Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Power without responsibility.

I have never had a lot of time for the modern union movement in Australia. Unions were a necessary, even essential, part of the landscape in the days before government regulation and mass media. They would claim they are still an essential part of the landscape. I suspect the truth is different.
Australian unions want to retain the levy they imposed when they were endeavouring to get rid of WorkChoices. It was the money that gave them a massive fighting fund at the last election. They ran an highly effective scare campaign which lost the previous government the election. Now they want more money to run more campaigns. They say this is because the new IR legislation 'does not go far enough'. What they mean is that the new IR legislation does not give them all the rights and power they had hoped for.
Unions want power without responsibility. Unions want power without risk. They want rights without responsibilities. They want to dictate how business can be conducted. They claim they are preserving workers rights and conditions.
Unions do not take on the responsibilities of employers. They do not take on the risks. Unlike governments they do not even need to face an electorate. If they can achieve the return to compulsory untion membership they will not even have to seek out members. They will have a captive group.
For unions there is only one political party, Labor. Union money is used to finance Labor party campaigns, both directly and indirectly. They argue that this is fair because 'big business' supports the Coalition. The reality is different. Big business supports those whom they see as likely to give them the advantage they are seeking.
Even denying the Labor party the right to accept donations from the union movement would not halt the problem. The unions would simply run their own campaign in support of Labor.
What is needed is legislation to prevent the union movement from using member's money in support of political campaigns. It should instead be used for the original purpose - to help union members in need.
Instead the union movement has become greedy and, under Labor, is becoming far too powerful if Australia is to survive in the modern world.

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Chinese Minister

for World Financial Affairs (aka Kevin Rudd and, oddly, also Prime Minister of Australia) seems not to be getting the kudos he believes he deserves while abroad. There are reports that he has been relegated to the second tier at the G20 Summit.
There are many, including myself, who will be relieved to hear this. Mr Rudd is still very popular in Australia - after all a lot of people have just received a very generous 'present' from him and they are hoping for a tax cut as well. The fact that, as a nation, we cannot afford these things is beside the point. We must continue to live beyond our means. It will keep Labor in power for the foreseeable future. As always the Coalition will then have to sort out the financial mess. We do not learn from political history.
Even at the second tier of the G20 Summit Kevin Rudd has the capacity to do immense harm. He appears to be completely unaware that the Chinese government is using him. He is their Mandarin speaking Ambassador who appears to be the leader of a 'democratic' country. What is more that country has natural resources that they will now be able to obtain at bargain basement prices. In the end they will pay nothing because of the interest they will charge on the loans they are making to the Australian government. Given that the Chinese government does not actually have the money to loan but is using the forced 'savings' of its workers the world is due for more financial turmoil unless Kevin Rudd can be confined to bankrupting Australia still further.
In all this the unions are still demanding pay rises far beyond inflation. Business is going off-shore. Small business is getting smaller.
Worried? Well yes, I am worried.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Writing dialogue is

difficult for an author. Jane, of "How Publishing Really Works", raised the issue in her blog this morning. I added a comment that, apart from the nature of spoken language itself, there are also cultural and generational differences that make it difficult.
Oddly this came up yesterday. I met the Knitting Gang for a little R and R and we discussed everything as usual. I think we are unusual for a group of women. We don't bitch. It's an unspoken rule but it is there nevertheless. The group includes an Italian, two English women, a Kiwi and others. We are a mixed bunch. We did have two Americans. One has had to return to the US and we miss her greatly. She is married to a Frenchman, has lived in Russia and France and understands that cultural differences exist even better than the rest of us. The other American no longer comes. Her personality simply does not allow for cultural differences. She clashed because she misinterpreted words.
Of course there are words that cannot be interpreted. There are words that do not have parallels in other languages. We all have an unique understanding of language as well. My idea of 'chair' is not your idea of 'chair' - even when we both experience sitting on the same chair. My idea of 'chair' has changed from yesterday and my experience of yet another new chair.
Perhaps this is why another American friend no longer tries to read current British crime fiction. It is clear that she does not understand the dialogue, not just the surface dialogue but the sub-dialogue. She cannot understand the underlying meaning of the words.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A disaster

almost occurred last night. Our friends Betty and Keith called in late afternoon and stayed on for the evening meal. Fortunately there was still some soup - our own home grown giant size pumpkin went into this. I then resorted to eggs and made a fritatta. Normally I would do this in the small Creuset pan. That makes one just big enough for two. With four I resorted to a larger pan - and discovered it was not heavy enough. I managed to burn the bottom. Thankfully Betty and Keith are, to all intents and purposes, family!
They stayed late, as always. Now that Dad no longer has the car we do not see them as often because they live in the hills behind us. However there is telephone contact, more frequent and certainly more pleasant than contact with Dad's brother.
Good, close friendships are not common. Most of us have friends but that depth of friendship is rare.
Is international friendship between nations ever like that? Some would say that the relationship between Australia and the US, the UK, NZ and Canada is. I doubt the Australia-US relationship is. That is based on commercial and security interests. Our Commonwealth ties are closer despite efforts of some Prime Ministers and Republicans to cut off ties they see as 'apron strings'. Australia still needs the UK. It needs NZ and Canada too. Asian ties may (or may not) be in our commercial interest and good relations with Asia may be in our regional security interests but Asia is not our spiritual home. We are still essentially European in nature even with Asian migration having increased.
This morning I am ready to curse the migration of our next door neighbour - a perfectly pleasant person. Her young son (3) is going through a period of screaming his head off at any hour - this morning it was just after 4 a.m. Having been late to bed I had hoped to sleep through until at least 6 a.m. Being woken by young Mr Screaming-I-Don't-Want-To made me long, yet again, to give him one walloping whack. I know, I know - that is against all current child rearing theories and the law but how do you reason with a screaming and unreasonable three year old?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Has our national security...

been breached by the Defence Minister's association with a Chinese businesswoman? The media is suggesting that the Defence Signals Directorate has been illegally investigating the Minister. It seems that the Minister needs to give permission for anyone, including himself, to be investigated. The Minister also claims that the investigation is 'sour grapes' and put in place by people who do not like the proposed 'reforms' the Minister wishes to put in place.
I am sure that all this would make for an excellent episode of Yes Minister.
There are some concerns however. The businesswoman has close associations with the Chinese government. These are already of concern to security. The Minister has accepted two trips to China paid for by her - and he failed to declare them until they were exposed by the investigation. He rents a house from her in Canberra, supposedly at market rent.
Our Mandarin speaking Prime Minister naturally views his Chinese friends in a very favourable light (and has undoubtedly put pressure on others to accept the Chinalco deal). He sees China as the economic saviour of the world.
The majority of those living in China are undoubtedly ordinary, decent human beings. As a country however China is socially, morally and economically bankrupt. Mr Rudd needs to look beyond China and he also needs to sack his Defence Minister. He cannot afford to take the risk of further possible security breaches.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

There is this curious conception

that I do not 'work'. I was accosted yesterday by someone who wanted to know if I would like to volunteer to help with their particular pet project. I am not in the least interested in their pet project but, even if I was, volunteering for it would be in the middle of my working week. When I explained this I was met with a blank look, "But you don't go to work."
No, I do not go to work. I do not even get paid to work but it does not mean I do not work. I work from home If I want to take the last Tuesday afternoon of the month off in order to run the knitting group at the local bookshop then I have to make up that time later. If friends, who are retired, invite my father out for lunch and include me in the invitation then I need to make up that time early in the morning or late in the evening. If other friends 'drop in' then I still need to make up that time. When I explain I am 'working' or 'busy' however I get blank looks.
It is even more difficult for my father. He is 86. You do not, according to other people, 'work' at 86. He does. No, he does not get paid for it either. His father was still running a business at 81 and would have gone on until he died if his eyesight and manual dexterity had allowed. My father still has the capacity to work in his shed. It is work too. It is not mere dabbling in a hobby. He mends as well as makes. People still come to him to get a chair repaired or advice about making something. He teaches. He does not want to sit in a chair and drink coffee and listen to gossip.
Reportedly there are more people working via computer from home. I wonder if they face the same problems? It is not something I would recommend. Going to work is important, if only because then people understand that you 'work'.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I am wondering if....

anyone is actually reading this and what they think of these miaous. There have not been too many purrs lately.
And I have to miaou again today. First there is the nonsense about 'free travel' for seniors on the front page of the paper. The idea is to give those in possession of a seniors card (over 60 please) free transport outside peak hours. It sounds good but it really means very little. It will not significantly reduce road traffic - which is what we should be aiming at. There is also a distinct shortage of public transport at the relevant times.
If the government was serious about reducing congestion on the road then they would provide more public transport (completely accessible please!) at shorter intervals - and make it much more difficult to use a car, especially a car occupied by just one individual. They would make it much more difficult for the young to obtain a licence. They would ban the use of entertainment systems in cars. Anyone caught using a mobile 'phone (even hands free) or any sort of entertainment system should be liable to an instant loss of licence. Tough stuff? If you are driving then you should be concentrating on driving. If you want to travel and be entertained or carry on a conversation then use an MP3 and text your messages on public transport.
Ah yes, put those measures in place and we will have a riot on our hands - or so they tell me.

Then there is the report on page 3 of the 'Tiser - more dubious research about the iniquities of eating red meat and how it harms our health and makes us more liable to heart attack. Now I am not fond of red meat but others are and I doubt this will stop them. What bothers me is that the conclusions they draw may not be based on the evidence. Those who were said to over-indulge in red meat and have a heart attack as a result of its consumption were also found to be overweight, smokers who led a sedentary lifestyle and ate other foods with a high fat/salt content. So, what's to blame - the meat or the diet and lifestyle. I suspect that the latter may, at very least, be an influence here. Miaou! The cat is having fish for lunch anyway.
Purr wise - Juliana dropped off a lovely book review for the newsletter. I wondered if I had made a mistake buying 'No Idle Hands' for the Guild library. It seems not. Her review should encourage more people to at least dip into it. Perhaps if more people read and knitted our health would improve, there would be less time for cooking all that dreadful red meat and our fingers would be too busy on the needles to snack?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

This morning there are complaints....

from schools that they are not seeing the federal funds assigned to the state government for the purposes of education. This is hardly surprising. The state government appears to be terrified of providing schools with any autonomy for fear they might 'waste' the money. (It is, of course, perfectly acceptable for the government to waste the money.) A school cannot possibly be permitted to decide what it spends money on.
Now, I agree there should be guidelines. Some idiot would always want to spend it on something totally unsuitable. Most school principals are however reasonable beings with the interests of their pupils at heart. Even if I personally disagree with the manner in which reading is (not) taught there are plenty of mutterings about spending the funds on literacy and numeracy programmes.
All this rather reminds me of the days when Gough Whitlam's government was spending money as if it was going out of fashion and they had to get rid of as much as possible. We had money for school libraries. The head of the school I was in vaguely thought that the option of an expensive multi-volume encyclopaedia might be the answer. Fortunately an alternative was presented from on high in the form of a long list of books we could order from. I never saw the books because I left but I think everyone would have been well used. The only volume of an encyclopaedia which gets well used in schools is the one which includes the letter 's'.
If they must spend money in this casual fashion, without so much as national curriculum guidelines and support staff, then the powers that be should spend it on books....the only problem is that they are not teaching children to read them.

Monday, 23 March 2009

If we want kids to read....

then we have to provide books they want to read.
That sounds so simple, so trite and yet it is a lesson that adults seem to have forgotten.
Susan Greenfield, Baroness-Professor and Thinker in Residence, was commenting on the importance of reading in the 'Tiser this morning. One of her concerns is that the next generation of screen addicted young will not have the same creative capacity. I find that interesting because one of my complaints about films is that they do too much for me. They do not leave enough to my (perhaps over-active) imagination. If it good writing then I know what the people and the places are like. I could recognise them if I saw them - the director's view is not my view. The author's view will not be my view. That does not matter. What matters is that I can imagine it all.
Looking at the dross on the library shelves it is clear that more and more of it is rising to the top. The good writing is sinking. Children are being presented with more and more rubbish. Enid Blyton was once said to be bad for young readers but the writing was straight forward, violence was at a minimum, the goodies won and the baddies lost. In Blyton the vocabulary is limited and the characters are not well developed but, despite all that, it is preferable to much of what is currently on the shelves.
Australia needs a Fidra type company to reproduce Southall's Simon Black, Thiele, Grant-Bruce, Thorpe-Clark, Chauncy and others.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

2020 summit?

I have just finished reading columnist Jeff Roach on the 2020 Summit. It did not make good breakfast reading. It was a reminder of all that is bad with the Rudd government. As Mr Roach kindly points out, not one of the financial wizards at the Summit managed to foresee the global financial disaster that was less than twelve months down the line.
I suspect the same will prove true of all other major issues supposedly discussed at the summit. It is difficult when 'teflon Kevin' and his mate 'glib Gillard' insist that they have a 'mandate' to do certain things. Their new IR legislation is likely to be an economic disaster - and that will translate into a social disaster. Labor and the unions will, of course, blame 'the previous government'.
But, the Summit was supposed to be about 'ideas'. If that is really what the government had wanted then there were ideas floating around. They did not make the lists that came out of the Summit. Why? Because they did not suit the agenda of the Summit. The Summit was really about rubber-stamping the Rudd agenda - and perhaps not even doing that. Perhaps it was about agreeing that the agenda had already been rubber-stamped. It was about making the government look good. They still plan to go back to it and claim that 'this is what you, the Australian people, wanted and (wait for it) we are listening to you'.
I am not sure how many submissions I have written to how many inquiries over the years. Most of those submissions have been requested and I have dutifully wasted hours writing them. One or two have not been requested but have been issues I feel passionately about or about which I have specific information.
Governments do not listen to submissions. I am not sure why they run inquiries or ask the Productivity Commission and other bodies to write reports. The reports do not get read. They most certainly do not get acted upon.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Now there are lies,

damned lies, statistics and 'research'.
The 'Tiser published a 'research' survey of 552 voters this morning and made firm pronouncements about the state of the two major parties. They may be right. They may also be wrong. 552 is not a lot of people in the overall election scene but the number was well hidden. The headline was large - the Opposition is, according to this research, going to lose the next election.
They may well lose the election - and some of the blame will have to lie with the media. The media manipulates, especially when one of their own has moved on to become Premier. He knows how the media works. He is always there for the good news. He allows his team to deliver bad news - but only when they cannot get away from it. He will deliver bad news only if he can blame it on something outside his control, preferably 'the previous government'. Accuracy does not matter. Much the same is occurring at Federal level. And yes, of course things like that happened with previous governments.
Things are a little different now however. The Premier of Queensland, with an enormous war chest behind her, was able to (ab)use the internetfor today's election there. The present Federal government had an enormous war chest too - much of it from the union movement.
All this allows the spread of other lies - the political promise sort and those about politicians themselves.
Lies about speeding and a desire to somehow wriggle out of a $77 fine and three demerit points have landed Marcus Einfeld inside for at least two years. The question going through everyone's mind must be why a former QC, Federal Court Judge and head of the Human Rights Commission did not simply pay the fine?

Friday, 20 March 2009

My cousin sent a picture....

of the 'house' they intend to live in for three months. This house is in the slums of Manila. It is really a shack made from rubbish but, she tells me, it has a concrete floor and a toilet - of sorts.
Now I would not take six kids from 3-16 to live in the slums of Manila. I would not not take them to visit. I don't think this is missionary work at all. This is putting the lives of children at risk. It is not giving them a worthwhile experience. (If they want to do some worthwhile missionary work there is plenty to be done here in Oz for a start.)
I really do wonder if they have thought this through. I am the worrying kind. I have too much imagination. My immediate thoughts were of all the things that might go wrong. Even then I underestimated. Another friend, a doctor, added another pile of health risks. The thought of them going terrifies my father and, I think, their grandparents. But, go they almost certainly will.
And health risks? I am reading "$29billion reasons to lie about cholesterol" by Justin Smith. The book appears to be well researched but it is spoilt by very poor proof reading. I wonder whether this is due to haste to get the book out or sabotage. It seems unlikely that the author would confuse 'yolk' with 'yoke' and to spell 'dying' as 'dieing' also seems unlikely.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

We went to see....

Dean Spanley last night. It was a rather strange film - clever, funny and yet poignant. Peter O'Toole was excellent as the older Mr Fisk. The storyline - or should one say character development - was definitely off-beat.
Looking towards that kept me from thinking too much about Shan who made her debut with Singapore National Youth Orchestra in the Vivaldi Double Cello concerto last night. Okay so at 13 she drives her mother mad at times, as an adopted aunt/godmother I just get the fun at a distance - until she does something like that and I feel every bit as nervous for her as a parent.
My youngest nephew is driving his mother crazy too - but I warned him that studying Law is not exactly exciting. If he finishes - and it looks as if he might stick with it - then he will go places but he would have been better off taking a year out between school and university. It should be compulsory for ALL students....a year's national service of some kind (not necessarily military) would be good for all kids. If we can't have that then potential university students should have a gap year in order to grow up and be sure that they actually do want to go to university. Not everyone would agree but it seems to work well for many students in the UK.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

They are closing....

the local railway line for four months. The powers that be say that this is necessary to 're-sleeper' the line. It might be said that the railway sleeps most of the time anyway. Trains are scarcely frequent. If they were more frequent more people might use them.
However for some of us the train is essential. It is our only accessible means of transport. I am not permitted to take my tricycle on a bus and I know several people who cannot get their gophers on a bus - assuming of course that the bus is one designated as 'accessible'. We do not get the 'mobility allowance'. The price of a regular taxi service is beyond us - and the so-called 'access cabs' are unreliable. There are far too few of them and, naturally, many of them are required at the same time of day making them even thinner on the ground.
So far the authorities have not made any arrangements. It is a problem they need to deal with because they plan on doing the another of the lines in the coming months. This is longer than our line. It carries a great many more people. It carries more people with disabilities.
My social life, such as it is, will be curtailed still further. Perhaps that does not matter. Missing dental appointments does matter (not that I would mind but the dentist will).
Missing meetings will matter too. The state government is using the economic downturn as an excuse to cut back still further on disability services. Labor underspends on disability services by 38% in this state. It has been underfunding services for years and it will continue to do so as long as it can get away with it. In the end of course it will cost more rather than less - but for some people it will be too late.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Do not call

us by telephone - or at the door.
We registered with the "Do Not Call" site when the service first became available. We were tired of saying "We do not do cold call business over the 'phone". We were also tired of 'phone calls at the most inconvenient times of the day and, sometimes, late at night.
The problem is that companies seem increasingly to be ignoring the law and circumventing it by using "real live people" to knock at the door instead. These people also believe that they can ignore our polite "No canvassers please". Now, to me, a canvasser is anyone who knocks at the door collecting for charity OR trying to sell you something. I mind the former far less than the latter (provided they are genuine volunteers and not paid collectors) - give them a few dollars and tell them politely that you really prefer to donate to the charities of your choice in your own way and they will go away.
The other sort of canvassers are a different matter. If you are local real estate agent I do not want the house I live in given the once over for a 'free evaluation'. The house is not up for sale and not likely to be in the forseeable future. Why waste my time - and yours? If you are from Telstra I am not interested in listening to why it would be better for me to return to Telstra. You had a chance for our business and you failed to deliver a service. The new company does well and you are trying to sell me something. We DO NOT do business at the door. A rainwater tank - did you notice the multiple tanks as you came in? Guttering? It came with the tanks. Roof cleaning - did you notice the state of our roof? Lawn mowing? Notice the lawn has just been cut, well cut and with the edges neatly trimmed? We pay our friend a very reasonable amount - and he usually comes in for a couple of glasses of cordial as well.
Yes, business is tough. You want to try and sell yourself but, if we do not need you, we do not need you. We do not want to be bothered by you.
And, if you happen to be from the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses or any other like group then do not even think of bothering us. As a last resort there is always the possibility of an action for trespass - and I am beginning to think that it would be worth taking just so that some of you get the message and I can go back to writing something worthwhile instead of growling and mewing with rage.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Not so long ago

the Rudd government was saying we needed to increase the number of skilled migrants coming into Australia. Now they are saying that we need to cut back - because of the global economic crisis. Apparently we are going to find enough skilled workers in our own backyard.
Has the demand really dropped that dramatically?
It has certainly dropped - and that is not good for anyone - but there is also the not so small matter of IR and IR legislation. "IRe" might be a better way of describing it.
The Unions did not like Workchoices. They used a scare campaign (money obtained by standover tactics) to 'persuade' Australians to vote out one government and replace it with a more union friendly government.
Unions are lovely things - if you happen to be the leader of one. They allow legal bullying. Claims they are there to 'protect workers' rights' make them sound good too.
The reality is perhaps different. It is union demands for a range of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the work people are employed to do that are sending jobs off-shore. They still want 'long-service leave' (a peculiarly Australian concept), the want toilet breaks, tea breaks, longer lunch breaks, shorter working days, higher pay, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, health cover for workers and their families, holiday leave loading, travel allowance, shift allowance and weekend penalty rates etc.
They also want the right to enter any workplace (whether the workers as well as the employer wants them there or not) and the right to review the records of non-union members.

The employer gets landed with all the responsibility plus payroll tax and a range of other taxes and charges.

The IR legislation simply goes too far. It gives unions too much power and employers not enough. This takes Australia back to old style unionism when the rest of the world is moving on. It is employers who pay the wages and take the risks. Yes, they have to be responsible and they have to provide safe working conditions and a reasonable wage. They know that. If they really want to succeed they will do it - and give their loyal, hardworking employees a decent bonus at the end of each year.
The rest of the demands of the ACTU are aimed at power and control - of not just the employers but the workers. They are aimed at taking over people's lives. They are taking away the right and the duty of people to be responsible for themselves and their own actions. If the unions have their way then Australia will fall far behind the rest of the world in industrial relations.
It's a good thing - for the unions.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Redundancies for some

mean more work for others.
I have just been reading the article on redundancy in the Weekend Australian magazine section. It talks about the obvious but it does not mention the wider impact of redundancy and unemployment.
Is anyone really aware that there is a small army of "volunteers" out there? The problem is that we are not really volunteers at all. We are being compelled to do the work of those who are made redundant. If we did not do it then some essential services would grind to a halt. We are not the "Meals on Wheels" type volunteers. The services those sort of volunteers provide are also vital but they are organised and acknowledged. They are covered by insurance and they may even get petrol money.
No, there are other "volunteers". We are those with often very high qualifications and very specific skills. We are the people who are contacted with the preface, "I really hate to ask you but this is an emergency..." It often is an emergency too - in my case a communicaton board for an operation to save someone's life or get an aid worker in to distribute essential food and shelter. How do you say "no" to that sort of request? The answer is you do not - and those asking know it. So do those who make decisions about redundancies. The end result is that some of the best people are being made redundant. Those responsible know that other people will step in because of the essential nature of the work these people did. It is easier to keep the incompetent employee.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Claire sent flowers...

yesterday afternoon. They are some sort of pink lily the size of a bread and butter plate.
I never buy cut flowers. I like them in gardens but not in the house. Inside they are messy. They require water. They need to be arranged. I am hopeless at these things. I do not have time to sit and look at them.
But, Claire likes to do it. She wants to say 'thankyou' - which she does all the time anyway. I know I am often the only person she talks to in a day. She reads. She watches a little television. When she has the energy she will water her minute garden. I know she does not feed herself properly. It would be better if she ate her main meal in the middle of the day when she has more energy. In the evenings even putting a pre-prepared frozen meal in the microwave oven is more than she can be bothered with. At least the meals are nutritious when she eats them - but I doubt she eats much of them. Hugging her is like hugging a skeleton but she wants to be hugged.
Claire is nearly ten years younger than my father but heart failure and a series of small strokes have made her much frailer and forgetful with it. She needs to move into a nursing home, indeed wants to go. There is no place for her yet but she has been promised some respite care.
I hope my old age, always presuming I make it that far, is more satisfying than hers but she seems content enough at present.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Books and more books...

I have found a positively dangerous site on the Internet....BetterWorkBooks.com. It is a US site which sells used books for the benefit of literacy projects worldwide. Prices are very reasonable and the postage is also reasonable with the added advantage of it being carbon conscious.
I have to restrain myself but when our dollar was up against the US dollar I managed to fill some gaps in my collection of children's books and add a couple of dictionaries to the work collection.

Our local Vinnie's has a very good book section, a large room at the back. It is well organised. The fiction is in alphabetical order - paperbacks separated from hardcover. (There is very little of the latter.) The non-fiction is in groups - usual masses of cooking and gardening, some craft, crosswords and health, travel etc. Prices there tend to be reasonable too - especially if you happen to hit a half price sale day.

The problem is that Dad and I like to collect books but we do not like to pass them on. We almost certainly have too many books (although we like to think that this is not possible). I know there are still books in the shed - and we already have the shelves in here double-stacked.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

I will not be popular....

They published the letter I sent to the 'Tiser yesterday. It rather surprises me. The 'do-gooders' out there will be on to me tomorrow (or the day after) telling me that they know exactly where to draw the line. Lucky them. I do not know where you draw the line in sentencing law.
Being disadvantaged is one thing and being delinquent is another. Some would have it that they are the same thing.
It brings me to the other little thing Australian law needs, a 'not proven' verdict. It's a little quirk of Scots law that could be usefully applied elsewhere. I remember saying this at law school and being howled down but, all too often, there is evidence there that cannot be used for one reason or another and the victim watches the aggressor walk off with a smirk on his or her face. Perhaps a 'not proven' with costs would prove a deterrent for some - or maybe not.
Friends 'phoned yesterday and arranged to transport us out to lunch. They do this occasionally. It is their way of entertaining themselves. They mean well and believe they are giving us something to do. The problem is that they (and many others) simply do not believe that I work. It is a hazard of working independently from home. I have even been told 'but you don't work do you?' They find it even harder to believe that my father has so much to do that going out in the middle of the day just to socialise is something he would rather not do. Perhaps we are unsociable - or is it because we like to get things done before we relax?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Andrew Bolt is stirring again. He will be accused of racism but he is almost certainly saying what most people think. Is it right to treat people differently in the courts on the basis of the colour of their skin?
It may be that it encourages people to continue to do the wrong thing. They know when they are caught that there will be a lesser punishment - and they may not be caught at all. Mmm.
What Andrew Bolt did not bring up is the even more vexed question of just who can claim to have a different skin tone. At what point do you cease being one thing and start to be another? Which heritage do you have a right to claim? My ancestors are white, Celtic and Protestant. Am I Scots or Australian? The law says I am the latter. Why then does the law persist in saying that someone with one grandparent or even one great-grandparent is something else? It has nothing to do with skin tone - you could pass them in the street and not recognise their ancestry.
The problem would appear to be more to do with taking responsibility for one's own actions - and it is much easier to blame your wrong doing on external factors. None of us like to be caught out but, for some, wriggling out is easier than it is for others.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


I have yet to meet Vanessa at Fidra Books but I was delighted to look at her blog this morning and discover that her Children's Bookshop is on the shortlist for a 'best bookshop' award. It is the sort of publicity such places of undoubted excellence need.
Buying a book for children is not a matter of picking up anything that comes to hand in a Target, K-Mart or Big W. Books for children need to be chosen with care. I continue to be concerned at the books for children which sit on the local library shelves. The central committee still has not managed to learn that, like adults, children read fiction for entertainment. They do not want endless stories about social issues lightened with a little Lemony Snickert. ("They're all right but they are all the same" is what I have been told about the latter.) Harry Potter may not be great literature but it is much more the sort of thing children want to read - and they may go on to Diana Wynne Jones and others as a consequence.
This is why Vanessa's venture is so important. It provides at least some of the 'lose yourself in a great adventure' type experiences. The fact that it is not world shattering literature is not important. It is accessible literature and that is important.
And, speaking of access, Julia Gillard is saying we must get more students from lower socio-economic groups into university. It seems that we have to do this regardless of whether they have the capacity or the interest in being there. My view is that we should be getting the best students into university - but only if they want to be there. Motivation is everything at tertiary level.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Can they read?

I wonder whether politicians can read?
Kevin Rudd wrote a diatribe against the free market economy recently.
Now Malcolm Turnbull has responded in a slightly more erudite manner - and the parrots do not like it. The problem is that the parrot do not appear to have read the response, merely noted the names mentioned in it.
I have little time for Malcolm Turnbull but, in all fairness, he was congratulating the Rudds on their financial success - and rightly criticising Rudd for speaking out against the very policies that made them wealthy.
Of course Rudd, and others of his ilk, will ensure that their financial affairs are safeguarded while maintaining a pseudo-belief in pseudo-socialist policies.
Today is our ridiculous horse-racing holiday. It is not the sort of thing we need at any time, least of all in a recession. Rudd probably supports this as 'cake' for the mob. If he was here he would go to the races. Turnbull would go to the races too. There is not much difference between them.
I will not be going to the races.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

I was not going to write this but

I have just finished reading an account of the Victorian bushfires by one of the Australian journalists. He and his family lost their home and much more.
It was a surreal experience reading that -unearthly, dreamlike. I had a sense of travelling as I read it. It brought back the odd sensation I had when we went through that area last year. Even then it seemed a little remote from the rest of the world. Oh, they have television and mobile 'phones and all the trappings of modern living but they are also a little apart from it all.
Which brings me to wonder about John who has lost his home too. For John life is not so simple as moving in with relatives or into a caravan for the time being. John needs accessible accommodation. He had called for help but it would not have got there. His neighbours realised he was still home. He was in bed because he was feeling unwell. They picked up and put him on the back seat of their car but they could not get his electric wheelchair out.
"Cat, I'm alive," he told me. I cannot begin to imagine his terror at having to leave through choking smoke, almost nil visibility, heat beyond description and the endless striking of little red embers that set another house, another shed, another car, another tree, gate, fence and anything else on fire. By the time the bricks of John's little house exploded in the heat there was nobody there to hear it...but John is alive. They have set up a computer link for him and he is working with me to help some of the other people with disabilities who lost everything except their lives.
Perhaps being alive really is all that matters. I don't know.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Orders of Merlin and muddiness

The magician in the family has been awarded the Order of Merlin. Notification arrived yesterday, not by Owl but by Muggle Post. It seems to be some sort of lifetime achievement award despite the fact that the magician (Dad) has pretty much given up. He no longer pulls rabbits out of hats at birthday parties. Hmm...he never did pull rabbits out of hats at birthday parties. He did not like the idea of using a live animal. His influence on the magical world is still there though. He made apparatus for his fellow magicians after he retired from being the headmaster of a Muggle school - and some of that apparatus has been used in a command performance in front of HM Queen Elizabeth II. I hope she enjoyed it as a lot of her job seems to be intensely boring.
The magician however seems to attract dirt. I finally managed to get the latest pair of workshop trousers into the wash. They had to be soaked in the laundry tub first...and they left behind an interesting trail of mud, sawdust and a magnet. Compared with these my jeans looked pristine.
I wonder what it is with boys (of all ages). Do they have a built in magnetic dirt attractor?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Microsoft ? Banks?

Microsoft is more than a little soft. I supplied the information requested to try and sort the problem out - and have just had a request to supply the information requested. The problem is definitely at their end and not mine so why I need to supply any information apart from my identity is beyond me. I would like to 'phone them but I might give them a piece of my mind, always supposing that I could actually work my way through the maze of press this and press that.
As for the bank....now I got a nice letter from the bank telling me my little 'long term deposit' had matured and would be re-invested (as per instructions) for another twelve months. The 'indicative interest rate' was 7.7% on the letter. It sounded a little unlikely but the powers that be expect me to get full value for the money I have in the bank so I dutifully went in to transfer the other little amount over - and discovered that the actual interest rate is likely to be 3.5%. The bank has also charged me for moving my own money from one section to another. Nice bank, kind bank. It makes lovely profits for shareholders even in this economic climate. It is quite easy to see how it does this - at my expense.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

I had these grandiose notions....

I had these grandiose notions that the publishing princess might actually find the time to look at this blog and leave a comment - if only because it might encourage me to go on writing it and that would mean less time spent reading and commenting on her (communal) blog. It really is not quite fair because she gets help from her husband, housemate, partner, her son, the dog and at least one member of staff in her bookshop. She also has the capacity to put up all these fancy photographs (the dog is particularly nice) and her husband even had music recently.
I can do none of those things and the man I live with (my father) does not even know how to turn the computer on, let alone contribute to the blog. In any case he is a Columbus when it comes to typing - discover and land.
My woes with Microsoft continue - how long can it take them to rectify a simple problem which is, even by their own admission, at their end? I suspect the delay is due to the hope that I will give in and buy a new copy of their over-priced programme.
The other over-priced issue at present is the state government's land tax. Land tax is money for nothing as far as the government is concerned. I am never likely to pay land tax as I do not own any property, let alone investment property. Despite that even I can see the money grab here is over the top. It is increasing far in excess of the value of the properties involved and far in excess of inflation. Governments can only milk cash cows for so long and then they dry up but Premier Rann and Treasurer Foley seem to believe there are endless litres of milk to be obtained yet. After all, they have to find the money for a taxpayer funded election campaign in their favour.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Plaques, parties and Pakistan

Andrew Bolt is proving his worth as a columnist in the 'Tiser. He had a shot at Julia Gillard this morning. Our Worthy-Deputy-Would-Be-Prime-Minister is intent on ensuring her place in history with 9,450 plus brass plaques in schools. These are to recognise her role in achieving the funding of the out-of-date computers (one for every child - unless you happen to be at a fee paying school). The plaques and the parties to unveil them (to which she must be invited) will probably cost more than the computers. It does not matter of course. Everyone needs to remember the great name Gillard so that she will be Prime Minister next time around - and the unions can run the country again, if there is anything left to run.
Events in Pakistan yesterday make it clear that the extremists are opposed to cricket - presumably because it is a team game and a potential source of national pride. Anything that requires thought and cooperation is not to be tolerated and anything that deflects from fundamentalist fervour is sacrilegious. What would they make of my one achievement in the field of sport, bowling Sir Donald at the annual cricket match at the CCA Guide camp at Oakbank? It is a long time ago but they would probably consider me only worthy of stoning by cricket balls.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

What's the wet stuff?

Blogs (unless written by meteorologists) should not be about the weather but it is raining and I am reminded of the story the wife of the ranger at Uluru told me some years ago. They had a break in a three year drought and her youngest child came in and said, "Mummy, why is it all like the shower outside?"
The Victorians need this - they are having a day of high winds and 31'C forecast. Some fires are out of control again. Some total idiot tried to light one on the foreshore of east Melbourne last night.
We did not get a 'Tiser this morning. That is the second time in a week. The new delivery people are not nearly as efficient as the old delivery people. Of course it may be that they find it hard to understand why anyone would want two papers. The 'Tiser of low level local (state) journalism is enough for most people. The Australian is not a lot better. I still miss British journalism - although friends claim it is on the decline. I still miss Britain - most people say I am mad given the weather, the unemployment, housing and other crises. Give me a residence permit and I will escape Adelaide summers without a second thought.

Monday, 2 March 2009

News of the World

The front page of this morning's 'Tiser looked a bit like I imagine the front of the News of the World to look - or the old Truth which was published here back in the Dark Ages.
Why are we being treated to a sob story from "Fergie" and a dark warning that we will not host the World Cup if we do not have a new stadium?
Fergie married a Royal. I have no doubt at all that the Royals themselves are very nice, hardworking people who live lousy lives in the media goldfish bowl. I do not envy them in the least. Even if they renounced their positions the media would search them out to find out what they were doing as Mr or Mrs X. Fergie knew that when she married into The Firm. Princess Diana knew it too. They get told and advised. They have no room for complaint and should get on with the job. The media on the other hand needs to learn to leave well alone. Their deliberate attempts to undermine relationships and positions are immoral.
As for the World Cup. Even if we had a new stadium there is absolutely no guarantee we would get the event. Do we want it? Some people do but I definitely do not.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Teaching people to read

The English Teachers are at it again. Phonics are out! Literature is out! Grammar? Do not even dare to mention the word. Spelling does not matter. Received cultural literacy does not matter. What matters is the here and now, the poster for the latest pop concert.
Hmm...no more AA Milne, no "The story about Ping", and definitely no "Wind in the Willows"?
And is this why all those marvellous children's books I read in childhood and early adulthood are no longer available?
Of course new writing means that some things need to leave the library shelves but is Paul Jennings really as good and imaginative as Roald Dahl? Is Lemony Snickert really as good and imaginative as Joan Aiken? I doubt it.
Modern books for children are also shorter. The language is simpler. The plots are all too often repetitive. We seem to be telling them, "Well yes, it is important to read but don't spend too much time on it or try to hard at it because it really is not as important as getting to the next level of your latest computer game."
If the English teachers get their way they will have even less teaching and children will have less learning - and our society will lose far more than it will gain from a badly drawn poster for a pop concert.