostly because she wanted the practice and a swap is a fair thing. The deck she used was the Mythic Deck: fairly well-known, and I have a copy of it in my collection. Twenty-five or thirty years ago I used to use it quite often, and I don’t mind using it even today, although I usually do so out of nostalgia.

I had shown her a number of my decks, and she admired the artwork. I read for her using a deck she had never seen or heard of, and the reading uncovered some important things for her which we discussed fully and put to bed. Then she pulled out her Mythic deck and read for me. It became evident that she had barely scratched the surface of its symbolism: laying out cards that to my eye were redolent with importance for my spiritual life and where I was right then, she kept trying to relate every card to romance because she couldn’t conceive of someone having anything else in their life that might be more important, and either ignoring or just not seeing other fairly obvious messages that her cards were screaming about my life. She was also quite fearful of the reading that she was doing – insisting in praying and “wrapping us both in protection” beforehand. Honestly, crossing the road to get to her house was more dangerous than doing a reading, and she left me to organise my own safety across the road without help from her Angels!

Afterwards, when we were having coffee and talking generally, I asked if she’d ever wanted to go any deeper into the Tarot and learn more about it. She looked blank, and said that after ten years working with the same deck, she felt she knew everything there was to know. I asked if she’d ever wanted to use different decks, and said I’d be happy to lend her a few for a couple of weeks if she liked. She refused politely, saying that “if she used any other deck, she’d lose her ability to read with her deck”.

By the time I left I was quite saddened for her, feeling sorry that she couldn’t see the richness of meaning in the cards that were in front of her when she was reading for me, and that she couldn’t appreciate diversity as an aid to learning or just as an aesthetic pleasure at all.

One day, I’m going to have to spread *all* my decks all over the table – and floor – and have both of them visit. Mary can open her eyes to the gloriousness of art that is Tarot, and her friend can listen to me talking with such love about how this deck does thing kind of work really well, and that deck does that kind of work really well. I honestly don’t know if either of them will ever really understand, though – being Tarot-blind must be a bit like being colour-blind.


I still have some pairs of magnetic pressure-earrings suitable for acupressure, magnetic therapy and simply wearing without committing to a new piercing, with a variety of different-coloured Swarovski crystals; and I am still open to doing enhanced Tarot readings over the net. For both the studs and the readings, email me on for my paypal details and for any questions or further information.

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Painting Clouds

Clouds are fascinating things to paint. Techniques for painting them are as different as the types of cloud. Lenticular clouds, for example, which are found only rarely in nature at least in the places I have lived and much more often in art (the Renaissance and pre-Raphaelite painters loved them), these are best painted by using a very soft, broad brush and a circular motion, at extremely high speed (practice on a scrap surface first!).

Cirrus, I tended until fairly recently to paint them by applying a heavy, darker-blue sky colour first, then dragging a thin layer of dilute white or near-white across the whole sky area: where it is thinner the sky will be the right shade of blue, where it is thicker, the clouds will have that very high-altitude look.

Cumulus are much more fun. Was it Monet, folks, who did a very famous painting of a quay and moored sailing boats under a cloudy sky, the sky occupying most of the canvas and obviously most of the artist’s interest? The clouds there seem to be cloud-grey, but have hints of yellow, red, green, peach, blue, purple and just about every hue you can imagine in them. Someone I used to know who painted almost exclusively reproductions of famous works, did a couple of versions of that one, and the one he liked best was the one where he underpainted with deep, rich versions of the hinted colours first, then covered with a pale/mid grey, so the other colours were hinted at rather than actually mixed on the palette.

I’m currently trying to complete a painting I started just before I moved house a fair while ago now: I had looked at the sky and seen a cumulus cloud I-kid-you-not in the shape of an overweight but impressive nude woman with incredibly fine ankles. I blocked the picture in before I moved and brought it with me, and took months to find an art supply shop and stop making excuses to myself and start working on it again.

Prior to that picture I’d always tackled cumulus clouds the way I’d been taught, which was to lay down the cloud in a near-white in its entirety, then progressively deepen the colour in several stades for darker, thicker and shadowed areas. When I started working on my sky-woman again after leaving her for so long, it took about two minutes to realise that that wasn’t going to work, so I’ve been working on a grey woman, and sweeping layers of white of different kinds and dilutions over the grey where I didn’t want it so deep. That way even on supposedly white bits of the body/cloud, I’ve kept a lovely sinister, storm-cloud look rather than the innocent white clouds of a sunny day. Even though it may be almost the same colour, the thickness of the paint or perhaps the way the paint lies on itself, makes a difference.

It hasn’t helped that I haven’t done any work on figures since – oh – forever, not since I did a bizarre little canvas of my daughter as a blue-ish corpse floating in water (don’t ask me why, I don’t know, it turned me off portraiture completely!), and you can get out of practice at drawing figures very easily. With random clouds that are meant to be cloud-shaped, it doesn’t matter so much if the proportions are a bit wrong or if you plain make a mistake, but when you are trying to create convincing clouds that have to look like perfectly natural clouds whilst looking like a perfectly natural figure as well, then it gets a bit tricky.

It’s been a long, long time since I painted anything competently. and like any other skill, if you are  not in practice, your abilities get rusty. I need to buy myself a few more sketchbooks (or pull out the ones I know I have hidden somewhere around here!) and do first some graphite and pastel sketches, then a few small watercolours or acrylics to get my hand back in before I take on my sky-lady.

After all, I still really, really want to finish her, but I must do her justice.


I still have some pairs of magnetic pressure-earrings suitable for acupressure, magnetic therapy and simply wearing without committing to a new piercing, with a variety of different-coloured Swarovski crystals; and I am still open to doing enhanced Tarot readings over the net. For both the studs and the readings, email me on for my paypal details and for any questions or further information.

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New Years Resolutions

Late evening New Years Day, and my only New Years Resolution this year has been to make no New Years Resolutions at all, regardless of peer pressure from my friends and.or family. Of course, I considered all the usual suspects, like “Make an effort, this year, to see much more of my adorable nephews” and “make a schedule so that there is at least some chance of keeping the house fairly tidy”, but I dismissed them all on the grounds of honesty: I adore my nephews in my own strange way and I like a tidy space, but I know myself too well to tell lies about my future actions.

And it did make me think about the whole business of New Year Resolutions and and of themselves. Most of us make promises which, if we looked at them with the scales fallen from our eyes, we know we’ll never keep. And breaking them, if we haven’t forgotten already, can’t add to our self-esteem and our self-respect, our sense of ourselves as an honest person with a bit of integrity.

And why do we choose New Year, anyway? It’s not as if it is special in any way: it narrowly avoids both seasonal and religious markers. It also denotes no kind of rebirth: surely early Spring, when warmth comes back to the earth and it is appropriate to plant seeds for future crops, would be a better time than the beginning of the hot, dry, plant-killing summer when if your plants aren’t already well-established, they will crumble away into brown dust.

This year, I resolve to try and not lie to myself any more. That is, if I persist in carrying out the same behaviours I have before, I will not expect changes in the results just because the calendar has clicked over. I resolve not to hate myself if I can’t change ossified behaviours overnight.  I resolve to accept that I am who I am, and live comfortably within that knowledge.

Which is exactly the same as not making any resolutions at all. and when February draws to an end and I notice that no massive changes have started happening, I won’t berate myself for being weak. So I anticipate, by the making of no resolutions, that my coming year will be significantly more pleasant, at certain moments, than previous years have been.

Happy New Year, everyone. don’t expect too much of yourselves – I’d like you all to be happy.

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Bark, Bark

I have heard it said that in distant lands far across the water, there are strange trees that drop their leaves in Autumn. Why a tree would want to do that completely escapes me.

In Australia, the trees are far more sensible. They keep their leaves, and shed their bark in spring and summer, the way humans shed layers of clothes – to allow themselves to deal with the heat.

A few moments ago I was just speaking to a friend of mine who lives in the Eucla, and she told me that even though it is past the Summer Solstice, the salmon gums are still shedding there. And I remembered driving between Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun for work every day before/during dawn, watching the casuarinas and the salmon-gums by the side of the road as I passed, the casuarinas a mysterious grey and the salmon gums the brightest, most lively of pinks under their splitting and shedding dull-red bark.

And I remember the smell of the dust in my nostrils in summer, and the putrid stench of the canola flowers in the winter. There are people that call that kind of country “empty”. I prefer “uncluttered”. It is a wealthy land, a land of detail, a land where you can really stretch and become a part of the country if you listen and learn.

When you think about it, a tree that peels its trunk before the heat sets in is more sensible than a tree that drops its canopy just when it might appreciate some shelter. Give me the shedding bark of the Eucla salmon-gums any day.

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