Monday, 11 December 2017

A young man died

in a street brawl yesterday. His death occurred in the early hours  in an area of the city which is known for "nightclubs", crowds, noise, drugs, excessive alcohol consumption and - violence.
His family is undoubtedly in shock, devastated at what has happened on what was supposed to be a fun night out. The family of at least one other young man is also undoubtedly in shock, devastated that their son and perhaps sibling is in custody facing a manslaughter charge - in all likelihood out of a punch landed in alcoholic rage.
I have never understood what the attraction of a night out "clubbing" is about. Perhaps it has something to do that I don't drink alcohol. (I am allergic. It makes me feel itchy all over, rather like being covered with mosquito or flea bites in every possible place.) I don't like crowds. (I am short and not too steady on my rear paws at the best of times.) I don't like noise. (Our house is largely silent except at meal times.) I have never tried  illegal drugs. (I don't like taking the prescribed sort.) And violence of any sort frightens me. 
Yes, I know. I am a wimp. I am not a party cat at all. Is it really fun to do the things that go on along that strip at night? Why would you want to be out all night? 
Don't get me wrong. I can understand wanting to go out with friends and have a good time. I can even understand having a drink or two if you are that way inclined. I can understand enjoying that sort of music if it is to your taste. I don't understand going on beyond the point to where those things are no longer fun.
The Senior Cat has not yet seen the paper this morning. I know what his reaction will be. At the age of those young people his Saturday evenings were made up mostly of PFA (Presbyterian Fellowship Association) activities in the undercroft of the church. There would be things like folk dancing if someone could be persuaded to play the piano or a fiddle. There would be community singing. They would rehearse the play or the musical they put on each year. Occasionally they would go to the pictures as a group - and eat "choc-ices" in the interval. 
At that age my brother was rehearsing theatre productions, taking a girl to the pictures or going night-fishing with friends. If the Festival of Arts was on he might have gone to a free live concert. He can remember vividly the couple of events he paid to go to. He just didn't have much money for that sort of thing.
The last thing the Senior Cat and my brother were doing was wandering the streets in an alcoholic haze. My brother's mates didn't do it either. Yes, the "drinking age" was 21 then - but plenty of people were able to access it earlier than that.  Most of them just didn't feel any need to access alcohol.
I have no idea what the answer is. I don't think anyone else knows either. People say it wouldn't help to raise the age at which alcohol can be legally consumed and the many venues young people attend want the opening hours extended still further. They are a powerful lobby. The claims they make about their contribution to employment and the economy - whether true or not - make it unlikely that anything will change.
So, a young man has lost his life. Another is in custody. The  young man in custody lived not too far from here if the report is correct. I just wish he had, like the boy around the corner from here, spent the evening with his mates fixing Christmas lights to the roof of a house. 
If the laughter was anything to go by they were having fun too.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Just what have you done Mr Trump?

I wonder if you have any idea?
Even my Jewish-Israeli friends are wondering why you did it. Yes, they do see Jerusalem as the capital but they are wondering why you would act in a way which jeopardises that.
The harm done by the move is hard to comprehend. The United States of America is supposed to be a world leader.  The leadership sees itself as being at the negotiating table whenever there is a major world crisis.  It claims all sorts of moral authority and leadership. One move by one President has knocked down years of work.
As an outsider I suppose I see the "two state solution" as being the only viable solution. What would be absolutely marvellous in my book would be for the Israelis and the Palestinians to make peace, share Jerusalem and show the rest of the world how it can be done. I also know the chances of that happening are so remote that it is unlikely to happen in my lifetime. I know too that people have to keep trying. Israelis and Palestinians feel very differently about the issue. I even have colleagues on both sides of the debate who are friends with each other while having opposing points of view about what the solutions are. This time though they are equally appalled. They say they expected the transfer of the embassy would go ahead. It is the manner in which it was done which has caused them so much alarm.
Yes, Mr Trump is keeping a campaign promise. I can only assume that there was money involved.  He must have been told how much harm his act would cause.
There were questions being asked last night on our news SBS news service about Mr Trump's fitness for office. And yes, I would have to question it too. He's erratic. His use of social media is downright dangerous. His taunts are childish. He isn't listening to advice. And yes, he is the President of another country and I don't suppose I should be criticising him. That said - he frightens me.
I have no fondness for any current federal or state politician here. There are one or two who I believe are genuinely trying to do a good job. I may not agree with everything they say or do and I wouldn't necessarily want to vote for at least one of them but at least he's trying. Another has worked incredibly hard and been willing to listen to good advice but may not get back in. It was a fluke of the electoral system last time. It's an uphill battle all the way for them.
In the end it will be the well known faces and the familiar names which get elected.  They may not be the best people to run the country but the most able generally choose not to do the job. And at least our lot haven't got their finger hovering over a nuclear button.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

"She wants to replace herself with herself,"

I was told by a neighbour.  She had just told me that one of the Senators who was caught up in the dual citizenship/Section 44 of the Constitution debacle is actually trying to do this. 
What this former Senator is now arguing is that because she has now renounced her British citizenship she should be eligible to be included in the recount. I don't think the High Court will come at that one as she was ineligible to be on that ballot paper in the first place. The former Senator is trying to argue that the candidate now most likely to win is no longer a member of the party concerned and therefore would not represent the will of the people.
It's an interesting argument. Do people vote for the party or the person? 
I suspect it is often the person. 
But the business of "resignation" is something else. You can resign or you can offer to resign. There is a big difference between the two things. The former Senator could have offered to resign. Instead, she resigned. It would not have made much difference to the outcome perhaps but it might have made a difference to the arguments she is now trying to use.
I can see where the Senator is coming from, "I didn't mean to resign. I didn't want to resign. You have to reappoint me. It was my job. Now I am unemployed." Yes, it sounds like "splitting hairs" but the reality is that an actual resignation is not the same thing as an offer to resign. The latter should always be discussed. Others - in this case the High Court - should be informed and given the opportunity to say something. It's the democratic way of doing things.
It isn't a nice situation to be in. It will be interesting to see which way the High Court goes. I suspect it will be "no, you were ineligible". After all, there was a very strict interpretation of sec.44 before and every reason to suppose there will be a similar strict interpretation now. 
But had she merely offered to resign and perhaps stood aside while a decision was made perhaps the court could have found a way around it. We will probably never know.



Friday, 8 December 2017

A "shoulder replacement"

is one of those things which was almost unheard of outside the medical profession when I was a kitten. I did a little research to discover that attempts were made to do it back in the 1890's. 
Given the state of surgery back then I doubt there was a great deal of success and people must have been desperate to try  it.
Middle Cat is going in for a "replacement" today. The Senior Cat is, of course, worrying himself sick about it. I can understand this. Two years ago we nearly lost Middle Cat because of a post surgery infection. He is worried the same thing will happen again. 
Middle Cat has had more surgery than I care to think about - most of it related to old sports injuries. It hasn't been fun. 
There's not a lot I can do to help either. Her husband is perfectly capable of looking after himself and prefers to do just that. Today I will post a parcel for her. I will also check on the cats when he goes back to work after the weekend. (There are two and they are indoor cats who will probably run riot in her absence as they need to be played with for reasons of exercise and entertainment. I won't have time to play but I will make sure their litter trays have been changed and that they haven't spread food across the floor in the space where they get fed.) 
      "Why is she having it done so close to Christmas?" someone asked me yesterday.
      "The sooner the better," I said. Yes, she has private health cover and that has allowed it to happen sooner rather than later. Even as a "public" patient though it would be happening about now. If it doesn't happen soon then the problem will be far worse than it already is and could seriously disable her. She knows that and the surgeon knows that. 
A friend of 82 had something similar done recently. Her shoulder was damaged in a fall some years back. Three and a half months later things have improved dramatically for her. It isn't  perfect but it is so much better than it was before that she feels as if she can continue to live alone. It wasn't affecting just her shoulder but her lifestyle. She couldn't walk to the shops because she couldn't push
her shopping "trolley". Now she can. It means she exercises again.
For Middle Cat it should mean driving without pain and being able to sleep at night without waking when turning on her shoulder. 
All that should help her general health as well.
And all this has made me think of those long waiting lists - years long sometimes - before people access such surgery. If it makes this much difference to their ability to "do" then there is a very real need to get things done earlier. There is a need to get things done before the situation gets so  bad that the damage is so great the process is less effective than it might have been. It needs to be done while people are younger and more able to regain strength and agility.
The Senior Cat muttered to me the other day, "I'm wearing out."
It's true. He is. But, he had both shoulders "done" about fifteen years back. It let him go on gardening and working in the shed for longer than he might have. He would have "worn out" some years ago if he hadn't been able to stay active. He might still be alive but he wouldn't have been living.
So, for anyone else going through a "replacement" of some sort today, I'm thinking of you all. Go from being alive to living again.  

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Someone got very angry with me

a few weeks ago.  It was a completely unexpected blistering and furious reaction to a genuine question on my part. It was perhaps the "diatribe" of which they had accused me.
At the time I was almost too stunned to do anything. Eventually I tried to defend myself. Then, realising it was probably just making matters worse, I  backed off.  It isn't someone I know well. I don't like or dislike her particularly as I don't really know her. I did think it was probably out of character and I did wonder if something else was wrong. 
Then, much more recently, I learned this same person is ill. It was mentioned to me by chance. I'm glad it was mentioned  because I suspect that, as much as anything else, I just happened to be the "someone" this person used to try and cope with the fear, anger and frustration the diagnosis must have brought about. 
Middle Cat has told me off more than once for avoiding arguments, for not "defending myself." Apparently I am not "assertive" enough and I "give in" too easily. (Mind you, try it with her and I get told I need to take her advice and do as I am told.)
I will admit I have a strong aversion to arguments. I do "back off" and I do avoid the sort of arguments that might lead to harm. (I am also more than happy to "argue" about something if I am interested in the topic.)
So I'll admit I hesitated but I did, and still do, feel genuinely concerned for the person who is ill, so I sent her an email just wishing her the best possible outcome. I wasn't sure if it would be ignored or I would get a blistering reply. At least I would have tried. I actually got a "thank you". Nothing else but it was more than enough. It made me almost certain that my belief about the possibility there was something else wrong was correct.
If I had "defended" myself and become angry then it might not have been possible to say anything. There would have been one less tiny piece of support for someone going through a very difficult time. Rather than respond in kind it was better to let someone know I am concerned for them.
I've been thinking a lot about this. There was a television program here recently. I didn't see it but it was called "Look me in the eye" and apparently involved bringing together people who were estranged and asking them to do no more than sit there and look directly at one another. I don't know what the results were but the trailers suggested that, at least for some, the process worked.
I think though that what it takes most of the time is nothing more than for one person to reach out - and the other to accept.
I'll put the kettle on too. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

TAFE of Technical And Further

Education is in the news. Suddenly people at the top have resigned or been sacked. Questions are being asked about the standards  being set...and more.
This state  used to have something we called "Technical high schools". UK readers will know the sort of thing I mean. They were rather like the old "Secondary Modern" schools there. And, rather like England we went to "giving everyone an equal chance" and made all schools high schools (Comprehensives). 
The technical high schools actually suited a lot of students, particularly those who were not "academic". Yes, I know what the arguments against them are - and I agree with some of them.
What it did mean though was that TAFE institutions became, or should have become, much more important. That's where students could then learn to become plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics, electricians, cooks, carers, and much more. It is where you did certificates and, in some cases, diplomas. In recent years there have been new courses to reflect the 21st C for people like computer technicians and hospitality workers. 
It should be a thriving education where students are competing to get in because the employment rate at the end of a course in an area where workers are wanted is often high.
But one of the local electricians found he was having to teach his apprentice what he should have been learning at TAFE. One of the local cafe owners recently complained to me that the young employee who had finished the relevant course at TAFE had "no idea"  how to do the job. Apparently everyone on the course had passed.
I know someone who did a long string of TAFE courses. She never quite finished any of them  but they allowed her to be a permanent student rather than go out and find work. Eventually, after almost sixteen years, she ran out of courses she was "interested" in. Someone in the system should have insisted on her finishing something - or not returning as a student. Someone else did courses he was interested in - but they were not likely to lead to his employment. That was obvious but he was allowed to continue for more than eight years.  I don't doubt there are other students like those two.
But there are other students who go there and finish what they might have done at school but were, perhaps, too immature to do at the time or because they had to "drop out" because of pregnancy or a family crisis. There are more who finish their courses. They have worked hard at them and managed to learn a lot. Many of them will make good employees.
TAFE education is vital. It  should be teaching the technical skills we all rely on.  If it is failing then it is a very serious issue indeed. We need to get over the idea that working with our hands is somehow "worth less". It isn't. 
We can't have engineers, scientists and surgeons unless we also have plumbers and electricians and the people who help feed, clothe and house us all. Why aren't we appreciating their great value?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

I am trying to save this blog

and I am not sure how to go about it. 
The problem is that it is, until Friday, being written from my old email address. I cannot work out how to change the author email or get myself as a new author on the blog by "inviting" myself with a new email address.
I thought I had followed the logical sounding instructions I was directed to but that has not worked. It is one of the many problems I have faced in trying to move from one internet service provider to another.   
Yes, I can understand why an ISP would not want to make it easy. They don't want to lose customers - except that this time they did. They told me they couldn't provide the service and they have terminated the contract.  
It has meant hours of work for actual work purposes. All the "fun" side has had to come second as I let work colleagues know - often one at a time for security reasons - that I am changing ISPs and that we sometimes have to go through a number of hoops in order to reconnect. (I have filled out more forms than I care to think about.) It hasn't left a lot of time for the blog or for my limited social life on social media.
The blog bit worries me. I haven't got time to prowl through from the start and save the posts that even I would like to keep - there are a few. Decani, the only Cathedral Cat who can read, is too busy getting the cathedral ready for Christmas to help. 
This post will, according to the "stats" be post number 3,298. I have probably written far too many words.
I will prowl off to the library this morning and see if an entirely different computer will allow me to log in separately and allow me to add my name under a different email. Logically this should be able to happen as the "address" will be different. Whether this will be acceptable logic to a computer system is something else. 
If anyone has any ideas about this then please let me know. It should be simple - but it isn't.