Monday, April 27, 2009

Slowly surfacing

Got Google reader to under 200 unread posts - and that's not all the blogs I'd like to read, and involved a disturbing amount of "Mark All as Read" (not your blog, I'm pretty confident of that). Now I'd best go to bed so I continue to spiral up, rather than reversing the process...

Monstors of Rock

Yes, they really did call a concert that.

On Saturday night we saw Rose Tattoo, The Screaming Jets and The Angels. Three of the classic pub rock bands of Australia's music history, some of them looking more historical than others.

We missed the start of Rose Tattoo (the cocktails at Zanzibar were that good), but Angry hasn't changed a bit. Well, ok, the gut has probably expanded, and the rest of the Tatts could probably benefit from Angry's hair cut, but they may as well have been performing in 1978. They were great. Angry gave some customary lectures about ANZAC day and it was all good. They seemed completely comfortable with just playing all the crowd fav's. A great mix of nostalgia and awesome rock performance.

I've always loved seeing The Jets, Dave Gleeson is a dick, but he puts on a great show. I was a little concerned about how tragic he might have become, but it turns out he has become a parody of himself, and that works just fine. I was a little disappointed to not see FRC or Shiver (the latter being one of the great Aussie covers in my mind), but they started with Blue Sashes and finished with Better, so I can't complain. Being 20 years younger than their fellow bands, they are still recording, and played a new one (Mary Jane) which I didn't hate. Seems they might have been listening to a bit of Paul Kelly recently. My only real regret was that we were sitting in the old people seats, and I'd have loved to have been down on the floor for these guys. So much so that if they do a pub tour on the new album, I'll drag a bunch of people along to see them again.

And then we come to The Angels. I've seen them more times than I can count - the most notable being at the Entertainment Centre supporting Guns n Roses in 1989 and they were so amazing I thought they'd blow the Gunners off the stage. In fact, Axl had not yet destroyed his body and voice with squillions of dollars' worth of drugs, and Guns n Roses were awesome, but that Angels show still stands out in my mind. I know Doc is a lot worse for wear - I watched a doco on SBS last year following one of their more recent tours. I also know most of the band hates each other. Unfortunately both of these facts were apparent on stage. They played a fantastic set of classics and it all sounded great, but it wasn't great to watch. I loved it, nonetheless - every word came back to me without hesitation, along with a goodly proportion of my teenage years. Graham Marshall, if you are still alive, I was back in your parents' lounge room on Saturday night. :)

So I'm not sure I'd recommend The Angels to someone lacking in my nostalgic connection, but the other two are reliably fun for anyone with a love of rock. Besides, a gig with everyone from 18 year olds sporting a whole jar of hair product (the boys at least) to 60 year olds with grey hair and goatees is well worth it. There were some other women. I think. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Work-Life balance - HA!

Working part time and spending time with your kids is fantastic. It keeps you in touch with the adult world and lets you be with your kids while they are little.

Unless part time becomes full time with no change in the "life" bit of the work-life balance equation. Then what happens is you turn into a blithering idiot who yells at your kids and makes mistakes with work. Then you get to feel guilty, as well as stressed, tired and incompetent.

I mostly subscribe to guilt-free parenting. Everyone screws stuff up, as long as you keep looking for the better path, that's as much as anyone can ask for. When I realise what I'm doing isn't working, I just look for another approach. It's not failure, it's bootstrap parenting.

But if it's not my parenting that's wrong, but me - well that's not so easy to rationalise.

Work-wise, I've always been a big picture person. Attention to detail has never been my strong point. Right now it's non-existent. Anything I do I am trying to do in the absolute minimum time before I have to go pick someone up, or cook dinner or deal with a completely different set of clients. I don't have any staff that I can throw things at and say "Just check this for me please, I need a fresh set of eyes." And so all my mistakes are my own. And I just want to give in.

And then in the back of my mind is always this voice telling me I'm pathetic, I don't have that much to do, I'm just lazy. And I genuinely don't know if it's right. I mean, I am lazy. I always have been, but I've generally used that as a strength. Doing things as efficiently as possible, working fast in short bursts so as to maximise my fucking around time. Maybe I've pushed that all too far, justified all too much. And I do rather feel like I have lost perspective.

That's the trap. I know that the family is the most important thing, but the world at large regards the corporate world as the only thing that matters. So there is nothing to give. But doing a shitty job of all of it isn't exactly a solution.

So how to get perspective when I feel like I'm up to my ears in it? I've got a cleaner this week - I can't afford for her to clean the whole house, but anything she can do, I don't have to. I've made some work flow changes to reduce duplication. The school holidays will end. Hopefully something will make itself apparent. Unfortunately one can't take stress leave from family or your own business.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The toast tongs have landed

Those strange kitchen gadgets I was talking about before have arrived. I have an abundance of toast tongs in my lounge room. If you put your hand up for a set or four, I'll try to catch you soon. If you haven't yet been seduced by the idea of wooden toast tongs to protect you from third degree burns and electrocution, there are plenty of spares if you come to your senses. :)

They are $5.40. And here is their picture in case you have no idea what on earth I am talking about.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

He is the very model of the modern preschooler

Charlie's urgent news after preschool yesterday:

"I didn't punch D today!"

These are the exchanges that led to this excellent achievement:

Charlie: D was mean to me today, so I just had to punch him.

Me: You can't punch people, Charlie. D is still learning how to be a good friend, and you hitting him isn't going to help him is it?

Charlie: [with skepticism] Alright....

[after a week or two]

Charlie: I've been telling all my friends that D is still learning how to be a good friend.

Me: [stifles hysterical laughter]

[Sunday night]

Charlie: D really needs to learn how to be a good friend!

Me: Remember, you can't hit him. If he is mean to you, you need to tell a teacher and not be mean back.

[extreme skepticism in response]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What the?

Can someone explain to me who thought a show with this tag line was a good plan?

"Torture - not cool unless it's on TV."


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sadly, this is why we need politicians

GetUp put an April Fool's day ad in the Australian today inviting all parents to take their babies to MPs offices for free child care. The website mentioned in it links to a GetUp page admitting the joke and calling on the Rudd government to keep its promise of paid maternity leave.

It was cute. What stuns me is the general conversation that surrounds paid maternity leave. If you find the term "breeders"offensive, please don't read the comments on the ABC news site I linked to up there.

So the arguments go like this:
  • We shouldn't be subsidising people having children, the world is over populated.
  • The world isn't overpopulated because there is plenty of room and we just need to change the way we do things.
  • Paying maternity leave is discriminating against DINKs (and other variations on the "What about Me?" argument).
  • Paying maternity leave is reasonable because parents are raising the children who will support those DINKs* in their dotage.
  • Don't be stupid, you had kids to satisfy your own selfish needs and not to raise the people that will look after DINKs in their dotage.
All of this seems to dance around the point of why a government would choose to provide paid maternity leave (except possibly the second last one, which gets close). Or why it wouldn't.

There are essentially 3 reasons why a government would choose to fund something.
  1. It is economically valid
  2. It is a moral imperative
  3. To win elections
Given that most large decisions are based on 1 or 2, with a proviso of not violating 3, I'll mostly discuss those.

The Productivity Commission
, an independent Government sponsored body with a focus on economic issues, has recommended 18 weeks of leave. It has done so because it believes this is the best option economically. A few of the reasons are:
  • You only get paid maternity leave if you have a job before you have a baby, thus encouraging more participation in the workforce. So it doesn't benefit those evil welfare sluts who have babies for the money**.
  • By maintaining a connection to the workforce, women are more likely to return to work after having their babies.
  • Having more women participating in the workforce decreases labour costs and improves Australia's competitiveness.
  • Providing families with a more sound financial basis at the beginning of their children's lives makes them more likely to spend money on baby stuff (and presumably other stuff), thus stimulating the economy.
So pretty much, providing paid maternity leave keeps women as wage slaves and ensures that they raise good little consumers. Win now, win in the future.

What about the moral imperative? Clearly babies benefit from a parent being home with them, and the breastfeeding that is made much easier if that parent is Mum. But whose is the moral burden to ensure that happens?

The kind of people who call those with children "breeders" argue that having children is your choice, you fund it. I don't entirely disagree with this, except that it assumes that we all live in a vacuum - that the way children are raised impacts only on the family to which they belong. This is clearly rubbish. The "my kids will look after you in your dotage" argument comes from an instinctive rejection of the "user pays" argument. But it is actually much more compelling than that.

Children are not just our future, they are our present. The more stable and functional our families are, the more stable and functional our communities are. And I'm making this argument from a pratical point of view. Frazzled, overworked, poorly bonded mothers do not make happy, harmonious citizens. Nor do their children make pleasant little blighters we can all coo over. I'm not saying happy mothers are never screaming banshees, nor are their children permanent angels, but the more stressed families there are in the world, the more likely you are to run into banshees and the monsters.

And as they grow up, other issues arise. There isn't an inevitable causality, but the harder life is for families, the more "difficult children", "delinquent teenagers" and "antisocial young adults" society needs to cope with. That all has a cost, both economic and social. It just makes social sense to reduce the risks as much as we can.

In my view, the much more significant moral argument is that we are social beings. We all have a responsibility to assist with the raising of the next generation. Paid maternity leave is on the same footing as public education, vaccination programs and public service announcements. They make the world we live in a more equitable and pleasant place. And so all those DINKs are not being ripped off, they are benefitting just as they are benefitting from me choosing to vaccinate my child.

From a population point of view, the world's population needs to stop increasing. It needs to drop, but slowly would be better than precipitously. Ideally, everyone should be replaced and that's all. Since there are no guarantees to a long life, that would result in a globally, slowly declining population. That is pretty much what Australia is doing now. That is pretty much what all countries with free access to birth control and no religious objections to using it are doing. In other words, leave women to their own devices and they manage the population really well. Leave it out of this argument, it is irrelevant. Just like no-one chooses to have a child to make sure someone else has someone to fix their TV when they are old, no-one chooses to have a child because there is paid maternity leave. Or at least the numbers are vanishingly small on both counts.

I haven't addressed the whole "paid holiday" argument, because no-one who has had a child, or knows someone who has well, could possibly make that argument, and it makes my blood boil. However, blue milk did a great job of making it some time ago [ed - making the argument against the "paid holiday" argument - I know what I meant!] . Go read it.

In the end, Rudd can't decide on 3. That's why he hasn't acted, because I am pretty sure he can see 1 and 2 are a given. Go sign GetUp's petition, and do whatever else you like doing to make it clear which way this policy will make you vote.

*DINKs was used by one of the commenters to refer to themselves, hence my choice.

**Controversially, I do believe there are a small number of women who have babies for the welfare money. I think they are short sighted and stupid. I don't think we should stop paying welfare to all the others because of them. I don't even think we should stop paying them. We paid John Howard for 11 years. As a society we have to support stupid people as well as everyone else. After all, everyone is a stupid person sometimes.***

***That may have been the longest footnote I have ever written.