Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The first mango of the season

Tonight we had the first mangoes of the season. Not even spring (quite), and we have had mangoes! Ok, not exactly Kensington Prides, these were little cooking mangoes that I spotted in the supermarket for a ludicrously small price.

Easy to peel and slice up, they look very pretty in the bowl.

I'd already decided on rice paper rolls for dinner, so I figured I'd see how these went into the mix. I use a random selection of ingredients for these, but tonight's were:
  • rump steak (cooked and then sliced and marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil)
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • shallots
  • red capsicum
  • mango
  • celery
  • mint leaves
  • Vietnamese mint leaves
  • rice vermicelli
  • sliced ham (for small kids who won't eat the steak)
  • hoisin sauce
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • hot chilli sauce

We constructed them at the table, to general approval. I even got kisses and multiple thank yous after dinner.

And the mangoes? They're a keeper. They're tart and aromatic and very, very tasty. Perfect for salads. The kids are very keen to have more, and at the price they are now ($1/kg) they can have as many as they want. They even have a tiny stone in them, for maximum bang for your buck. They won't be booting big, fat, yellow, sweet mangoes off their Favourite Fruit pedestal, but they'll be making more appearances in our kitchen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Election round 2?

If no-one can break the stalemate, we could go to another election. I know that prospect is horrific to everyone. I just have a few small requests for the next campaign, should there be one.

  • There should be no TV ads at all from any of the parties. They may send pamphlets and maintain websites.
  • The AEC should use all previously allocated TV time to educate the public about how our electoral system works. They should explain how parliament functions and how a PM is appointed. They should explain that our two party system is a side effect, not a built in characteristic of our system. They should explain how preferences work. Please, god, make them explain how our preferences work.
  • All sources of political donations should be made very public. They should be as prominent as other sources of information about the candidates.
  • Journalists should be banned from any mention of anything not policy related. Ok, that may be a little extreme. They should be required to spend at least as much time/space on policies as on soap opera.
  • And Q&A should seriously do a Bob Brown, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott episode.

Yes, yes, I know it will never happen, not even a teensy bit of it. But I've been stunned at the level of ignorance out there. Crash heard someone on a radio station asking how a Green could possibly be elected when we have a two party system. The radio host responded that they'd been wondering that too. *headdesk*

And I can't help wondering what the people who whinged that Gillard replacing Rudd was undemocratic think about Bob Katter holding all the power.

Admin fuck up

I turned on comment moderation because the spam had become impossible, but the notifications of comments didn't come through. I see a heap of comments taking me to task on stuff - I didn't ignore them on purpose! I'll go look through them and respond, even if it is a touch late.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Respecting beliefs and the right to opinions

About a month ago there was an ethicist on Hack talking about people's right to opinions (about asylum seekers, as it happens, but the argument is general). She agreed with the general principle that everyone has the right to their opinion, and the right to express it if, and only if, those opinions are not based on fallacies - especially fallacies designed to inspire hatred. In other words, no-one actually has the right to spread hate-filled lies. I tend to agree with her.

Yesterday I was accused of being a bigot, on the basis that I show a "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from [my] own". I'm pretty confident that I tolerate, and indeed respect, a lot of beliefs that I don't agree with, but it's also fair to say that there are some beliefs that I have absolutely no respect for. Those are beliefs that internally inconsistent.

I've argued and debated all sorts of positions. I know that the belief that underpins my world is that there exists an observable universe, and that we are able to observe it. There are inherent assumptions there that people have challenged, but at this stage I'm running with it. I try to keep the rest of my world view consistent beyond that assumption. When I get caught out in an inconsistency, I have to change my views.

I've known a number of people holding various flavours of religious beliefs who have argued with me over the years, and while they start with some differing assumptions, their beliefs have also been internally consistent. I utterly disagree with them, but I respect their integrity.

None of this is the point here, the point is that I really don't respect, or even tolerate, internally inconsistent beliefs. People who claim, for example, that they believe that personhood starts at conception (thereby making abortion murder) but also support the death penalty. People who claim that any religious text is infallible, and then ignore inconvenient bits of it. People who understand how science works, and yet still claim its results are free from subjectivity. And, well, people who believe we were populated by space aliens and that Good People get a planet when they die.

There has to be some measure by which any person's beliefs can be assessed, or we will all have to respect the beliefs of the Sacred Sect of Brownie Worshippers who honour the Almighty Kodak Box Brownie through the sacrifice of chocolate brownies every Wednesday (who have registered as a religion for tax purposes). I doubt that anyone, actually, respects ALL beliefs. There may be other measures besides internal consistency, and if you have some other rule of thumb, let me know. If you think you respect all beliefs, I suspect I either don't believe you, or don't respect your beliefs.

Incidentally, this was sparked by my utter disrespect for Tony Abbott. I have no idea what his beliefs are, since he changes them so often it makes my head spin. A man that can't even own his religious convictions doesn't meet the criteria for respect.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tony Abbott - bigot extraordinaire

Somehow I managed to sit through a full hour of Tony Abbott on Q&A tonight. The picture we got of this would-be PM was amazing. I really didn't expect him to wear his bigotry so clearly on his sleeve.

He made it clear that he considers welfare a scourge. He wants to get people off it as quickly as possible, without any particular regard for why they are on it, and absolutely no recognition that welfare may be productive and enabling people to contribute to the community in myriad ways. As if this wasn't enough, during this conversation he discussed the NT Intervention as a trial to broaden the concept to the whole community. In my opinion, the Intervention should be scrapped altogether, not extended, but that wasn't what disturbed me the most. It was the way he presented his approach - "Let's experiment on these black fellas until we know how to roll it out to white folks" (yes, OK, it's a paraphrase.). Indigenous people didn't rate a mention other than as guinea pigs for the rest of Australia. Unbelievable.

He refused to genuinely engage the concerns of a Liberal voting, Vietnam vet with a gay son. He pulled out the old "Some of my best friends are gay" defence. He apparently recognises that gay people can have relationships, but that Tony himself gets to decide who's allowed to have a "marriage relationship".

He equally refused to engage a disabled woman, running with a pretty similar line. Some of his best friends are disabled. They are also battlers. He's certainly not going to do anything about it.

Boat people also don't rate any agency. When asked about the people in the boats, he spoke about people smugglers. Those fleeing horrific conditions were not addressed at all. Apparently they don't even deserve to be some of his best friends.

And to top it all off, he claimed that he has never made a political decision based on his religious beliefs. There was an avalanche of tweets screaming "What about RU486?". Not to mention his definition of marriage, which is entirely shaped by his religious beliefs. If he won't even admit to the way his religion informs his politics, there is absolutely no way we can believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.

Over and over and over I say, please don't let this man run our country.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Journeys in the wilds of Medicalia

Last week I took Elissa for another visit to the ophthalmologist, which resulted in much angst, frustration and anger.

The back story to explain how I got to condemning the whole of the medical profession in a single tweet is worthy of sepia tones and darkened edges. When I was a kid (about 18 months old), I had a squint - otherwise known as a turn in the eye. It was corrected with surgery, but I was also found to have a lazy eye. Thus began many, many years of glasses, eye patches and visits to doctors which ended, finally, one afternoon when I was about eight. I sat on the front step of our house and looked at the telegraph pole across the street. I looked at it with and without my glasses, about 30 or 40 times before deciding that I could definitely see better without them, and burying them in the garden. This didn't get me in the shit you may imagine, because my mother had also given up on the palaver at about the same time and quite possibly didn't even notice.

Then when I was twelve, in a fit of Responsible Parenting, my mother took me off to a specialist one more time before I went to high school. He looked at my eyes and listened to my history and got very excited and called in other colleagues. Apparently I had some condition which was genetic (classically dominant, I was told). It resulted in my optic nerve failing to develop correctly and no amount of patching or wearing of glasses could possibly have done anything to change it. He declared that my father had the same problem, and my father suggested he had inherited it from his mother.

We all went away satisfied that we knew what the problem was and that was that.

But like all good soap operas, it doesn't end there. When I was pregnant with Elissa, the mutation was discovered. The geneticist I was seeing felt there was unlikely to be any connection between my genetic eye problem and the mutation on my 15th chromosome, but sent me off to an ophthalmologist who specialises in this sort of thing just to be sure. She declared there was no such thing as the condition I described, and announced that my poor eyesight was due purely to a failure to comply with the patching regimen. (To quote her: "If you're only patching for a couple of hours a day, there's no point even bothering". I was patched all day, every day, for months at a time.) I was Unimpressed. (Anyone who knows my mother, knows that if she agreed to patch, patch she did! There was no question of non-compliance.)

By that time, Charlie had been under the care of a wonderful ophthalmologist at Randwick for nearly a year for his squint, and was being scheduled for surgery. That all went well, and I ignored the unhelpful woman I had seen and time passed. *insert wavy lines, cut to recent past*

This year, we realised Elissa also has a squint - a much smaller one than Charlie. Unlike Charlie, though, she has bad sight in one eye to go with it. And because this is a soap opera, there was a clerical error when the booking was made to see Charlie's doctor, and Elissa was sent to see another doctor. This doctor appears to be an excellent teacher. I say this, because he barely speaks to me, only to whichever registrar is looking after us on the day. I value teaching, but it would be nice if noticed we were in the room. Each time he's seen us, he's asked if he's ever seen us before, and there was no recognition when I said yes.

So far I've doubted a number of the measurements they've taken, and now they've recommended patching. For an hour a day, because, to quote this doctor, "You don't want to patch more than a couple of hours a day, because it affects the development of stereo vision." They suggested 8 weeks of patching, but I can't actually get an appointment for 12 weeks, so the poor kid has to go through this for 12 weeks, with no guarantees of success. And yes, I argued, and asked to see another doctor, and was fobbed off.

The orthoptist was the only person listening at all, and she's scheduled an appointment to see her only at about the half way mark just to make sure there is more than one review in 12 weeks.

I'm furious with this situation. The only reason I haven't been transferred to the doctor I was referred to is territorialism. There is clearly no consensus on patching or how it should be done, but there is no discussion as to the pros and cons. I have no choice but to go ahead with at least one round of patching, because for a small percentage of kids it works, and if I haven't given it a shot, I'm a Bad Parent. Added to that, if I don't give it a shot, I'm a Non-compliant Parent, which makes it hard to get any doctor to provide real treatment.

All the time, my gut tells me she has the same problem as I do, and all this will be for nothing. Unfortunately, I know perfectly well that my gut lacks real evidence, and has been known to be wrong before. So I have to play along until I have enough evidence to make a truly informed decision. I just know that I'm going to have to fight for that evidence, and I don't think it's reasonable that I have to find the energy for the fight as well as the treatment.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Spend spend spend

Today must have been Catalogue Day. I have an inch high stack of paper advertising to throw in the recycling. I flicked through it all to make sure there was nothing at a good price that I was already intending to buy - there wasn't.

The DJs catalogues though - wow! Two of them, one of which was the size and quality of a mid to high range magazine! The big one was the fashion one - the little one was merely homewares. I looked through the fashion one - not one single item that I looked at and thought "Ooooh, I'd like that." A couple of things I thought "Maybe it'd look ok, depends on the cut". That's it. And then I got to the afterthought that is the men's section. What are they doing to those male models? They are all photographed as they are about to fall over. Not a single one looks like he's in a stable position. Oh, unless he has a woman draped on him.

I was also slightly amused at the excessively manly man stance of the dude in the cream coloured cable knit cardigan.

I'm not sure what the subliminal message is here - men are unstable until they have a woman to hold up and look after? Or just that no matter how expensive it is, a cream cardy is never going to make you look like a macho man?

I've got the better part of half a tree in my lounge room trying to sell me stuff I don't need, and in most cases, don't even want. Makes that big lump of land somewhere out of Sydney look even more attractive, just to hide from the constant demands for me to spend.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

What obligation does the media have?

I'm just wondering, if the people of Australia vote in Tony Abbott's lot because the media has completely failed to even report, let alone analyse, any policies, can we mount a class action against the media for neglecting duty of care?

I can't help feeling that the media needs to be held accountable for presenting an election campaign as a battle over who throws the best slurs and what's going on in intra-party politics this week. I mean, yes, the Labor party is still settling after the leadership change, but they are no worse than the Libs were last November after the Turnbull ousting. Both parties are equally capable of shooting themselves in the foot internally, and the media should be acknowledging that.

In the end, I don't care who leaked what or how many times someone can say "fair dinkum"*, I care what they are going to do if someone gives them the keys. I have deep and terrifying suspicions about what Abbott will do, but I can't actually verify them, because I've seen no policy from him. A few (no doubt non-core) promises from him whose funding has not been explained, but no actual policies. He might have them, of course. I know Julia has some, because I've seen a few on Twitter. You'd never guess it by watching TV or reading the newspaper. And so far Bob Brown only has opinions on which part of the voting form you should use, if MSM is to be believed.

So, I say that media should be regarded as an essential service in a democracy, and should be obliged to provide the basic services a democracy needs. Holding out for policy analysis might be too much, but demanding that at least equal space and prominence be allocated to reporting of policy as to party political bullshit during an election campaign seems to be necessary. And a bloody sad state of affairs it is too, that media owners have pushed journalism to this. Well, them and media consumers who buy more tacky headlines than indepth analysis.

Remember, friends don't let friends vote for Tony Abbott (or above the line).

*Ok, yes, I do care how many times someone can say "fair dinkum" - if it's more than once it's fucking infuriating. Even once is tedious, most of the time.