Wednesday 17 July 2024

When is late too late?

Is visiting at 9:43pm too late?

I am an "early to bed, early to rise" sort of cat. Even as a teenager I did not want to lie in bed. Most of my adult life I have had to be up and about early, often very early indeed. When you work on a global time scale rather than a local one you do not have the "luxury" of late nights and late mornings. 

I don't do as many of the 4am starts as I once did but the early to bed habit will probably be with me for the rest of my life. I also like to read in bed before I turn the light out.

So, last night I was tucked up in bed reading the next chapter in the latest library book and the door bell rang. It was 9:43pm. Who on earth would be calling at that hour? It had to be some sort of emergency or the police with bad news or....

It was cold out of bed too. I went to the door but did not open it. I called out. Someone walked off rapidly. It was all a little disturbing but I thought of two more possibilities. One was that it was my Chinese neighbour. He keeps distinctly odd hours as he makes his money by playing the international stock markets. He would not even be aware of what the actual time was perhaps - or not until he had already rung the bell. The other possibility was that someone had mistaken this house for a unit of the same number in the "court" opposite. That seemed more likely.

I still don't know. My Chinese neighbour might turn up this morning but a stranger visiting the court will not. 

I am trying not to think about the third possibility - that someone may think the house is empty.

All of this makes me wonder about visiting hours and when it is polite and proper to call on people or phone them. When do you do it? I try to keep phone calls before 8pm and visits even earlier. It depends on the person I want to speak to when I might call them in the morning. Later than 8pm feels like an intrusion of their privacy. Perhaps I am wrong. I don't know - and I still don't know who rang the doorbell.  

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Our gun laws are

some of the toughest in the world. I am still not sure they are tough enough or that they would save us if someone was really determined to do a mass shooting. It would take more than that.

Even when he was announcing the change to gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre the Prime Minister of the day was not wearing a bullet proof vest. He was apparently told he should but, on consideration, declined. He knew the vast majority of us supported the move.

People really do not need guns in urban areas. If you want a hobby then find something other than "pistol shooting" to do. Farmers who have livestock perhaps need one to put down a badly injured animal as do wildlife officers. For years our police were not armed. They are now and I am sorry it is seen as necessary.  

All this makes me wonder even more at the way Americans see the need for so many guns. Even when someone tries to shoot a presidential candidate there are those who support their "right" to carry arms, indeed they try to say this is a reason why people should be able to carry a lethal weapon.

I wonder too how the father of the young man who allegedly tried to shoot Mr Trump and was instead shot feels. It was not the only death and any half way decent human being is likely to be beside himself in despair and grief.

There are still multiple pages about "the incident" in this morning's paper. I have not bothered to read them. One reason for this is because it is largely speculation and ill-informed "analysis" by people who really know very little. This is unlikely to help anyone.  My own view is that the "attempted assassination" (if that is what it was) will only strengthen Mr Trump's campaign, even a strong candidate on the other side would find it difficult now. 

I hope I am wrong but I don't think I am.  

Monday 15 July 2024

"This is why we must never vote

for a President in a republic," one of the dog walkers has just told me.

It is very chilly out this morning. It was around 3'C when this conversation took place - I was putting the full to overflowing bin out. The dog, one of my "friends", was in a good thick coat but still looked cold. I wanted to get inside too but the other human seemed impervious to the cold as he stood there and told me this.

He was of course talking about the "attempted assassination" of Donald Trump. The event took up most of the news last night, so much so I ended up muting the sound and waiting for the analysis I knew would come.

The idea that the election in the United States of America is now as good as over really alarms me. If that really is the case then America is not a democracy. Nobody should win because someone has attempted to kill them. It would be better to ask why that happened. 

The analysis from David Smith, an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre, was about what I expected. This will do Trump's campaign far more good than harm. It may well be that the race is over, especially if the current President does not drop his bid to be the candidate. It will cause further divisions in American society. He went on to talk about other likely consequences. None of it made good listening. 

The dog walker agreed with this analysis. I do as well. I know I should not be commenting on American politics like this but I don't believe either man is fit to be President. It is a huge responsibility. 

One man is simply no longer able to hold down the job without visible and often embarrassing failures. I never want to say someone is "too old" but perhaps he is. He is not like the Senior Cat's father who worked until he could no longer see well enough to do his job. The Senior Cat went on teaching until three days before his death at ninety-nine. There was an Emeritus Professor at my law school who was well into his nineties, still very academically able and advising the High Court. The father of my cousin's partner was out doing field work in geography (something to do with land forms) several weeks ago. He is ninety and has only just given up his own office at the university. I would like to be as alert as them at that age.

The other man is, at least in my view, not fit to hold any sort of public office. He is a very poor loser. He has a serious criminal record. He lacks judgment and is impulsive with it. It also seems he believes he can act alone, that listening to advice is not necessary. He reminds me of the person who was once appointed to a position she could not cope with and how the rest of us suffered. Yes, she apparently had the qualifications for the position - on paper. She was the token female and the token person with a disability but it seems nobody looked at her track record. Had they done so they would have seen a litany of complaints about the abrasive way she handled people and her highly autocratic behaviour. 

I thought of all this. No, we do not vote for "President" in this country. The Governor-General is appointed by the parliament and the monarch of the day agrees. We have had one or two G-G's who have not been satisfactory but generally they have taken their duties seriously and done an excellent job. The latest appointment is a very political one but that comes as no surprise given the attitude of the present Prime Minister. Even so the new G-G may find there are constitutional restrictions that will not allow the Prime Minister to ask her to do as he would wish. Those things will go to the High Court - and that is, for most purposes, genuinely independent.

It is all very different from what goes on in America. I think I prefer it our way. There are serious flaws in our electoral system but we don't have to find those millions upon millions of dollars and vote for a President.  

Sunday 14 July 2024

Why didn't you ask the question

which might just have saved an awful lot of money?

There was a story in this morning's paper about a roundabout which is not fit for purpose. Big vehicles cannot get safely around it. Now that the word is out they are having to do lengthy and cost detours.

There is apparently no real concern relating to their use of that stretch of road. It was not put in place to stop them from using it. The roundabout was the alternative to traffic lights in a semi-rural location. It made sense...but the design does not make sense.

The roundabout was apparently designed by council engineers. Apparently they failed to ask one of the most basic questions of all. Who uses that intersection and for what purpose? It would not have taken more than a minute to discover that some very heavy vehicles use it. Those vehicles carry heavy and awkward loads.

The drivers of these vehicles did raise the issue but council engineers being council engineers they did not listen. It was going to be "all right" - except that it is not.

It makes me wonder if they will now listen to concerns about a problem near me. There is a local railway crossing at issue here. There are four stop signs in that location as well as the boom gates, a central island and a pedestrian island. One of the streets leading into the crossing already has turning restrictions. The other is used as something of a race track in peak hours as well as having some people park all day and catch the train to work. 

Now they want to put in traffic lights. Traffic lights won't stop the problem of people in cars queuing across the lines in a dangerous manner. They may prevent some people from failing to stop at the line but there will still be people who believe that, unless the boom gates are down, you can cross and often at speed. 

I need to use that crossing. I do not like it but there is no choice sometimes. Do I want traffic lights? Will it solve the problems? 

A resident of that street, a now retired railway man with an incisive mind has a much simpler and much, much cheaper solution to the problem. Even I can see it would work well. He has drawn detailed plans with detailed arguments. He has data to support the proposal. The council is asking for "feedback about the proposed changes". Will they listen to J...? He is not holding his breath and neither is the other retired railway traffic engineer he has consulted.

We will probably end up spending a great deal of money because those responsible for implementation of a solution are not asking the right questions - or listening to solutions.  

Saturday 13 July 2024

Being "in care"

should mean being in a safe place. It should mean being cared for by someone who actually cares about you.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that it does mean either of those things. We apparently have an increasing number of children who, having escaped one abusive place of residence, find themselves in another abusive place of residence.  

Even allowing for the exaggerated press coverage of the issue it is clear there is a problem and that the problem is growing. Why?

Perhaps it is time to rethink the entire situation. It might mean making some very hard choices. Is it really right for a fourteen year old girl "in care" to become pregnant, give birth, and even be encouraged to keep the baby?  

I think of my friend S... whose son H... has made what has to be described as a "poor choice" of partner. The girl in question is emotionally unstable, very "needy" and demanding. H... and his partner made the disastrous decision to have a child. It was perhaps done with the best of intentions but all it has done is make matters much worse. H...'s partner has now realised that having a child is a life-long commitment. There is a realisation that you give part of yourself, your relationship with others and much more. She is coming to realise that it also requires time, time she would rather have for other things. It requires a financial commitment and she would rather spend the money on other things. Her career is on hold for now at least. Constant calls to her partner because the child wants attention are not going to solve her problems. No, this girl does not have post-natal depression but she is telling everyone she wishes they had never had a child, that she does not love him, that he is a waste of her time and more.

S... is now, rightly, worried that the relationship will break down completely and S... and her family will be left to care for another child. S... is already into her seventies. It is a problem she does not need. Whatever happens it is likely this child will be cared for by family rather than go "into care". 

That may seem the obvious solution in this case but what of the girl who already comes from a situation where family relationships have broken down? Is she really mature and stable enough to care for a child, finish school, go on to further study or employment? The answer is almost certainly not.

In all this isn't it time to care about what happens to the child? I know adoption doesn't always work out well but it does work in more cases than not. Having a child in your care for years, as some do, always knowing they can be taken from you to be returned to their birth mother is emotionally draining. If you are doing the job properly then it is a situation where you are constantly on edge. It does affect relationships. I have talked to teenagers "in care" and they say the uncertainties cause too much tension.

Do we actually need more "tough love"? Would it help?  

Friday 12 July 2024

I am facing homelessness

but I am still better off than the mother who is crying out for help in this morning's paper.

This woman and her husband have a profoundly disabled child. He needs machines and medical equipment to survive. It is said they are about to lose their rental property of eight years in September because their landlord cannot afford the repairs needed to make it safe. They are "priority one" for public housing because rentals will not provide for the sort of adaptations they need. 

There is obviously more to the story than we are being told. What made the story more newsworthy is that a member of the government department responsible for housing apparently sent an email to this woman. Nothing unusual in an email perhaps. There have probably been plenty of emails between the department and the family. This time however the writer suggested that the mother "manifest" a suitable house.

I had to look twice and then twice again at that. I thought I knew what it meant but it seemed so unlikely I had to check. Yes, the writer was suggesting the mother actually sit there and try to get accommodation by "thinking about it often and with focus until you receive it".  I am sure that is going to work! 

If I was a mother in that position I would be appalled and very, very upset that anyone could be that thoughtless or insensitive. Yes, there are some lazy. irresponsible, dishonest and thoughtless individuals who believe they "deserve" something like that and it can be got for nothing. This woman is caring for a child. I could see no evidence of tattoos or piercings and I am quite sure neither she nor her partner smoke around a child with breathing difficulties. The story suggests they are doing their absolute best for their child.

I do not suppose this sort of "advice" is condoned by the department in question but I wonder how anyone working in that area could think it was appropriate. Where are the social workers like the one I once knew, the woman who would visit a family and do the ironing for the mother while they talked? 

We have a housing crisis. I am part of it too but I know two of my siblings will make sure I have somewhere to shelter at night. I want to see a woman like the one in the story able to provide shelter for her child first. Something is very, very wrong if we cannot do that. 

Thursday 11 July 2024

So you want to "work from home"?

Why do you want to work from home?

One of my neighbours is complaining bitterly because his departmental boss has told him he must return to the office to work. He does not want to do this at all.

It comes as no surprise to me. Working from home suits him. He takes his children to school and often "picks up a coffee" in the shopping centre on the way back. He will stop for a chat if anyone is around. He walks the dog...and he collects the children from school. "Yes," he tells me, "I can do all that and put all the time in."

Perhaps he is putting the time in at other times but how effectively? I know about working from home. I have done since family circumstances caused me to come back and care for my parents in 1989. I had to actually create a job which allowed me to work from home. It was very, very fortunate for us that the Senior Cat's cousin was still in charge of one of the biggest government departments, knew the situation and suggested something that "might work". Yes, it worked and that department has done extremely well out of me because I had no choice but to sign the "contract". 

Working from home has not been easy. It requires discipline, especially when things are going disastrously wrong around you. It requires the capacity to make decisions without being able to call on the person at the next desk or in the next office or on the next level. In my case it requires the capacity to do your own research. Before the internet I had a day set aside to go to one of our universities to use (with permission) the resources there. I also saw students face to face on that day. It was not always convenient for me or for them but we had to make it work. 

The internet and all the connections now available have made it all much easier but Zoom meetings and tutorials are not the same as face-to-face meetings. Supervision is not the same. It is why I have turned down a request to supervise another doctorate. I just do not believe I can do the best for the student and that matters. 

Workers from home are now complaining about the expense of having to commute again and the cost of lunches. They are saying they find it more difficult to "maintain a healthy work/life style balance" and that all this is "stressful". At least some of these people say they should be paid more to work at home as they get more work done. I wonder about that.

Are at least some of these people now feeling the pressure of having to perform again? Is more really being expected of them? Yes, they need to pay for the commute to work but isn't that part of having employment? Not everyone can avoid a commute - builders, plumbers, electricians all need to commute. Not everyone can avoid the workplace - doctors, nurses, teachers, police, shop assistants and more need to be in their work places. Why should other people be any different?

And perhaps those who say they want to work from home are missing the actual point of having a job at all. They are being paid to contribute something for the benefit of other people and that almost always requires some form of human interaction.  It will be interesting to see how my neighbour copes with his part-time return to the office. He might find it has some benefits as well.