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


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 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


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.


The week that was...

I went to Melbourne for Tuesday and Wednesday, got screwed around by clients and achieved very little. When I left, Elissa had been croupy over night. She went off to day care and was fine. She was ok while I was away, but Thursday the carer rang and asked us to pick her up. She had a low grade fever and was lethargic. So I brought her home and she slept for 4 hours before I had to wake her up to take Ben to my sister's for a sleep over, followed by a day in the Blue Mountains with my mother.

So that night she spiked a fever of 39.5 deg C (103 deg F for the metrically impaired), which only dropped to 38.5 (101) after both Panadol and Nurofen. So I kept her in my bed so that I wouldn't pass out completely and fail to check on her. I also had a fan blowing which helped to keep her cool. By 5am she was cold and I finally put her back in her bed and enjoyed a luxurious 2 hours' sleep.

This glorious slumber was interrupted by a phone call from my mother, who was letting me know that she had taken Ben to the hospital at 5am because he had a touch of croup and a fever, and they possessed absolutely no children's drugs. He soldiered on and went to the mountains, walked 4.8km and caught the train home for 2 hours with Ginny and Solomon. By which time the fever had returned, and he came home, ate and went immediately to bed.

Elissa is still getting random fevers, has a spotty rash and is much crankier than usual. Sheesh. I guess that whole four weeks of all round wellness has spoilt me.

So to top off my evening, Charlie, the only well child, dropped his bowl and broke it, which would have been ok, only it was still half full of duck soup. So I have vacuumed, and now I am listening to the dulcet tones of the robot mop getting rid of the stickies...

Whinge mode -off-.

Update: Whinge mode -on-. So before I sat down to watch Iron Chef with a glass of bubbly and some strawberries, I thought I'd do a quick kid check. Elissa was in need of a drink (very high maintenance when she's sick, that girl) and Charlie needed a nappy change (his ability to wait until he gets his nappy on is nothing short of astounding) and when I came back downstairs I found that Bailey had thrown up his dinner and Charlie's spilled duck soup all over the carpet. Thank the gods for Enjo and live pause. Whinge mode -off-. So now I will enjoy my bubbly, and Iron Chef reruns followed by Rockwiz, which may not be everyone's idea of a rockin' Saturday night, but it'll do me.


I'm finally getting to writing the Faker review...

They had a DJ of some sort as their first support. Since Crash and I don't get out too often together, we decided dinner at the Wazza was a better option. We got off our arses and got down to the Enmore for the next support act, Sparkadia. These guys have been talked up in a big way by Triple J, so I was prepared to give them a go. They are very poppy, which is not a bad thing by definition, but still it takes a bit to grab me in the world of pop. The best description I could come up with is that they remind me of Coldplay. The songs sound great, but after a minute or two you are wondering why they haven't finished yet. Very polished sound, just not interesting enough to make it to the end of the song. In the end I found myself snoozing during the latter half of most of the songs.

Faker are great. Lots of fun, very charismatic, energetic front man and the music is much better live than it is recorded. I don't mind their stuff in general, but I haven't been inspired to buy the album, it seems a bit same-ish. But live it all has much more of an edge, the stuff grabs you in a way the recorded versions don't.

I would thoroughly recommend these guys to anyone with any passing interest in Oz rock. It's very friendly, easy to come at music. They've been around for a while now, and it seems they are getting better. It will be interesting to see if they ever manage to capture the passion of the live set on an album - they could prove to be a great band if they do.