Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kinda sorta memorial

Today would have been my father's 60th birthday.

Since he died in November 1997, long before the world of blogs, I've possibly never even mentioned him here, and that seems wrong.

It's pretty difficult to describe him to someone who never knew him. There was something a bit different about him. Like maybe he existed in one more dimension than the rest of us or something. And he had one of the best bemused expressions of anyone I know.

He drank. A lot. He cooked. Well. He had an amazing way with little kids that makes me cry every time I think about him and my kids missing out on each other. And he taught us how to choose corn on the cob.

He never swore around the family. At least not until you were old enough to drink with him. It was at that point that I realised how impressive his skill was. To turn that on and off, even after 37 beers, was possibly something only a Catholic upbringing could create.

And at times, he showed the most incredible insight - said exactly the right thing to the right person at the right time. Then he denied having said it later. I doubt anyone knows why.

Obviously I can't sum up his life in a post, but I couldn't let the occasion pass without at least giving him a mention.

And I won't say "rest in peace", because I'd much rather imagine him shit stirring in some after life I don't actually believe in.

I am a selfless mother

I will be accepting the Mother of Year award shortly.

Yesterday, I got a new iPhone. I brought it home, but despite the desperate desire to play with it, I didn't even get it out of the box until I had:
  • Picked up Charlie
  • Picked up Ben and friend and taken them to gymnastics
  • Gone shopping and bought food for 2 days or so
  • Cooked dinner
  • Fed family
  • Done washing
  • Read stories and done bed time
Shit I'm virtuous.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Internet censorship kills trees

Senator Conroy was on Q&A last night, and this is what he was confronted with:

Granted Q&A doesn't reach the masses like A Current Affair, but it must be starting to be unsettling.

GetUp are forwarding all the unanswered questions to Senators Nick Minchin, Scott Ludlam and Nick Xenaphon to have them asked in Parliament.

If you haven't taken any action over this yet, sign the petition over there on the right, or if you have a question you'd like to ask Conroy, click here.

How many kinds of stupid does something have to be before Government can see it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's Charlie

To take today's trip into Charlie's world, you need to remember the Star Wars theme. Not Darth Vader's theme, the main movie theme. Got it? Right.

Charlie did some impromptu lyricising.

Dogdogdogdog DOG POO, dogdogdogdog DOG POO, dogdogdogdog POOOOOO.

Merging two obsessions into one.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Josh Pyke

In keeping with my tradition of timely reviews, I'm just getting around to writing about Josh Pyke from last Friday night.

Another Metro gig - love those gigs.

Due to badly timed doctor's appointments and my day from hell, we missed the first support act and only saw a few songs from Cloud Control. They weren't bad - fluffy pop with a keyboardist looking like a wood sprite skipping about in green tights and a brown smock. Death Cloud is sufficiently catchy that I remembered it from its airplay before I saw them. I also recognised Vintage Books when they played it.

We watched these guys standing behind a middle aged couple with two teenage girls. It was a distinctly bi-modally distributed crowd - with a pronounced lull between 25 and 40 years of age. It was accompanied by an excessive level of kanoodling in the upper peak of the distribution. Not your standard crowd is all I'm saying.

We moved for Josh Pyke so we could watch him instead of some low level groping, which put us way up the back, but with a clear line of sight.

I can't imagine how anyone could not like Josh Pyke. I mean, I get that you mightn't find that his music rocks your world, but live, the music is fun, the crowd knows all the words and he is so chuffed that everyone came out to see him you have to buy in. I knew all the singles and they were great. They were about half of the show, and of the others, there was a selection of darker, bassier tracks that I loved the sound of. I might have to get around to actually buying an album. He's been on the list for a while, but CD shopping rarely makes it into the diary.

The Lighthouse Song was a great moment for Australian choral singing. It's a lovely, lilting tune with pretty lyrics of the "together we can ignore the world and be happy" variety. The chorus also ends with:
And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind
I'll just hold you tight and we'll not let those fuckers in
Up until this song, the audience had been vaguely tuneful. But I laughed every single time he sung those last four words and the crowd screamed it out with a gusto that AC/DC would envy.

For a really, spectacularly shitty day, it was the perfect anti-dote. His music is relentlessly cheerful (even the darker tracks have cheerful lyrics). He loves his girlfriend. People are fallible but lovable in his songs. If he comes your way, go see him. Worst case scenario, you too can laugh at the audience.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My evening

Just to balance out the excessive whinging and complaining that has been going on here lately, my afternoon and evening went like this:

I looked for a replacement for my broken toast tongs (Charlie snapped them yesterday inducing irrational rage - they are an addictive little device). I found a supplier in Australia and am now just looking for a few people to join me in my purchase to make the shipping more plausible ($5 for tongs, $5 shipping for one set, $10 shipping for 2 or more - I'd like to be able to buy at least 10 of the buggers to make it sensible). This made me inordinately happy.

I bought myself a packet of frozen Tasty Terribles to eat after the kids went to bed, and some fresh pasta to speed up the spag bol preparation for the kids' dinner.

I picked up Charlie and Elissa, and both were in good moods.

I picked up Ben, and Charlie told me he was happy to go home and have dinner (this may be a first in history) and Ben was also chirpy.

Dinner was eaten cheerfully and without conflict. Chocolate straws and brownies were distributed in a fit of absolute gratitude.

5 minute clean up happened voluntarily and without incident.

Baths happened without a single child screaming. Also a possible first (at least since Elissa was born).

Children all went to bed with only minor "I can't sleep" protests, and one request from Ben to turn on the air conditioner, which was met by a suggestion to put on summer, rather than winter pyjamas.

I ate my Tasty Terribles and watched TV and drank a bottle of cheap bubbly and blogged.

Of course, now it's midnight and I need to get up early and take them all swimming, but that is my fault. I have chosen to revel in my pleasant evening rather than be sensible. Perhaps you should brace yourself for more whinging tomorrow. :)

Out of date musings

Whilst drinking a bottle of embarrassingly cheap bubbly, I have been watching last year's Dentons. It's been awesome.

The Nigerian poet was moving and cool (and indeed a prophet - he echoed my sentiments that the US's sexism was stronger than its racism).

Then I watched the amazing double act of Imran Kahn and Kevin Bloody Wilson. This was aired around October or November last year. I remember the Triple J DJs asking Andrew Denton about whether the two guests met and he said that the two had been recorded on separate occasions. Good call, I'm guessing.

For non-Australian readers, the former was one of Pakistan's greatest ever cricketers and has since become a politician and activist in Pakistan. The latter sings "bawdy ballads" of the offensive, Australian yobbo variety.

It was a magnificent contrast. Kahn spoke eloquently about the political and social consequences of large scale actions (particularly of the US) on the people of Pakistan. I didn't expect to find myself agreeing with him on every single point, but there you go. He truly understands the hearts and minds war. And he knows the US isn't just losing it, they are staging one of the greatest defeats in history, from a position of inevitable victory. Then again, he also said that cricketers would always be safe from terrorists in Pakistan. (Although I admit I share the skepticism of Pakistanis who doubt this was local terrorists - but I stop short of automatically blaming India. It actually seems too complex and intricate for an India-Pakistan stouch, but I have yet to have any inspiration as to who such an act could benefit.)

Then Kevin Bloody Wilson refused to accept that using words like "coon" and "sambo" was offensive when used in humour. He can't argue eloquently, he can't argue at all. He just repeated himself, but reading between the lines, he was assuming the same "the new wog" argument that I made about fat. He was basically saying that the Aborgines he had met found his stuff hilarious, they had embraced the derogatory terms and diffused them. KBW clearly has no clue about political ripples. He works entirely at the level of the people he is racially slurring. [ed: rereading this it sounds outrageously condescending - I meant that he is thinking at an individual level, rather than a political or population level.] Oddly, I think as offensive as most of his stuff is to me, I suspect it helps empower the people at the pointy end of his songs. They find it funny. They can take the words and remove the personal sting. 200 years of connotation can genuinely be removed if the targets refuse to hear it.

Having said that, the only example they discussed was "Living Next Door to Alan" which was about "coons" moving in next door to Alan Bond, and ultimately triumphing. I agree that words are best diffused by using them without the hatred that inspired them, but if damaging stereotypes are reinforced, we go backwards not forwards. He may or may not be racist but his descriptions of women (irrespective of whether or not he calls them Sheilas) are entirely sexist. I am not sufficiently familar with his work to know whether he does the same things racially on other occasions.

Oh yeah, and the song of his he'd choose to have played at his funeral was funny to me. Dilligaf. Do-I-Look-Like-I-Give-A-Fuck. I liked that one.

Changing the world from the top down and from the bottom up. Or parhaps from the arse end up in the latter case.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This could be interesting

[Edited now with what actually happened, since I probably won't get to a real blog post until at least tonight, possibly Sunday night. Edits in blue]

In the great positive feedback loop that is blogging, Yodaobi, inspired by Mim, inspired Mim to write a 2 week schedule (one just gone, one pending). Because I'm a joiner, and Sunday evening seems a sensible time for it, I'm doing it too.

It's a little scary, it might make my whinging look even more pathetic.

Last week:

Mon: Take Ben to school. Look after Elissa and work. Do pre-work for uni prac. Pick Ben & friend up from school and take them to gymnastics. (Friend's mum takes them home.) Drive to Macquarie Uni (park in Mac Centre - loving the 3 hour parking regime). Read text book with a cup of tea. Prac. Home, dinner, more work. Bed presumably - don't remember.

Tue: Homework. Take Ben to school and do computers with his class for an hour. Work. Pick up Charlie from pre-school at 12:20pm for eye appointment at Randwick. Get home 5:40pm. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Bottle of wine with Crash, because work stress has subsided enough to allow civility again.

Wed: Homework. Take Ben to school. Take little ones food shopping and buy a new helmet for Charlie. Work and look after little ones. Trivia with friends.

Thur: Homework. Crash leaves. Take Charlie & Elissa to day care, then Ben to school. Work. Try to find dining room under electronics factory. Pick up Charlie & Elissa, then Ben. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Listen to half of last week's lecture. Read a bit of the text book. Bed at sensible hour.

Fri: Homework. Take Charlie & Elissa to day care, then Ben to school. Hair dresser. Utter disaster. Josh Pyke.

Sat: 7:30am leave the house for swimming. Get back early for an insane 45 minutes of showering and changing and finding sunscreen etc for Sound Relief. Sound Relief, punctuated by work (took up all of Architecture in Helsinki). Work succeeds. Barry Gibb doesn't.

Sun: Decide to sleep in. Elissa doesn't. Do a full request breakfast. Blog a bit. Do massive grocery shop with 3 kids. Eat at mall because 6 year old demands fruit salad. Seems petty to say no. Bring groceries home and pack away. Head to Bicentennial park. Good stuff. Head home to get 3 loads of washing that were out for yesterday's storms in before a repeat performance (can't remember where getting them washed and out there was in the schedule). Half of it is still wet. Hang out next two loads. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Clean kitchen (poorly). Going to bed as soon as this is done.

And as for next week:

Mon: Take Charlie to pre-school, then Ben to school. Go to Aldi, return to car to find it won't start. Wait for NRMA. Get car hot wired and go to mechanic, do not pass Go, DO NOT turn off the engine. Work and look after Elissa. Try to work out what to do about uni prac that I can't make for the next two weeks. Discover this is not actually a drama, wonder why they can't write this minor detail down. Pick Charlie up from pre-school. Pick Ben & friend up from school and take them to gymnastics. Half of homework at gymnastics. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Uni work.

Tue: Other half of homework. Take Elissa to daycare, Charlie to pre-school and then Ben to school. Clock it, this is a 14km round trip! Computers. Work and hopefully find the lounge room under all the rubble. Nope Pick Charlie up from pre-school. Pick Ben up from school. Pick Elissa up from daycare. Might aim for homework. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Uni work. Make brownies for cake day.

Wed: Take Ben to school (with brownies). Work and look after little ones. Clean lots of the house so as to retain some kind of sanity. Specialist appointment with little ones in tow. Cook dinner slightly in advance for family and friend who is babysitting. P&C meeting. Some serious chin wagging with valiant babysitting friend. (No, didn't forget Ben - he's off to friend's house and walks home from there.) All this interspersed with multiple phone calls from Singapore, including during P&C meeting. Not so much chin wagging, mostly work.

Thur: Homework. Take Charlie & Elissa to day care, then Ben to school. Probably work. Dunno, anybody got a better offer? :) Almost got Ben to school and got phone call from customer. Ended up in the city until 12:30pm fixing another company's fault. Eat lunch, go to uni prac. Shop. Pick up Charlie & Elissa, then Ben. Dinner, baths and bedtime. Housework/uni work depending on which is causing most stress. Actually tried to fix massive work disaster. Did, but it was 10pm. So much for dinner, didn't eat.

Fri: Homework. Take Charlie & Elissa to day care, then Ben to school (don't forget orange shirt).
Work. Quiet day. Lots of uni work, bit of cleaning, some actual work. Starting to get a little desperate for adult, non-work company. Pick up Charlie & Elissa, then Ben. Dinner, baths and bedtime. 2 bottles of wine.

Sat: 7:30am leave the house for swimming. McDonalds for breakfast. Hoping to catch up with Toni over the weekend. Kids barracking for a sleep over. Hopefully will have discussed with Toni by then.

Sun: Be intensely jealous of husband en route to Tokyo. Possibly other stuff. Possibly shutting kids in separate cupboards, swallowing much codeine and taking to my bed.

I dunno. Not so crazy mostly. Maybe the devil's in the detail. Maybe I'm just a whinger. :)

More whinging

But this will be the last for a couple of posts, at least. I promise.

Friday started well. I got up on time, got all the kids where they were going, on time with minimal tantrums and yelling (from me). I went to the hairdresser on the basis that Crash is in Hong Kong, and therefore couldn't need my support until after 12pm. I read a chapter or so of my text book while the colour did its thing. I bought some kids' chopsticks (stuck together at the top with an animal) to resolve the 2 year old problem of one set of chopsticks and two kids.

When I got home, I was a touch overwhelmed by the chaos, so I figured I'd run errands and do some grocery shopping. This is where is started to go to pot.

Some of the drama had its origin on Thursday, when Crash flew out and managed to leave his entire toiletry bag behind, complete with medication. I knew I needed to make a customs declaration to mail them, so I went to the Post Office instead of using Fed Ex. Ha! A customs declaration is not sufficient, you need a specific form, which the Post Office doesn't have. All this to mail about $20 worth of blood pressure and gout medication. This is a law which needs a small quantity cut-off. Just to add insult to injury, since I couldn't send the toiletry bag, and the other thing I needed to send cost less than $10, I couldn't actually pay for the latter because they wouldn't take EFTPOS. What century is this?

And so to Westpac. I needed to deposit some cheques. That worked! I also needed to change the PIN on my brand new, never used debit card. No. It was damaged. It was clearly my fault, just ask the guy on the desk. They had to order me a new card.

Shopping went comparitively smoothly, and I was only 15 minutes behind on my rather tight schedule. I figured if I cooked the spag bol for the kids' dinner really quickly, I'd be back on track. The anxiety levels were high, but manageable. I didn't even make it home before I got a call from Singapore needing support. An hour and a half later, I was still on the phone, whilst chopping onions, cooking and stirring. Somewhere in all the chaos, Fed Ex arrived to deliver 4 ginormous boxes, adding to the despatch atmosphere of my lounge room. I was also juggling calls from two or three other customers. Oh yeah, and I needed to pack the swimming bags for 7:30am the next day, but could not find my swimmers anywhere. Nowhere. Stress was getting really out of hand. And I had done none of the cleaning up I had intended.

By 4:15pm, the spag bol was cooked, but the problems in Hong Kong and Singapore were not resolved. Another customer called and told me he needed me in Bondi Junction. NOW. He was very reasonable, the need was real. But I had to pick the kids up in an hour. I offered to find him someone else who could do the job, which I did. Then the site where the work needed to be done announced that they wouldn't allow said person on site without my being there. Useful. I was really starting to come undone at this stage. Perhaps something about the tone of my voice gave my customer the courage to go back to the site people and explain just how insane this particular policy is, because somewhere in the middle of collecting all the kids, I got a call telling me that my sub would be allowed on site.

Just to add to the "anything that could go wrong..." theme for the day, when I left to pick up the kids, I shut the door after putting the dog out, and a picture fell off the wall. The frame smashed, but I guess I shouldn't complain, the glass didn't. And when I finally got out the door to go to Josh Pyke, we headed to Maccas for a bite. I really only wanted a thick shake. The poor girl on the drive through didn't quite understand the sniggers and "Of course it's not" when she told us the shake machine wasn't working.

All the chaos was to get myself and the kids sufficiently organised for me to go to Josh Pyke Friday night, for everyone to go swimming Saturday morning and for me to go to Sound Relief Saturday lunch time. So much more cheerful posts are to follow. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Today that godawful law banning Australian aid from being used by institutions that perform abortions was overturned. Rudd didn't support the change, but it happened anyway. About bloody time. I will never understand any logic that says Australian women can have abortions, but not those who need our help.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Can't blog, working

My house is a factory. The dining room table is completely covered in electronics, soldering irons and tools. The lounge room is a forest of boxes*. The rest of the house is showing the signs of intense neglect. The children are wondering why they feel like they are missing us, despite us having rarely left the house.

That which is being built must all be shipped within the next few days. Some of it must go tomorrow. Crash follows it all on Thursday. He will be away for just shy of two weeks.

And today I got my period 2 days early. Just in case I wasn't being irrational enough already. I suppose at least that means the (extra) irrational is over.

This should keep food on the table for a while, so it is all worth it. We have a list of things that will be done differently next time. (Don't we always!) But I am actually looking forward to having evenings alone when I can clean this place. It won't happen, and I'll miss him when he's gone, but that's the kind of madness living in a factory induces.

*Wow, I hadn't thought of that book in 20 years.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The unfinished spelling errors of Ben*

Ben wrote on his whiteboard this morning (which is on the front verandah, facing the street):


I really strongly felt the need to intervene. It's now spelled correctly.

*With apologies to Martin Pearson**

**With apologies to Tolkien

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I love uni

This week at uni:
  • I have spent over an hour just trying to find out when semester starts. There is, buried somewhere so deep I can't even remember where, one document that has the relevant dates in clear format. However, nothing on the front page. The "semester dates" link, a few layers down, goes nowhere (although in early February it was still linking to the 2008 dates). From previous experience, however, that may have been a blessing since what should have been there was a table with approximtely 639 dates, none of which actually says when lectures start and finish. The answer was that it started last week. Bugger.
  • The one part of the course materials that was actually up and running referred to 2008 in at least 40% of the documents, as well as having the old course number (further confusing me about whether or not semester had actually started). The whole thing looked like it was under construction, not in full swing.
  • I have attended the first prac (statistics), to be lectured about how terribly important it is to have extensive experience with data sets by a wise and aged woman who finished her honours year last year. (For the statistically inclined, she suggested that the fact that the data for IQ didn't even approach normal was not a big deal, we could just apply a transformation to make it look normal.)
  • I have read some of the most sarcastic, smug message board entries from a lecturer that I could ever have imagined. This man clearly feels that all students are intensely privileged to be attending this course, and if any of them should have anything else happening in their lives, he doesn't give a shit.
  • The first, (repeatedly) proclaimed non-compulsory, lecture was not, as advertised, available online. In addition, there were handouts distributed. The lecturer has steadfastly refused to specify exactly where they can be found online. They are there, but not anywhere obvious.
  • I took 2 small children to buy textbooks at the Co-op on campus. There were all kinds of stupid involved, but the overwhelming message is anyone who is not able bodied need not bother. The pram just barely fit in the cattle run directing punters to the register. The other guy's wheelchair didn't. I presume he didn't need any course notes, because they were down a precipitous set of stairs. Since there was no way I could get back up the stairs, I headed out the only other way - a back alley through a car park mostly filled with a truck. It's a welcoming campus.
I love Macquarie University.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Government will fix body image

The Federal Government has commissioned a group of fashion industry leaders to address body dissatisfaction levels among Australia's youth.
Editors from Cosmo and Girlfriend are involved. I am in two minds about this. They have chosen exactly the right people to tackle the worst of women-influencing-women bad body image issues, but they have also chosen the right people to make sure that whatever policy comes into play won't affect these big players.

This is being played as a young people issue, and there is no doubt that young people are the most vulnerable, but we are kidding ourselves if we think we aren't being influenced by it. I like to pretend I am above media influence, but when I find myself in tears watching real women on (English) "How to Look Good Naked", I realise how much I am just like everyone else.

I am loath to ever suggest that anything should be illegal, but airbrushing has become a weapon against ordinary women. Academically, we all know those magazine covers are bullshit, but they are speaking directly to our amygdala. They are triggering fears and insecurities that our rational minds don't even know we have - the emotional parts of our brain that were trained by the other kids that called us fat. The stand out in my past is the drawing of me in a bikini as an egg with 2 rubber bands. Despite the fact that academically, if the worst body shape I had to deal with was a smooth wide middle I'd be happy, that still brings shudders.

So where will this go? I know nothing about the people involved in this. If they have a conscience, they are in a position to really help. I'm not sure how much labelling airbrushing will help on its own, but I'm thinking that it will rapidly become a negative label. If it makes it go away, I am a happy vegemite.

The media has been the conduit to the impossible, toxic body ideals that the female of the species (at least in the western world) is currently dealing with. They may not have created it (arguably) but they have absolutely enabled it. And what I really don't get? The media sells mags regardless of what is currently in vogue. If it is a healthy, wide range of body shapes, the media sold image of sexy will still sell.

So if you have an open line to anyone on this committee, let them know that even the most cynical of us might actually buy those trashy mags if they had reinforcing, realistic images of women.

And if the monetary incentive isn't plausible, ask them to talk to 8 year olds who think they are fat. Ask those kids why they think they are fat.And then ask them why being fat is so bad anyway. And them to come back and justify their design room decisions.


Today I needed to ring the bank. Two weeks ago, we applied for a new business credit card for Crash. I realised today I have heard nothing more. So I tried to find a phone number for the person who I sent the application to. Ha!

So I surrendered and rang the business line. The women who answered told me she had no record of my application (and there is no reason why she would) and would need to ring the branch. I mentioned that I had attempted to find a number for the branch, and she told me that this is deliberate. To her credit, she was incredibly pleasant and understanding.

She rang my branch, and had to come back to me to confirm who I had spoken to. She then had to come back to me ask more details. In the end she asked me to resend the application to her. I have no idea how long it might take to sort this out.

Only a bank could decide that you can't speak to the person who receives your application, and that the people you can speak to can't see your application.

But I can't complain, if it was Telstra, the person who I could speak to would also not be permitted to speak to the person who I submitted the application to.

Monday, March 02, 2009

More thieving

I know this is the second steal from Cake Wrecks in a week, and I don't even have anything to say about this except


Sunday, March 01, 2009

User pays peeing

Am I the only one who thinks this could end badly?

Ryanair are seriously considering charging passengers a pound to use the toilets in flight. On reading this, my mind immediately went to a plane load of drunk Irishmen all inventing new and interesting ways of avoiding paying that pound. I'm thinking it could be very, very ugly.