Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bullying is bullying

I was in Israel in 1995 when Israel announced their expansion into the west bank. I was stunned by the positions of the locals on the whole situation.

No matter how many ways I turn this current bout of violence, I find fault with Israel. This doesn't mean I don't find fault with Palestine. Still, I have real trouble listening to Israelis claim that Palestinians are denying their right to exist. Yes, Israel, as a nation, has been persecuted - just slightly less than Palestine as a nation. I have no sensible resolution to the current situation. It was hatched in the addled brains of the post WWII leaders, and it is, and always was, horrific. Yet I just can't get past Palestine's right to exist. I don't believe that right gives them leave to fire rockets into Israel. But if you create several generations of disenfranchised people, you run the risk of violent, insane behaviour. After all, as Israel's foreign minister said, Israel has far superior fire power and will hurt Palestine far more than Palestine can hurt Israel. And in the end, this is the essence of this debate. Israel is the bully here, by sheer weight of fire power. Just like Israel deserved a homeland, so does Palestine. And a real one, not one divided and ruled by others.

What I saw in the old city of Jerusalem has affected me deeply. Much to my surprise. I expected to be untouchable by such things as trivial as religion. Instead it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Christianity came off worst. A bunch of juvenile, demented people worshipping a figure that has been used to justify immeasurable violence. I'm not saying this exemplifies Christianity everywhere in all its forms, that's just how it looks in Jerusalem. Then there are the Jews - they look desperate and clingy. Telling their own history in a way that looks like they won as many as they lost. Again, I know this doesn't represent Jews in general. And then in the old city, there were the Muslims, drinking coffee, living their lives. They looked sane. Of course, they were also the ones who refused to return my lost purse until I had returned to Tel Aviv so that they could charge me US$100 for the privilege of bringing it back to me. I don't hold any illusions. I guess the point is, that disaster is nothing about religion, and all about politics. It tells us nothing about Christianity or Judaism or Islam. Just about people being territorial and stupid.

In the end, Israel has the upper hand, they are the bullies. It is in their hands to solve this problem. And I have no doubt that violence towards Israel from Palestine will continue for a long time to come. It isn't justifiable, but it's understandable. If you imagine your entire life being taken from you, and staying that way for a few generations, it might take a while for the anger to subside. Israel and Palestine have a great deal in common. If they could get past their religious sibling rivalry, it seems they should be great mates. It also seems intentionally aggressive from Israel to refuse to recognise these people's right to exist. Therefore, despite my revulsion for the violent tactics, I will find myself on Palestine's side in this mess, because they have no power and no choice. I will always support those with no power and no choice.

Thinking of New Years Resolutions?

Just in case you were considering anything rash as a New Year's resolution, this should help. It's a very nice little piece on being thin in the New Yorker. Here is the first step to being thin:
Avoid what psychologists refer to as “emotional eating.” This is hard, because many people have a tendency to experience emotions. To solve this problem, consume increasing dosages of psychotropic medications until you cease to feel emotions of any kind.
Thanks to Fillyjonk at Shapely Prose for that lovely little end of year giggle.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Charlie truth modifier

More unfinished posts - this one from 6 months ago!

Charlie is never wrong. Never. Of course, at 2, nearly 3, this philosophy can be a little limiting at times. So Charlie has developed a solution to it. I call it the Charlie truth modifier. Tonight's example was the gravy for dinner which was in a coffee cup. Charlie said "I want some, coffee." I explained that it isn't coffee, it's gravy. Charlie said "It's coffee." I said, "It's gravy." Charlie said "Yeah, it's gravy coffee."

Other such truth modifiers include "four wheel drive truck", "tiger bear", "kite balloon" and "hail snow"

I am posting it, because he still does this at 3 and a half and I still think it's funny.

It's also related to our current problem. Charlie doesn't want to eat dinner. Ever. Regardless of what it is. And since Charlie is never wrong, he can't change his mind. A few days ago, he clearly decided dinner looked good, so he said he didn't want dinner, he wanted lunch. Since then he has been eating lunch at 6pm with the rest of us.

How Australian am I?

I've been looking through my half written posts and found a few I forgot about. Mim did this one a while ago and I thought it looked like fun.

1. Heard a kookaburra in person We often see them on the way to school.

2. Slept under the stars On NYE 2000, on Cronulla beach, among others.

3. Seen a koala.

4. Visited Melbourne

5. Watched a summer thunderstorm One of the great treats of summer.

6. Worn a pair of thongs

7. Been to Uluru (Ayer's Rock).

8. Visited Cape York

9. Held a snake

10. Sang along with Khe San It's compulsory, as far as I know.

11. Drank VB Unfortunately.

12. Visited Sydney

13. Have seen a shark I'm assuming here that watching the fin after being removed from the water for a shark call counts

14. Have used Aussie slang naturally in a conversation

15. Had an actual conversation with an indigenous Australian

16. Eaten hot chips from the bag at the beach

17. Walked/climbed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Climbed over it illegally before they opened up the Bridge Climb. Nice view from up there.

18. Used an outside dunny, and checked under the seat before sitting down

19. Seen Chloe in Young & Jackson's.

20. Slept on an overnight train or bus

21. Been to Sydney's Mardi Gras Only once, but I'd do it again given the oppoortunity.

22. Have gone bush-bashing

23. Taken a sickie I was good at these at school.

24. Been to see a game of Aussie Rules football As a work function, and didn't much enjoy it.

25. Have seen wild camels

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Had a Tim Tam Slam I had to look up to confirm exactly what this was, since I didn't call it that at the time. It's a natural extension of bikky dunking.

28. Ridden in a tram in Melbourne

29. Been at an ANZAC day Dawn Service. Only a local one, and only as a kid.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Held a wombat

32. Been on a roadtrip of 800km or more

33. Seen the Great Australian Bight in person

34. Had a really bad sunburn Oh yes.

35. Visited an aboriginal community - Driven through them, and went to the toilet once, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.

36. Seen a redback spider Had a massive one (or dynasty of them - how long do they live?) under our front step when I was a kid.

37. Have watched Paul Hogan

38. Seen Blue Poles in person

39. Wandered barefoot in the bush/outback - I don't think the dash through the bush to the beach counts.

40. Eaten Vegemite

41. Thrown a boomerang Unsuccessfully.

42. Seen the Kimberlies

43. Given a hitch-hiker a lift - Dad did once when I was in the car - again, doesn't count.

44. Been to Perth

45. Have tried Lemon, Lime and Bitters Bleagghhhh

46. Tried playing a didgeridoo

47. Seen dinosaur footprints

48. Eaten Tim Tams

49. Been to Darwin

50. Touched a kangaroo

51. Visted the Great Barrier Reef

52. Listened to Kevin Bloody Wilson

53. Killed a Cane Toad They go POP nicely if you run over them the right way.

54. Gone to a drive-in theatre

55. Have read and own books by Australian authors

56. Visited Adelaide

57. Know the story behind "Eternity"

58. Been camping

59. Visited Brisbane

60. Been in an outback pub I think the Silverton pub outside Broken Hill counts as "outback"

61. Know what the term "Waltzing Matilda" actually means

62. Gone whale watching. But I've seen lots of dolphins.

63. Listened to Slim Dusty

64. Own five or more Australian movies or TV series - I don't own many movies or TV series full stop.

65. Sang along to Down Under Also compulsory - or at least unavoidable.

66. Have stopped specifically to look at an historic marker by the side of the road.

67. Eaten a 4'n'20 pie

68. Surfed at Bondi - I can't surf, but I have swum there, and it ain't my favourite beach...

69. Watched the cricket on Boxing Day Of course.

70. Visited Hobart

71. Eaten kangaroo I've been trying to make it a routine part of our diet recently.

72. Seen a quokka

73. Visited Canberra

74. Visited rainforests

75. Used a Victa lawnmower

76. Travelled on a tram in Adelaide

There's no 77. Why is there no 77?

78. Used a Hills hoist

79. Visited the Olgas

80. Used native Australian plants in cooking

81. Visited the snow

82. Chosen a side in Holden VS Ford We owned a Ford or two when I was a kid, and for some reason I took that side. You'll be pleased to know I grew out of it.

83. Visited the desert. - The Hay plain and the area around Broken Hill is the closest I've got.

84. Been water skiing

85. Read The Phantom

86. Visited Parliament House

87. Gone spotlighting or pig-shooting

88. Crossed the Nullarbor

89. Avoided swimming in areas because of crocodiles (and jellyfish.)

90. Listened to AC/DC.

91. Called someone a dag

92. Voted in a Federal Election

93. Have been swimming and stayed between the flags

94. Had a possum in your roof

95. Visited the outback - as previously mentioned, I've decided Broken Hill counts as outback.

96. Travelled over corrugated roads.

97. Hit a kangaroo while driving - had a few near misses, and my parents hit a big red near Bourke, but I was a baby at the time.

98. Been well outside any mobile phone coverage - not hard to achieve.

99. Seen an emu.

100. Have woken to the smell of bushfires. Not too hard to achieve, one of the times I did this I was about 5km from the CBD of Sydney.

77% apparently - although a lot of it achieved as a kid.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Santa gave me

Among the loot I got for Christmas, was a camera. A little one hand picked for using at concerts and such, and for carrying around in my handbag.

So I thought I'd share some of the joy of 6 year olds' Christmas decorations.

Elissa also decided, after Christmas, that she was finally serious about this walking thing.


"Seriously, I'm gonna do it Mum."


"See, I'm doing it."

But this is what a girl needs when she's serious about learning to walk.

It's just a bit tricky to get on.

Nearly there....

"Too fast for YOU!"

"I'm a star! (never you mind about the backwards helmet)"

I had nothing to do with the putting on of the bike helmet - it was all her. She has made basically no progress since she first took steps, until Boxing Day. Since then she has been actively trying to walk, taking the odd turn around the room, just because she can.

I love this camera. Any idiot can take nice photos. Although any idiot can't get them off the camera. When you plug the phone into the USB port of the Mac, it doesn't load as a disc. It claims it needs the software, but the software doesn't recognise it when it is connected. Thankfully, the memory card flips into a USB device, and plugging it in works. Pretty tedious though.

And buggered if I can find the movie mode. RTFM, sadly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cricket watching and blogging

I love Boxing Day. Playing with toys, watching cricket, eating left overs. The house is a mess and I don't give a damn. Even though we have relo's dropping by.

We had our own Christmas miracle yesterday - the 15 year old boy in the family interacted, played games and ... read a book! Looks like he's on his way back from wherever it is teenage boys go.

It seems like we did too good a job tiring Charlie out to make him sleep in on Christmas Day. We had a great deal of difficulty getting him up and when we dragged him down stairs, he refused to open presents. By the time he was truly into it, pretty much all the present unwrapping was done. Charlie and Elissa were determined to play with each other's toys but that caused only a modicum of whinging. Ben loved everything. He even ate some Christmas dinner.

Speaking of which - we drive half way across Sydney to get to a butcher recommended to us by a vegetarian for the meat for Christmas. Carving and eating it yesterday, I remembered why. Absolutely beautiful meat. 7kg turkey. 7.8kg leg of pork. 10kg ham. I know you're thinking "How many people were at this dinner? 20? 30?". Well, actually, 9 adults, one of whom is a vegetarian, and my kids. There is a teensy tiny tad of leftovers. Shouldn't need to buy meat until February...

Today Charlie popped in from the backyard to say "I had a fun Christmas day" and went back to what he was doing. He should know, yesterday we got "Is this Christmas day?" about 4 times. It's important not to miss these important days.

Back to slothing on the couch...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What the?

This afternoon (yes, this would be Christmas Day) I got a phone call from a telco in the US, telling me their client wanted their broken service fixed today. The "client" in question is in Hong Kong. The people using the service are all in Sydney - or at least they would be except that the service is not being actively used at the moment, apart from preliminary testing.

Poor bloke from the US - after he tells me who he is and why he is calling, my incredulity could not be contained and he got an earful of "You know this is Christmas day, right?". I rapidly back pedalled and made it clear I knew this was not his fault, and we had a mutual looney client.

Any of you who might have dealt with Hong Kong probably have a clue what kind of response you would get for demanding a non-active service be fixed on Chinese New Year.

Christmas was great, way too much food, too many presents, good company, lots of carols and a whole day tomorrow to play with the new toys. Hope everyone had a great day. Now it's time for some deep and dreamless sleep.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight

After total chaos for a week, complete exhaustion just barely kept at bay, it looked like it was all going to come together ok. At 6pm, I was mostly organised. The last of the stockings to stuff, the presents to arrange under the tree and the spuds to peel. That was it. Best effort ever.

Then Crash decided to get a jump on things tomorrow and clean up the barbecue ready for some serious turkey cooking. Great plan. Sadly, the new, safer drip tray caught fire, in turn burning through the gas pipe in two places and setting it alight. Now I know why Crash bought those fire extinguishers.

So Crash spent the next two hours cannibalising one of our heaters, his keg gear and raiding his dearly departed father's tools and bits and pieces and rebuilding the sorry mess that his barbecue had become. To his unending credit, it worked, and the barbecue is once again functional.

So now I just need to drag the pressies down to the tree. After I finish this glass of bubbly.

I hope everyone has a magnificent Christmas, however you choose to spend it. May Santa spoil you rotten.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rolf Harris

Last Tuesday we took the boys to see Rolf Harris. This is highly likely to be the last time he tours Australia - he's 78 and only came on the basis of a personal invitation from a director at the Opera House. Crash and I both saw him when we were kids, so the decision was at least partly nostalgia driven.

It was a good show - he's been entertaining so long, I doubt he could fail to entertain. He presented the show as the story of his life, with the music punctuating the tale. It was funny and interesting, although I had heard a lot of it in other places (like the Denton interview, which was awesome). From our point of view, though, it was too much talking for the little ones.

Without doubt, Jake the Peg was the biggest hit. Both boys sat bolt upright and stared and laughed. Ben kept asking how he had three legs, and when I told him one was fake he couldn't work out which one it was.

Charlie liked all the music, but it took 2 packets of Maltesers to get them through the second half of the show.

From my point of view, the music was mostly great - some of it nostalgic, some of it just very good and a wee bit just a little dull. Highlights were Jake the Peg, Sun Arise, Stairway to Heaven and a version of Vincent inspired by his time doing Rolf on Art.

He told a fantastic story about his father deliberately setting off roosters at midnight, complete, of course, with sound effects.

The boys made it through, and we even scored a compliment from one of the people sitting near us for their behaviour. The night had a less than wonderful end though, because the trains were running so badly and infrequently that we would have had to wait more than half an hour for a train - which we just weren't going to survive. We had to get a cab, to the tune of "I want to go on the train" (repeat) from Charlie. Poor little man, the train was the highlight of his night.

Charlie Wisdom

"I am not a duck."


"Because I am wearing a hat."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Birthdays

1 loaf of fairy bread
1 packet of iced arrowroot biscuits
10 bags of lollies
30-odd cupcakes
1/2 batch of coconut ice
1/2 very large birthday cake
20 green jellies
5 litres of cordial

This is what 19 kids can get through at a 6 year old's birthday party. And all of it green. It was a green party - green colour, green ideas.

And what happens immediately after you have 19 kids in your backyard? It buckets down of course.

And what do you do when it buckets down? You play pass the parcel.

This was actually really successful. I drew the line at prizes for every kid both on sanity and green grounds. Instead, we had cards at each layer (on the backs of outdated business cards) with instructions for each kid to do something - sing a verse of "My Highland Goat", swap places with someone whose name starts with M etc. Any time a kid looked like a deer in the headlights at the prospect of fulfilling the task, we had the whole group do it. There was much hilarity.

The cake request was for a frog - green colour, green idea. Since I am no cake decorator, we flicked through a book looking for ideas, and this was the frog that resulted.

Another popular event was bobbing for apples. This was how it began.

And this was how it ended.

I'm not sure any of these kids' parents will let them come back to my house...

In an attempt to dry them out, they belted a pinata for 45 minutes.


As you may have noticed, we made it ourselves. Possibly with more structural integrity than was good for it. This was our first attempt, we might get it closer next time. Although I am very proud of the fact that no matter how much we belted it, it didn't fall down. The kids themselves managed to dent it, but it took Crash, Ed and Sol (2 adults and a 15 year old) to smash it apart. Then there were kids and lollies everywhere! And they were all just a tad shattered. I also need to learn the right kinds of lollies to put in them....

The other really cool thing was the presents. Every kid made some effort to do something green. Homemade paper and cards. Painted newspaper. The cards were gorgeous, I don't think I'm buying any more cards for kids' parties - the homemade ones are way cooler.

And one very inspired mother wrapped the gifts in the pre-school artworks of her kids. Truly brilliant.

It was exhausting, but it was a great party. 19 tired, wet, filthy kids left at 5pm. It must have been good.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homebake

Since last week was such a disaster, I am just getting to the Homebake thing. I hope I remember it well enough!

Homebake is over 18s only now because of licensing laws or some nonsense. Utterly ridiculous. Two different coloured wrist bands works fine - I wonder what do-gooder decided to change the rules. I find it particularly annoying because music festivals are more and more becoming one of the few inter-generational large scale social events (other than sport, and contrary to prevailing wisdom, not everyone is into sport). There are people of all ages there, and lots are taking their kids to festivals they have been attending for years. Shutting out teenagers seems really wrong to me.

Anyway, onto the music. I got there in time to see Subaudible Hum - I like a song or two. They sounded great - awesome full sound and good vocals. Unfortunately they were also a little dull. It's always a problem for a chilled band to really grab the crowd around lunch time at a festival. I sat under a tree and enjoyed the set, but there were very few people in front of the stage - it was really hot and they just weren't exciting enough to stand in the heat for.

Then I caught a wee bit of Bluejuice, a Sydney band known primarily for Vitriol. All of what I heard sounds like Vitriol, it was fun and the crowd was loving it. Definitely a fun pub band, if not really my kind of music.

Little Red were next up on the same stage as Subaudible Hum. Being an hour later, and having more shade than the main stage, it was packed. They are rocky, had the crowd bouncing and definitely upped the buzz. Sadly the vocals were crap, but I enjoyed them anyway - more good pub music.

A mate turned up at the end of Little Red, and he was keen to see Snob Scrilla. Not my kind of music, but they continue the recent trend of Aussie hip hop bands having musicians. You can bring hip hop to Australia, but you can't take the rock out of it.

I spent a bit of time chatting and drinking beer after that, but saw some British India from afar. They looked pretty good, actually. Fun pop - I should try and catch them another time.

You Am I were the next band I actively went to see. I've seen them many times before, but they didn't really grab me that night. Don't know why - maybe I'm just used to Tim Rogers being obnoxious and he wasn't.

Crowded House were the headliners. It's hard to go wrong really. I've not seen them before, and I loved it. Lots of sing along, awesome sound. The new stuff didn't rock my boat, but it was eminently listenable. The Finns are a truly talented family.

The hysteria over binge drinking has made a mess of the day. There were only 3 bars, with well over half an hour queue time. No doubt that stopped some people drinking altogether, but a lot more just ordered the maximum number of beers for themselves each time they got there, and then drank them quickly to stop them getting hot. It encouraged drinking more and faster.

They also had a recycling program whereby a $1 surcharge was applied to all drink containers which could be refunded when you returned the container. Great idea. Almost. They only had one place you could return them - which also ended up with enormous queues thereby discouraging people from recycling. Surely it was a no brainer that any place that sold the containers could take them back.

My final bitch is the whole free water farce. If you are serious about reducing drinking, you either provide water at a sensible price (NOT $5 a bottle) or you have free tap water available all over the site. They had neither. St Johns Ambulance had big containers of water, but they had trouble keeping up with demand and were only in a couple of places. It's blatant profiteering and utterly disgusting.

If you want to rip me off, fine - I have a choice about whether or not to go - but don't go bleating on about being concerned for health and the environment while you're at it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Excuse me while I drop my bundle

I have so much I want to blog about - Homebake, Ben's party, Rolf Harris, how Australian I am, the Full Enchilada and god only knows what else - but right now, all I can manage is growling and tears. I am exhausted beyond my capacity to cope. I will return after I have had some sleep and got my shit together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Australian am I?

I've been looking through my half written posts and found a few I forgot about. Mim did this one a while ago and I thought it looked like fun.

1. Heard a kookaburra in person We often see them on the way to school.

2. Slept under the stars On NYE 2000, on Cronulla beach, among others.

3. Seen a koala.

4. Visited Melbourne

5. Watched a summer thunderstorm One of the great treats of summer.

6. Worn a pair of thongs

7. Been to Uluru (Ayer's Rock).

8. Visited Cape York

9. Held a snake

10. Sang along with Khe San It's compulsory, as far as I know.

11. Drank VB Unfortunately.

12. Visited Sydney

13. Have seen a shark I'm assuming here that watching the fin after being removed from the water for a shark call counts

14. Have used Aussie slang naturally in a conversation

15. Had an actual conversation with an indigenous Australian

16. Eaten hot chips from the bag at the beach

17. Walked/climbed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Climbed over it illegally before they opened up the Bridge Climb. Nice view from up there.

18. Used an outside dunny, and checked under the seat before sitting down

19. Seen Chloe in Young & Jackson's.

20. Slept on an overnight train or bus

21. Been to Sydney's Mardi Gras Only once, but I'd do it again given the oppoortunity.

22. Have gone bush-bashing

23. Taken a sickie I was good at these at school.

24. Been to see a game of Aussie Rules football As a work function, and didn't much enjoy it.

25. Have seen wild camels

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Had a Tim Tam Slam I had to look up to confirm exactly what this was, since I didn't call it that at the time. It's a natural extension of bikky dunking.

28. Ridden in a tram in Melbourne

29. Been at an ANZAC day Dawn Service. Only a local one, and only as a kid.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Held a wombat

32. Been on a roadtrip of 800km or more

33. Seen the Great Australian Bight in person

34. Had a really bad sunburn Oh yes.

35. Visited an aboriginal community - Driven through them, and went to the toilet once, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.

36. Seen a redback spider Had a massive one (or dynasty of them - how long do they live?) under our front step when I was a kid.

37. Have watched Paul Hogan

38. Seen Blue Poles in person

39. Wandered barefoot in the bush/outback - I don't think the dash through the bush to the beach counts.

40. Eaten Vegemite

41. Thrown a boomerang Unsuccessfully.

42. Seen the Kimberlies

43. Given a hitch-hiker a lift - Dad did once when I was in the car - again, doesn't count.

44. Been to Perth

45. Have tried Lemon, Lime and Bitters Bleagghhhh

46. Tried playing a didgeridoo

47. Seen dinosaur footprints

48. Eaten Tim Tams

49. Been to Darwin

50. Touched a kangaroo

51. Visted the Great Barrier Reef

52. Listened to Kevin Bloody Wilson

53. Killed a Cane Toad They go POP nicely if you run over them the right way.

54. Gone to a drive-in theatre

55. Have read and own books by Australian authors

56. Visited Adelaide

57. Know the story behind "Eternity"

58. Been camping

59. Visited Brisbane

60. Been in an outback pub I think the Silverton pub outside Broken Hill counts as "outback"

61. Know what the term "Waltzing Matilda" actually means

62. Gone whale watching. But I've seen lots of dolphins.

63. Listened to Slim Dusty

64. Own five or more Australian movies or TV series - I don't own many movies or TV series full stop.

65. Sang along to Down Under Also compulsory - or at least unavoidable.

66. Have stopped specifically to look at an historic marker by the side of the road.

67. Eaten a 4'n'20 pie

68. Surfed at Bondi - I can't surf, but I have swum there, and it ain't my favourite beach...

69. Watched the cricket on Boxing Day Of course.

70. Visited Hobart

71. Eaten kangaroo I've been trying to make it a routine part of our diet recently.

72. Seen a quokka

73. Visited Canberra

74. Visited rainforests

75. Used a Victa lawnmower

76. Travelled on a tram in Adelaide

There's no 77. Why is there no 77?

78. Used a Hills hoist

79. Visited the Olgas

80. Used native Australian plants in cooking

81. Visited the snow

82. Chosen a side in Holden VS Ford We owned a Ford or two when I was a kid, and for some reason I took that side. You'll be pleased to know I grew out of it.

83. Visited the desert. - The Hay plain and the area around Broken Hill is the closest I've got.

84. Been water skiing

85. Read The Phantom

86. Visited Parliament House

87. Gone spotlighting or pig-shooting

88. Crossed the Nullarbor

89. Avoided swimming in areas because of crocodiles (and jellyfish.)

90. Listened to AC/DC.

91. Called someone a dag

92. Voted in a Federal Election

93. Have been swimming and stayed between the flags

94. Had a possum in your roof

95. Visited the outback - as previously mentioned, I've decided Broken Hill counts as outback.

96. Travelled over corrugated roads.

97. Hit a kangaroo while driving - had a few near misses, and my parents hit a big red near Bourke, but I was a baby at the time.

98. Been well outside any mobile phone coverage - not hard to achieve.

99. Seen an emu.

100. Have woken to the smell of bushfires. Not too hard to achieve, one of the times I did this I was about 5km from the CBD of Sydney.

77% apparently - although a lot of it achieved as a kid.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Birthdays

1 loaf of fairy bread
1 packet of iced arrowroot biscuits
10 bags of lollies
30-odd cupcakes
1/2 batch of coconut ice
1/2 very large birthday cake
20 green jellies
5 litres of cordial

This is what 19 kids can get through at a 6 year old's birthday party. And all of it green. It was a green party - green colour, green ideas.

And what happens immediately after you have 19 kids in your backyard? It buckets down of course.

And what do you do when it buckets down? You play pass the parcel.

This was actually really successful. I drew the line at prizes for every kid both on sanity and green grounds. Instead, we had cards at each layer (on the backs of outdated business cards) with instructions for each kid to do something - sing a verse of "My Highland Goat", swap places with someone whose name starts with M etc. Any time a kid looked like a deer in the headlights at the prospect of fulfilling the task, we had the whole group do it. There was much hilarity.

The cake request was for a frog - green colour, green idea. Since I am no cake decorator, we flicked through a book looking for ideas, and this was the frog that resulted.

Another popular event was bobbing for apples. This was how it began.

And this was how it ended.

I'm not sure any of these kids' parents will let them come back to my house...

In an attempt to dry them out, they belted a pinata for 45 minutes.


As you may have noticed, we made it ourselves. Possibly with more structural integrity than was good for it. This was our first attempt, we might get it closer next time. Although I am very proud of the fact that no matter how much we belted it, it didn't fall down. The kids themselves managed to dent it, but it took Crash, Ed and Sol (2 adults and a 15 year old) to smash it apart. Then there were kids and lollies everywhere! And they were all just a tad shattered. I also need to learn the right kinds of lollies to put in them....

The other really cool thing was the presents. Every kid made some effort to do something green. Homemade paper and cards. Painted newspaper. The cards were gorgeous, I don't think I'm buying any more cards for kids' parties - the homemade ones are way cooler.

And one very inspired mother wrapped the gifts in the pre-school artworks of her kids. Truly brilliant.

It was exhausting, but it was a great party. 19 tired, wet, filthy kids left at 5pm. It must have been good.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Every silver lining has a cloud

I'm quite a fan of double length toilet rolls. We have stairs in our house, with toilets on 2 floors, toilet paper stored on one. Anything that means less transportation of toilet rolls is a good thing.

But, twice as much toilet paper on a roll, means twice as much toilet paper strewn all over the bathroom and entangled in the toilet brush when little miss 13 months discovers an open bathroom door.

What is it with babies and toilets? If they aren't decorating them with bog roll, they are throwing things in them. Her own bedtime rabbit, miscellaneous toys and Crash's toothbrush, for example. My toothbrush is apparently not toilet worthy, and just gets carted down the hall.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Back-hander

A dress caught my eye in a shop I would not normally go near, and when I tried it on I discovered I quite liked it (I'm loving the maxi dress, comfy and easy to wear). At the cash register the girl said "I like your scarf in your hair, it's cute. Do you have to wear it for work?". Hmmm. "No," I reply, "I wear it so I don't have to do anything with my hair." I don't think there was much I could have said that would have further damaged my status as fashion guru...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dinner serenade

Charlie serenading us at dinner:

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are you and me

Can't fault him on his logic.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So this is Christmas

This was my "make Christmas happen" weekend. I am sore, but I have a glass of champagne.

I did about half of my shopping yesterday. At least some of what remains can be done online.

So today we started operation decoration. After about an hour getting the room and the front of the house clean enough to put up the tree and lights, we started. Crash and Solomon did the outside lights, I did the tree with the boys.


Half way through tree construction. It was somewhere around here that I explained that real live dead trees often come complete with colonies of spiders. We love plastic trees.


And so construction phase is over.


These are the tree decorations - the box at the back on the left is several inches deep and represents the old, crappy, don't make the grade decorations. They go in the middle.


And these are the non-tree decorations. They got distributed later.


Those who know me will be amazed to learn that I actually let the boys help. Really. Even let them put lots of stuff on the tree. Only moved about half of it after them too. So all that remains is to put the star on top.


Note the chair in front. Even standing on a chair, I can't reach the top of the tree, Crash has to put the star on top.


Happy families.

The tree is not really finished. Last year I had candy cane LED lights on the tree, but they died before the end of the season. I am determined to find something similar again.

The lights out the front look way better than I expected too. I'll try to get a photo soon.

All of this has left me aching and tired, and has sadly not diminished the panic. Still haven't ordered the meat for Christmas, most of the rest of the house is still a demilitarised zone and I have at least 16 kids coming for Ben's birthday next Sunday. And I'm spending Saturday at Homebake. Should be a doddle.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Closer and closer

Elissa has taken her first very, very wobbly steps and is actively trying to stand. The record is about 5 seconds so far.

I have been hanging out for this for two reasons:

First, babies are so much happier when they walk. Well, at least mine have been. The new found independence is wonderful for everyone involved.

Second, she will be able to wear all those beautiful dresses hanging in her cupboard, just in time for summer, when dresses are at their most useful. She will also once again be able to wear things that cover her knees without destroying them in a single day.

Whatever the consequences, the process itself is absolutely delightful. Every attempt at steps or standing is accompanied by hysterical giggling and hand clapping. Nobody can resist a 12 month old in full giggle - there may be nothing cuter in existence.

Looks like we'll be having an upright Christmas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Easy political action


GetUp have taken up the Internet censorship issue, and because GetUp was designed by lazy people, for lazy people, if you want to be politically active but just don't have time/don't know how/can't be arsed, you can just go here and type in your email address to add your name to the petition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

OK, so I was wrong

I argued that K-2 kids didn't have much experience of racism. But it seems I may have been wrong. It was the last scripture lesson for the year, and to celebrate Christmas, their scripture teacher taught them all about the spiritual significance of candy canes. Yes, candy canes. To be fair, she did acknowledge that this wasn't from the Bible.

So, you ask, what IS the spiritual significance of a candy cane? Well, upside down (and the appropriate way around) it is a J for Jesus. The right way up it is the crook of the shepherds. So far so good. The red signifies the blood and pain of Christ (wrong holiday, but OK) and the white signifies our clean skin. Ummm....

After clarifying that this was really what was said, and then recovering from a mild case of apoplexy, I pointed out that this was really rather racist, and asked how he thought [first kid's name I could think of that isn't anglo at his school] would feel about white signifying clean skin. An hour later, he volunteered that it might make [another non-anglo kid] feel pretty bad too. At least he tells me the loony stuff he hears, so I can embark on re-indoctrination immediately.

I had pretty much already decided that Ben wasn't doing scripture next year, this has sealed the deal. And completely ameliorated any guilt I may have felt in not getting Ben to write a thank you note to the teacher.

The wonderful world of home renovation

We are currently having our deck repaired and waterproofed, which unfortunately meant jack hammering up our rather beautiful tessellated tiles. I went back the place we bought them originally, and the price has increased somewhere between 2 and 3 fold in the last 6 years. That has pretty much put paid to the idea of replacing them. We already have around $5k (at the old price) of tessellated tiles to do the barbecue area should we ever find a tiler prepared to do it and have the money at the same time. You can see the barbecue area from the deck in question, so whatever tiles I use up there need to blend sensibly.

The tessellated tiles are a red terracotta, with a border and some feature patterns. I figured if I used large red terracotta tiles and a couple of pre-fab mosaics, it should look ok. Seems simple enough. But this is an area related to the building industry - nothing is ever simple. Almost no-one makes red terracotta tiles. You walk into any tile shop, and you can find 496 shades of beige and 279 shades of grey, but that's it. Even more baffling, I can buy red terracotta coping. So you can edge your pool area (or whatever) in red terracotta, but not actually tile it.

Incidentally, the pre-fab mosaics are a doddle, found some lovely ones at an auction place for just over $100 a piece and at 600x600mm I would probably only need 2.

Anybody harbouring between 20 and 25 square metres of 300x300mm (or even 600x600mm) red terracotta tiles? (She asked hopefully - despite the futility.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Conversation with Ben

Ben: (Looking at a small plastic dinosaur - not Bobgreen) What kind of dinosaur is this?

Me: I'm not sure, give me a look. (Notices that it is tall with useless little arms) Is it a T Rex?

Ben: No, it's not a T-Rex.

Me: Why isn't it a T-Rex? It has little arms and lots of teeth.

Ben: Because we've been learning about dinosaurs at school and I'm sure T'Rex's aren't purple and yellow.

Well, quite.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Schoolboy nastiness

This afternoon when I picked Ben up from school, he went to the toilet in the park before we walked home. As he ran back over to me, one of the kids from his school deliberately tripped him and he landed flat on his face on the grass. On the plus side, Ben falls down a lot, so he is pretty good at minimising the damage when he falls. I walked straight over to him, and the kid walked off with the other boys he was playing with.

I don't know what the appropriate response is from me. If I had been within earshot as it happened, I'd have said something, but I would have to have pursued him across the park to speak to him, so I glared at him instead, and made sure I knew who it was.

To me there is a qualitative difference between calling out a kid as they do something and chasing them across a park to reprimand them. At the same time, I feel like I have been complicit in nasty behaviour because I didn't speak to him. And then there is the problems I create for my child by being an overly interfering mother if I step too far over the line.

When do you intervene and speak to other people's kids? I suspect this is a theme everyone who has kids old enough has had to deal with.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tell me people aren't this stupid

While sifting through the ABC news feed tonight, I found this. Another twat suggesting that nuclear power is the solution to the global warming problem.

His basic argument is that if we send uranium to other countries, it isn't our problem to work out what to do with the waste. If we use it ourselves, he seems to think it is trivial to deal with the waste. Jesus Christ, we have spent several decades establishing the enormous cost of nuclear power, global warming doesn't negate that one iota. How does someone with such a lack of clue end up in such a position?

Sympathy or empathy

In the course I have just finished on developmental psychology, there was a discussion about sympathy and empathy. The text book and lectures were at odds about which was more useful in a societal construct. The text book suggested that sympathy was better, producing discomfort upon hearing of injustice, while empathy caused the feeling of distress, which immobilised the person. The lectures sort of implied the reverse. My instinctive definition agrees with the text book. Sympathy is feeling because, empathy is feeling as if. I suspect I am hopelessly empathic. I read the last chapter on death, and cried and cried. I heard the news today about the man who died trying (and failing) to save his two sons from drowning, and I cried. I don't think I am very sympathetic. If I can't put me there, I'm not so useful. But if I can put me there - I am way too good at that. So I suck at being helpful, which is definitely not what I want. I don't know how to scale down the empathic response to be able to cope with the sympathetic. If anyone has any good suggestions, I'm all ears.

Dreams

Now, I know that other people's dreams are just too boring for words, so I'm just going to have to bore you. These two dreams seemed to need recording.

The first involved a reciprocal profession of love between myself and someone I haven't seen for years (and don't harbour a heartfelt love for), promptly followed by him disappearing from my life forever. This is not amazing. What was strange is that this emotional drama played out over the backdrop of getting ready for a pole dancing party organised by Mim. A very sophisticated pole dancing party I might add - even with red feather boas. Don't ask me how forever fits into getting ready for a party, but there you go. It was a very fine party as well.

The second one involved me being invited to one of my clients' corporate functions. When Crash found out about it, he gatecrashed it as well. It was worth gatecrashing - it was in a bar which was a floating vortex. You floated in the outer parts of the vortex, and tipped your drink into the air and drank it as it floated past in tasty, wobbly, globules. Once you got sucked to the middle, there was a funky escalator to take you back to the top of the vortex. Unfortunately I couldn't stay long because I had to get home before the kids woke up (since Crash was there too).

So Mim, a theme for next year's Christmas party? :)

And I want to go to that bar.

But really, what's with still having to go home and look after the kids in a dream???? Good thing DOCS don't monitor your dreams, since I had left them at home all night alone...

Monday, November 17, 2008

A quick hit

I love this xkcd cartoon. I don't know why, maybe it's all the moral development I've been studying in psych this week...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I know how they all went extinct

There was no meteorite half the size of a continent, there was no ice age, it wasn't even smoking. The dinosaurs simply disappeared into thin air. This is clearly imprinted on their very image. Bobgreen is nowhere. I have hunted, on and off, for three days. I have looked through all the toy boxes, I have found two odd socks, a multitude of cars, a petrified apple core and several species of dust bunny, but no Bobgreen. It is sending me quite strange - when I found a toy car ditched off the edge of the rug under the entertainment unit, I actually thought "I don't suppose Bobgreen could be in there" before I regained some control of myself. I even looked in the toilet brush holder.

I have had Ben looking too - he sorted through a toy box, with instructions to put all the toys back into the places where they belonged. I have quizzed him repeatedly on Bobgreen's last movements, but I have to admit, my suspicions lie with Charlie. Or perhaps Crash.

And of course, K Mart sell the bleedin' things, but in a different colour. How many more years of school do we have?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pulling my head out of the sand

I have been steadfastly ignoring the Internet censorship thing, because I was living in "it's too stupid to ever get up" fantasy land. Mim started to pull my head out of the sand with her post on the senate discussion of it, and now Hoyden have posted a great long transcript of (of all things!) a Spoon Man (from MMM) discussion on the topic.

It defies all logic. How can anyone think this is either technically plausible or anything but morally repugnant? Yes, I get the "won't somebody please think of the children?" argument, but it won't work, and it is not limited to kiddy porn. I might well find myself blocked, since variations on kiddy porn are a common theme of search strings that bring people here (they must be a tad disappointed when they get here).

I have to say, given my understanding of the ALP, I am quite prepared to apply the "never assume malice where stupidity will do" principle. I am not inclined to assume a deliberate attempt at political censorship, but I doubt that anyone can convince me that this will ever achieve its stated aim, and I suspect there will be a massive amount of collateral damage. And who knows what some future government will do? The ALP should think long and hard about what this could do to them next time they are in opposition. I doubt Howard would have blinked before using it to block anti-Howard web sites.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is. If you have a Labor member, write to them. Call them on their emotional blackmail. Make it clear that you object to kiddy porn, but there are multiple ways of avoiding the planned scheme, none of which require much effort. It's not like peer-to-peer or email are complex technologies. And when you get the form letter response, write back. Don't accept it. We all know it's bullshit.

Stupid is stupid, and if it slows down my Internet, it's evilly stupid, and if it lets some future Howard control what I can see, it's an abomination worthy of a jihad (at least an electronic one).

Missing dinosaur

A photo may be all we have left of Bobgreen. He was on the dining room table when I left for the P&C meeting on Wednesday evening, but by breakfast time Thursday, he was gone. I have done some hunting, and so has Ben, but so far there is no sign. It is all very sad.

I guess the next step is to move all the lounges. *sigh* School is really making my life so much easier just at the moment...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anti-racism week

Last week at school was anti-racism week. When I heard the announcement, I felt a twinge of irritation, something I didn't like about it, much like when people talk about feminism as a movement. But not something I feel compelled to act upon, it's not like I object to feminism or anti-racism. But then we got the cardboard home to make the anti-racism poster.

Firstly, poster competitions judged by random, non-school punters for 5-8 year olds are problematic. Said punter has no hope of recognising how much work any given child has had to do to achieve the final product, and so in the words of Ben's best friend, "Only the kids who can draw good win." I know at least one of the kids who won the last one knocked hers up in half an evening. As kids get older, I have no problem with that. I think Kindy kids should be recognised for what they have achieved as measured by their own abilities, and not compared with everyone else. After Ben's monumental effort on his first poster, he was resolutely refusing to do this one. I have devised an incredibly lazy poster design, and he has decided that he will do it now.

Secondly, I'm just not convinced that racism is an appropriate topic for kindy kids. After a week of anti-racism, Ben now notices race, where he never has before. He has learned that it is a classification schema. Good work. He also had no concept was racism is. He seemed to think it is people being a different colour in his general vicinity. Once I finally managed to get across to him what racism is, he looked at me dumbfounded and said "Why would anybody do THAT?". Yeah, I see the need for anti-racism week.

Which brings me to the discomfort I felt when they first mentioned it, and that which I feel when I hear the word "feminism". I just don't like singling out any particular prejudice. It feels a little like its own kind of prejudice. Don't get me wrong, I'm good with feminist action, or anti-racist action. I'm good with projects that focus on a specific kind of prejudice, no individual project can tackle all of them. But to identify as one kind of anti-prejudice seems odd to me. Not wrong, just... odd.

And in terms of K-2 kids, it seems that addressing prejudice of all kinds, with some examples involving disability and gender stereotypes might be more appropriate. Things they have some experience of - so that perhaps we might be reducing prejudice instead of teaching them about it.

A breakthrough perhaps?

As previously mentioned, I am bad at toilet training. In case you thought I was making this up, it took 4 months from when I started toilet training Charlie for him to do his first poo on the toilet. This was only repeated once, when I wasn't there, in all the intervening time.

Then last night, after half an hour of reading a book on the throne, we had number 3. Today, we had a re-run. 7 months from embarking on this process, we have something resembling progress. And I am still not convinced this will be the last of it. For starters the whole thing will fall in a heap when we run out of cupcakes...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An award!

With thanks to Mim, I have received my first blog award. I was suitably nervous.



Mim's blog was the first I ever read, and the next two were bluemilk and Garden Variety, so I would like to thank them for writing such interesting stuff.

These are the wonderful people who flatter me with comments and continue my delusion that I have anything interesting to say.

aztec-rose
Dina
Ingrid
MPJ
Venessa

As well as Toni and Adam, who comment occasionally and don't blog - of course I don't know what a non-blogger does with a blog award...

My brain's a little frazzled, please forgive me if I have missed you.

We have a boarder

Allow me to introduce Bobgreen:


Ben's class is studying dinosaurs, and they have each been given one to live with them for 2 weeks. Ben named his Bobgreen. That's one word, not a first name and last name. The kids are writing in a journal each night to describe their adventures with their dinosaurs. Ben, at least, is also spending a great deal of time looking for Bobgreen - he is about 4cm long.

Charlie has also demanded his own dinosaur, and now has a collection of 3, much larger ones (with thanks to Toni who's gift it was). One of these is the same variety as Bobgreen, and has been dubbed Goggreen - Charlie's attempt at our house guest's name.

I have already been asked to buy red frogs and supply extra toast for Bobgreen. This is kindergarten. I am really looking forward to science projects in the future...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old news

This happened a while ago, but it's only just now making it to type.

When Elissa started having her bath with the boys, Ben asked why she had two bottoms. Since no obvious "willy" equivalent sprang to mind, I told him that she didn't have two bottoms, that she had a bottom and a vulva. This was digested without comment.

Many months later, at swimming while I was on my way back from Hong Kong, to be precise, Crash was changing Elissa's dirty nappy in the men's change room when Ben helpfully reminded him to "remember to clean her vulva" in his normal fog horn voice. I gather the remark attracted a wee bit of attention from all the men in the room. Crash may forgive me one day.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Important milestones

Today we had Elissa's 1st birthday party. It must have been good - Elissa ended up black from head to toe and needed an extra sleep in the afternoon, we needed to put one kid's clothes in the dryer so that they could be worn home, mum and dad are both drunk and the house looks like it hosted a frat party.

And should anybody be in desperate need of around 10kg of meat, please let me know. I only over-catered by a factor of 3 or so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I am such an idiot

Apparently in my world, there are two 13th of Decembers. My sister told me about the Spicks and Speck-tacular show in Wollongong, and I thought "Why not?" and bought tickets. I already knew that date was taken, but when I mentally checked the date, I counted forward from the beginning of December, instead of backwards from Christmas, which would be the file my brain shoved that other event in.

So, if anyone knows someone who would like to buy a pair of tickets to the show (and who doesn't know Mim & Adam), please point them in my direction.

--Repeatedly bangs head on desk--

Thank you

It's not all over yet, but the main testing has been done on that job, and it seems to have passed muster. So I would like to thank Adam, Jeevan and Mark, without whom it would not have been possible. I owe you many beers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Brain dump

I had this desire to sign up for NaBloMoPo this year. It could be a bit of an up hill battle, given that I can barely manage one a week at the moment.

Nothing particularly exciting has been happening, it has just been impossibly busy. That job I was panicking about seems to be going ok, but we still haven't done a real world run. I have leaned heavily on friends and colleagues to make it go, I definitely won't deserve the credit should it actually be successful in the end.

Elissa's got some more teeth, but these ones have only caused a couple of days of whinging. Today we had our carer call in sick, so the little ones were at home. Charlie then got non-descriptly sick - mild fever, sleepy, refusing to speak and slightly laboured breathing, which had me almost taking him to the doctor until he suddenly perked right up. And then spent the rest of the day loudly shouting "I'm sick, I want to go to the doctor!".

Since we have officially entered chaos season, I am also starting to panic about that. Three birthdays in the immediate family before Christmas, starting this weekend.

The good news is we finally have someone fixing our leaking deck, who started today. By Christmas, we should actually be able to sit in the dining room without fear of the weather.

That was an incoherent mess of a post. I will try to get myself back into the blogging groove...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tired...

Warning: This has "girly" content. Boys, you have been warned.

I knew what a luxury we had, both working part time. Even if our income had halved. But for last few weeks I have been working very nearly full time (with the exception of a half day off during the school holidays). It sucks. It doesn't help that two out of the three projects I have been working on have been stretching my abilities - one of which is decidedly outside them. I haven't slept in anything resembling a sufficient way since Sunday week ago.

The flight home from Hong Kong was nothing short of hideous. The Implanon implant I have had in since Elissa was 6 weeks old is causing me immense grief since I stopped breast feeding. Two periods since, the first one 16 days long, and very heavy. The second one, 19 days and counting, has been worse, and only 3 weeks since the last one. Suffice to say that on the flight I was in pain, and needed to get up from my seat about every hour, resulting in me spending 4 or 5 hours in a flight crew seat. Better air, but very uncomfortable seat.

Wish me luck tomorrow, the job in which I feel way out of my depth on hits crunch time tomorrow. I have scared up some itinerant support for the afternoon, and I am hoping my knight in shining armour will get me through this without complete humiliation.

Ok, vent over. But Mark, where the hell are you when I need you????????

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Hong Kong silliness

OK, a couple more weird things about Hong Kong.

1. There are no seats. There are vast public spaces with not a seat in sight - and in general barely a person in sight. In such a populous country, it seems like such a waste. Or maybe it is a necessary luxury.

2. Toilets that flush themselves, but a stainless steel bucket for sanitary disposal. Of course, now that I think about it, sanitary disposal units that can open themselves and toilets that need flushing maybe just as odd a contradiction.

Being a mono-linguist in a non-English speaking country also reminds you what we will miss if the world ever speaks only one language. (Of course, that language will be English, because I speak it - and it is probably the most ridiculous, hardest to learn language too, both indisputable reasons for its supremacy.) We will lose the joy of lost-in-translation. The one that caught my attention this morning as I cruised past was "Giant Foot Restaurant" - clearly sounds decidedly different in Cantonese. It also makes me lament not being able to speak more languages, and therefore to understand more poor translations. I will never know which of our perfectly reasonable names sound utterly hilarious or just plain wrong in other languages. Or at least I will never really appreciate the finer aspects of the joke.

Michael Franti made me cry

Michael Franti has been on my list of artists to see before I die for a while now. Probably about a month after his last tour. :) I don't own an album, and I only know a handful of songs, but I find the man inspiring, and by all accounts his shows are amazing.

So I jumped on the opportunity to see him at the Enmore, and got tickets for the front section of the dance floor - if you're going for the experience, you want to be in the thick of it. Tim, a friend of mine, came with me and made the excellent suggestion of finding ourselves a spot on the right hand side of the stage. There we camped, and there we were when Cherine Anderson came out. What a voice. She was singing to recorded music, but her amazing voice and stage presence over-rode it.

I have to admit, I missed the beginning of Spearhead, because I was buying beer. I didn't really need the beer that badly, but the queues were long, and you know how it is when you've committed yourself to a course of action...

Anyway, by the time I got back, every part of the dance floor was sardines, except our nice little spot in front of the stage. Very pleasant. There is no way you can watch Michael Franti and not smile. Or avoid dancing. Both happen whether you like it or not. He loves what he does, his smile is overwhelmingly infectious. A friend of mine has told me on several occasions that she would leave behind her life with women to have Michael Franti's babies. After seeing him sing "All I Want Is You" with Cherine Anderson, I no longer doubt her integrity on that point.

A couple of weeks ago I heard Dr Karl talking about how music is used in all cultures as something of an emotional state reboot. By listening to music together, our brains all find themselves in the same mood state - must have been highly adaptive in helping men come back from the hunt all testosterone laden and then chill out and interact peacefully with the group. I was just thinking how incredibly effective Franti's music was at this (during "Everyone Deserves Music"), when he stopped for a chat. He spoke about a letter he received in Brisbane from a woman whose 21 year old daughter had had a stroke, and was capable only of tiny movements of her head. Of course, he went to see her (wouldn't have been much of a story otherwise), and he sang a few songs for her, kissed her on the forehead and placed his finger on her lips. She moved her lips to kiss him - the first time she had moved them since the stroke 7 or 8 weeks ago. She can now move her left hand a little, and everyone in that room is desperately hoping she makes a dramatic recovery. I know I wasn't the only one crying. Whatever Michael Franti wants you to feel, you feel it. Good thing he uses this power for good.

Nearly 2 and a half hours of music, with only a change of clothing - no pretence of encore. The band left the stage with an established chant going, and were back before the audience even thought of getting bored. I love that. I also love the smell of marijuana. I think they should legalise it so that I can use it as incense. I wonder if anyone has ever made that argument before.

I notice I've written all this, and barely mentioned the music. It's not really my style, but they are clearly damn good at it. Michael Franti might be an imposing personality, but he is fronting a very talented band who successfully carried me off into the moment without my having a great deal of appreciation for much of the musical style. I actually enjoyed "Pass the Dutchie", which says a lot for them. I was definitely a rock chick in a foreign land, but Michael Franti and Spearhead made me feel so welcome, I was only aware of it some of the time. I may never own a Spearhead album, but I doubt I'll miss another gig.

The weirdest thing about Hong Kong

...is that many of their school uniforms are all white. White dresses, white shirt and pants. Now I don't know about you, but I just can't imagine a P&C or school board or whatever, sitting around looking at some design options and saying "You know, I think the all white option is the best." At Ben's school nearly every kid has faded stains on their blue shirts, can you imagine what white uniforms would look like after a week? Or, god help us, a year? Maybe children in Hong Kong don't spill food and draw on themselves. Maybe their parents just use a lot of bleach.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Planes

I am currently en-route to Hong Kong (ok, so I won't be by the time this is published, sadly there is no in-flight Internet), on a Qantas A-330. Yeah, the same as the one that tried to fly directly into the ground because the computer system rebooted. Excellent, I am flying on a plane known to suffer blue screen of death.

One thing comes to mind, if you have redundant computer systems, as is my understanding, wouldn't you expect them both to be on the same page? Specifically, wouldn't you want them to both believe the plane should be at the same altitude? Just askin'.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And much hilarity ensued

Ben went to a boy from school's birthday party today and came back with a Whoopee cushion.

It occupied all of both boys' time all evening, with outbursts of hysterics every few minutes.

Meanwhile, Elissa discovered a whole new joy - a ball. She found Charlie's little ball and played with it on her own and with me and her brothers for ages. There's one thing I can put on the list for a 1st birthday present.

Oh, and I did wrap the board game present in pink wrapping paper. Pathetic attempts at social engineering. :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The things that uni teaches you

I have an exam tomorrow for developmental psychology, which is clearly why I am blogging. I have just finished reading the last of the notes from the tutorials. The last one was taken from a paper called "Maternal Sensitivity: What does it take?". Holy crap. Good thing I never read that little gem before I started having kids.

It starts like this:

Sensitive, responsive parenting has been recognised for many decades as a necessary (though not sufficient) requirement for the development of secure infant-to-parent attachment, and the term "maternal sensitivity" is now part of the everyday language of health professionals.

I like the slick transition from "parent" to "maternal". But anyway, ok, seems vaguely reasonable, although, as the paper itself asks "How is "maternal sensitivity" defined and by whom?". Well, in the selection we got, the latter question was not really addressed. However, the definition was, in spades. There were 4 pages of what a mother needs to do to be sensitive. I seriously don't have time to go through it all, but the highlights are to always be aware of, understand, respond appropriately to and provide the right emotional environment for, the baby's cues. And another section I just need to quote for your edification and amusement:

The ability to accurately interpret cues is dependent on the mother's awareness that the baby is giving cues (for God's sake don't assume that the 3 hours of solid crying every night could possibly have no useful communicative value! -ed) ... and also on her capacity for empathy.

And then this:

The mother who has the qualities necessary for sensitive and responsive parenting will, in most instances, respond appropriately, quickly calming or soothing the crying infant or engaging in play or distraction in response to the infant's cues. The mother who is less sensitive to the infant's cues will frequently misinterpret them ... and then may respond inappropriately, for example in a way that may be hostile or non-supportive. ... Alternatively the mother's responses may be overly intrusive. ... The usual problem here is that the mother is consciously or unconsciously giving priority to meeting her own needs rather than those of the infant.

Righteeeeo then. That'll be the problem, that useless mother selfishly felt that her need not to go postal outweighed the baby's need for... whatever the hell the baby wanted, because clearly you'll do the wrong thing in preference to shutting the screaming banshee up.

Now I know this isn't in reference to an isolated incident, it is about a pattern of behaviour. But still, even on kid #3, at 10 months, I pretty regularly have to go through 2 or 3 options to find the "appropriate response". I would not describe myself as having "quickly attune[d] to [my] infant's cues". And yet all these mind boggling requirements are only necessary, not sufficient for forming a secure attachment!

Hands up who feels they are sensitive, responsive mothers? Statistics suggest that around 50% of babies are, in fact, securely attached (and this is with a very limited definition of securely attached - all but another 10% are regarded as functionally attached, but with less balance in their lives) so I wonder where all these super mothers are. My kids show all the symptoms of securely attached kids, as do those of pretty much all the people I know. So I call the usefulness of this paper into serious question. Which would be no big deal, except that it has been supplied as text book supplement type information to second year uni students. No analysis. No hint that it might be an enormous pile of doggy do.

And in case you were wondering just how irritated I was about all this, I did not have this text in electronic format, and had to re-type all of that...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pestilence update

This morning the rash got worse, so I decided I had better employ Google Doctor and find out what she had. The answer, it seemed, was Roseola. She seemed a bit happier today, so I looked for information on contagiousness. In the true spirit of the Internet, I found three answers:

1. Once the rash starts, it is no longer contagious
2. Once the rash starts, it is less contagious
3. Once the rash starts, it is at its most contagious

Excellent, I'm so glad I asked. So the decision was to not take her to the 1st birthday party we were going to. I took the boys, who had a ball.

This evening, she was steadfastly refusing to go to sleep. This is sufficiently out of character that I started to doubt my Google Doctor expertise, and decided a trip to the doctor was in order. Balmain Hospital has a 24hr GP service, and I decided to schlep on over there.

Wow, what an experience. Firstly, it's much closer than I thought, took less than 20 minutes, even with post-grand final traffic and people eating out in Balmain. Secondly, all Elissa's records are online from RPAH, so I don't even have to fill out any paperwork or produce a Medicare card. Thirdly, they take her straight through, we wait maybe 5 minutes for the doctor, who looks her over after reading the triage nurse's notes, goes and checks her books and decides it's Roseola. Comfortingly, she shows me the differential diagnoses and explains why it isn't any of them. Cool. In fact, what more can you ask for? And we were home in just over an hour. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention parking immediately in front of the building. Anyone in the feed area for this service, give it a shot if you find yourself doubtful about your own Google Doctor proficiency. Who says public health is inefficient and poor quality?

Oh yeah, and that doctor plumped for option 2 on the contagiousness list, but I'm not sure she felt strongly committed to her answer...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Drunken capitalist philosophy

After that glass of bubbly, I feel ready to tackle the financial crisis. As you do.

I am spectacularly torn by this whole disaster. I should make my bias clear, I work for the financial sector, if they go down the toilet, so do we, financially at least. My hubby works with me, so we have no diversity. On the other hand, I have no allegiance to this sector, I regularly describe my job as working for the devil. A sector whose only net output is inflation.

So, I really wanted the US government to bail these arseholes out. After some thought, it did dawn on me that by finding a perspective somewhere between my personal one and my idealism, I had to conclude that it was necessary. If the US government had not done it, life for the average American would seriously suck. Credit would disappear for the average American punter, making business and home ownership almost impossible. I have been hanging out for capitalism to crumble, and I had kinda hoped this might do it. But ultimately, no responsible government could have let the fallout of this mess hit their people. Yes, I have just described George W's administration as responsible. Perhaps there are some depths that no-one will stoop to.

As with all disasters, this was a multifactorial issue. A brief summary, as I understand it, for anyone who might be interested (please feel free to tell me where I am wrong, I am trying to really understand this). There were a bunch of people selling home loans to people who couldn't actually afford them. They were doing this by selling them loans with very low repayments for a year or two, which then went up dramatically. This is a model which is easy to justify for your 20 something professionals, they can expect their income to go up dramatically soon, and this sort of model helps them get into the property market sooner. But that's not who they were selling to. So for a few years, it was all good. Every time people's loans got too big to repay, they would re-finance on the basis of their increased property value. So they started out with $100k home loan, repaid less than the interest in the first two years, and when the repayments hit a level they couldn't manage, they refinanced for $120k on the back of the increased value of their property. Each time a home loan is sold, the sales guy gets a full commission, regardless of the long term outcome of the loan. Eventually, the real estate bubble bursts (as it must) and the house values have not gone up enough to refinance, and the whole disaster collapses.

What turned this into a stock market disaster was that pretty much all American banks were involved somehow. And to make matters worse, America in general has been operating on credit for a long time. So the banks were borrowing their money to lend to these people who couldn't afford it, from other countries. And all the time the banks were recording massive profits that come from charging interest on loans that are not making full interest repayments. This is where the "market failure" comes in. The market should (according to capitalist theory - no I don't believe in it, but our whole system is predicated on it) recognise the risk, and devalue the banks as a result. It didn't. It worked on the reported profits and never thought about the inherent contradiction in a competitive system with everyone recording record profits. Something stunk, but the markets didn't see it. The entire management structure of these banks chose not to see it. And so eventually the chickens came home to roost, and here we are.

And I still reckon that the mid week voting down of the rescue package by the Republicans was done so that the Republicans could go shopping in the incredibly low market before they voted it up. Yes, I am incredibly cynical.

From the point of view of all of us not living in the US, should this have been done? No, there are so many more important things that $800 billion should have been spent on - renewable energy, a cure for malaria, whatever. As a nation's government, did they have a choice? No. They had to do this. For gods' sake, America, please vote in Obama. At least he understands that the rest of the world is affected by his decisions. You've taken this indulgence, please consider the rest of the world with your next decision. Because lord knows Goldman Sachs do not deserve to be rescued.