Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Friday, June 30, 2006


Steve @ IKEA, you are doing my head in. Last week when I brought in the requested 38 credit card statements (covering the 3 years since my abortive kitchen purchase), you shook my hand, established first name terms, assured me of your good intentions and that I'd be phoned yesterday with the details of my £1600 refund. Instead you send me an email-

hi mrs [ion]

thank you for the statements you provided me with. i have now studied these and it is obvious you have had no money refunded to the visa card you made the original purchase on.

unfortunately i am now compelled to investigate that you were not refunded by any other means. i am aware that you informed us that you have not received any refund, but i am sure you will understand that there is a possibility that a refund by other means could have been obtained.

i hope you understand that this is not ikea saying we do not believe you or in any way suggesting you are deceiving us, but normal security protocol must be followed.

can you forward an email or letter stating your complaint, allowing us to make this matter official and continue with my investigation with the sole purpose of resolving this matter for you.

in your letter or email can you supply us with as much detail as possible of the nature and history behind your complaint, for example why you did not contact us sooner and any other facts behind it taking 3 years to return to the store. this will be of great assistance to my investigation. please can you also copy in- email and

many thanks
steve [xxx].

Here's what I feel like replying-

Dear Steve,

The reason for my three year delay in requesting a refund, as you detected within 2 minutes of meeting me, is because I'm a fucking mentaller. I couldn't even open mail for 2 years.

Furthermore, I have some questions for you-
a) Why didn't you start your new investigation of mysterious refunds to 'other sources' when I first came in a fucking month ago? I have jumped through hoops to provide 3 years worth of credit card statements for you, as requested, and now it's not enough.
b) Why did you then assure me this week that I'd be refunded yesterday, if there were further processes to endure?

Have a great weekend, Steve, and let me know if you need more empirical proof of my mental status.

Regards, Ms [Ion]

I feel much better for that, by the way.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More of parturition

D's bump (last pictured at 36 weeks gestation) turned into a fine boy- 8lbs 1 oz (old money), which is pretty damn big for a 5'2" woman to deliver. But then her man's 6'2" and of pikey/gypsy stock, so what do you expect. I took the precaution of smoking through pregnancy so I could have a normal vaginal delivery, unlike D. She'll know better next time.

Aaron's birthchart:
Cancer as his sun
Gemini rising
Taurus in his moon

There's no doubt that Aaron will be a wonderful boy, and I look forward to getting to know him much, much better. I'm interested to note his Old Testament name. Although she insists on the connection with Elvis's dead twin, I know that D. is technically Jewish, like her alcoholic maternal grandmother, and she may be remembering this in his name.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Lost chord #2

Neil Young- After the Goldrush
Ramones- I Wanna Be Sedated
Smokey Robinson- Tears of a Clown
Kinks- So Tired
Neil Young- Rocking in the Free World
Primal Scream- Rocks
June Tabor- Love Will Tear Us Apart
Christy Moore and Shane McGowan- Dirty Old Town (snatch)
Undertones- Jimmy Jimmy
Psychic TV- Godstar
Camper van Beethoven- Take the Skinheads Bowling
Sugarcubes- Birthday
Chan Marshall- The Greatest


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Home front

On the home front, the little kiddo is confined to the sofa in her PJs with a barking cough, fulminant green snot issuing from her nose and trachea, intermittent earache and night fevers. She's previously enjoyed rude health, and it's not like her to be felled for so long. For some reason she's terrified of seeing the GP, although she's so healthy she can't remember ever seeing one. Apart from baby jabs and call-outs for chickenpox and a spectacular projectile GI illness when she was still a babby, they've never seen her. Here she is in invalid mode, with tiniest grape in the world from the bunch bought for her.

GP gave phone advice on Friday for usual palliative remedies- anti-inflammatories (paracetomol, ibuprofen), steam inhalations, plenty of liquids and bedrest. She's OK during the daytime, but feverish at night, with that worrying cough worsening instead of tailing off for 2 weeks now. If she continues to fail to improve, Nini will be seeing the GP tomorrow whether she likes it or not, and might conquer her irrational fear.

R. and I have decided by phone that she's probably picked up Mycoplasma, a surprisingly common but insidious respiratory infection secondary to her viral cold 2+ weeks ago. GP needs to give her erythromycin on Monday- Mycoplasma doesn't respond to penicillins, as it lacks a cell wall.

The big kiddo has been out climbing as usual on a Sunday, and came back home with third prize for bouldering in the under-16s competition. Celebrations all round, and good work. He received a commercial T-shirt for his efforts.

School uniform update
This week, big kiddo's school gave out the new ties to be worn from next term. You can imagine how both he and I feel about this unwelcome return to 'tradition' and the era of stiff collars and blazers. My lad allegedly wore the tie outside the school gates in a disrespectful manner (tied around his head, Jimi Hendrix bandana style), and was admonished by the Deputy Head for his attitude problem. Jesus fuck.


Tomato update III

These baby tomatoes are needing two litres of water every second evening - drinking it up thirstily, growing well and emitting a powerful scent that I happen to love. But then I like the smell of horse and cowshit too.


Career opportunities

... are the ones that never knock.

Ideal academic vacancy came up, synthesising the two most enduring loves of my intellectual life, medicine and anthropology. Some may, like me, wonder WTF 'medical anthropology' comprises, and we have the answer here. All my favourite subjects.

Medical Anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that draws upon social, cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors which influence health and well being (broadly defined), the experience and distribution of illness, the prevention and treatment of sickness, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems...

Medical anthropologists study such issues as:

Health ramifications of ecological "adaptation and maladaptation"
Popular health culture and domestic health care practices
Local interpretations of bodily processes
Changing body projects and valued bodily attributes
Perceptions of risk, vulnerability and responsibility for illness and health care
Risk and protective dimensions of human behavior, cultural norms and social institutions
Preventative health and harm reduction practices
The experience of illness and the social relations of sickness
The range of factors driving health, nutrition and health care transitions
Ethnomedicine, pluralistic healing modalities, and healing processes
The social organization of clinical interactions
The cultural and historical conditions shaping medical practices and policies
Medical practices in the context of modernity, colonial, and post-colonial social formations
The use and interpretation of pharmaceuticals and forms of biotechnology
The commercialization and commodification of health and medicine
Disease distribution and health disparity
Differential use and availability of government and private health care resources
The political economy of health care provision.
The political ecology of infectious and vector borne diseases, chronic diseases and states of malnutrition, and violence
The possibilities for a critically engaged yet clinically relevant application of anthropology

Due to the wrong PhD, there's little point in applying sadly, but what a course one could teach on this-

a) Global distribution of healthcare- indicators in life expectancy, infant mortality
b) Healthcare across history and societies
c) Influence of Big Pharma, economics of corporate healthcare
d) Physical anthropology of the evolution of the brain and language
e) Advantages and drawbacks of civilisation-
diseases of domestication and farming, malnutrition, social stratification
f) Biology and ecology of symbiosis, commensuralism and parasitism
g) Evolutionary/archaoelogical/ historical aspects of health
h) Role of the shaman in healthcare
i) Placebo effect
j) Medical high priests and evidence based medicine
k) Social ecology of human disease
l) Psychological and sociological determinants of mental and physical health
m) Locus of health- God, society, self, soul, genes, molecules.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Hatches, Matches, Dispatches

Due to sterling detective work, I can boast that my longest friend, D., at the age of thirty-forty-cough has delivered me a godson, and my heart is full.

Knowing her due date was last Saturday, I've been trying to phone her on landline and mobile, and email to a full mailbox for the last 5 days, all to no avail. Today I phoned the hospital into which she was booked to see if she'd been admitted, and traced her to a post-natal ward.

Got her bedside phone # (50p/min), to hear her sounding wan but OK after a long labour( 4 days from when her waters broke) and an emergency caesarean, when silly boy's cord was wrapped around his neck and his heartrate fell. Thank fuck for hospitals, and thank D. for bringing a wonderful bump out to the world.

Hello to Silly Boy- DOB 22.06.06. Very pleased to meet you, bawling over the line when I talked to yer mum today. Hope I can be as good an Aunty to you as yer Mum has been to my kids.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Armed Madhouse

I take back my hasty comment about Palast's Armed Madhouse from Ch 1- he was engaging the audience as authors seeking US approval must. There are some interesting articles explaining views of the Iraq invasion and Chavez hatred in terms of peak oil, which are reconsidered at the end. Worth reading. It's the chapters concerning the theft of 2000 and 2004 elections that are probably the most accessible and readable. Greg explains that you don't even need Black Box technology to bias a close-run election, just a few key people on-side and a knowledge of race/class voting correlates.


Cody's Books

Cody's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is to close! Another independent hits the dust, bringing a wave of nostalgia. My dad used to take me in regularly as a child, with the enticement that I could pick my own book, often one of Andrew Lang's Fairy Tale compilations. As a surly teenager I'd hit the comic shops across the road while he browsed. But once I was an adult, we'd both be keen to go and get lost in the shelves, before hitting 'Bongo Burger' for a falafel. It's been a long time since we visited Berkeley, but it won't be the same without it.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

#2 Breakdown

Don't be alarmed by subject content- not a sign of breakdown but of digestion.

I'd gotten back from the worst academic conference ever in Australia, though I'd received a prize during the proceedings. Work anxiety and jetlag had combined to a point that I slept only a handful of hours the whole week I was there, and eaten practically nothing in that time. My mind was working overtime in an extremely unhealthy manner, and I was in a state of anxiety so desperate that I'd thought fleetingly about jumping from a high building, just to make it stop. It's absurd to even try to explain now.

When I got finally back home, the kids, their dad and my old friend D. were there. I told them that I'd lost my job, my career was over and that I couldn't go back to work. All predicated life was over. Later, as I lay in bed replaying in my head my hypomanic and parasuicidal behaviour at the conference, BBC World Service started reporting a mass religious suicide in Uganda. I had absolutely no intention of killing myself, but was ready in a different way to meet my maker. The phone rang and then hung up, the sign I was waiting for. It was imperative at that time that I be together with loved ones, ready for a biophilic rapture and epiphany. I gently but hurriedly assembled my family, ready to the answer the expected judgement ring at the doorbell.

No one came to the door or rang the bell. My friend D. talked me into swallowing a couple of her valiums in order to sleep. That helped, and the next day I'd lost the Ugandan suicide connection, but continued to secretly hold onto a world conspiracy involving my colleagues and family for a couple of weeks afterwards.



Let's see if this will work- a post of a 30s video from my US Dad which cracks me up. Sorry about the advertising, but I suppose they're entitled.

Cat Massages Dog
Watch it now on StupidVideos!


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Unusual usual

Over the last decade, I've had the misfortune to suffer three short-lived but florid, frightening episodes of depersonalisation and disassociation. I'm told from psychiatriatic perspectives that these were anxious in origin and not diagnostically psychotic, although you could've fooled me, so real and entrenched were my crazy ideations at times, reticulated in a web of curious and somewhat tangential factoids. But I never had voices in my head.

1) 1996
2) 1998
3) 2003


Friday, June 16, 2006

Usual usual

I seem to have entered into the reverse hibernation adopted by snails, estevation, as the weather's warmed up. I'm up early to walk Nini to school through the thicket of Blackett, then back home via the papershop and another Georgian terraced, horticultural street to read in the kitchen with tea in the morning sun. These last few weeks have seen ornamental alliums, poppies and peonies out in force, dog roses and some of the early fancy Rosa hybrids too. Ah- and foxgloves. I happen to know there's a particular garden nearby that has grown a meadow of poppies and cornflowers for the last 4 years, and they need a visit.

Had a delightful long walk today with Heather and the Reekster (pictured- I hope his bi-colour eyes show up) along the full length of the Hermitage/ Blackford park, from Liberton to Morningside and back. You can see Heather's veg garden behind him. Not too hot, the pleasant shade of trees in full bloom, foxgloves on the bracken slopes, the Braidburn gurgling in its valley, insect buzz and birdsong. In some spots by the burn, scented stocks escaped from some historical garden were flowering.
Heather picked me a stock stem and found an iridescent magpie feather for me to take home, and we stopped to talk to a fat slug with a copper sheen and a crinolated dorsum. An appealingly-ugly magpie fledgling was flapping stupidly and uselessly by the side of the burn, too confused even to flee from Reekie. Reekie is interested but not predatory towards other animals, inc cats- too clever for killing without being instructed to do so. The fledgling was acting like it wanted to be taken home, but we told it its mum would be by soon.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

The usual

My overseas Dad, who's been checking in here recently, is due thanks for sending me the new Greg Palast, 'Armed Madhouse', hot off the press. Thanks Dad- it's arrived safely and I'm the first kid on the block with this book :).

Still finishing Charles Palliser's The Unburied (A Victorian gothic thriller), but Palast's next on the list in my book pile. I picked up the Palliser novel from my Edinburgh parents' 'to return' shelf, and soon realised I'd probably passed it along last year before lazily failing to finish it. This time I've stuck through it- the first time I've made it through fiction for quite a time. Saving up the denouement for when I'm attending properly.

Kiddos and I have been preoccupied with the Beeb2 program 'Springwatch', with Bill Oddie. This week viewers across the land have, like us, been concerned about the welfare and future of 'Runty', a cult mascot and the smallest of a brood of blue tits. Miraculously, he fledged yesterday and was fed outside of the nest by his mother. Go, Runty.

Daily complaint:
Nini and I share outrage at a recent daytime TV finance advert featuring cartoon puffins, and outrageously showing them nesting on a cliff. This is just wrong. puffins nest in burrows on the crests of seacliffs, often in abandoned rabbit warrens. Anyone who's been watching Simon's ornithological reports on Springwatch from the Shetland Isles would know this.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Editor's note- the Big Brother household was mistakenly alleged to comprise an equipoise of 50% fake to 50% natural tits. In fact, the current count is four to three sets respectively, making the true sample rate 57% plastic to 43% organic.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tomato report 2

This is the tomato plant jungle, with this little beauty plumping up nicely. Along the same stem another couple of miniature fruits are forming. Nini is monitoring growth daily.


Odds and sods

It's a gorgeous day, which is fortunate because we have three BBQs to attend over the weekend. While too many of you will be sitting in a dark pub or sittingroom watching Engerland vs Paraguay I will be soaking up rays, blissfully free of football madness.

I finally got hold of Steve @ IKEA yesterday, and will probably get my refund. Ha! I've been phoning several times per day for a week on a number that was only answered once that whole time. Steve was presumably so frightened by me that he gave me a false surname, which hampered making contact too. But once tracked down he was at pains to make sure I was satisfied with his service. He tells me that if I can obtain written confirmation from my credit card that the sum wasn't previously refunded, I will be reimbursed. Ha ha! They should know better than to hand such a large sum to an impulsive and possibly deranged dolie, whose instant thought is to lose herself abroad somewhere warm with high biodiversity. Like, "I'm worth it".

Of course I have complaints too.

Cupo del Mondo for a start, and all the associated media tsunamis. It's quite possible I will express glee when Engerland get knocked out, which may offend some, but this is a national Scottish pastime. At the latter stages of the tournament, I will pick an underdog black team to support, and will be gutted when they're defeated.

The new housemate entering the Big Brother house is another cosmetically-enhanced woman. This means that the female housemates now have a 50/50 split between those with breast augmentations and those who remain au naturale, who could change camp anytime. Is this a representative sample? In the final vote, I want an option for the implants (independent of their wearers) to win.

Newsnight showed some appalling footage last night of Palestinian families shelled as they played on the beach.. a child chillingly screaming for her father. This is still haunting me this morning. I'm glad they showed it, but surprised that this story didn't make the online Guardian's frontpage. (It's in World News section). Is that because there was enough leftism/dissent shown already by the stories of the freeing of the Forest Gate 2?


ion x


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Baba ghanoush

Perkele! Some men on PoV sometimes piss me off, just as they intend, with their habit of sidewinding when presented with an argument. I should know better than to challenge or engage, because it only raises my blood pressure before it subsequently makes me laugh. Touche.

Anyway, wanted to share a recipe for baba ghanoush, a middle eastern aubergine dip/spread full of flavour and goodness, and even vegan. I've been living off this quantity for three days now, with avocado, prawns, crackers and butternut soup. You need to have a gas hob for this, to blacken the aubergines and capture the essential smokiness of the dish.

2 large aubergines (purple egglants)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Juice of half a lemon
Half cup chopped herbs- flat-leaf parsley, fresh coriander (cilantro), a little mint
2 tbs tahini (sesame paste)
Maldon salt flakes and ground pepper
Dust of cayenne pepper for serving

Blacken your aubergines by directly roasting them on the gas flame, turning every 2 mins or so. The skin will start to split and let jets of steam out of the fruit as it cooks. Transfer to roasting tin and cook for a further 45 mins @ gas mark 5, to dehydrate and sweeten, before cooling.

Peel some of the scabbiest skin off the aubergines, then mash with a hand-blender together with the rest of the ingredients.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Torch songs

Culls from youtube, a collection of (mostly) torch songs.

Teardrop Massive Attack/ Liz Fraser

Ne Me Quitte Pas Jacques Brel

Pair of Brown Eyes Pogues

Never Went to Church The Streets

Cocteaus/Liz Fraser Song to a Siren

Mathilde Scott Walker

Stories of Johnny Marc Almond

Ghosts Japan

Mack the Knife Ute Lemper

Alabama Song David Johanson

Ladytron Roxy Music

Our Mutual Friend Divine Comedy

Sorrow David Bowie


The Case Continues Ute Lemper/Divine Comedy

I'm A Stranger Here Myself Ute/ Weill


Thursday, June 01, 2006


According to kids' dad, our unwanted arthropod pets- head lice- are back, and chemicals were applied to the one more heavily infested contact. Everyone else in the two houses is on the Bugbusting program, to comb out the nymphs before they can plant their nit-bombs. Dodo's collar-length hair isn't so difficult to nit-comb, but Nini's tresses reach right down her back, making it torture for all concerned no matter how much conditioner is slathered. Heather's been through my hair and declared me clear, but all contacts I've informed have, like me, started itching at the news.

They're doughty, resilient little blighters those lice, and endemic in schools such that there's a note home every month or two that lice have broken out in class. There'll be another one going out next week when I alert them of this infestation.

Headlice are not to my knowledge a common vector of microbial disease, thankfully, as so frequently found in arthropods- fleas (plague), biting flies (malaria, yellow fever), ticks (Lyme disease, assorted encephalopathies) or body lice (typhus). Don't get too complacent though, because some sources say head lice can also spread typhus.

One has to question how and why headlice parasites aren't exploiting such a successful, enduring host, and whether this is likely to persist, biologically, as an unexploited niche. If human headlice are cladistically recent offshoots of body lice, as some evidence suggests, it's just a matter a time till some enterprising, capitalist, disease-causing unicellular organism hitches a free ride. Parasites, I understand, comprise about one third of all organisms. That's a successful line of work, biologically.

"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so on ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."