Ikebana – the art of floral arrangement

Ikenobo Moribana [freer] arrangement

People have long appreciated beautiful flowers and arranged them in vases. However, in Japan, the way of arranging flowers and plants has been carefully systematised and this is called ‘Kado’.

In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), the Samurai (elite warrior class) wrested the power of government from the aristocrats and brought great lifestyle and fashion changes into the whole of Japanese society.

At this time it became fashionable to create a Tokonoma, a small sacred alcove, in a zashiki (Japanese room). The Tokonoma would contain a flower arrangement, incense and a candle. It is because the space is an alcove, that traditional styles of Ikebana are designed to be viewed only from the front.

Ikebana, the art of floral arrangement, is simple in the basic materials and tools it requires. All you need is a shallow wide-mouthed container and some metal frogs. A metal frog is a holder with spiked needles into which you stick stems and twigs. In a shallow vase, add a little water and put in the metal frog and the container is ready to take in any flower arrangement.

The upright is the most basic structure and this arrangement looks good in shallow pots. The slanting, which is an ideal composition for beginners looks beautiful in tall containers like bamboo or pitchers. Again, in ikebana, the lines described by the elements are considered more attractive than the form and colour.

A branch or a twig in a gentle flowing line is preferred or considered more aesthetic than a group of flowers in full blossom. The arrangement is necessarily asymmetrical and the empty spaces that the arrangements circumscribe are equally important as those the materials encompass.

Basically, there are three triangular spatial groups – the higher level is upright central, the intermediate level which is slanting, and the lower level which is inverted, around which the materials are arranged. Thus the above-mentioned three levels signify heaven, earth and mankind!

Ikenobo is a school of Ikebana. It is the oldest school of Ikebana in Japan, having been founded in the 15th century by the Buddhist monk Ikenobo Senno. The school, currently headed by its 45th generation headmaster, Ikenobo Sen’ei, is based in the Rokkakudo Temple in Kyoto.

Space quiz – try these five

1. On January 31, 1958, Satellite 1958 Alpha was launched. What was it more commonly known as? Hint: E…..

2. To be fair, the Soviets had been first with the First intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957. What was it called? Hint: Letter and number or the Russian name S…..

3. On May 5, 1961, which astronaut, one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts selected as pilot for this mission, became the first American in space when he piloted Freedom 7 on a 15-minute suborbital flight? Hint: AS

4. In 1960 the first dogs went into orbit aboard Sputnik 5. We often erroneously say that Laika went into space but that is the type of dog. There were actually two dogs – what were their names? Hint: B&S.

5. On December 11, 1972, who were the last astronauts to [allegedly] land on the moon? Hint: EC & H[J]S


Explorer 1; the R-7 Semyorka; Alan Shepard; Belka and Strelka; Eugene Cernan and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt

Reverse osmosis – on everyone’s lips

The weekend’s coming and that means it’s time to explain Reverse Osmosis to those who still don’t quite get it. Of course, this just draws on the excellent How Stuff Works article on the topic:

On the left is a beaker filled with water, and a tube has been half-submerged in the water. As you would expect, the water level in the tube is the same as the water level in the beaker. In the middle figure, the end of the tube has been sealed with a “semipermeable membrane” and the tube has been half-filled with a salty solution and submerged.

Initially, the level of the salt solution and the water are equal, but over time, something unexpected happens — the water in the tube actually rises. The rise is attributed to “osmotic pressure.”

A semipermeable membrane is a membrane that will pass some atoms or molecules but not others. Saran wrap is a membrane, but it is impermeable to almost everything we commonly throw at it. The best common example of a semipermeable membrane would be the lining of your intestines, or a cell wall.

Gore-tex is another common semipermeable membrane. Gore-tex fabric contains an extremely thin plastic film into which billions of small pores have been cut. The pores are big enough to let water vapor through, but small enough to prevent liquid water from passing.

In the figure above, the membrane allows passage of water molecules but not salt molecules. One way to understand osmotic pressure would be to think of the water molecules on both sides of the membrane. They are in constant Brownian motion.

On the salty side, some of the pores get plugged with salt atoms, but on the pure-water side that does not happen. Therefore, more water passes from the pure-water side to the salty side, as there are more pores on the pure-water side for the water molecules to pass through. The water on the salty side rises until one of two things occurs:

* The salt concentration becomes the same on both sides of the membrane (which isn’t going to happen in this case since there is pure water on one side and salty water on the other).

* The water pressure rises as the height of the column of salty water rises, until it is equal to the osmotic pressure. At that point, osmosis will stop.

Osmosis, by the way, is why drinking salty water (like ocean water) will kill you. When you put salty water in your stomach, osmotic pressure begins drawing water out of your body to try to dilute the salt in your stomach.

Eventually, you dehydrate and die. Isn’t that nice?

In reverse osmosis, the idea is to use the membrane to act like an extremely fine filter to create drinkable water from salty (or otherwise contaminated) water. The salty water is put on one side of the membrane and pressure is applied to stop, and then reverse, the osmotic process. It generally takes a lot of pressure and is fairly slow, but it works.

War games – players jockey for position

The Madalene [whose link leads to a photo of Madame Lash and therefore undercuts his position] points to this, from Bloomberg:

Iran and Venezuela signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $1.5 billion oil refinery in Syria, the Regional Press Network reported in a story published on the Web site of Lebanon’s The Daily Star.

Venezuela would hold a 33 percent stake in the project, Iran would have 26 percent, Syria 26 percent and Malaysia 15 percent, the report said, citing Mohammed Ali Talebi, an official at Iran’s Petropars Ltd. The plant would have the capacity to process 140,000 barrels of oil a day.

Neither Iran nor Venezuela said when construction would start, according to the report.

It seems to me that the forces in the known world are aligning themselves, whether or not this refinery ever gets built. On one side are the communist leaders of China and North Korea, along with the Saudi princes, Gaddafi, the Iran nutter, Malaysia [which also has a dicey record] and so on – the pariahs of the sane world.

On the other are Obama, Brown and Sarkozy, Mandelson, the Bilderbergers et al. Russia is playing its own game but the top is aligned with the club.

Nothing whatever to do with us, the ordinary people. I’m no socialist and yet there is this niggling point that the battle is between two sectors of this ruling club who decide when it’s time to stir up a war. The economic crisis is one thing, people out of work, people on benefits, loss of homes, pressure on available homes for rental and so on.

That’s bad but much worse is the inevitable result of these things – war. This is the mentality which has come down through the past few centuries, the same dialectic, the same militaristic motif – finding the issue on which to wax rhetorical so that the MIC can be set into full swing.

They want war. That’s all there is to it. I keep coming back to John Buchan MP who was kicked upstairs or put out to pasture, whichever term you care to employ, for speaking truths and even putting them in books. In The 39 Steps, he has his little agent say:

The first thing I learned was that it was no question of preventing a war. That was coming, as sure as Christmas: had been arranged, said Scudder, ever since February 1912. Karolides was going to be the occasion.

He was booked all right, and was to hand in his checks on June 14th, two weeks and four days from that May morning. I gathered from Scudder’s notes that nothing on earth could prevent that. His talk of Epirote guards that would skin their own grandmothers was all billy-o.

The second thing was that this war was going to come as a mighty surprise to Britain. Karolides’ death would set the Balkans by the ears, and then Vienna would chip in with an ultimatum.

That book was published in 1915 and was therefore written earlier, by a British MP who later wnet on to become Governor-General of Canada, as Lord Tweedsmuir. The work is fiction and yet the man had a closer knowledge than most of the goings on at the time.

These days, the doings are better concealed but around the turn of the century, in Buchan’s day, things were far easier to glean. The Jeckyll Island meeting was observed, Colonel House’s and Warburg’s machinations seen for what they were and it wasn’t such a big deal understanding how these things work.

Today, with the power of the net and with Google at hand, you’d think we would all be au fait but it seems we’re still light years away from understanding, simply because we’re accepting the pap we’re fed by the MSM, we wish to have it that way in fact and it’s an uphill battle getting people to join the dots.

Those who do join the dots see something we can’t deal with – too organized, too interlocked. How did I get here from a Venezuelan/Iranian oil deal? Chavez, Mugabe and Hitler have shown how one man with a rampant ego and a desire to straddle the world like a Colossus can cause such enormous damage because everyone kowtows and similar megalomaniacs in the world recognize him and can play him at his own game.

It only takes one man, one forceful and yet insane person to achieve this mayhem. Have you ever wondered why this happens – this constant churning out of and pushing up of this type of person into positions of genuine power in their land and therefore on the world stage? He couldn’t do it on his own. Clearly he is piggybacked by others seeing his potential for them.

The essential thing that anyone representing the interests of the majority of people desiring a comfortable life, free from the ravages of war and pestilence, must try to do is to find a way to break this stranglehold on world events. As for your humble correspondent, I don’t particularly care to be swept along by the tide of events these nutters set in motion.

Web bots predict collapse

Good article in the Telegraph today.  Of course the sceptics are right here – there are cogent reasons for these results.  You don’t need web bots to do simple research and equally, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Are you cussin’ me, man?

The issue of race is consuming the U.S., if the media’s to be believed, which I don’t.

It seems to me that Washington Rebel, through Irish Cicero, at Theo Spark’s [sounds like a racehorse pedigree], has it right when he quotes Booker T. Washington [how derivative we bloggers are]:

“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public.

Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well.”

The picture [above left] was carried at the top of an article on race issues in Hollywood and now it’s the blacks who see this relationship in the picture as taboo. They have this “pride” thing going, you see, where whitey is considered to be of inferior stock.

My attitude to blacks can be gleaned from last evening’s listening or from this evening’s.

There’s a distinct difference in culture and style between races … and in some things, such as soul, rhythm and winning sporting events, I don’t think the black can be beaten. Women have told me they’re not bad as lovers either. In other things, they’re often too laid back to be of much use.

If you look at the Crystals this evening, the question is what’s black and what’s white? What’s a negro and caucasian’s offspring to be called? What about a native American [Red Indian] with a grandchild of an African negro? Who cares? One can still have unworthy thoughts about La La Brooks. I’d have been burnt by the KKK as a nigger lover long ago although I’m sorry to disappoint that I’m not a long-haired hippy.

As Shakespeare observed – what’s in a name and what’s in a label? The attitude the person displays is the issue, not the names he uses. The way he uses the name is relevant, not the actual name he uses.

Now I deliberately use the name “black” as a direct consequence of the following, in the Irish Times, of April 25th, 1998, when Whoopi Goldberg was quoted as saying:

I dislike this idea that if you’re a black person in America, then you must be called an African-American. I’m not an African. I’m an American. Just call me black if you want to call me anything.

Couldn’t agree more. And I’d go further and reiterate that there are differences, just as there are between men and women, adults and children, those differences should be celebrated and they add to the rich colour of life [pun half-intended]. For goodness sake, a dark-skinned Italian is different to a freckly, white-skinned Anglo-Saxon. Does that stop anyone making love?

It’s an act of PC insanity to pretend differences don’t exist but it’s a trickier question whether those differences make … er … a difference in your attitude.

Fourteen years ago, a black youth demanded of me:

“Are you cussin’ me, Man?”



“You asked me a question and I’m answering it. Yep, I’m cussin’ you, as you put it.”

“You admit you’re a racist?”

“No, I’m not racist in the least. Why would I keep the company of people like you if I was racist? But I am cussin’ you because you just said a very pratty thing – totally moronic, in fact. Anyone can do that and you just did.”

I imagine he went off and reported me to someone for racism. The colour of his skin was of no consequence – he was actually a good looking person. But his sense of victimhood was a pain in the butt and it was a very black thing to throw at whitey. And I’ve known plenty of lazy blacks and plenty of lazy whites too.

So what?

I think we need to get real on this issue, instead of using it as a big stick to bash someone with and to gain ourselves advantage in society.

School children forced into sex

This post was first run at the old Nourishing Obscurity and had many comments which have not been brought over here.

It starts off all right:

In their most impressionable adolescent years, a third of high school students say they have experienced unwanted sex. The vulnerability of teenagers, especially girls, is highlighted by a survey of the sexual experiences of almost 3000 students, in years 10 and 12. It found the most common reasons for unwanted sex were pressure from a partner or just being drunk.

Researcher Anthony Smith told The Age that, strikingly, girls in year 12 were having more sexual partners and drinking 30 per cent more than they did when a similar survey was done in 2002.

… then it draws precisely the wrong conclusion:

Professor Smith said the extent of unwanted sex detected in teenagers underscored the need for sex education in schools to better explain links between underage drinking and sexual behaviour that might be accompanied with regret later.

It underscores nothing of the bloody kind – it underscores the exact opposite. This so-called sex education in schools is what has caused the whole thing, along with other outside influences. If parents would just assert themselves – WTF are they frightened of – that their kiddies won’t love them any more if they make moves to restrict their kids movements by a reasonable amount, teach responsibility and then go into that school and find out who’s pressurizing your kid to have sex?

If every parent stopped being a rabbit, wringing the hands and saying, “Oh, what can we do?”, together they’d change the scene within a year. They’re beyond your reach? Bullsh – kids are kids and respond to Fair, Firm and Friendly. So what if your the Great Ogre for a couple of years? So what if they say they hate you but deep down, they don’t?

Kid’s perspective

Everyone is agreed about rape, yes? That it is the most debilitating thing, that it’s a gross violation, yes? Well what about the kid with no world experience and no judgement, having to do things ahead of time and why? Because a bunch of peers press gang him or her into it. If a kid has sex even one day before being ready, even one minute, then it is rape. Just because the perpetrators are underage and can’t be charged, does that make it any better?

Think about it. Think back to being a kid and how there were things you didn’t want to do. Think of a whole gang of kids who are expecting you to do it. Think of the way you can never tell mum or dad. Think of the teachers who are aiding and abetting this, teachers of the “all things are OK” ilk today, telling their classes that “when” they have sex, not “if” or “years later, when you’re old enough”, “years later, after you’re married” for goodness sake, laughing and joking along so that the kids think their teachers are “with it” in the modern world – think of that kid going along with it all because she [or he] has to but silently not wanting any of it.

Does anyone think of that? And please don’t say teachers don’t do that because I’ve seen them having a laugh in the staffroom about it and saying things like, “Oo, Felicity’s starting early.”

So lets start by ticking this professor off with his “progressive” ideas and then we can start to get kids back into the families where they belong, free of all this external mentoring.

A society which has ceased to protect its children is a society which has ceased to function.