Sunday, 22 January 2017

Craft workshop

day one is over.
I have eight lovely students - quite enough thank you very much.
They were very kind to me. 
Teaching adults is not the same as teaching children. You can make certain assumptions when teaching adults who choose to do a class. Yes, they will be able to count to 15. Yes, they will all know this basic term or that because a prerequisite of the class was "confidence with the knit stitch" and the term "yarn over the needle" will mean something - even if there is a need to do it in a certain way.
I had made up kits - some yarn in a bag, a folder with some notes - and more notes to be added as the weekend continues. I noted with curiosity that they all looked inside the bag. Not one of them did what my great-nephew did recently and tipped the bag upside down!
I noted which students wandered around the room and looked at the other teaching materials I had put out - and I noted how they looked at them. You can learn a lot from that. 
I am glad I took the pencil rubbers. We all make mistakes when drawing charts. 
And I have  learned a lot. It looks simple but that little "cat's paw" motif involves a lot of teaching. Was I pushing them too hard? Did they want more information or less? 
With adults you can ask these things.- and they can tell you. It is possible to go  back and explain something again to just one person  in a small group. 
And yes, I will go home and write that particular chart again. I thought I was doing the sensible thing but it turns out to be the confusing thing.
It took me almost a year - on and off - to prepare to teach this two day class. I spent time reading and knitting and then writing and drawing up charts. I wrote the instructions for two patterns. I made decisions about what I might include. I contacted two authors of books - one of whom was particularly helpful and extraordinarily willing to go that little bit further than I expected. I can repay her by making people aware of her very good book on the topic.
If I needed to teach the class again it would be much less work. The basic preparation would be done. I can make some adjustments and I might make more when I get some feedback - and feedback is important.
I don't know who is learning the most here - but I am very grateful to my students for being patient and willing to listen!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mental illness

is difficult to understand. It is something we can't hear or see or feel - although we might hear or see or feel the results. We might hear someone saying "strange" things or see them doing "strange" actions. We might feel the physical or psychological effect of someone lashing out - or even both.
We all tend to be frightened by the idea of mental illness both because it is something we don't understand and because of the fear of "it could be me" and "I might lose control of my mind too". 
Yes, it is scary stuff.
It is the only explanation I can find for the way in which our government is, through Centrelink, treating some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
There are many people who have had a sudden drop in the amount they are getting because of the new pension rules. They were often only just coping financially any way because illness of any sort involves extra expense. If you have a physical disability it is extra equipment - and some of that can be very, very expensive - and the extra medicines. It is the not being able to afford the initial layout to shop in the cheapest possible way and much, much more.
If you have a mental illness you may simply not be able to plan from one day to the next. The relatively simple idea of going to the supermarket for milk and bread becomes a major planning exercise and the stress of making decisions can leave someone exhausted.  I know because yesterday as I was pedalling up the street someone I know - but not well - stopped me and asked if I would do that simple bit of shopping for him. He was close to tears. He's not coping at all right now but he was until recently. He had a letter on Monday telling him he owed money. He's supposed to sort it out but he can't make a decision.
I asked if he had told his brother - someone I do know rather better than I know him - and he said no. I asked if I could contact his brother and he shrugged and said, "I don't know."
I decided he had asked me to get the milk and the bread and that, perhaps, it was a wider request for help. I sent his brother an email and got back a reply which thanked me, expressed extreme frustration and a promise to "drop in casually and see if he wants to go fishing" and see if that will get him to say something. 
We both agreed though that nobody in government should be sending people with a serious mental illness - one that has been documented - a "debt" notice. They have to find another way of handling it.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A major road closure

has caused traffic chaos.
The day before yesterday a cyclist noticed something seriously amiss with a bridge that is used as an overpass by the tram line. The bridge crosses one of the busiest roads in the city. The road carries a lot of heavy goods vehicles.
The cyclist did the right thing and immediately reported it. He or she must have managed to convey concern in a fairly urgent way. There were emergency services on the scene very quickly. The traffic was stopped.
Chaos ensued.  
This is a road which bypasses the city centre but goes a long way in both directions.  A good many buses travel along it. Some of them are "express" buses from outlying suburbs. If they change the last part of the route into the city or the first part out it won't matter too much because the buses don't stop for some distance along that road. But, other buses do. The heavy goods vehicles need to find alternate routes - and that adds to the traffic on those roads. Some of those are already too crowded.
But it was none of that which really concerned me. All of that is just inconvenience. It just slows things down. It is infuriating but it should not be dangerous.
What bothered me was something rather different. There is a train line through the hills behind us. It carries goods trains, goods trains of great length. As the train passes through the suburbs the traffic will build up at the level crossings. It can build up for very long distances. On occasions when something has gone wrong and the train has stopped over one or more boom gates then the boom gates further along are also likely to be down. Even with the police called in to direct traffic it can be dangerous - dangerous because, for some people  up in the hills, there is no way out.
If there had been a fire yesterday and a train had stopped or, worse, derailed, and the crossings blocked there could have been a major catastrophe if the traffic had not been able to move freely in other places. It's the sort of nightmare scenario that, yes you could write a book or make a film. 
I thought of all this because I usually time my journey to coincide with a suburban train. I do this because it means that the traffic has stopped and I can get across the road safely and wait for the boom gates to go up.  Where I wait there is a slight rise. I can look back and see the line of traffic grow.  
I did this yesterday as I waited for one of the extra long goods trains to go through. Another cyclist joined me. We had a "shouted" sort of conversation above the noise of the train. He told me how far he had come and how far the traffic had built up from where he started. There would have been much more by the time the train went through. People were getting impatient.
I changed my plans. I did one thing before another. I wasn't going to get in the way of all those people who wanted to get to work first. 

This morning they are saying the situation could last for months. 
Traffic is lighter than usual at present because school does not start again for another week.
I don't think those at the top have thought about this yet.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

"I hate reading!"

Ouch! I was in the local library yesterday - to pick up a book on inter-library-loan. It is a book I need to read. 
One of the staff greeted me with a wry smile and jerked her head in the direction of a sulky looking ten or eleven year old boy. He was pulling books off the shelves, glancing at them and then shoving them roughly back into place. His mother was looking both angry and anxious.
      "You've had all the holidays to do this!" she told him - probably again - as  he had to pick up a book that had fallen off the shelf.
      "I don't care! I tell you I hate reading! It's a waste of time! I've got better stuff to do!"
      "And I am telling you it has to be done. Mr.... (presumably his teacher) expects it to  be done. If you spent a bit less time mucking around playing games on that damn computer...."
And so it went on. 
Apparently she had already told him he couldn't take anything that "looks like a comic" and that it had to be "for someone your age unless you want everyone to think you are a baby".  I got that information - very quietly - from the staff member.
There was a rather smaller girl at the self-serve checkout. She was checking out six or seven good sized books she looked only just old enough to read.  She glanced in the direction of the boy and his mother, sighed and sat down on the carpet. She opened a book and started to read.
The boy finally found something that met with his mother's approval. She had to remind him how to use the self-serve check out and then she said to the girl,
      "Come on, hurry up. You waste far too much time with your nose in a book."
She picked up her books and followed them out of the library and gave me a sad little shrug and faint smile. 
I think there are mixed messages in that household. My sympathy is with the girl. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Copyright? Did someone mention

I have been writing a list of resources for the workshop. That's fine but I also thought I should include a local contact in a slightly different sort of way. It's not a business organisation but a craft group. 
The craft group has a website. The information on it belongs to the craft group. 
I did the right thing and asked for permission to use it. The response was to give me some information I  already had. It did not expressly give me permission. Now, in law, it might be considered that,  by giving me the information, the person I contacted had given me "implied" permission to use it. 
Given my rather awkward relationship with the group I felt that was not good enough. I really need their express permission. It is for their benefit, not mine, that I am doing this. I had a message back saying what I rather feared. It amounted to "you don't need our permission because the information is on our website". Sorry, I do need your permission.
If the person I contacted doesn't give me express permission I won't include the information. Right now though I am hoping that I will get express permission.
This group has been given information about copyright  by me and by another knowledgeable member of the group. I have written about it for their newsletter and there is information in their library about it.
Some time ago I genuinely misunderstood somebody's intention when she posted something on line. I thought she wanted it passed on so I did. She didn't like it. I made genuine and sincere apologies but she refused to accept them - to the extent of blocking me from all contact without a word of explanation. I only found out from someone else. It's something I will always regret. I did acknowledge her ownership. I didn't intend to hurt her but she was, and apparently still is, upset and angry. It has made me even more cautious than before.
Things I have written have been passed on to other people without my consent. It has happened frequently in the past and I don't doubt it will happen in the future. It annoys me because, if asked, I would probably say "yes, you may" most of the time. If I didn't want it passed on then there would be a good reason for it. 
Late last year I gave a report to the group I need permission from. I wrote it very carefully and, unusually for me, I read it out exactly as I had written. I was asked to give them an actual copy. I have done so on the understanding that it is not and that it is used in its entirety. Why? Because I know there would be a temptation to edit out parts of it. They are not critical of the group but, if not left in, they would change the understanding of what had taken place and why - and I own the copyright.
All this seems to make no difference to the person I approached. She clearly didn't see the problem as a problem... but I know it would have been if I hadn't asked permission. 
Is copyright really that hard to understand? I suppose it is.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A visit to India

is not likely for me. I'd like to go and visit friends there but the reality is that I won't go. I took one look at the little video clip of the uncontrolled traffic my nephew could see from his hotel window and I know that, realistically, I would never be able to leave the hotel. You have to be able to do more than a four minute mile to cross the road safely.  He didn't like the traffic.
Brother Cat is also in India at the moment...a different part. He's up in the north but says the traffic isn't much better.  Oh yes, the history and the culture are interesting...but the traffic, the noise. Brother Cat lives in a sprawling Downunder capital city where there is plenty of traffic and noise but it is even getting to him.
If I listen I can hear the traffic on one of the main roads here. Most of the time it is a noise which fades into the background but, in the early morning quiet, it comes to the fore again. I try not to hear it. I don't like traffic. School holidays are lovely things. The amount of traffic on the roads decreases dramatically - and yes, I do mean dramatically. I doubt it makes that sort of difference in India.
Many years ago the Senior Cat went to China. When he came home one of his impressions was that "the place never stopped moving" and "it was never absolutely quiet". 
Neither of us listen to radio. The Senior Cat has ceased to watch television and I watch almost none at all. 
We talk at the meal table - some of the topics of conversation would probably surprise other people...theology and cardiac surgery were mentioned yesterday. We can also be silent.
But, this morning, I can hear the resident possum talking to itself in the avocado tree and I can hear the blackbird walking across our neighbours' roof. I can hear the sparrows playing in the bird bath and the sprinkler swishing across the lawn across the road. 
You can hear a lot when it is quiet.

Monday, 16 January 2017

How (not) to use Twitter 101

should be a compulsory subject before anyone is allowed to have a Twitter account - and yes, I include myself. 
It would have been useful to know any number of things before I started to use Twitter. Twitter has of course proved extremely useful. I have "met" any number of people through Twitter. That's a good thing.
I hope I don't leave a trail of annoying cat hairs on Twitter. We cats can never be too sure about that sort of thing. I try to follow along quietly and not get in the way of humans I don't know. You can never be too sure whether they like cats or not. On occasion I have prowled a little too close - and then been kicked out of the way.
Then there was yesterday. 
I made a remark to someone else yesterday. We exchange remarks occasionally. He is a newspaper columnist. I am merely a cat who occasionally writes to the papers and happens to write a blog. He knows that. 
I know I should have kept my remarks to myself but I was so thoroughly fed up with another columnist and author by then that I sent the tweet off without thinking. Oh.  
I just said I could write a better column than this person...and yes, I still think I can. She makes a name for herself by being deliberately controversial, by adjusting information to suit herself, and generally being an outrageous "feminist". 
It is a way of approaching life, the world, and your job - but it isn't one I care for.  I don't care for it because it relies on something other than trying to master the demanding art and craft of writing well.  There are clearly other people who believe the same thing - if the reviews of her book are anything to go by.  Of course the publicity machine worked for her. She knows how to use every social media platform to her advantage - and does it. Her book has had a lot of "exposure" on Twitter.
I wonder how many people will actually read the book. They may borrow it or buy it. They may start it  - but they won't necessarily read it to the end. 
Her views are not my views - and that's fine. I don't agree with everyone. I don't expect them to agree with me. What got me though was other people telling me that I shouldn't hold my views. My views are, it seems, wrong - and unacceptable. It seems that, simply because someone has had an actual book published and I haven't, this person is a "better writer" than I am. Perhaps she is - or perhaps we are just different. 
It didn't make any difference to my critics - even though they had never read anything by me apart from one tweet. Apparently that is how to use Twitter.
I really must do Twitter 101.