Pain is very distracting

I don't know people with chronic pain manage to go about daily life as well as most of them seem to.

I'm used to feeling pretty good most of the time. Right now I have an extremely painful shoulder, I think self-inflicted from too much archery practice and ironically, exercises designed to strengthen my (pathetically weak) shoulders for archery. In the two-and-a-half days that it's really been bothering me, I've:

  • had a minor parking lot car accident and scratched my car

  • not cared about the damage to my car because I'm ANGRY with it for having such uncomfortable seats that exacerbate my shoulder pain

  • dropped something heavy on my foot

  • walked into doorways

  • closed a drawer on my hand

  • lost patience with my brother-in-law's father's long-winded storytelling at an extended family function and expounded to my brother-in-law about it

  • become annoyed at a man on crutches in the supermarket yesterday for making a clacking noise on the hard floor while he was going about his business of buying fruit and vegetables. Fortunately I kept my feelings about that to myself.

It seems like about 85% of my brainpower is diverted to noticing how sore my shoulder is. I don't think I'm really safe to drive and I'm clearly not fit to be out in public anyway. I suppose if this was my everyday reality I'd learn to manage it?? Those of you who do live with this daily reality have my sympathy!

Counting the minutes until my physio appointment (4,020!).

Natural feet

The Weekend Australian ran a feature about the Pintupi Nine, believed to be the last major group of Aboriginal Australians to abandon a nomadic desert lifestyle 30 years ago.

You probably need a subscription to read the article, but what really jumped out at me was their incredibly healthy-looking feet in this picture taken the day they came into contact with modern Australia (and were given these clothes):

Pintupi Nine

Look at the width of their toes, especially of the women on the right. How many women do you know whose toes are wider than the balls of their feet? Not too many, I'm guessing.

They're just like the "before" case in the diagram from my favourite "natural" podiatrist's website:


My nerve pain that was such a problem for me 18 months ago is completely gone, after switching my footwear to almost 100% Vibram FiveFingers, open flat sandals and other shoes that let the toes be as wide as possible.

Bernard Cornwell: archery and Sharpe

I read Bernard Cornwell's Harlequin because of the archery theme, but didn't like it much thanks to all the rape and plunder. The lead character really enjoyed those aspects of his work. I can't help but wonder whether the author and modern male readers secretly think, "That sounds fun! Those were the days!"

Even though I didn't care for the characters, the book did its job as historical fiction in bringing to life a time period – the 1340s – I knew little about, and I found the author's note at the back mind-blowing for this information:

Benjamin Franklin, no fool, reckoned the American rebels would have won their war much more swiftly had they been practised longbowmen and it is quite certain that a battalion of archers could have outshot and beaten, easily, a battalion of Wellington's veterans armed with smoothbore muskets.

I found it hard to wrap my mind around the assertion that bows and arrows could have beaten soldiers with guns more than 400 years later. I guess the pace of technological advance has sped up immeasurably in recent times!

More information from the author's notes:

One or two longbows might do damage, but thousands would destroy an army, and the English, alone in Europe, were capable of assembling those numbers. Why? The technology could not be simpler, yet still other countries did not produce archers. Part of the answer is surely the great difficulty it took to become an expert archer. It needed hours and years of practice, and the habit of such practice took hold in only some English and Welsh regions. ... For some reason or another the Middle Ages saw a popular enthusiasm for the pursuit in parts of England and Wales that led to the rise of the longbow as a mass weapon of war.

Having not enjoyed Harlequin but not wanting to be left with a bad impression of Cornwell, the creator of Sharpe, I've been revisiting Sharpe (and Harper!) in both print and film. Somehow I'd never seen the final film, Sharpe's Peril, released in 2008. I'm sure Cornwell didn't write this part, but I wish they hadn't made Sharpe beat up and very nearly kill Hakeswill's son in a rage, based only upon who his father was. "Bad blood" is a very poor argument, especially coming from someone with Sharpe's background! I'm not going to count that one as "real" Sharpe, since it wasn't directly based on Cornwell's books.

The 15 years from the first film to the last one take quite a toll on a person, even if you're Sean Bean.

Cornwell has given us so many wonderful Sharpe-Harper scenes. Here's one of my favourites, from Sharpe's Siege (book version) when Sharpe tells Killick and Docherty that he'll let them go if they give him their word they won't fight against Britain for the duration of the war.

Docherty stared in puzzlement at Sharpe. "You'll let all of us go? All the crew?"

"I said so."

"And how do we know...?"

Harper spoke in sudden Gaelic. His words were brief, harshly spoken, and a mystery to every man in the room except to himself and Docherty. The American lieutenant listened to the huge Irishman, then looked back to Sharpe with sudden, unnatural humility. "You have my word."

I can't come up with what Harper could have said that would cause Docherty to look at Sharpe not just with respect but with sudden, unnatural humility, but it must have been incredibly complimentary.


Highlander is the fantasy world that's currently sustaining me through my busy work period, thanks to a rewatch killabeez is running.

I've never actually watched the whole show in order before and there seem to be a few episodes I've never seen at all, which I'm a bit embarrassed to publicly admit. I'm enjoying it so much. There are certainly some not-very-good episodes – so many that when I tried to do a complete in-order rewatch a few summers ago, I gave up – but the gems are fantastic and Duncan is wonderful to look at and listen to almost all the time.

Watching the show the way it was intended has totally changed my view of Richie. I was introduced to the show with season 3-5 episodes as a potential Duncan/Methos fan, and at the time Richie struck me mostly as a character who unfortunately took screen time away from Methos (particularly in "Methos", which is one of the most jarring episodes you could hope to find, with the juxtaposition of the riveting Methos scenes and the lengthy, boring Richie motorcycle racing scenes).

Now I really like him and I'm dreading what's to come. It's going to be a lot worse this time around. He's so game, even when he's completely out of his depth, and genuinely kind (OK, maybe not in "The End of Innocence" when he's so hurt by Duncan almost killing him that he throws himself into playing The Game and ends a 900-year friendship/relationship between a very intriguing odd couple). His dialogue is often fun, starting with the pilot: "Cut off my head? You don't think that's a little extreme for petty theft?" His most annoying habit is his reluctance to believe the truth when he's being conned, but that's not such a bad flaw.

I keep wondering how the Watchers are financed. Who pays all those salaries and bought those big fancy headquarters? Was there an extremely wealthy benefactor centuries ago who set up a trust fund?

Early-show Duncan strikes me as someone with very strong mental health. He says things like "We are what we are" and "Whatever happens, happens" and says he's calm about a certain situation "Because there's nothing I can do about it." He focuses on the positives like the many things he gets to see and do over a long life, not the negatives like losing mortal loved ones, never being able to have children, frequently fighting for his life, and even having to kill people who were his friends in the past. Richie seems to both naturally share Duncan's positive attitude and absorb his teachings.

Tessa had so many traumatic experiences at the hand of various Immortals that it almost struck me as a net positive thing that she was killed. How long could she have gone on like that? I think a person should probably walk away after the second abduction.

Did Tessa have no long-term friends or family who would have noticed that Duncan wasn't aging?

I'm loving being reacquainted with minor characters who haven't crossed my mind in years. My favourite of all is perhaps Damon Case in "The Immortal Cimoli", a strange choice perhaps since he's pretty much a religious fanatic who does nothing but pray and kill other Immortals, but I love his solemnity and his singularity of purpose, sustained through ten centuries!

Joe is another one whose story has much more impact when you watch in order (though his and Duncan's first meeting is great to watch knowing how important they come to be to each other later on). Joe comes close to begging Duncan on several occasions not to cut off their friendship, and he cares so much about it that he left the Watchers and had his tattoo removed on the faint hope that Duncan might speak to him again!

I'm not quite as forgiving of Amanda's foibles as Duncan is, but I've noticed that my "What fresh hell is this?" attitude whenever I get an email from a particularly uninformed and demanding client with that name has been reprogrammed. Now when those emails appear I instead think fondly, "Oh, Amanda!"

Update, with archery

I'm now into both my work and property busy season and am trying to juggle things so I can somehow free up time to read Fool's Assassin in the middle of next week! I know what I'll end up doing is searching for "Fool" and reading those sections first, which is clearly not an ideal plan.

I would be having a rather tedious time, except I accidentally took up a new hobby. Two weekends ago I was driving past the archery park I went to back in 2009 as part of my "new things" project, and decided to drop in and shoot a round to postpone going home to annual reports. I don't know why I let five years go by before going back, since I had fun then and even more fun this time. So much fun in fact that I looked at beginner bows in their store afterwards and decided to buy one, rationalising that holding the bow and pulling the string back would be excellent exercise for my arms and shoulders and would help counteract time at the computer.

Most modern bows aren't made of wood, but I paid a little more to get one with a wooden handle, rationalising again that since it would be living in my house I wanted it to look nice. Which it does, at least to my uneducated eyes. If I ever join a club maybe I'll feel the need to get something more up-to-date!


I initially just bought four arrows, but upgraded to a quiver and more arrows this week. Back quivers apparently aren't the thing any more, but I want to impersonate Legolas and also stretch my right shoulder as much as possible, so that's what I went with. It is seriously fun to reach behind you take out an arrow! I'm sure it has to be more fun than having the arrows hanging at your side.

There are some logistics issues with archery:

1. You need a target that will stop your arrows and is big enough that you can hit it most of the time. For now I'm using hay bales, but apparently wool bales stuffed with tightly-packed plastic are also good.

2. You need room to miss safely. Fortunately I have that, and this new use for my space is making me better disposed to all the work of weed spraying and mowing and whippersnippering at this time of year.

3. You need to find your arrow when you miss, which is more difficult than it sounds. The arrow embeds itself in soft ground leaving only a tiny bit visible. This is becoming less of a problem as I miss the bales entirely less often.


(I took the bulls-eye target off after the first day, since it clearly wasn't going to last very long. Now I just aim at the middle of one of the bottom two bales.)

If any locals are interested in giving it a try, come to the archery park with me! huckle and her family came up last weekend and we did the beginner's course. I tried the intermediate course this week and would happily do it every day if I could. Maybe one day I'll get good enough to hit the zombie.

Also, if you can recommend books with a strong archery element, please let me know. There's Legolas in Lord of the Rings of course, and Alec in the Nightrunner series – which I recently reread and which probably had me subconsciously primed to acquire a bow.

Catching up on Temeraire

It's year-end for accountants in Australia, so I'm busy crunching numbers (crunch, crunch, crunch). I find that fantasy goes excellently with accounting. It pulls the mind away from spreadsheets and sends it off with dragons, so I've been making time to read at least a little bit every day.

Belatedly hearing Collapse ) made me want to catch up on Temeraire, something I'd postponed indefinitely after not enjoying Tongues of Serpents very much. I'm now back on board and anticipating the final book next year. I've even reread Tongues of Serpents and enjoyed it more on my second attempt. Now I feel bad for ever distrusting Naomi Novik and not hurrying to read her new books immediately.

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Every time I pick up a Temeraire book, I want to go back and reread the first one, which is still my clear favourite. The wonderful scenes of Temeraire's hatching! Temeraire's rescue of the sailor overboard and Laurence's realisation that until then he'd never said a word of approval to him! Granby getting off to such a bad start with Laurence and having to apologise! Jane Roland shocking Laurence with her aviator's ways but quickly becoming close to him! Laurence furiously telling his former shipmate not to speak negatively of Temeraire or of aviators, when Laurence is looking out at Temeraire with pride and Captain Bedford pities him: "You will not speak to me in such terms... I wonder that you could imagine such an address acceptable." Levitas! Hollin being overcome at the thought of his own dragon!