Monday, 28 May 2018


- you know those things that are a convenience food...something supposedly tasty between two slices of bread.  
The story is that they were invented by the Earl of Sandwich - because he wanted something he could eat while still at the gaming tables.  True? I don't know. I doubt it. I suspect sandwiches were around long before that. They are much too convenient not to have been "invented" long before the Earl put his name to them.
But some people do some curious things with sandwiches. I have a "cook book" - given to me - full of curious ideas that I will probably never try. This will be not just because they don't particularly appeal to me but because they contain ingredients we are unlikely to have. The book is American in origin and that doesn't help but there are also things there that I don't see going in a sandwich at all - like "peanut butter and grape jelly". I believe that's popular across the Pacific pond. Peanut butter (we used to call it peanut paste and the Senior Cat still does) is an ingredient I can just about understand but "grape jelly"? 
I have never been one for a "jam" sandwich. We kittens were never allowed to have such a thing when small. I am not particularly fond of jam of any sort. 
On Saturday morning in the supermarket I overheard someone say,
"He's back on the fish finger sandwiches. I thought I'd got him off those. What's wrong with tuna for goodness' sake?"
The last time I ate a fish finger was in a school - somewhere in Essex I think. It was a school lunch. The children demolished their fish fingers in no time at all. I was told it was a popular meal.  
I know a man who has only ever eaten cheese and pickle sandwiches. It was the first sandwich he ever had - on the first day at school - and it is the only sort he has eaten ever since.  Variety? Well he would prefer plain, white sliced bread but he will tolerate some other type of bread in an emergency. 
We had a banana shortage here several years ago. When you could buy a banana they were expensive - several dollars expensive each in the local greengrocer. One mother admitted that her son was going to school with bread and butter for lunch because she could not afford to buy bananas and the only sort of sandwich he would eat was a banana sandwich. That was something else we kittens were never allowed to have. Now that I could the idea doesn't appeal at all.
The Senior Cat will eat all sorts of sandwiches. I know his favourite - beef and tomato - and I will try to supply that if he needs to take a sandwich somewhere.  
The grand-kittens across the road will only eat Vegemite (rather like Marmite) sandwiches.
But I used to have to provide supper sandwiches for people who were meeting here. Cousin M.... only likes "fritz" (a sort of luncheon meat) and tomato so I would buy a few slices from the butcher. If there were any left over he would take them home for lunch the next day because the Senior Cat and I do not eat "fritz". 
I would then sneak in some things I thought were a little more interesting like "curried egg and grated carrot" (a favourite of Cousin M's wife), or "cream cheese, walnut and celery" . There were never any of those left.
I may need to take a sandwich to a meeting later in the week. There isn't any cream cheese in the house and I can't justify buying some just for a sandwich.
Do I have egg? Do I have cheese? Those things need salad with them.
I really should try something new....what?


Sunday, 27 May 2018

I have been researching knitting

patterns from the Victorian era.
It is part of an idea for our state's Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show next year. This is of course all my own fault because I was silly enough to say, "Next year is the bicentenary of Queen Victoria's birth. Perhaps we could do something to celebrate it."
Did I mention this idea somewhere before in this blog? Possibly.
I have done a bit of work on it....some weeks of work on and off and in between other work.
I headed off to a favourite site of mine - the "Antique Pattern Library".  Every time I log on to that I am amazed by the people who keep it going. It's an immensely valuable resource of out-of-copyright patterns in a wide variety of crafts from Basketry to Woodworking. Crochet and knitting both appear. There are some items in knitting that are yet to be put up that I am impatient to see but give the people who do it time. It's not easy to get old patterns scanned and processed in ways that make it easy for others to download them.
But, I was interested in some "classics" of the knitting world such as, 

Gaugain, Jane.
Lady's Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting and Crotchet,
Illustrated by Fifteen Engravings, Showing Various Stitches in the Art of Netting.
Edinburgh, I.J. Gaugain's, 1840, 210 pgs. 
Watts, Miss 
"Miss Watts' Selection of Knitting Netting and Crochet" 
London, J Miland, 1843, 96pgs.  

At the time these were published there were very few "receipts" or patterns around. They were not written in the form we now expect. Instead of telling us what sort of yarn, what needles, what tension (gauge to you in the US) and how many stitches to cast on the instructions tend to go along the lines of, "Take up sufficient stitches...."  Oh, right. Nothing about the sort of yarn, the size of the needles or how many stitches to aim for so that the item doesn't fall out of shape immediately it is used.
I think this is one of the things which is of the greatest interest to me. It is the assumption of so much knowledge - or perhaps the availability of it from other sources. You were taught how to knit. It was a skill it was simply assumed you would acquire. It was passed down from one generation to the next and it was an essential part of your schooling - along with other "needle arts". 
I say essential because clothing yourself and others depended, for the most part, on being able to do these things. It really wasn't until the mid-20th century that mass produced clothing became so common that it was possible to avoid learning something about sewing and knitting - if for no other reason than to mend items made by others. The very wealthy may have had their clothing made for them but women still knew about those things and they could still do "fine sewing", "embroidery" and "other needle arts".
Yesterday I was taking a closer look at 

"The knitted lace collar receipt book" 
Mrs G Baynes, fourth edition; London, Simpkin and Marshall 1846

This small book has, as the title suggests, patterns for lace collars. I also looked at a book of Japanese patterns for similar items. The contrast could not be greater. The patterns in the first book are of the most basic nature. There are no charts and really very little information for a modern knitter. The Japanese book on the other hand  has a chart which is constructed along the strictly uniform lines the Japanese knitting industry has insisted on. I don't read the Japanese language but I can read the chart. The Pacific leap between the two is extraordinary.     

But I am going to spend some more time on those old patterns because I know I can still learn a lot from them.


Saturday, 26 May 2018

A notice to all blog "followers"

 The following notice appeared on another part of my blog site yesterday

European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used and data collected on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

Out of courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third-party features, this notice may not work for you. If you include functionality from other providers there may be extra information collected from your users

 I am repeating it here  because I have no idea how to deal with it.  I cannot see it displayed - perhaps someone else can tell me whether it appears.
As a notice it doesn't bother me. I don't collect data from anyone. The only issue would appear to be the list of "followers". Now I have to say those people put themselves there. I haven't looked at the list in detail for years. It's been useful because very occasionally it has allowed me to (a) contact someone because of information they have put up themselves and (b) find something else. 
One of you, perfectly reasonably, asked me to remove her from the list. I tried to find out how to do that and it seems I can't do it without blocking her access to the blog. She's a friend so I don't want to do that.  I've been told it might also mean turning this blog from "public" to "private". Ms W's father showed me how to see how many "hits" it was getting and where from. Having seen where it is read I don't want to do that either. She can however stop "following" me herself. 
At the request of a number of people I put a link to the day's blog post up on Twitter and Facebook each day. What that means, apart from people being able to access the blog, I have no idea. 
I don't mention children by name and, for the most part, adults will only be mentioned by initial. 
Twice I have been accused of making fun of someone who apparently feels she has cause to dislike me. I wasn't. I was actually being positive about her approach to tasks - which is meticulous. (Our current crop of politicians could learn a lot from her.)  It may be that she is a regular reader of this blog too but if information is collected about that it has to be because she clicks on to it and I can do nothing about that.
There have been a couple of occasions when people have disagreed sufficiently to be defamatory. I have just deleted what they had to say. I have deleted some spam. I don't advertise for other people so the Adsense thingy is not relevant.
And, I have no way of contacting most of the people who "follow" me. They would have done so when I began writing these posts . I have no idea whether they still follow me or not. 
But the notice is at the beginning of this post. If you wish to "unfollow" me then please do - but I am not spying on you. 
I will now fold my paws neatly in front of me and await your responses. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Am I really expected to sympathise

with those who are complaining about the date of the by-elections brought on by those who cannot obey the law of the land?
I was stunned to hear a certain Senator accuse the head of the AEC of bias because that same Electoral Commission had given a great deal of thought to the matter and chosen the most suitable Saturday for the elections to take place.
There will be five elections.  One is being held because an elected representative has resigned - for family reasons. He has apparently discovered that being a federal politician means he is not seeing much of  his young family. Someone should have explained to him that this is part of the job.  Politics and parenting don't really mix. 
The other four are being held because those elected were found to be dual citizens - a breach of sec.44 of the Constitution. Those breaches were entirely avoidable. Those involved have only themselves to blame.
The Leader of the Opposition was so absolutely certain that nobody on that side of the House has anything to worry about. Now he is said to be "furious" about the date because yes, there were people on that side of the  House who had something to worry about. There might be others - on both sides. I have no doubt it is being looked at now. 
But the date? I have no sympathy at all with the fact that it clashes with a major party event. It clashes with the national conference of a particular political party? Oh dear. 
I imagine it clashes with all sorts of other things as well and that it is going to be highly inconvenient for many people. They did their civic duty believing they would not need to do it again until the next election - barring illness or death. They should not need to do it again. They are  the people who should be angry. 
The rest of us should be angry too because of the cost - which will run into millions of dollars. 
To even suggest that the date has been set to somehow disrupt the national conference of a particular party is nonsense of course. Such a claim is designed to try and elicit sympathy from the electorate, "look at how the nasty AEC is trying to make it so difficult for our wonderful people caught out by that silly requirement in the Constitution".
Those wonderful people may well get back in - elections are like that - but there is even more reason now to suggest that by-elections which arise out of wrong doing like that should be paid for by the party of the wrong doer. 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

What is "academic freedom"?

It is curious that I should have come across an article by Andrew Bolt on that very topic in this morning's paper.  I spent part of yesterday reading a piece of research a colleague cannot get published.
In frustration he sent it to me and asked, "Am I missing something? Can you see the flaw in what I did? They keep saying I am wrong."
I read it and read it again. I asked someone else I know to look at the methodology. Then I went off to do some banking for the Senior Cat and I thought about it. The person I consulted on the methodology works in another area entirely but he has a reputation for meticulous work and his methodology has received accolades over the years. No, nothing there that he could see.
I have just sent an email saying that I can't see anything wrong and that I think the problem is that the results don't back up the previous research. There were questions raised about the methodology used in a previous paper but they were dismissed.
It is likely that he will just have to accept that the paper won't be published in a reputable academic journal. He can put it up on the internet in another way - if he dares.
And there is the problem. His colleagues in the field are not going to like his findings. He is going to be accused of going against the present theories.
It's not a politically sensitive area like climate change - the area that has Andrew Bolt's subject, Professor Ridd, in so much trouble he has lost his job over it. It is a potentially useful area in visual perception. 
I made one suggestion - that he sees if he can get someone else to replicate the results. The message came back, "Yes, on to that."
I thought he would be.
It is a problem I faced when I was doing my doctorate. There was absolutely no intention on my part to question the results of research done by people who were almost household names. It just happened. I couldn't get the results I was supposed to be getting in order to go on and do what I had planned. My chief supervisor was beside himself.
    "You must be doing something..."
No, I wasn't. We found three more potential subjects. He came and watched. Someone else came and watched. I got the same results. At the end of it I was told to go on with what I was doing. I realise now I should have been told to write it up - but mere students are not meant to question the results of their elders. I just did as I was told.  When I defended my thesis the only really searching questions were about the preliminary testing I had done.  The rest of what I had written was accepted with barely an interested squeak.  
I wonder now what would have happened if I had pursued a career in academia. What would have happened if I had insisted on writing up the work I did in the preliminary testing stage? Perhaps my supervisor was right. I simply would not have got anywhere. 
Research isn't about open and shut answers to questions. It is much more likely to be about questions which lead to more questions. 
The real problems start when people don't want to acknowledge that....when they want to stifle academic freedom to express doubts and new ideas.
Remember Galileo?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Gender neutral

language gone mad is the only way to describe it.
There is now a demand in a neighbouring state that any book which does not have gender neutral characters should be removed from library shelves. 
Goodbye Thomas the Tank Engine... and how many other books? 
I think I am a "girl". I think the Senior Cat is a "boy". I think you need both to make a baby. Yes? Have I got that wrong?
How in the heck do you teach children about sex if you aren't supposed to differentiate between girls and boys? 
I get the "equal" idea. Perhaps I get the equal idea because my father, and even my paternal grandfather mid-Victorian though he was in many ways, think and thought women are and were equal but different and demanding of equal respect. That doesn't mean to say that they don't and didn't see differences.
I see differences - and not just outward differences of appearance.
My teaching experience told me that boys and girls are different in their learning needs and patterns. It has absolutely nothing to do with language which isn't "gender neutral" or expectations. It is something much more subtle than that. 
We are attempting to stifle diversity and impose sameness on everyone. We are doing this even while we supposedly celebrate "multi-cultural values" in an "ethnically diverse" country. 
"Girls should be allowed to be on the football team!" comes the cry. Really? I don't doubt a girl can football just as well as boy - Middle Cat was rather better at it - but should a girl of slender build and 150cms in height go up against a man twice her weight and 50cms taller in a game which requires close and often dangerous physical contact? Should we allow it  to happen in childhood just in order to teach "gender neutrality".
Is it simply old fashioned of me to think that you can be "feminist" and "feminine"? Do we really want everyone dressed in uniform?
I actually believe you can learn something from books that are not gender neutral. I don't think they necessarily need to confirm stereotypes. There is no doubt in my mind that someone is going to haul Peter Rabbit off the shelves because it is the "boy" rabbit who is naughty and not Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cotton-tail.  But, children can learn about the consequences of not behaving from it.
If Ann Holm's book, "I am David"  had been a book about a girl rather than a boy would it have even been close to believable? Pauline, in Margaret Storey's book of the same name is definitely a girl. Her cousin Paul is another finely drawn character but a gender reversal simply would not have worked. 
I could go on...and on. I won't. Could we just think "different but equal"?

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Keeping a pig as a pet

does not appeal to me as an idea.
Pork does not appear on the menu in this house either.  It never has. We aren't Jewish or Muslim but pork has never been part of our diet. 
My paternal grandmother refused to use it. As a quite young kitten I remember visiting the butcher with her. There was a new assistant in the shop. Whatever my grandmother wanted in the way of a "nice roast" was not available. He offered something like, "I could let you have a nice bit of pork."  My grandmother refused.
On the way home she explained to me, "Pork is not good meat. Pigs will eat anything. They are fed on rubbish. Your grandfather won't touch it and I am very glad about that."
I have not forgotten that incident. Regulations have been tightened drastically since my childhood - rightly so. Still, I can't eat pork. 
Ms W won't eat pork either. "Charlotte's Web" did that for her years ago. She cried every time the book was mentioned and, at school, refused to eat pork. The boarding house staff gave up in the end. Now she knows "it was a story of course but I just can't do it"
I thought of all this as I glanced over a story about "Bacon". Bacon is the name of a miniature pig kept as a pet. Pork doesn't get eaten in his household either. 
He's a well trained pig, part of the family. He has apparently been to dog obedience school - and passed. There is mention of him going for walks on a lead and a picture of him going for a ride in a car.
I am sure his owners find him a pleasure to have around the place because pigs can learn to be clean and obedient. 
I still wouldn't want a pig as a pet. Animal lover that I am I really don't want another pet at all. I don't have the capacity to care for one in the way I think an animal should be cared for.
It is said that "cats look down on people, dogs look up to people and pigs is equal". This Cat thinks there is something about pigs....and I sincerely hope I don't look down on people.