Saturday 31 January 2009


The heat is causing chaos, genuine chaos. If this is global warming then those in authority will need to be better prepared. I suspect it is just a plain old fashioned and extremely uncomfortable heat wave.
There are power cuts because the interconnectors from Tasmania and thus Victoria go down to save electricity. Apparently if it goes over 33'C in a small town in Tasmania then this is enough to trigger cuts.
Now there has been an explosion in power supply in Victoria - and they have enough problems because of bushfires, with homes already lost. I cannot imagine that. I wonder what I would grab if I could only take one thing? It is tempting to say my passport and head for the North Pole.

Friday 30 January 2009

Simply too hot for her

My friend Margaret died this morning. The heat was apparently too much for her compromised health, despite efforts to keep her cool. I feel stunned but grateful that she apparently died laughing at a joke.
It is showing no sign of cooling down any time in the coming week. So far Dad has entertained himself by reading several books he badly wanted to read.
Yesterday he passed the book on the Exclusive Brethren over to me. What I have read so far confirms what I already knew - and it should be made much more public. These people wield a power which is grossly disproportionate to their numbers. Their doctrine of separation is such that they are, as a group, guilty of the worst type of mental cruelty. There is nothing Christian in the doctrine of separation, indeed it is a doctrine abhorred by other religious groups as well. Denying children access to parents who have left the fold is also child abuse, along with the many other means of child abuse they visit on the children.

Thursday 29 January 2009

45.7 C

45.7C is too hot - and too hot for our airconditioning unit. The electrician told us that it is designed to cut out when the temperature reaches 42.C. He was nice about it. Tried to make some suggestions etc but the reality is that the unit is now inefficient in the new summer temperatures.
I do not like summer.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Upping it

The school leaving age has been raised to 17. I wonder whether this is really going to be of any advantage to young people who have no desire to be at school.
One of the problems is that we did away with the 'technical high schools'. It was done because of a philosophy that said ' all children have the right to go to university' - and then translating this into another philosophy which said, 'all children should (or even must) aim for university'.
This sort of foolishness meant that many trades were seen as inferior in the world of employment. We are now paying the price. We are short of tradespeople. We also have a sizeable group of disillusioned young people with no skills who are unable to obtain employment and are also equally unable to entertain themselves in a constructive fashion. Add new fears of litigation, imported largely from the United States, and we have an impssible situation.
Kevin Rudd seems more concerned about putting computers in schools than about education, especially the sort of education which might allow Australia to develop as a nation.
I would like to see far more emphasis on technical skills, the arts and languages such as Spanish. We need to acknowledge that by no means all children are academically inclined or interested in an Asian language irrelevant to their background and life experience past, present or future. On the other hand almost all children do take pride in creating something - the one thing that schools appear to discourage.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Heating up

Until now the weather has been, if not cool, bearable and even quite pleasant. The forecast now says we are in for more than a week of 35'C plus -a heatwave in anyone's terms, especially with at least three days forecast to be over 41'C.
I do not like the heat. I never have. I live in entirely the wrong sort of climate and will seriously consider a move to somewhere cooler at a point in the future when I am free to do so.

The heat is on in other places as well. There are concerns being raised in the press this morning over the increasing violence in the emergency departments of hospitals, especially the one in the city. Is it right to mix drug and alcohol related emergencies with other emergencies?

I would say no and I think most people would agree. It is, as much as anything else, a safety issue. The problem lies in the division, the accommodation and the staffing of such areas. Certainly they are woefully understaffed at the best of times.
It is also disturbing that drug and alcohol related emergencies can take preference over other emergencies. It is about saving lives. It must be extremely difficult for a doctor faced with an individual who has deliberately overdosed more than once and a small child in extreme pain caused by someone else's stupidity but no actual danger of dying.

Is this situation being exaverbated by our 'let's have everyone in the community' policy? Almost certainly. It is one of those things which sounds good from the outside but may not be the solution for everyone. There are some who would feel safer and more secure in a residential situation where they were being cared for. There are others who should be there for their own safety and the safety of others. While it has been what the disability sector activists have long said they wanted - and has been dressed up as a dignity and rights issue - it is causing harm to some. We need more flexibility.

Monday 26 January 2009

Australian of the Year

It is "Australia Day" and aboriginal activist Mick Dodson has been named "Australian of the Year". His nomination indicates the highly political process of such nominations. Mr Dodson does not even support the concept of "Australia Day". I am not sure I do either but it would be for entirely different reasons. However if Mr Dodson does not support the concept of Australia Day he should have declined the honour. It would have been far better to acknowledge the work and worth of aboriginal woman Faith Bandler or any number of other worthies.
Similarly the other Honours List was, once again, filled with sports people. This is always particularly so in the Honours List following an Olympics year. It is not sufficient to get an Olympic medal. It is necessary to get a 'gong' with it.
South Australia's list was so small as to be almost non-existent and included another long serving Labor MP. Like sportspeople MPs of a certain type (not party) seem to be automatically in line for an award.
It leaves the real achievers, the unpaid workers at places like Vinnies and other charities out in the cold. Those at the top of these organisations, all too often paid to do the job, may get acknowledged but those who get their hands dirty will be ignored.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Hope for the future?

My American friends seem to be hopeful about their new President. Certainly he has made some bold moves in his first few days in office. Closing Guantanamo Bay will be popular but a decision has to be made about what do with the inmates. I don't believe David Hicks should be pardoned as he was caught fighting against his own country men. It may not have been a crime under Australian law but it was under US law and, morally, he had lost any right to sympathy. He should be ignored by the media and any attempt to obtain profit or compensation should be quickly thrown out.
I have less difficulty with stem-cell research. Yes, there are moral and ethical dilemmas. There were other moral and ethical dilemmas in the past over such things as the use of human cadavers to study the workings of the body. What we need is to use any information gained in a moral and ethical way.
And I have put in a submission to the AHRC on Freedom of Information and Belief in the 21st C. I do have concerns about that, most of all that any legislation will limit rather than enhance freedoms. Could it be used to irrevocably alter sec 116 of the Constitution? I do not know but it seems possible that legislation and the section could be combined to limit freedoms we now have. Most Australians will remain unaware of that possibility - something I suspect the AHRC, the legal profession and those with fundamentalist ideals are relying on.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Letters to the Editor

It is surprising what does get published - and what does not. I often wonder who actually edits the Letters to the Editor in various newspapers. I suspect that the initial culling is often done by young journalists, especially over holiday periods. The senior staff are more likely to be on leave then. The political slant of letters is more likely than ever to lean left in those times.
Australia's journalism does appear to lean left. There are exceptions but columnists who endeavour to provide a right wing or even middle of the road view are likely to be heavily criticised by their colleagues and letter writers alike. It does not serve us well.
Frank Devine's column in the Australian yesterday suggested that George W Bush may be judged more kindly by history than the present. It's an interesting thought.
The South Australian Liberals lost the by-election in Frome. That should not have happened, especially in a by-election but 'independents' put in by Labor to muddy the waters managed to stir up a sludge almost too difficult to shift. It is a shameful first for an opposition party. Martin Hamilton-Smith would make a good Premier but he will almost certainly never have the opportunity. Labor has been in power too long in South Australia. Even if the Liberals cannot win next time around Labor needs some true Independents to keep them from complacency. There's an election here next year. Media Mike will, naturally, time it to his own advantage and we will have to contend with a smirk along with his sneering arrogance. South Australia will be the poorer for it.

Friday 23 January 2009

The slow down....

Reports are starting to suggest that Australia's slowing economy is tied to the economic downturn in China. How long has it taken the economists to work this one out?
It has been obvious for years that Australia's narrow minded focus on 'the Asian region' and notion that 'we are part of the Asian region' has done more harm than good to the economy.
We have failed to recognise the need to work at developing a much broader range of trade contacts.
We do almost no business with South America or Africa. We have not done nearly enough with the Indian sub-continent. Australian schools do not teach enough about these regions. The languages of these regions are almost totally ignored. We are now paying a bigger price than we needed to in the slowing world economy.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Better world? Books and Obama

It seems everyone is hailing President Obama as the saviour of the world's problems. I feel sorry for the man. He is, after all, human. He is bound to make mistakes however hard he tries. Some things will be out of his control whatever he does. If he succeeds at some things he will fail at others and, human nature being what it is, he will be criticised more than he is praised and remembered for his failures rather than his successes.
This is, of course, assuming that he actually manages to complete his presidency. Of all the presidents to date he has to be the one at highest risk of assassination. He has a wife and two children and they must also be at risk of kidnap and assassination. I feel sorry for them as well.
Of course, as President, you are powerful - but perhaps not as powerful as some believe. You do get your name in the history books. Most of the rest of us will live in obscurity even when we have done some extraordinary things.
But, better world? Well there is also Betterworld Books. It's a rather large book place on the 'net. I found it searching for something else of course. It may not be beloved of all booksellers as it sells second hand books but, for the out of print material, it is useful It also sends highly amusing messages to your e-mail when you order something. No doubt they irritate some people but it suggests their workforce has a sense of purpose as well as humour....after all they are attempting to recycle books for the benefit of not just the buyer and the seller but the world literacy effort as a whole. It's an effort I have to support. The new bookshelves are already being double stacked but I'll find a home for a few more I need.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Old neighbours

I returned from a trip to the Post Office this morning to find my father talking to the daughter of our late neighbours. Vera was 98 when she died, Cliff was 97.
When Cliff was 90 he told me that the doctor had told him he must give up certain items in his diet, among them tinned pineapple and icecream. That combination, perhaps not everyone's choice, was Cliff's favourite dessert. Cliff told me this over the fence and I can remember waiting to hear what his reaction had been, "Doctor, if I cannot have a little of what is bad for me now, when can I have it?"
It is an interesting question. Some doctors appear to believe that it is their job to keep you alive as long as possible, well beyond what Cliff called his 'use-by date'. It matters not in the least that they also expect you to follow a strict regime of denial. Ideas about the treatment of diabetes have changed and perhaps others about things like cholesterol will follow.
Cliff lived a long life anyway. Perhaps part of it is the genes you have inherited. I do not know.
What I do know is that Cliff went on eating his favourite dessert.

Monday 19 January 2009

More Books

I have found books I did not know we had. No, I have not forgotten about them. I did not know about them. I am not sure where they came from.
There is a book on origami. My father is interested in origami - the sort of occupation he can pursue indoors in the heat. It appeals to his workshop, I must fiddle, construction, problem solving side. He will play happily with that over the rest of the summer, along with a book that said 'tea-bag folding' but would appear to be an origami type craft.
When it gets too hot to knit (which it already is) then I will concentrate more on writing, not just work related writing but another novel.
Vanessa at Fidra says she is actually going to read what I wrote. It is impossible to judge your own work so I hope I will not be wasting her time and that she enjoys it. In this economic climate this blog is the closest I will come to being 'published'. Am I 'published' if nobody reads it?

I should read more philosophy but there is so much else to read as well. I made a start on the Amazonian book last night. Anyone who deliberately sets off for a life of such discomfort with the notion of 'saving souls' is, at best, arrogant. The current debate in the Advertiser letter pages suggests that the age old religious debate over "I am right and you are wrong" is as lively and illogical as ever. In the instance of the Amazonian tribe in question, why would God deny them the necessary concepts in their own language and lifestyle to allow for conversion?

Sunday 18 January 2009


Bookshelves. Bookshelves?
We have the bookshelves from IKEA. What is more they are assembled thanks to Nev. Nev spent all day yesterday assembling bookshelves. As he is not a reader himself this is even more remarkable than it might be.
Dad and I have thousands of books between us. I was going to say we 'own' them but I am not sure about that. The books are stored with us. We use them for now. They will be passed on to a future generation.
Perhaps somewhere in the future there will only books on some sort of electronic or other reading device. I think it will take a long time to come. If it does then that generation will lose a great deal. Books are comforting things to have around, not comfortable in the physical sense perhaps, but comforting. You can reach out for a book and touch it. There may be information there, old friends or new ones.
The house really does look more like a library now. I am not sure what the two street 'kids' Sean and Darren would make of it now. They thought it was a library when they came to visit me about eighteen years ago. Dad and I have added to the collection since then.
It is true that Pioneer Books have stopped running those massive second hand book sales but there is still St Vincent de Paul's bookshop, the Save the Children Fund one and the Rotary one - all within close reach.
I am not at all sure my mother would approve. My mother was not really a reader, although she appeared to be a reader. That is not as contradictory as it sounds. She read the occasional light crime novel and would always appear to have a book on the go. It always took her quite a while to read a book, two or three weeks to read something I would read in a night or Dad would read in two or three nights.
I am about to embark on Daniel Everett's book, "Don't sleep, there are snakes." Dad found this fascinating. I think I will too, but for different reasons.

Friday 16 January 2009

Sentence adjustment

I am a little surprised that yesterday's letter appeared in the Advertiser this morning. It dealt with the issue of the sentencing of a man convicted of manslaughter. He identifies himself as 'aboriginal' and this was taken into consideration.
I have serious reservations about this. There are perhaps times when it would be appropriate, especially for an indigenous Australian of full blood descent living on native lands who speaks little or no English. It is surely less so when the individual in question is clearly not of full blood descent, speaks English and has been convicted of lashing out in anger. Were it not for the identification as 'aboriginal' the sentence would have been much longer.
The question therefore arises, where do we draw the line when giving what amounts to special consideration? If we allow this to happen to a person who identifies as 'aboriginal' do we also allow it for an immigrant, or the child or grandchild of immigrants? Do we allow it for those from abusive households - or just abusive households who are at the lowest end of the economic scale? Do we allow it for those with social, intellectual, psychological or physical disabilities? Do we allow it for someone who has been taunted over the circumstances of some other family member?
I suspect that the courts and the government have opened a can of highly poisonous snakes here.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Getting old rapidly

I called in to see my elderly friend Claire this morning. She is home after ten days in hospital. It was so hot I did not go to see her but we talked on the 'phone. When we did she knew who I was but sounded confused about what was happening to her.
They sent her home yesterday but I think she should have stayed there. She has aged ten years in ten days. She still does not have the energy to give me a hug but that is less of a worry than the fact that she does not have the energy to eat properly. There are good quality frozen meals there but she does not have the energy to heat them in the microwave. If she does, she eats half of it. She sleeps most of the time.
It is more than time for her to move into care, something she wants to do. Beds are at a premium of course. The government has not planned for a population that is getting old rapidly.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Nancy Bird Walton

Nancy Bird Walton has died. She was a women's liberationist long before Germaine Greer hit the page. She did not let "Smithy's" (Kingsford-Smith) disapproval deter her from learning to fly and she used her skill to help others, especially women in remote areas.
I could not help compare her exploits for the good with the exploit of those who go to 'save lives' in the religious sense. It seems to me that actually getting people to medical treatment is more likely to save lives than telling them about Christianity or Islam and then telling them they must convert to be saved. I doubt God works like that - or that Jesus did either.

Tuesday 13 January 2009


Natasha Stott-Despoja gets a regular column in the Advertiser. I am not sure why, something to do with being an ex-polly I suppose. The Democrats used to hold the balance of power in the Senate. They are a spent force these days and deservedly so because they stopped being independent of the major parties. I think their attraction for N S-D was that they were small enough for her to rise to the top (which she did) but she also presided over their demise. Australia needed the Democrats, still needs something like them.
Her column this morning dealt with the relocation of the 'Gitmo' inmates. She maintains Australia has a duty to take some. My view is that the first responsibility of a government is towards the people who have elected those in it. Taking these men in would involve major risks even if they were not a risk in themselves. The government of the day has a duty of care towards its citizens.

Monday 12 January 2009

Feasibility studies

The powers that (not) be want to do another feasibility study on the options for saving the Lower Lakes, the Coorong and perhaps the River Murray itself.
It seems to me that, by the time this is done, they will need a feasibility study to see whether the feasibility of the feasibility study is still feasible.
Nobody seems to have any answers - or they do not want to face the obvious answers. Should we stop growing rice and cotton in Australia? More than likely. If we want to grow more of our own food then the answer is certainly yes. Like the car industry in South Australia there are other interests at work here, not environmental interests.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Is it a scarf, is it a stole?

My father came home from church with the following story. Apparently the (Anglican) priest took his vestments in to be dry-cleaned. These included a stole, a surplice and a cassock. When he got the receipt it read 'scarf' for stole, 'shirt' for surplice and 'dressing gown' for cassock.

This weather it is a wonder he wears any of them. Because it is forecast to be very hot in February we are also going to act as baby (tree) minders for a Wollamai pine in a pot. The owner does not want to lose it through lack of water while she is away. The rest of her garden will almost certainly die because she is not permitted to use the automatic watering system and nobody is permitted to water outside their allotted times. Whether this is really saving water or the environment is something which will have to be decided in the future. From my point of view it means that too many people see it as a good excuse to give up doing anything in the garden. People need green though, especially in this climate.

Friday 9 January 2009


Books? The order from the catalogue arrived this morning. Now, who buys books? Dad buys just as many as I do, perhaps more. I think this is a good thing. It shows that, at nearly 86, his mind is still active.
Among his choices this time is a response to Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" and a book about the brain and reading.
He was very pleased with the new origami book I found and says the photographs are excellent. It should give him something to do inside when the weather heats up on Monday. He is out in the shed with his friend Neville this afternoon. They are both going to be supremely frustrated in February and March. I hope the house will stay cool enough to work at the computer and knit when I need a break.
I want to write a submission about the proposed Freedom of Religion Bill and the proposed Charter or Bill of Rights. That the former could curtail current freedoms is becoming more obvious and the latter certainly will. It is strange how governments can never learn from experience, and certainly not the experiences of other countries.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Not there

I called in to see the elderly woman I visit on Mondays and Thursdays. The blinds were down and there was no answer at the door. I therefore let myself in wondering if I would find her on the floor. She was not there.
As she had not been well on Monday I was not as concerned as I would otherwise have been. Inquiries soon showed she was in hospital. Her daughter was supposed to inform me but she has epilepsy and, while she thought she had, she had also had a seizure and had forgotten to do so.
There are too many elderly people living alone in this area. Their children tend to live interstate or overseas. The mobile work population means that they are scattered. Some are not interested in their elderly parent or parents but others are in regular contact. Even regular contact however is not the same as being here and available to take a parent to the doctor, obtain a prescription, fix something around the house and so on. It is a problem that government, particularly local government, has not yet really come to grips with.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

A visit to Ikea

We went in search of bookshelves this morning - at IKEA. I do not really care for the shopping experience at IKEA and they did not have what we wanted in stock. The nice girl in the checkout area informed us that the wanted items should be in by January 17th. Maybe.
What we chose is good standard, almost municipal library type shelving. There were fancier and more costly things available but they would house less books and the shelving was not adjustable. Dad and I want to be able to store books, not decorate the house.
We probably have far too many books but I am loathe to give books away. Even the crime novels prove useful from time to time - for friends going on holiday or people who are at the point in convalescence where a book seems worth reading but they do not want anything too heavy.
My current light reading is a curious book by James Church, "A corpse in the Koryo" - a detective novel of sorts about a police inspector in North Korea. The author is apparently a former intelligence officer - but whether his view of North Korean affairs is accurate is another story. I suspect some of his remarks about communist internal non-cooperation are.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Section 116

Section 116 of the Australian Constitution is the section which forbids the Commonwealth government from making laws about religion.
Despite that the Human Rights Commission is seeking views about the need for two things. One is a Bill of Rights. The other is a "Freedom of Religion Bill".
We need neither. The first will take away more rights than it gives simply because it will attempt to codify rights. Equal Opportunity Legislation has shown us the dangers of that. Far from provising Equal Opportunity it has been (ab)used by both sides in a search for an "equal in all things" doctrine - of the "as long as it is not in my backyard" type.
A Freedom of Religion Bill may hold even worse traps. We already have objections to Christmas which informs about the Nativity. We have demands for 'the traditional law of indigenous people' to run alongside "white man's law" and we have growing demands for the acknowledgment of Sharia law. The last is of particular concern, especially as there is a refusal to acknowledge that there may be any reciprocal requirements at all. As an Islamic acquaintance said to me recently,
"Of course all Muslims eventually hope to see Sharia law take precedence over everything else. It will happen. It is the will of Allah."
I think I prefer Christian notions of love for one another and tolerance but it seems that Islam cannot accept these. These very notions may prove to be the end of Christianity in the future unless we acknowledge the threat from statements such as the one above.

Monday 5 January 2009

Birthdays and funerals

It is my aunt's birthday today. I naturally hope she will have enjoyed it as she planned with friends.
My father also went to a funeral. He was the sole friend there. All the other mourners were family. It is a sad commentary on the life of a man who was very ill for a long period of time.
I checked on an elderly woman this morning, as I do each Monday and Thursday. She was up but did not stand to give me her usual hug. When I returned an hour later she still had not had the energy to make herself breakfast. She lives alone and, like my father's friend, there will be very few mourners at her funeral - indeed even less.
Family is important but friends are also important. They help us to identify and understand ourselves. They give our lives shape and meaning.

Sunday 4 January 2009

They say...

They say that December 2008 was the coolest one on record for this century. January is already making up for that. My father is prowling around the house like a caged animal - unable to get out in the garden or the shed because of the heat. Being Sunday we are permitted to water this evening!
In the news this past week there have been mutterings about language teaching again. They say we should be teaching Chinese and Japanese. If we do choose to teach these things schools will need to devote a great deal more time to language learning than they do now. That is unlikely to happen. We would be much better off teaching French, German, Spanish and Arabic. We could also usefully teach Italian, Modern Greek, Indonesian and Vietnamese. All of these languages are of more value to the average Australian than Chinese or Japanese. Japanese is barely spoken outside Japan and certainly not by any communities that I am aware of. Chinese is a group of languages rather than a single language. The diversity means that learning standard Mandarin is not going to achieve much if you are doing business with a Cantonese or Hokkien speaker - and the reality is that they will prefer to do business in English, as do the Japanese and the Koreans.
Is it any wonder that most Australian children leave school effectively monolingual?
They also say that we should be considering resettling some of the inmates from Guantanamo Bay in Australia. I have to disagree. These men still have to be a potential threat. Indeed if they were not a threat earlier they are now. One of the retired US Generals is warning against it. Will the Rudd government listen? Probably not. They will probably take one or two who are no longer deemed to be a threat. It will be a compromist solution - and it takes just one rotten apple to turn a whole barrel.

Thursday 1 January 2009

Very quiet night

It was my birthday yesterday. People seem to assume that, because it occurs on New Year's Eve, I always have a party to go to - and that I want to party.
I do not like parties much. I prefer small groups to large groups. As a family we tend to stay at home rather than travel. My nephews here were probably out but their parents were home. My Sydney nephew is in Africa with his wife. My neice? I don't know - but I doubt she attended a wild party.
Around us there have sometimes been parties but this year the entire street was quiet, indeed the surrounding streets were quiet. There were no cars travelling down the race track they call Murray St. There was no music to be heard.
At midnight I was woken briefly by the sound of a group cheering inside a house in the next street but they were almost instantly quiet again.
Whether all this has something to do with the general economic doom and gloom I do not know.
What I enjoyed yesterday was the company of three good friends in the afternoon. One of them brought cake for afternoon tea. We sat. We knitted. We talked without gossiping. We did not deconstruct anyone's character. We laughed. Imperia gave Dad the new socks she had made, although his birthday is not until February and he wore them straight away.
Who needs parties?