Friday, January 30, 2009

Why, yes, it is.

Warning: Cricket content

Channel 9 are having a poll, as to whether Warner's wicket is the worst possible way to get out. And yes, it is. Getting out through no fault of your own OR the opposition's is pretty sad.

For anyone who cares and wasn't watching, Hussey hammered the ball straight back at the bowler, who tried to field it, missed, but his pinky just glanced the ball and it went on to hit the wicket where Warner was out of his crease at the non-striker's end. That sucks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Perhaps we should consider a dictatorship

I was going to write a post about the morons who think taking away public holidays is a good thing, and I was looking for an online reference for the state's head moron saying that it is rare for a public holiday to fall on a Saturday (yeah, right - it will happen again next year for a start!). In wandering through Google's results, I found a link to the NSW Labor party's blog. I'm sure you'll be stunned to learn that it doesn't accept comments. I was trundling through the randomly ordered posts (I think it puts its favourites at the top, and then the chronological sorting starts below, but it is rather confusing when you are just skimming) and I found this gem. It's from today and the infinite stupidity of this government continues to stun me.

They are going to raise the minimum school leaving age to 17.
...if a student is under 17 and wants to leave school after Year 10, they will need to be in vocational training, an apprenticeship or paid employment for more than 25 hours per week.
This is justified by a bunch of statistics (described as "evidence")

  • Better wages over a lifetime -- On average early school leavers will earn lower wages over a lifetime and are more likely to be unemployed for periods of their lives (Source: Access Economics 2006);
  • A better chance of employment -- According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, early school leavers are two-and-a-half times more likely to be unemployed;
  • A stronger economy – the NSW economy stands to gain an estimate of up to $2.7 billion if early school leaver numbers are halved by 2050 (Source: Applied
    Economics); and
  • A better trained workforce – those who complete school are more likely to pursue further study/training.
A whole series of correlations without even a pretence of causality. There is no evidence presented at all that forcing kids who currently leave school early to stay on will improve their outcomes in any of these areas.

The school system simply doesn't work for everyone. There will be some kids who would be better off elsewhere. I realise that they will still be allowed to leave if they have a job or apprenticeship, but sometimes life doesn't run that conveniently. If school is proving to be a Bad Thing for someone, they are better off getting out first, and then dealing with where to go next.

And just in case the philosophy doesn't convince you, think of the beauracracy! And the obvious rorts. You want to leave school, you go get a job at Maccas working 25 hours a week, sign the form, lodge it with... who? and then quit 6 weeks later. It costs the state a small fortune to implement and makes no difference to anyone, except possibly managing to add yet more stigma to the poor kids who don't thrive in our school system.

Which brings us to the next blood pressure raising statement in this delightful piece:
“We have a first-rate education system in NSW,” Mr Rees said.
Really? I'm thinking some kids at Miller, Rooty Hill and others may take issue with that. Personally, we are very lucky to have an awesome local public school, and I support our public system, but to describe it as first-rate state wide is to dismiss the atrocious experiences of a huge number of kids.

The rest is just "kids as future labour market fodder" bullshit that makes me angry every time I read it.

But ultimately, where does the state government get off telling people exactly how they must live their lives right up to the age of 17? If we want our teenagers to grow into responsible adults, we have to stop treating them as children. This is the time they are supposed to start making their own decisions and their own mistakes - when they still have time to learn and recover from those mistakes. If the state takes control of their lives, they'll be teenagers well into their late 20s. There's way too much of that already!

Given that the Liberal party in NSW still seem to missing in action, I think we should throw everyone's name into a hat, draw one out and name them Supreme Dictator of NSW. They can't possibly do a worse job.

I should have seen it coming

Around 20 minutes after putting the boys to bed this evening, I was ensconced in taking silly quizzes* and seriously considering a shower when my self indulgence was rudely interrupted by many very loud thumps from above. So I hauled my arse up the stairs and opened the bedroom door to find both boys in the middle of the room giggling and looking incredibly guilty. Ben scarpered straight up to his bunk and reluctantly informed me that they were playing "jumping off the bed".

After reading the riot act, I left the room to the strains of the Presidents of the United States of America. Perhaps I shouldn't let the boy choose his own bedtime music...

*Apparently I am Belle (whoever she is), Alice Cullen, going to die in my sleep, 70% Wilmington (wherever that is) and only 17% redneck.**

**I am also becoming way too fond of footnotes

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm one of THOSE parents

Yesterday we had a barbecue to celebrate the Hottest 100 and Australia Day. It was a fantastic day - cool enough to be comfortable and the usual complement of good friends, good food and good wine. But it also caused me to show my true colours - I am one of those parents who discipline other people's children. Yesterday I confiscated toys (aka weapons), insisted on apologies and issued cease and desist orders. I didn't actually issue, or even threaten, any timeouts*, apparently I do have some kind of line I won't cross.

It's a messy grey world. As a responsible adult, I feel the need to act. I also feel I should be able to deal with a situation (up to a point) without bothering the parent in question. I feel this much more strongly with kids the same age as mine. On the other hand, I know some people take quite some exception to anyone else speaking to their kids. I am not one of those people, but depending on what experiences one may have had with drive by parenting, I can understand where they are coming from.

In the end, it's my house, and I feel responsible for everyone in it. Therefore I think I will continue to discpline other people's children if I am Johnny on the Spot.

You have been warned...

*I did threaten one person with a timeout, but at 40-odd, he would have occupied the bathroom for too long to be acceptable to the comfort of others...

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm a left wing raving looney

My Political Views
I am a left social libertarian
Left: 6.9, Libertarian: 4.8

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -5.72

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -7.24

Political Spectrum Quiz

I pretty much already knew that.... :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Thanks to Mim, who was awarded a Butterfly Award and generously passed it on to me.

Meme rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to ten other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

And the cool blogs I'd like to send a butterfly to:

WoLFi Tales
Punkin Dunk
A Room of Mama's Own

And yes Mim, I tried to read that "o" as an "e" several times before I accepted the dodgy grammar... :)

Big Day Out

The Big Day Out kicked off in Auckland on 16th January and hit Sydney on Friday. Headliners were The Prodigy, Neil Young and the Dropkick Murphys.

Getting tickets is getting sillier and sillier each year, but thanks to Triple J telling everyone they had sold out, I managed to grab some.

Unlike Homebake, the organisational aspects are improving all the time at BDO. It took us just under an hour from being dropped at the railway station to watching a band - trains travelled, mates met, bags searched, Over 18 wristbands on and the first bottle of water of the day secured. The number of bars has increased significantly, and the queues were quite short. No concern about whether you'll be able to go get another beer. Less insane drinking. If it wasn't for the 768,000 police desperately looking for party drugs (Oh noooess, people might take Ecstacy and be nice to each other!!!), there would only be good things to say about the Powers That Be.

The first band I was keen to see was Children Collide, a Melbourne band who play weird rock. The seemed pretty good, but we were in the stands of the main stage, and the sound is nearly always abysmal in the main arena before the sun goes down. I don't know how much of it is the sound people and how much is the effect of an arena full of hot, swirling air, but it is pretty annoying. It was too hot to convince ourselves to go down and get closer, so I'll chalk them up to someone I want to see elsewhere.

Next up we wandered up to the green stage to get a beer and see Youth Group and Little Red. I saw Youth Group a couple of years ago on the same stage, but they didn't really grab me then. They may have just done a more lively set this time, but I quite enjoyed them.

I liked Little Red at Homebake, and with with me up off my arse (rather than sitting under a tree), they were even better. Definitely a good fun band you'd be happy to see live any time. Very old school rock - very strong 60's influences.

After that I went back to the main stage for Cog, while some of my friends stayed for the Ting Tings. Cog had much the same problem as Children Collide, but I love their music and hung around anyway. Must make an effort to see them somewhere else too.

Back to the green stage for the Black Kids, which didn't really grab me - I can't remember much of them. After that we needed a break from the heat and sun, so we sat and drank water and chatted while TV on the Radio and Died Pretty did their thing nearby.

By 7pm the heat was out of the sun, and while it wasn't cool, it wasn't the 35 C it had been earlier either, and we settled into the main stage for The Living End. I haven't seen them in years, and they were fantastic. Prisoner of Society is still an awesome song, and their more recent White Noise is bloody good too.

The Arctic Monkeys were amusing enough, not my bag, but I don't mind hearing their stuff on the radio. I heard an interview with them in which they said they were doing a cover of Nick Cave's Red Right Hand. The interviewer (Richard Kingsmill from Triple J) almost kept his astonishment at bay, and asked if it had a different sound or if it was menacing like the original. They said it was different, but still menacing. Not so much. Hysterical, yes, menacing, not even slightly. Every single time they sang the words "red right hand" I dissolved into giggles. If you don't know Nick Cave, go listen to the You Tube link, and then compare with this.

After that it was back to the green stage for The Butterfly Effect. These guys hooked me at the BDO five years ago. Forced me to go out and buy their first album, which has lead, inevitably, to me buying the subsequent two. They have advanced from mid-afternoon on the green stage to second last - and their music is definitely better suited to the dark. The only down side is that I could no longer casually stand 10 feet from the stage - the 5000 other people were making that difficult. Clint Boge's voice is amazing, and at least as good live as in the studio. He's not too hard on the eyes either, although I liked him better without hair. I must see these guys more often, I must see these guys more often....

Unfortunately, The Butterfly Effect clashed with Neil Young. I'd have stayed and watched him if it wasn't for my slight obsession. We got back for the last half hour or so of Neil Young, but we'd missed most of my fav's. He was as self indulgent as you would expect for someone of his calibre, and the songs I saw had more endings than a Nightmare on Elm St movie. But his sound was clean and tight and thoroughly enjoyable. He finished with Rockin' in the Free world - for about 15 minutes. Always fun. Then he came back for an encore with a surprisingly awesome cover of A Day in the Life - although I have to admit it was less creepy when John Lennon sang "I'd love to turn you on".

So we were home by about 11:30pm, smelly and in desperate need of a cup of tea. Trains ran smoothly to get home again - and my ticket even worked in the machine, despite having got drenched when I had drowned myself repeatedly in an effort to deal with the heat.

Excellent day, great company. Bring on next year!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


It doesn't matter if they say it a thousand times, it doesn't make it so.

100 people were arrested for drug related offences at the Big Day Out yesterday.

Superintendent Brett Henderson says he is disappointed that so many people have brought drugs to the festival.

"Any type of illicit drug taking is a problem not just for the police, but for the community," he said.

"If these people are taking drugs and coming to this venue in this type of heat, not only have they committed crimes beforehand, but they place themselves and others at these sites at great risk."

They keep saying this, and yet they sell alcohol. When people take the kinds of drugs they take at festivals, they drink lots of water. They tend not to want alcohol, so when they are thirsty, they drink water. The law-abiding citizens who drink the exhorbitantly priced alcohol drink more beer when they are thirsty. I noticed no mention of the number of very messy people at the end of the day.

Illicit drug taking at music festivals is a problem imagined by politicians, and cared about only by police. There's nothing quite like Ecstasy to make sure a crowd of people look after each other. The same can't be said for booze. And I say that as a booze drinker myself. Although if I could buy myself some actual, dose controlled ekky for my one or two music festivals a year, there'd be little or no alcohol in my festival going experience.

A community service

My mother gave me a bag of fancy dress clothes to go through to see whether I wanted to keep any of them. Among others, there was a kid's cat costume, a lovely duck egg blue late '40s dress and short cape, a '20s number and this.

I felt complete personal humiliation was a small price to pay to share this gem with the world.

My mother wore this little number in all seriousness, circa 1980. Note the sci fi style padded rings around the shoulders.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When stereotypes collide

Today I pulled up next to a man in a 4WD, with fluffy dice* hanging from his rear vision mirror. He was smoking. He threw the butt out the window and turned left without indicating.

Some people just live the stereotypes.

*Did fluffy dice become chic again without my knowing? I seem to see them everywhere recently.

Two quotes worth sharing

Last night at the pub, the conversation turned to Wikipedia, or more specifically, deliberate Wiki sabotaging.

Nerida: Get This (a radio show -ed) changed the Karl Stefanovic entry to show that he was a robot fathered by C3PO.

Pat: What!?! I thought C3PO was gay!

And this afternoon in the car (to me):

Ben: How come it's 2009 and you were born thousands and thousands of years ago?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good news story

It's good to know that not all common thieves have lost their morals altogether. Someone swiped a car in Brisbane today and it had a 13 week old baby girl in it.

After what must have been the worst 2.5hrs of her mother's life, she was found in the car with its air conditioning running. She is fine.

This article brought to you by the people who are sick of reading only about death and doom.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vale Spike Jones

Everyone's a good bloke when they're dead, but Spike Jones was a good bloke when he was alive. He was the only broker I knew who didn't drink - because "I'm like this sober" - and sober he had been known to crash tackle people into water coolers, instigate insane bets and create mischief at every opportunity. All in good fun. And the thing was, it just about never crossed that line.

But the reason the world is little poorer today, is that Spike really cared. He was one of those people who listened to the answer when he asked how you were. I can't say I knew him well, just as a bloke I worked with for a good many years, but still, on a couple of occasions when Crash asked for his help, he didn't just oblige, he put his all into it. Richard started a "Shave for the cure" day which he roped me into early and it looked like we'd raise a few thousand. Then Spike bought in. It turned into a major bash at a pub in the city that raised about $65k. He had that infectious enthusiasm that makes every occasion an Event. He always worked Christmas Eve, because he always organised a champagne breakfast for everyone who had to be in the office - a rare gesture in the broking world.

I can't do the man justice here, I just don't write well enough. He helped his daughter survive losing a leg to bone cancer as a child, worked for the Children's Cancer Institute for many years and sadly lost his own battle with cancer yesterday.

We'll all miss you Spike, I'm sure the markets were a bit quieter today in your honour.

Rest in peace, mate.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A sense of accomplishment

Today I attacked the god forsaken rubbish tip and dog toilet that is the side of our house. It is a narrow passage, half dirt, half concrete, that houses the bins and collects many, many pine needles. The rubbish tip aspect is the little odds and sods that miss the bins or get blown out, and since nobody ever goes there (we access the bins from the verandah and a very well defined track to the front yard) the dog poo seems to compost away very quickly in the pine needles and dirt.

In short, it was pretty disgusting and I have been avoiding it on the basis of it being overwhelming for a long, long time. This morning, however, I was moved to action and went out in dirty clothes and gloves, removed the bins, grabbed a rake and got to work. It took all of about half an hour to clean it up completely, including trimming back the tree so that you no longer risk decapitation if you dare to venture past the bins.

Buoyed by my incredible efficiency, I went to the hardware store to buy the world's most expensive compost bin. It was chosen to hold all our vegetable waste and require no maintenance from me. I am prepared to pay a lot of money to not have to turn compost or keep worms alive. After a ridiculous hour long debacle in which anything that could go wrong, did go wrong, I got it home without getting even slightly irritated. Well, alright, when I finally got to the point of putting the thing in the car and I couldn't drive to where I needed to be because a black ute had parked slap bang in the middle of the driveway, I may have uttered something about "bloody ute drivers", but that was all!

Crash then got inspired and cut the bit of fence being used as an impromptu gate (for the last 6 years) down to a size to make a more sensible impromptu gate further down the side of the house, thus increasing the run for the kids and the dog. The whole area is still primarily a bin storage place, but I am now happy to walk down there, happy for the kids to play in the area and I have a *huge* compost bin which I half filled today. This is as close to gardening as I get.

Anybody like to take bets on how long it lasts?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I wish to register a complaint

Dear Weather Gods,

I would like to draw your attention to the debacle that has been our recent weather. When I was a child, there were seasons. It was hot in summer and cold in winter. Granted, it jumped around a little in spring and autumn, but there was a certain elegance to the rises and falls.

On Thursday, it was 48 C (118 F). Even McDonalds' air conditioning couldn't make it cool inside. Today, it was 21 C (70 F). Ben was wearing a long sleeved shirt and tracksuit pants. This is just poor planning. If you don't pay attention and use too much heat one day, we all suffer when there isn't enough to go around a couple of days later.

I understand that you must all be very busy trying to determine the new look weather patterns with the steady rise of global warming, but please try to take some pride in your work along the way.


The Alphabet Game

Mim has been playing the alphabet game, and it looked like fun to me, so I stuck my hand up and she offered me a G.

10 things I like starting with G:

1. Growing up: I love watching my kids growing up. This is why I had them.

Apparently I also had them to revel in watching them dress up in silly clothes...

2. Gardens: Particularly scented ones, but any kind is good. I have a special appreciation for them, since I am neither fond of nor good at making them myself.

Image credit: Linda Yvonne

3. Giving: I love giving presents, although I always panic that the gift is wrong at the last moment. Although I can't say I love it when there is obligation without inspiration.

4. Grapes: I'm eating them as I type, and I am rather fond of them fermented and bottled too.

Image credit: No idea, seems to be in lots of places.

5. Giggles: Little kid giggles and adult giggles. Life would be dull without a good sense of the silly. And I love how infectious a good giggle is.

6. Google: Without it I am nothing. Or at least I am left wondering. It's also pretty handy when I am faking competence.

7. Gigs: Live music is a big part of my life, which took a major backseat whilst I was breeding. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back out there since Elissa was big enough to be left at home. Never missed a Big Day Out for kids though - only for a week of wine tasting! I went in '03 when Ben was 6 weeks old.

Sydney Big Day Out 2007 - Killers

Image Credit: Jonathan

8. Galadriel: The Hobbit changed my reading habits forever, and when I moved on to LoTR, Galadriel was one of the characters that struck me as a 12 year old. She was sad and noble and graceful and beautiful and powerful.

Image Credit: Tolkien Gateway

9. Gastronomy: I'm a foodie, love to cook myself, and love to eat out. We celebrate every significant occasion with a good meal, even New Year's Eve has evolved into a feast.

10. Ghost movies: Supernatural horror movies and thrillers are probably my favourite genre. Rarely done well, when they get it right, they're awesome.

If you haven't played already, or would like another letter, comment here and I'll chuck one your way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pipe dreams

Back in the days when I really worked part time, I often downed tools after lunch and spent some quality time watching lifestyle shows with my sister - notably Grand Designs and other property type shows. Somewhere in that era, Nerida first broached the concept of the Uber-house.

The idea was to get ourselves a bit of land somewhere big enough to build 3 medium sized houses and a central building with the uber kitchen and entertaining space. This would house our family, Nerida and our mother and her partner. We fantasised about eco-friendly buildings, solar panels and a truly awesome kitchen. We even looked a little at land prices in a few places, but it mostly confirmed my suspicions that we would never find a location that would suit us all.

Then last week Nerida said that another two people were keen to opt in, and we all starting dreaming again. So whilst in the Hunter this past week, we looked again at land prices. What we found has fuelled all sorts of silliness. The prices are extraordinarliy low. I don't know whether this is everywhere, or whether there has been an excess of people investing in property up there on the back of market portfolios that are no longer sufficient security.

We don't really have a plan, and I suspect everyone has a slightly different vision of what the uber-house would be. But for me, the real question is whether I could really do this, should the myriad other issues be settled.

I am a city person, I like going to the pub on a regular basis. I like being within an affordable cab ride of the city for a show or good meal. But mostly I like being close to my friends. Moving bush scares the bejesus out of me. On the other hand, I hate the restrictions put on the kids' independence by the city. I am attracted to the possibilities of building and living sustainably, and especially of living slower.

There are a host of practical issues - education, making a living (although there is no shortage of theories on this one) and ultimately the balance sheet. But none of those concern me, if this is a Good Thing, all that stuff will resolve itself.

Would I be happy? I just can't imagine living more than a couple of hours from the people who are such an important part of our lives. But if it was within that zone, on the north side of Sydney, and we had guest accommodation (always a part of the uber-house plan), a social life would still be possible. My experience growing up in a country town after living in the city doesn't give me much hope of making real friends in the sticks. And that is a great concern for the kids. It would be awesome for them to be able to roam about on their own, but they need friends too. Or maybe we just keep recruiting like minded people and create our own commune. :)

This is very unusual for me, I normally make decisions in the blink of an eye. Hence the long, incoherent ramble. I am looking for a pattern in what I am writing, but all I am seeing is contradictions. I get more of the life I would like to live, but far away from the people I want to be with. The kids get more independence, but less people to find real friendship with.

Maybe we just need to make a squillion dollars so that we can buy a block or two in a leafy suburb...

Milestones a-go-go

Family holidays can be a little intense (the one last year with 3 families was more relaxing), but there are some up sides.

Elissa said her first word yesterday, and it was "ball". At least it wasn't "car" which was both her brother's first words. This is the first word which really means the same thing to us as her. She says "mama", and has done for a couple of months, but it means "I need attention - NOW!" and doesn't refer to me specifically. She also said it over and over, making it convincing - unlike when she said the same word, in reference to an actual ball only once or twice a couple of months ago.

Ben learned to swim. Actual swimming with strokes, rather than the "failing to drown" technique he used to employ. That technique was actually very efficient, which is why he took so long to learn to swim properly, but he is now doing a believable, if slow, freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.

And Charlie finally decided that going to the toilet unaccompanied, at least for a wee, is a Good Thing. His mother thinks it is nothing short of a Bloody Miracle.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scenes from a family holiday

This holiday marks the day when Elissa was finally walking well enough to wear a dress and real shoes comfortably.
I've really been hanging out for this. I love dresses, I love wearing them and they are just so cute on little kids. They are the best way to handle the heat - no tight bits around the middle, all free and breezy! They also don't present the same co-ordination problems that tops and bottoms do - especially for Dad.

Watching Star Wars turns out to be the only way to handle a disaster like discovering a poo in the pool. (No, we have no idea what happened, apparently this is a first for the place, and thank the gods our children were in no way involved!) The situation was resolved later in the day.

By the end of a day of holidays, the kids are all a bit frazzled. They all have different ways to handle the stress.
Sometimes a small girl doesn't need her pyjamas, just a few critical comfort items - dummy, rabbit and bum cream.

Of course, being the sophisticated 6 year old that he is, Ben is good to just chill out in the spa.

But for a 3 year old boy, the only option is to put your pants on your head.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rest and relaxation

Since I am a Bad Mother, I hadn't organised a family holiday for January until December. My requirements were fairly simple:

Within 4 hours' drive

Less than $1500 for the accommodation

Access to a swimming pool

Access to a beach as well would have been a bonus, just because we have spent very little time at the beach with our kids. However, with a 14 month old, the world wasn't going to end if I couldn't manage that.

Of course, anyone who has kids older than mine is smirking knowingly at this point. "She wanted to organise a family holiday for January in December? Yeah right, that needs to be done by March! Not to mention that ridiculous budget - maybe a weekend in January!"

Everything I looked at was around the $2k for a week mark, and none of it was available anyway. I was just starting to think that we would never have another holiday for less than $5000 now that we are restricted to school holidays, when I figured I'd look at the pricing for a 2 bedroom cottage in the Hunter Valley. I had been hoping for a more kid friendly destination, but we had fun last year - so why not at least look.

Thank the gods wine regions are not family friendly - $750 for 5 nights, with an indoor pool, putt putt golf, tennis court and 9 hole golf course on site. Breakfast hamper supplied so we didn't have to do much shopping the first day.

So here we are. The boys are all in the pool for the 3rd time since we arrived yesterday afternoon. A second round of putt putt golf with follow. We've been to 2 wineries; an old favourite and one we've never been to before. The latter offered to take the kids into the vines to taste grapes that are nearly reading for harvest if we want to come back on Friday morning. All being well, I think we'll take them up on that offer.

The only downer is that McDonalds is the only Internet access - and they block all port 25, so I have to reconfigure my mail server to accept SSL or suffer with webmail. I ran out of battery before I could do that today, so I will sort it out tomorrow (when this will get itself posted). When I run the world, all accommodation will have access to the Interwebs.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas is over

The Christmas decorations in the shops are really starting to irk me. In a monumental feat, I got my tree down and away on New Year's Day. Most of our lights are still up, but are not being turned on, they are just waiting for Crash to book the boy in to get them down. It's much better done as a two man job.

Today the ham was finished. The bones are in the freezer, the last of the meat is in a container and the skin was turned into some munchy crackling (because we haven't eaten enough fat in the last month).

There is less than a quarter of the pudding left and just a wee bit of the chocolate (all the elves are gone, sadly).

Christmas is done with, we can get on with our summer now. Take down the damn tinsel!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Hearts and minds are sick to the stomach

Nothing, and I mean nothing, justifies firing on UN convoys. Nothing justifies leaving the wounded dying in their homes.

This is disgusting.

When the rescue team, which included members of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, was allowed into the area, it found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses, the Red Cross said.
"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."
Tell me again how Israel is killing military while Palestine is killing civilians.

This is the reality of all war. Not just Israeli ones. But this one is just so STUPID. It simply cannot achieve anyone's goals. How can anyone read that story and think that escalation is justified? There is the odd occasion when I have to concede, war is the only option. East Timor springs to mind. But here, war is, by necessity a war on civilians, and utterly useless. It can't and won't improve Israeli security. Without serious compassion, support and an immediate ceasefire, those 4 kids, at least, are probably destined to continue the fighting.

No hearts and minds will be won here, and it is extraordinarily hard to feel sympathy for a nation who fires on and kills UN aid workers.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tolerance, Acceptance and Understanding

Dina's awesome post on Michael Kirby brought up the very condescending nature of tolerance. As a high profile gay man, he pointed out that he has no desire for people to tolerate him, he wants them to accept him. Seems pretty reasonable to me, and it also brought to mind the fact that there are things I don't wish to tolerate. Tolerance is something best left to describe handling pain.

I agree that acceptance is where we all need to be with homosexuality. But the necessary step on the way is understanding. For mine, the key point about homosexuality is that it is part of who someone is, it isn't an abomination, and it isn't a choice. I can see why some people might feel that the idea is repugnant. I think the idea of eating mushrooms is repugnant. But that doesn't matter, you don't have to do it yourself (and it's much easier to avoid than eating mushrooms, I can assure you). Other people doing it isn't going to hurt you.

But I don't think all things different deserve acceptance. They do all deserve understanding. When something about a group of people induces a "that's just wrong" response, there are a number of things to consider.

Firstly, is it an integral, unavoidable part of who they are? Race, gender, sexuality and no doubt plenty of other things obviously are. Other things have ambiguous answers - paedophiles is one that comes to mind - clearly broken, but could conceivably be congenitally broken.

Second, am I in some way being required to participate?

Third, is the net negative effect substantial enough to warrant action? I'm thinking a borderline case here might be the Australian love of the swear word. Some people find it really offensive, and it disturbs them greatly. I'm not sure we should completely ignore that - after all most of us don't swear at relo's who really don't like it. But then how much damage is it actually doing?

The point of all this question answering, is that I think sometimes understanding can lead to intolerance, and justifiably so. A culture is not an unchangeable thing, it is reasonable to conclude that you personally don't like a culture. I really don't like the Japanese culture. But I find myself terribly reluctant to say that sort of thing for fear of being judged intolerant and racist. I don't believe anything much at all about Japanese people. Stereotypes come from people looking at a culture and making generalisations about the people who come from it. I don't vilify stereotypes, they are just the descriptive equivalent of statistics. They describe a population, but never a person. And just like statistics, they can be powerful, convenient or misleading. When deliberately abused, they are downright malevolent. Of course, that analogy would work better for the stereotype's image if our own culture didn't make so many decisions about individuals based on the statistics that describe the population they come from. The obsession the medical establishment has with a normal distribution and the damage that does to the field and its patients is a topic for another rant. However, just because we are inept at using them, it doesn't make them inherently bad.

We have to be very careful that we don't create a taboo about criticising culture, religion and other things which we have the power to change, simply because we are not part of them. Culture and religion are growing, changing things. I don't have to come from the Cape to know that the Aboriginal communities need to change the cultures in which child abuse has become endemic. Nor did I need to live in Northern Ireland to know that both sides needed to let go of the hate, because it simply wasn't working.

Of course, understanding is a pre-requisite to criticism. I was trying to come up with an example from Africa, where all sorts of atrocities are taking place, but I simply don't understand enough to be able to make anything resembling valid criticisms. This is why comparitive religion should be taught in schools. If you want to criticise religion A, you really should understand it first.

I don't have moral dilemmas about criticising a culture - a culture gets a "no" answer for question 1. The moral dilemmas I have are when there is a "yes" to question 1 and a "yes" to question 3. If paedophilia (or a subset of it) turns out to be a kind of congenital brokenness, what should we do? Clearly children need to be protected from harm, but I have a problem with vilifying someone for something they can't do anything about. It's a lose-lose. Logic dictates that the safety of the child takes priority, because all morals aside, it may help prevent more brokenness in the future.

Something which, with understanding, is unacceptable and changeable, should be criticised and discussed in an effort to make real change.
Something which, with understanding, is unacceptable and unchangeable is a real challenge. Tolerance is still not an option. Understanding is needed in buckets and a lot of deep thought about avoiding harm in ways that don't vilify those who have no choice.

On a positive note, there are a lot more things that with understanding, turn out to be homosexuality or mushrooms - nothing at all wrong with them as long as no-one's making it compulsory. Acceptance follows naturally from that. And if someone is making it compulsory, that's who needs to cop the flak, not the mushrooms.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

More local politics

Big Kev lost his fuel watch plan. He also lost his grocery watch plan. Fair enough, they were both dumb. But somewhere in the middle of it all, he had a good idea. Unit pricing in supermarkets. I shop a bit at Aldi. Some of their stuff is good, some is hideous. Much of the good stuff is much cheaper. Some isn't. But the key is, Aldi has unit pricing on everything. So if I can remember the maths from other stores, I can make comparisons. I am a very big fan of unit pricing. It is especially useful in mainstream supermarkets where multiple brands are on offer, all providing slightly different packet sizes.

But the National Association of Retail Grocers has claimed there is no demand for unit pricing. Their argument for this is that no-one has requested it in supermarkets without it, and no-one has praised stores with it. They also claim no change in spending habits has been seen in shops with it.

Our local Woolies has been slowly introducing it. It hasn't influenced my buying, because I used to do the maths. Now, in some departments, I don't have to. I love that. I haven't praised them for it. Then again, I haven't praised them for having a better seafood department than most, and I have only complained twice over gross service disasters. I just don't think too many people think about corresponding with their supermarket over this sort of thing.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send some kind of missive to your local supermarket showing your support for unit pricing (assuming you support it).

And to show I don't make massive assumptions, does anyone reading this not support unit pricing? If so, why not?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Just when I thought Garrett's spine had completely disappeared...

Since Labor's election, Peter Garrett has pretty much failed to do any of the things he said he would. He isn't doing anything about Japanese whaling, he hasn't done anything even vaguely reasonable about carbon emissions, he hasn't done much to protect the Murray-Darling river system and who knows how many other sensitive environments.

Today, he failed to do something else, he failed to grant approval to the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. He hasn't rejected the proposal, he has sent it back for more environmental impact studies, and has added specific penalties of large-ish sums of money up to revocation of the approval if Gunns do get approval but don't stay within the limits of their own EIS predictions. I'd rather he'd hit it with a big hammer and looked to genuinely address long term economic options for Tasmania that don't involve trashing the environment. But at least he failed to grant approval. A small step in the right direction. He has a long way to go to do anything like regain credibility, but as they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The little holiday

We went to Nelligan near Batemans Bay for the weekend to see my uncle and his wife. He is my father's elder brother, and I've seen very little of him since he moved down the coast. The kids don't know him and Crash didn't even remember who he was until he saw him again. That makes me rather sad. I like my father's family, and I want my kids to know them - especially since they never got to meet Dad.

I'm hoping to make more trips down there. Better armed.

It was very pleasant. The weather was lovely and the spot is amazingly beautiful. It was great to catch up with them and we had some great arguments discussions about everything from John Howard to Gaza to the NRMA.

However, there were some lessons to be learned. It's about a 4 hour drive from our place, without stops. 3 kids can't make a 4 hour drive without stops, so it takes 5 hours. I failed to pack the dummy inside the car, which caused more pain than was strictly necessary. We also discovered that Ben gets car sick on windy roads. We didn't get to puking, but we did get to screaming and moaning for 20 minutes before we got to a town we could stop and eat at. Elissa, inevitably, went out in sympathy, although it is fair to say it was hard to tell over Ben's foghorn voice.

On the way home we had plain chips, the window wound all the way down and less sun on him, and there was only a wee bit of whinging for about 15 minutes.

When we got home, we discovered the 763 bites each one had sustained, all red and swollen and horrible. Apparently they have a different brand of mozzie down there, because our local ones make neat little red dots.

All in all, next time we go down Friday night, leaving immediately after dinner, with chips, dummies and cuddly toys all in the car. We come back on Sunday after lunch, without a huge week starting the next day. And we take a lot of Aeroguard.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The mysteries of life

I clean mostly in bits and pieces, rather than marathon bursts. This means the whole of my fridge is never clean. When I have the time to notice a particularly dirty shelf, I clean it. This afternoon it was the bottom one, with all the vegie containers and whatnot. I found a patch of...something. It was uber sticky, and no traditional cleaning option budged it. Not Enjo (it actually ripped the fibres out of those), not the couple of chemicals I still have for just such an occasion. In the end, I scraped it off with the plastic innards of the Enjo kitchen handy. And then scrubbed some more with every other cleaning cloth I could find, and it finally all disappeared. It was a great lump of goopiness on the end of the plastic handy, and I have not the foggiest idea what it was.

The diet snafu

Many better people than I have written about why diets don't work, but this little piece of research kind of sums it all up. Will power requires a pretty high blood glucose level. Excellent, all I need to do to have the will power to avoid eating junk food is eat sugar. The research was done on other kinds of self control, but it seems like an obvious extension.

I did also find it strangely comforting that I am not the only one who sets off to do some serious work with biscuits or chocolate.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

More on Gaza

I've benefited from my conversations with Dina about the Middle East disaster, and then I found this post on Gaza at Feministe. The post itself is well thought out and presented, and the discussion is mostly the same.

In the end, I think I can distill my position down to this: Israel has to stop retaliating and escalating for the simple reason that it will be to their own detriment in the end. It doesn't work. They have to look deeper and be smarter and undermine the propaganda and hate mongering, because any other way lies madness.

Happy New Year

2008 calendars are officially out of date. 2009 is going to be a fantastic year. This year, the world is going to get to grips with the fact that we are all in this together. We're going to stop fighting amongst ourselves and turn some serious resources to renovating the planet, including some spectacular restoration work and some major upgrades in a number of areas. People are going to let bygones be bygones at a personal and global level. Guilt and anger will become localised emotional responses to single events and will no longer be a way of life for anyone. Life will substantially improve for everyone. No child will live in poverty. Oh wait, someone already said that.

This is what New Year is for, a brief moment to believe anything is possible. To really put last year in the past, to move on from the annus horribilis, or to build on last year's achievements with a fresh new perspective.

I don't have any idea where this year is going to go, either personally or globally. I feel like we're at a tipping point, and I don't know which way it is going to go. We've seen some historic and wonderful events, and we've watched other events repeat themselves ad infinitum to no-one's benefit. We've watched the financial sector implode, propped up only by central governments all over planet. I think that is a good thing. I just don't know whether we're going to drag ourselves forwards or backwards as we deal with all this change.

Our business has made some major progress in the last year, we've signed our first major contract and I've got in way over my head on some projects and managed to learn fast enough to keep up and make them work. 2009 will be the litmus test, we will either succeed or fail this year, I suspect. I think we can do it, we should be able to, but in any business you never know what things outside your control might change everything.

I don't know whether I am going to continue with uni, I just don't know if I will have time. I'll enroll and see what happens I suppose. Charlie starts pre-school, and I think he'll love it. Elissa has started the year on her feet, and I am looking forward to watching her grow up some more. Ben's in year 1 and on the brink of reading easily. Another joy to look forward to.

So I'm starting the year with insane optimism. Everything is going to work out well. Everyone is going to find in themselves the strength and energy and understanding we need to sort through the messes we have made. Because I really believe that unless we start with the assumption it will all work out, it really won't. And I'm going to make sure I get enough water, sleep and variety in my diet. That helps too.

Happy 2009. It'll be a blinder.