Thursday, September 15, 2011

Oliver & James, Blogging, Weeds, and Anti-Immigrant Sentiments

1. Saw from Statcounter that the popular post on my blog today is the Judy Davis one.

I wasn't surprised or in the dark this time, because when I woke up this morning and turned on iGoogle, Judy Davis was on my ABC news widget.   Apparently, there's going to be an interview with her.  Or maybe there already was an interview?

2. Tried to follow the link to the article, but it's not working right now.   

3. Read another article about Scientology.  This one gives more insight into why there's arguments over whether the people, working for the church, were employees or volunteers.

The article says the people signed a contract, and in the contract the word employee is used many times.

So, if these people were employees and not volunteers, then they should have received minimum wage. They didn't.

4. Went to the official Scientology website in Australia.  They have a FAQ page, and one of the questions deals with finances.  

Towards the beginning they say, Unlike other faiths no weekly donations are required, nor are there tithes. Churches of Scientology hold weekly congregational services, for which no donation is required or requested.  

Well, why would they need weekly donations if they're getting money at other times from their members?

Are these religious services open to the public, or do you have to be a member?  I'm guessing they would allow interested people to come to a few free services.  It's a good way to recruit people.   But what if someone wanted to keep coming for free?  Would that be allowed? Or would they need to become a member?

Also, as far as I can remember, there's no money collecting at synagogue services.  You pay membership dues, and then you can go to services for free.   The only exception is for High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Those services are very popular, and you usually have to buy tickets.

5. Downloaded our local synagogue's monthly bulletin.   

I started thinking...wondering, if someone was really active in the Jewish community; how much would that cost?   If you added together membership dues, classes, special event costs, etc., would the price per year be comparable to Scientology?

I'm looking at the bulletin.  It says you have to be a member to attend the high holiday services—a member who's up to date on their dues.  It doesn't say anything about needing to pay extra, so maybe I'm wrong about that.  Maybe the people who have to buy tickets are the ones who aren't members.  

There's a Tot Shabbat program.  They say there's no formal charge, but contributions are welcome.   I don't know how much pressure is given to people to donate. Is it set up in a way that you're embarrassed if you don't donate?

The Natural History Museum says there's no charge—just an optional donation. But you have to go in a special line if you don't want to donate. The line is really long. They don't make it easy on people to go for free.

6. Went back to looking at the Scientology site.

They say they're annual membership is $400. That's fairly reasonable. You can get a lifetime membership for $3000.  That seems fair, considering it costs $1600 for a yearly membership to our local synagogue.

Then there's the auditing.

You can train to do auditing.  That's $2000 per class.  The classes are 40 hrs a week for about two months. That's a big commitment—time-wise and money-wise.

You can also get auditing without being trained yourself. This costs $2000 for 25 hours. That comes out to $80 an hour.  It's not bad if you compare it to other appointments—doctors, dentists, psychologists, tutors, psychics, etc.  I think they're all around that price.

Looking at all that on its own, Scientology doesn't sound so awful.

The question then is how much pressure are people given to do the auditing thing.  Can they be satisfied as a Scientologist without the auditing? Or are they given the message, that in order to get true fulfillment, they need to do this auditing stuff.

If they do the auditing stuff, will they be satisfied with one course? If someone is committed to Scientology, $2000 for one class in their lifetime probably isn't so awful.  Will they feel satisfied with just that, or is their pressure to want more and more?

From what I remember hearing of Scientology, there's some kind of hierarchy and a push to move upwards in the organization. Is that true?  If it is, how strong is the pressure to do that?   Can people stay at the lower levels and feel okay about it?

Does Scientology push people to get more and more involved and drop more and more dollars?   Or is it like any hobby or interest—some people (without much pressure) go totally Gung-Ho.

It's like Harry Potter. You can become a fan for a pretty low price. If you're really cheap, you can borrow the books from a friend or the library.

If you buy the books yourself, it would probably cost $100-200 dollars. But some people might go really nuts and spends thousands upon thousands of dollars. They might go to expensive conferences, buy Harry Potter board games, get an annual pass to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, etc.

It's inexpensive to be a Harry Potter fan, but it can be very expensive to become a total Harry Potter fanatic.

7. Went to Tallygarunga.

Today I'm going to read a story thread called Afternoon Fun.  It's one of those stories with multiple characters.

This one was started by Maya Arcemene, the half Veela I read about the other day.  

The other characters in the story are Emily Smith, Riley Lightfoot, a werewolf named Gavrill Bogomolov, and Simo Mihailovic.  Simo is the head Auror in the Victorian Ministry of Magic.

The story takes place in Mextin's Texts and Stationary, in the Narragyambie Shopping Centre. 

8. Started reading the story.

It takes place on the afternoon of September 3.

Maya is feeling happy and hopeful because she's meeting up with Riley. She has a thing for him.

Maya doesn't like the fact that Emily Smith is often with Riley. She's hoping Emily stays away this time.

9. Saw that Emily is with Riley.  Well, I was guessing that would happen, since I saw that she was featured in the story thread.

10. Read that Emily has brothers—James and Oliver.  That's like the Phelp twins.  I know there're twins in Tallygarunga named after James and Oliver Phelps. Are these the same? I don't remember their last name being Smith.

11. Found Oliver. There's not a James member of Tallygarunga, but James is mentioned in Oliver's biography.  Their last name isn't Smith. It's Coleman.

I skimmed through and didn't see anything about an Emily-sister. I guess there're two sets of Oliver-James twins?

OR....actually. I don't know if Emily's brothers are twins.

12. Looked at Emily's biography.  I don't see anything about her brothers. 

13. Reread part in story thread and noticed Big Brothers has quotation marks around it.   So maybe Oliver and James aren't her true brothers. Maybe they're neighbors? So then maybe the post IS referring to James and Oliver Coleman.  

14. Did some research and found this thread.  Oliver and James take Emily to the pet store to get her a cat. It seems they've adopted her as a sort of unofficial younger sister.

That's cute.

15.  Read more of the story.

Emily pulls a prank on Riley. She throws these little magical balls at him, not knowing what the result will be. Then she rushes away, trying to escape.

Is she afraid of his reaction; or is she afraid he'll immediately seek revenge?

16. Started to read Riley's post.  He had received a surprising text from Maya, asking him to meet her at the stationary store.  His friend thought it was a date, but Riley couldn't imagine a date at a stationary store. He also was confused about how Maya knew his phone number.

He agreed to meet Maya and then Emily asked to tag-along.  He said yes.  Did he do that to be nice, or did he do it because he was nervous and felt more comfortable having a friend with him?

17. Saw that Emily's magical marbles made quite a mess of Riley.  He's soaking wet, but can't dry himself because the water seems to be enchanted.  He also has green eyebrows.

Maybe Riley shouldn't have taken Emily along on his might-be-a-date.

18. Felt my heart warm to Riley a bit.  He's not angry at the prank. He's amused and wants to know where Emily got the enchanted marbles.

After all the pranks he pulled on Dorian, I'd be annoyed with him if he couldn't take a joke.   I should have known he'd be okay though.   When Emily got him (or almost got him) with the water balloon in the corridor that one time, I think he took it pretty well.

19. Continued to read.  Riley tries to say good-bye to Emily so he can meet Maya.  Then he realizes he can't just abandon her.  She's too young to get home on her own.  He decides she can come with him to see Maya.

Maya's not going to like that.

20. Read the next post.  Simo is out near the store doing his Auror thing.

He doesn't seem to like kids and the way they frivolously play.  

The next post belongs to Gavrill. He watches Emily and Riley running around. He's suspicious of the whole thing.

21. Glad to see that Emily and Maya are getting along better than expected. Maya doesn't act horribly disappointed to see Emily with Riley.

22. Finished reading the story.  What I'm getting is that Gavrill is suspicious of the kids and trying to investigate.   His actions make the Auror suspicious and he goes after Gavrill.  I'm guessing Riley, Emily, and Maya are going to get caught in the middle of it.

23. Started to read the biography of Simo Mihailovic

His face claim is an actor named Timothy Olyphant.

Lord Wiki says Olyphant was in The Crazies with Radha Mitchell.



24. Confused about something.

In one of Maya's post she mentions an African-American man standing outside the door.   I thought she was referring to Simo, but he doesn't seem to black.  Timothy Olyphant looks very Caucasian.

Was Maya referring to someone else?  Or did she get confused?  In the Timothy Olyphant picture, being used for Simo, he could maybe pass for a black guy. Sort of.

25. Learned that Simo is from Finland.

26. Learned that on Simo's Auror robes there's a streak for each dark wizard he's sent to Azkaban.

Did he used to work in Europe?

Where are dark Australian wizards imprisoned?

27.  Learned that Simo is very dark and serious.  I like this line.  

He walks with the same demeanor as his speech; he is stiff and rigged with a sense of doom that seems to precede him, he was once referred to as a human dementor due to how dark he can be.

I can see why someone like him would be unnerved by playful children and teens.

28. Started to read Simo's history.

He's Muggle-born.  That surprised me a bit.  I was being prejudice, obviously. I expected someone with a high-powered wizarding job to come from a wizarding family.

29. Learned that Simo went to Durmstrang.  This is the school attended by Viktor Krum.

30. Learned that Simo was forced into retirement because he was too obsessed with capturing dark wizards. He was encouraged to go to Australia to rest there. 

Simo did about five years of resting, and then got himself back into Auror work.

31. Went back to the Australian Scientology site.

They have a free personality test you can take.  However, unlike most tests online, you can't take it and easily get your results.   You have to provide all types of contract information; your name, email, home address, and phone number. 

They say, Note: Please ensure that your name and phone number have been entered correctly so that we can provide you with the full results of your test. 

Why do they have to call you?

Why not give the tests and results automatically through the website?  Then if people want more information, Scientology could provide a phone number for people to call.  

I'm guessing Scientologists want to talk to the test-taker. Then they can try to convince the test-taker to get some auditing done or take a course to improve their life.  

32. Took blogging survey for Technorati. It was long, boring, and frustrating.

It gave me the impression that other bloggers are making tons of money off their blog—like it's more of a business than a hobby.

That's just going from the questions though.  Maybe lots of bloggers will answer the same way I did.

I think most of the blogs I read are small like me—just done for fun.   I've seen a few that have grown and now have product giveaways left and right.  They also seem to have a lot of ads. I wonder if the bloggers are making a lot of money.

I prefer the more simple and quiet blogs; but I can't fault people for making money.

Is there a way to make money off your blog and not appear to be one giant commercial?   

I wouldn't mind making money from my blog, but I wouldn't want it to look crowded with ads.   And I wouldn't want to write posts that sound more like advertisements than true reviews.  

33. Saw that my Australian of the day is George Fife Angas. He was a merchant, banker, philanthropist, etc.

He seemed to be a lot of things.

34. Learned that George was born in England.

He had a bad illness as a child.

His father was big on the Puritan thing. It rubbed off on George. At school he preferred religious books over playing games.

Did his father do a good job of pushing his own values on his son?  Did George choose religion over games out of fear?   Or was George just naturally like his father?

I wonder that about kids. Why do some kids follow the ideologies and habits of their parents? Why do others end up doing things differently?

If a child grows up without a television, will they ban televisions in their own home when they grow up?  Will they go in the opposite direction—have a big screen TV and act like a couch potato?

35. Learned that when George was fifteen, he became an apprentice to his father. His father was a coachmaker.  I guess that's someone who makes coaches?

36. Saw that George started doing work with Australia banks when he was in his 40's.

If I'm reading this right, he wanted to start a convict free colony where people could have religious freedom.   The plan was to have it in South Australia.

This was in the 1830's.

George was part of something called The South Australian Land Co.

37. Skimmed through some more, trying to get myself to feel interested.

The basic idea I'm getting is that George Fife Angas is one of the fathers of South Australia.  

38. Decided to consult Lord Wiki about George.

Sometimes it helps for me to read things twice; and/or from different sources.

So....

Lord Wiki says he was a Member of Parliament. Yeah.  I saw that in the Australian Dictionary of Biography as well.

Lord Wiki also agrees with what I l thought I learned a few minutes ago.  George had a big part in the formation of South Australia.

39. Learned that George's dad wasn't just a coachmaker. He was also a ship owner. I was wondering about that.  There was talk of ships.  I wondered where that was coming from. 

I don't think I read the Australian Dictionary of Australia close enough.  I'm feeling a bit distracted.

40. Learned more from Lord Wiki.  George was a successful business guy in England.  He had lots of money.  He decided to invest in South Australia.

George wanted a place where religious people could be free to practice their religion.

It kind of reminds me of the Pilgrims coming to America.  Like George's family, they were Puritans too.

41. Learned that George played a part in the colonization of New Zealand. For this he was offered knighthood.  He refused the honor.  I wonder why.....

42. Saw that although George became interested in the colonization of South Australia in the 1830's, he didn't actually move there until the 1850's.

43. Wondered if I'll be bored by Arthur Chapman's Australian Weeds Flickr set.   Sometimes I get bored by plants, but then other times it's interesting to me.

Plants are one of those subjects in which I wish I knew everything; yet I'm not interested enough to take the time to learn.    I think I'm the same way with foreign languages.   I wish I was one of those people who spoke 5 languages.   Yet I'm too lazy to really work on it.  

44. Started to look at the photos.

45. Wondered if fruits from the Lily of the Nile are edible.  

I would LOVE to be one of those people who can look at plants and know if they're edible, poisonous, medicinal, etc. 

46. Learned from Lord Wiki that Lily of the Nile are native to South Africa. So they're not indigenous to Australia. 

47. Learned that there's a novel called Lily of the Nile.  It's a historical novel involving pagan magic.   I found it because I searched for Lily of the Nile and pagan together. I was thinking a witchy site might have information on things people could do with the flower.  Instead I found the book.  

48. Found this plant website.  They say the Lily of the Nile is used sometimes for cardiac issues, fertility, pregnancy, etc.

49.  Saw this photo and tried to remember why I should know the term Scarlet Pimpernel. Is it a book?  Movie?   Play?  Ship?    I know I've heard it somewhere.

50. Found out that The Scarlet Pimpernel is a musical.  

As for the flower, it's another one that's not indigenous to Australia

51. Wondered if all these Australian weeds are not Australian.

I'd kind of prefer to look at indigenous plants.  

That's kind of prejudice though.

It's like I'm anti-immigration.

52. Liked this Cape Weed. He looks happy.

Great. Now I'm attributing emotions to plants.

It's not surprising though.   I'm very animistic.

I'm not sure if that's the right term.  But I attribute personalities to lots of things. For example...the alphabet.  I see each letter as being male or female. And I sort of see personalities too, sometimes.  

A-Female
B-Female
C-Effeminate male. 
D-Female
E-Male
F-Male
G-Male
H-Female
I-not sure, but he or she is best friends with H.
J-Male
K-Female
L-Female
M-female
N-Female
O-Male
P-Female
Q-Female
R-Female
S-Female
T-Male
U-Male
V-Female
W-Female
X-Male...maybe
Y-Female
Z-Female

I think L M N and O have a little clique going on. I hope they're not snotty to the other letters. 

I'm probably not the only one who does this; but I wonder if other people would agree with my gender assessments.   

53. Thought this Swan Plant looked interesting.  

Lord Wiki says it's from Africa.

54. Learned from Arthur Chapman that this Mother of Millions hybrid weed is not a great thing for Australia. 

Arthur says it grows along the roadside.   It's poisonous to livestock; and it's hard to get rid of it, because the seeds remain viable for a long time.  

55. Thought that in this photo, the Mother of Millions plant looks like a Disney villain.  

56. Decided although I have a loving open heart, and I love plants from all over the world; I prefer to look at native Australian plants.  

Maybe I AM a little anti-immigration...at least when it comes to botany.

I'm less that way with animals.  I associate the cane toad with Australia, even though he's not from there and is seen as a disastrous pest.  

57. Stopped looking at the weed Flickr set.

58. Started to look at Arthur Chapman's Australian Plants set.  

Actually.....

It's getting late. 

I think I'll start on it tomorrow.

59. Loved this Austria sign.  It pokes fun at those people who get Australia and Austria confused.  

It's very cute.

60. Saw that there's a massive chemical fire in Canberra.

That's terrifying.

Fortunately, no one has been killed yet.  Hopefully, it will stay that way.  And hopefully they'll be able to put the fire out. 

61. Decided to stop my internet stuff and spend the rest of the night reading The Distant Hours.  I've read a little bit through the day, but not much.

They just had a time and narration switch.  I was with Edie in the 1990's. Now I'm with Percy in the 1940's.  The book has also gone from first-person narration to third person narration.

I sometimes have problems adjusting to these types of changes.