Monday 31 July 2017

Intruding on other people's lives

is something I try not to do. I also believe it is something I should not do.
It seems the media feels differently.  They make the claim that "the public has a right to know" about celebrities, about grieving families, about sports people and their partners, about the sexual and marital relations of politicians and other "public" figures.
There is no such "right to know".  The "Princess Diana" tapes should never be aired. Charlie Gard's parents went through even greater trauma because of the media coverage which encouraged them to "fight on". Is it really a news item that the partner of a footballer has given birth - or that someone has had sexual relations outside marriage or is considering divorce? 
The problem with all these things is not just the publicity given to those directly involved. It is the publicity given to those who are indirectly involved or even not involved at all but simply members of the same family. All too often it is not just unwarranted but unwanted.
Years ago there was a very senior federal politician who got into serious trouble and lost his position. He had two children in primary school at the time. They were taunted with "Your dad's a crim...". They were ignored. They were set upon. The parents of many of the other children told them to "stay away" from them, not to play with them. It reached a point where there were questions about whether the two children should even be attending school  because the disruption was so great. And yes, it was all over the media.
The children had done nothing wrong. They were not even old enough to fully understand what was going on. They were bewildered and frightened. None of this was mentioned in the media.
I heard about their fear and their misery from a friend whose children attended the same school. She had been taking her own children to school one morning when she saw a particularly nasty incident and intervened. 
I saw her a couple of days ago. She mentioned that the boys she helped that morning were still in touch. They have never really recovered from the trauma of the negative publicity surrounding their father. They still find it difficult to trust people. They keep their heads down. Both have sought counselling.
The allegations made about the politician were never proven. The media still made much of it - and would still do it today. The "right to know" is still cited as the reason to make much of such stories. 
It doesn't seem to matter how much harm or distress it does the innocent.


Sunday 30 July 2017

My friend Prudence Mapstone

brought together fibre artists from all over the world on an amazing piece of collaborative work called "50 years of Flower Power" - google that or her name and you can see it and other extraordinary pieces of work - like her rainforest piece and much more. Prudence "scrumbles" and her crochet skills are extraordinary, as is her ability to use colour and texture.
The Flower Power piece is big, very big. It has thousands of pieces in it. Yours truly has a tiny piece in it. It was a piece I had kept from years before. I meant to actually do something for Flower Power itself but other things got in the way.
That was a bad move because two people then said to me, "Bet you couldn't do anything like that Cat!"'s been done for a start and I am not going to try and compete. I am not interested in competing with something like that. I told the pair I was NOT interested thank you very much. All bets are off. 
But....I had an idea - of course I had an idea. I have a head full of hopeless ideas. My paws will never do even a tiny fraction of those ideas. Time is against it. If I did nothing else all day and all night I still wouldn't get those things done. I have to have priorities - and I have to decide what it is I want to do most.
So now I am making what I will call the "not-exactly Flower Power vest". No, you are not going to see a photograph yet because it isn't finished. I also have,  because of the way these things are done, have to work on it from the back rather than the front, so there is not much to see except a lot of loose ends. I have actually crocheted the "flowers" for this thing - in all colours and sizes - out of left over cotton. It will look distinctly peculiar when it is finished. I may never wear it. Ms W says it is "weird". The Senior Cat keeps asking me when am I going to finish it. 
Putting it together is the hard part. Making a knitted patchwork vest is much easier. (Those of you belong to Ravelry can prowl over and see those there.) 
But, I am working on it. I can't take it with me so I have been knitting ultra simple fingerless mitts that I can take with me.
And while I am working on it I am also thinking about another idea, one I hope to teach. The nice thing about teaching is that your students can carry out your ideas. 
You don't have to do all the work yourself!

Saturday 29 July 2017

Feeding a family

of four on $125 a week can only be done if you buy "junk" food according to the manager of one of the major supermarkets - or so it was reported.
The Senior Cat read this in the state newspaper and then pounced on me. Was this really so?
I hastened to reassure him it was not.  I could, I told him, feed a family of four on that money and they would not eat "junk". They would not be eating fillet steak but they would still be eating good food.
As I had to do a supermarket shop later in the morning I also looked around there. Could I really do it? Yes, I could. Would there be fruit and vegetables? Yes - those 5kg bags of potatoes on special this week and those bananas are a good price. I prowled on. Breakfast cereal - yes, those wheat or oat "bix" - 48 in a packet with the plain unbranded milk. A loaf of  wholegrain bread -  yesterday's bread at cut price... Eggs - an egg sandwich for lunch for the two school goers? Meat? If you eat it then those chicken legs are an absolute bargain, a good size too.
By the time I had bought our essentials I knew I could, if I had to, come in below that budget. No, they wouldn't be the most exciting and lavish meals but it would be good food - and there might even be the occasional treat. I wouldn't need to buy "junk". I wouldn't be buying cheap fresh white bread and "home brand" jam overloaded with sugar either.
I pondered this as I pedalled  home. Why did the manager say it was hard to do? 
I think the answer may be that, if both parents go to work, there is less time to prepare food. They want the fast options - which means they want to buy more items which have already been at least partly prepared. There is "no time" to cook - even if they know how to cook. Their children don't always eat with them or eat the same foods. There are other issues too but I suspect that the time and knowledge issues are big issues. 
I was taught how to cook by my paternal grandmother. I know I was very, very lucky. I have taught Ms W to cook - and she has had lessons from other people too. She wanted to learn because she cares desperately about caring for her father. He can cook but says it tends to be "plain and ordinary". Hers is more adventurous - but she stays within budget. She has a friend of Italian extraction who is encouraged to cook as well. Between them they catered for a "dinner party" for her friend's grandmother on her birthday. From all accounts it was very successful - and they appreciated some help cleaning up afterwards.
But it seems most children and teens will never get that sort of help or chance so I suppose they will struggle to feed their families on the equivalent of $125 a week when the time comes.
It is an unhappy scenario. Food should be interesting. It's a major part of life!

Friday 28 July 2017

Dual citizenship

is not permitted for members of Downunder's federal parliament. Recently two Greens senators have had to quit because of this. Now there are questions over at least two more senators and up to twenty MPs altogether. 
There is also talk of the need to change sec 44 of the constitution - this being the section which bars dual citizens from becoming members of the federal parliament.  It is being said, "The same thing doesn't apply to state politicians why should it apply to federal politicians."
It is my understanding that one of the necessary qualifications to be President of the United States is not only to be a citizen of that country but to actually have been born there - even if you are brought up somewhere else. I wonder what the citizens of the United States would think if  they were suddenly told, "Look it doesn't matter where someone is born, they can be President. Oh and it doesn't matter if they can still hold a Ruritanian passport."
I rather think there might be objections.
Downunderites are being told just that. They are being told that it would be a good idea to change that section in the constitution so that, potentially, anyone can be Prime Minister.
The idea that anyone can aspire to be Prime Minister is surely a good one. The idea that you can be Prime Minister of one country and still hold not just a passport of that country but of another country  is a different idea entirely. A politician is elected to serve the people he represents, not citizens of another country. The Prime Minister is chosen to represent one country, and just one country. He should not hold two passports. His loyalty may be both stated  to  be and appear to be absolute but there will always be that little question, "If you had to choose, what would you choose?"
I went to a meeting yesterday and this issue came up in a different sort of way. The issue was resolved without me or the others involved having to make a decision about where our loyalties lay but I couldn't help thinking that the politicians in question in our "multi-cultural" society really need to think about this issue.

Thursday 27 July 2017

RIP Dr Yunupingu

I will honour the request of his family and not use his given name here. (For those of you who live in other parts of the world it is a cultural taboo among many indigenous Australians to use the given name or a picture of a deceased person, particularly a recently deceased person.)
I am, as my friends well know, no fan of modern "pop" music. Bands like Yothu Yindi, of which "Dr G" was a member don't attract me. His real contribution to music was something far greater than that. He sang in his Yolngu/Yolnju languages. 
Yes, he sang in English as well but it is the solos in his native languages that made the greatest impact. He was blind but he saw the earth in a way that few other people see it. He knew instinctively that, if he was to share what he saw, he had to do it in his native languages. He knew that something gets lost in translation, something changes.
Dr G was born on Elcho Island - a remote part of Arnhem Land, which is in itself remote. He was blind from birth and never received the education he should have received. He never learned Braille, never had a guide dog and never used a cane - things he would have been taught in almost any less remote place. His musical education was  simply listening to the traditional songs around him - and the hymns in the Methodist church on Sundays. When he finally found a guitar he taught himself to play it. He was left handed and it was strung for a right handed person so he learned to play it "upside down" - something he did for the rest of his life.
Years ago, before he became well known my late friend R, herself an indigenous person, ... said of him, "That young man has a true voice of his country. He will go far." He did. 
His contribution to music was recognised not just in the music industry but in academia with an honorary doctorate. An indigenous friend once said to me, "One of the few honorary doctorates I have ever approved of."
Places like Elcho Island have severe health hazards. His physical health was never good. He had hepatitis as a child and was later diagnosed with diabetes. It was a combination of those two things which caused his death on Tuesday - at the age of 46. 
Yes, as people like Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil said, he was gone too soon.
And his contribution towards the preservation and use of his native languages was immense. I hope that will be recognised too. Language is power - and music makes it more powerful still.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

An inheritance

is a strange thing, especially if it comes from someone you don't know.
I think I mentioned a problem we had some time ago. We had been told by the Public Trustee that a first cousin of my late mother had died. He died intestate - hardly surprising as he was severely intellectually retarded and a trust fund managed his affairs. The Public Trustee officer was looking for his surviving relatives. 
The law does not allow, as we would have liked, the money simply to be given to the institution which cared for him. 
We didn't know this man. We honestly believed he had died many years before.  I am still appalled to think  that he must have had no family visits at all. It seems this is what his parents must have wanted. Why? 
Middle Cat and I both agree we could have visited, taken him out for a treat, had him for Christmas, remembered his birthday. We just didn't know. We had no reason to believe he was still alive - just the opposite in fact. 
When we heard nothing more from the Public Trustee we assumed that any remaining money had been used up in the costs of administering it. We certainly weren't going to look avaricious by pursuing the matter.
Yesterday I had a letter. At first glance it looked like one of those companies that claim to be able to obtain an inheritance - and who have no legitimacy at all. But, being a cautious cat, I checked. If there was money there could it go to the institution?
The letter appears to be legitimate. There is information there that only a legitimate business could know. I sent an email message - and received more information.
Some of that information relates to yet another "second cousin". She was the youngest of my mother's cousins - my age rather than my mother's age. We actually went to teacher training college together although I had very little to do with her there. She was doing a different course and our paths didn't cross in classes. I didn't see her or have contact with her after she left. Now there is a search for her.
The Senior Cat looked at all this and shook his head. His family has an entire, very well documented family history. The remaining cousins of his generation are still in contact with each other. Their children don't have quite so much contact but we know about one another and our activities. It is an entirely different sort of family. I had to sit there and think about my maternal grandfather's siblings. Who were they? I can't remember the order in which they came. I have very little idea  about their children - my mother's cousins. She almost never saw them. 
The Senior Cat finds this genuinely hard to understand. For him, family is everything - and his cousins appear to feel the same way. 
I  wonder what the other potential recipients of tiny "inheritances" feel about the cousin they didn't know. I know what I am going to do and I know what my siblings are going to do. I hope it will bring some other person who never has visitors some pleasure. 

Tuesday 25 July 2017

My ISP - yes Internet

Service Provider and I have been arguing. I do not like arguing but it was essential.
I still have - just - a contract of sorts with them.  It was a new contract just a few months back but they have not kept to the terms and conditions of, I am sorry but they have not.
They contracted to provide me with a service. It was supposed to be a service under the "NBN" - the National Broadband Network. That service was supposed to be "better" and "faster" than the old service. It was also going to cost more. I was also told that "everyone will need to go over to the new NBN".
Fine. Other people had been told the same thing. The NBN had been "rolled out" along the street. My view was, "if there are going to be problems then let's sort them out now and not when everyone else is trying to sort out their problems". After all, I work from home. I need the service.
There were major problems with the switching over. I had to call in some help. I am an elderly cat. I do not understand technology, particularly the technology run by those computer geeks. 
I thought we had it sorted. Things kept "dropping out". The downloads  barely limped along. I complained. Nothing was done. I sent not one but two registered letters to the management because other requests were ignored.
I ended up putting up a negative message on social media - and that did get a result of sorts. Since then there have been emails back and forth with the other end desperately trying not to do anything. They talk about "tests" and "adjustments" and "multiple reasons why" and, once, sent me a long list of instructions about what I would need to do...instructions I couldn't even begin to understand. Oh, they would "talk" me through it. Sorry, but I can't hold the phone for long periods of time, use the mouse and type something in. I don't have that many paws and they are clumsier than most human paws!
Irritated beyond measure at the constant interruptions to my work and the wild assumptions being made about technical expertise I began to get stroppy. I am still stroppy. We have a contract - just - it says they will provide a service and that service is supposed to be better than the old service. It isn't. It's a breach of contract.  It is also costing me twice as much.
Oh they are full of excuses. Now they say they have made a "proactive " move to try and ditch the contract. I can, they tell me, find a new ISP... No, they can provide me with the service. I don't have time for this sort of shenanigans. 
I also know that I am not the only person experiencing these sort of problems. The real problem is that they are not buying enough bandwidth or whatever it is from the core provider. That is about profit and not service. 
What will today bring - or not bring?

Monday 24 July 2017

Fixed terms in parliament

are naturally loved by politicians - especially when they are in power.
The subject was raised again over the weekend. The leader of the Labor party talked about it and was backed by the leader of the Coalition.
We have a fixed term for the state government. It is said that this brings about "certainty", that the government can "get on with the job". 
The proposed four year term would, it is said, allow governments to implement new policies and see them actually work. It would, we are told, make for radical changes to the way we are governed - all changes for the good of course.
Our state government did not win the last election. It obtained a majority of the seats but that is not the same thing. The electoral boundaries were such that they managed to retain them without getting a majority of the votes. The electoral boundaries have changed. This household is now in a new electorate - represented by a member of the current government. She  could be voted in for  yet another fixed term even though we have heard very little of her.
Our state government is also looking rather tired. It has been in power a very long time. It has made some major blunders. It should have been ousted more than once. If there had not been a fixed term for parliament there would have been at least three occasions on which we could have gone to the polls...and should have gone.
The problem with fixed terms is that, while good governments can stay in power, bad governments can stay in power too. They can go  on being lazy right up until close to the time of an election . They can do harm and there is no means of getting rid of them. 
Parliament has to be answerable to the people. Fixed terms don't allow that and all the arguments in their favour do not, cannot and should not over ride the will of the people. 

Sunday 23 July 2017

I borrowed a "theology" book

from the library yesterday. It was on the "new books" shelf when I went to knitting group and also collected a book I had ordered on inter-library loan.
I borrowed it for the Senior Cat. It was a subject I thought might interest him being concerned with what might be called "the edges of belief" or "doubts".
When I arrived home I waved it in front of his paws. He pounced. I made tea. He drank it absently. Almost two hours later I made him his light evening meal and gently removed the book from his paws. 
      "I should be doing something else," he muttered, "But it was much too interesting."
Yes, he was interested. He went on reading it last night. 
What interested me about this is that, at 94, the Senior Cat still enjoys having his thoughts on such topics challenged. 
My mother hated it. Her ideas about things like religion were firmly fixed. It did not do to challenge them. It upset her. She grew up in a religious tradition which did not even include a Sunday sermon, just readings from the Bible and another book. Ritual suited her.
I know many other people the same. It is none of my business to challenge their beliefs or lack of beliefs in such subjects. I keep my thoughts to myself. They don't want to discuss anything...although they may well be willing to tell me what they think and what I should think.
There are other people who are willing to be challenged. I may not change their views. They may not change mine. We can have a discussion, often a lively discussion, about such things.We can say to each other, "That was interesting. I'll think about it some more."
Ritual and tradition can be comforting in their familiarity. They can even be fun. There is certainly a place for them.
But, I really don't want to belong to the "I am right and you are wrong" brigade.

Saturday 22 July 2017

I don't trust people

very easily. Perhaps it is because I have been let down too many times in my life.
When I say I will do something for someone else then I will make every effort to actually do it. Yes, there have been times when I have failed - but I hope there has never  been an occasion on which I have said, "Yes, I'll do that" and then not thought about it again, not even tried.
I also try to support people. I am a firm believer that, if you speak ill of other people, they will speak ill of you. Even if people let me down I try not to speak ill of them. What's the point? If they are already feeling guilty about letting me down they are just going to feel worse. If they don't care then they are just going to think the worse of me.
I know not everyone else feels that way. They don't notice. They don't seem to care. It simply doesn't bother them. They assume that their relationships will simply continue as before.
When I was growing up there were people you were told you could trust - religious leaders, teachers, the police and the medical profession were all considered trustworthy. You went to them for help. I wonder who we trust now? Who do children trust? 
Several years ago my late friend E... asked me to take on guardianship and power of attorney duties for her. I asked, as I should  have done, "What about your sister?" The answer was "No, I trust you."
At that moment my friend placed a burden on me. If I had told her "No, I can't do that for you" her trust in me would have been misplaced. In the end the duties were not onerous. E.... did not live a long life. 
Recently I have had to face another problem - over someone who has been causing problems for some time. I still wonder if I did the right thing but I felt a point had come in the (non) relationship where I had to say, "Enough is enough."
I told that person "if you turn up at the front door and say you are sorry I will still invite you in and make you a cup of tea but, until you are willing to do that, please leave me alone."
Unreasonable? I hope not. She has let me down badly. She has let other people down too. I no longer trust her and I worry about the harm she has done and could still do. I know other people feel the same way.
I also know she will no longer trust me, probably has not trusted me for some time. No, I didn't let her down but she chose to believe I had. Until she sees that the relationship cannot be repaired - and I cannot trust her either.
Trust is hard to gain and all too easily broken.

Friday 21 July 2017

"Back to school...

I'm a fool..." Ms W sang to me in as  mournful a voice as she could imagine.
I understood what she meant. She doesn't like leaving her father - and he doesn't like leaving her. 
Ms W is not fond of boarding even now. She knows it is essential and she recently told me that it was "probably just as well I'll have to do it until I leave school". It does mean that she doesn't need to worry about other responsibilities during the week. 
Ms W takes school seriously. 
I will be interested to hear what she makes of the report in this morning's paper...the one which tells us that "almost half" of the year 8 an year 9 students in this state are "not engaged" in the classroom. If that is true then the education system has a major problem to address.
I doubt it is true in the school Ms W attends. It's a fee paying school and the classes are small. There is a range of ability but it would also be fair to say that the majority of students are expected to be high achievers in the academic sense. Students who are not that way inclined tend to go elsewhere. The small classes mean that "day dreaming" or otherwise not paying attention is rare. I've been in and out. I have observed the students in their classrooms. The teaching  is, on the whole, excellent. There are high expectations of involvement. It's a "you are here to learn. It is not just what your parents are paying for but your responsibility to learn" sort of attitude. The teachers are engaged with their students...and the demands on them are high.
I haven't been in a state run secondary school for several years now. It may be a while before I go into one again. I have talked to teachers who work in them and, like people anywhere, they vary in the degree to which they are enthusiastic about their jobs. At the same time I have talked to a great many secondary school students -but they tend to be the students who come into the library to work. They vary too. Some work harder than others. For some "work" means sneaking in a bit of screen time on sites that have nothing to do with what they are supposed to be looking at. More than once I have been told something like, "Look at this Cat...way cool!"
And yes, sometimes, it is "way cool" - or some other equally strange teen-speak.
But, what of the students who are "not-engaged"? I am trying to remember what I was like. I know I went to school because it was what was expected of me. I did the work I was given to do because it was what was expected of me. It didn't excite me. If someone had given me the textbooks and said, "Learn that Cat." I would have done it in much less time than I did it - simply because I would have wanted to get on and learn other things, the things which interested me. 
I doubt many of the not-engaged students would do that. They have no particular desire to learn about anything. They see no point. How do you change that?
I suspect that part of the problem is that schools are simply teaching subject matter that is not going to engage many students anyway. The unspoken, unwritten requirement is that all school students should be aiming for the qualifications which will get them into post-school learning, preferably university. It is seen as the path to a "good" job, employment where you don't get your hands dirty.
I wonder what would happen if schools started teaching music, art, craft, cooking and carpentry again? Would that get more students engaged than coding? 
Ms W knows more about coding than I will ever know. Next year she has to make subject choices for life. She already knows, she tells me, that it won't be coding. Maths is okay but she loves French and Italian and she still thinks that being a librarian or an interpreter or even a lawyer like her beloved father would be pretty good. Thankfully her school will support her in her choices. Her father will. I will. 
And she can cook too. That's important. 

Thursday 20 July 2017

It seems there is "fake news"

and there is also "false news".
"Fake news" would appear to be something which  is not true at all. Someone  has "made it up". It's a lie. It never happened. It is deliberately designed to do harm, to ridicule, or to try and deny or gain support. It is the sort of news which gets "tweeted" and then reported in the mainstream media as the "real" thing. 
It is also the sort of thing that can make or break careers and bring about the rise and fall of political parties in an election. Yes, dangerous. Most of us like to think we won't get caught out by it - but we probably will at some point, even if it is just momentarily.
And then, even more disturbingly, there is what I would term "false news". It hasn't been made up as such. The "facts" would appear to be there. "Experts" and their "research" get quoted. "Scientists" and "people on the ground" get "interviewed". It all sounds convincing, very convincing - even very, very convincing. The problem is that the information we are being given is not true. Sometimes it is simply because the person reporting the story has misunderstood. Sometimes it is because they had preconceived ideas about an issue and they have sought information which will support those ideas. We are all guilty of that.
And there are times when people, especially journalists and reporters, will quite deliberately use their positions in an attempt to "inform" the rest of us by abusing the facts. They will take things out of context. They will quote only the "evidence" which supports their point of view. If we are already inclined to believe that point of view then it will only confirm it still further. We are all guilty of that too.
There are people who do this sort of thing because they genuinely believe they have a right and a duty to "inform" the rest of us. There are people who do it because they can and it gives them a sense of power over the rest of us.
All I can hope is that they had a sleepless night like the parents of the critically ill child who could not, for medical reasons, be vaccinated. It doesn't matter whether it is "fake" or "false" news. Both can lead to irreparable harm.


Wednesday 19 July 2017

Free wifi on public transport

has been announced as the next big thing here. Oh. Right.
Apparently people like to work on the way to work. Fair enough.
Apparently people also like to play games, "chat" on social media, watch a television show they have missed and so on. Really?
People used to do other things on public transport...reading books and newspapers was popular. They talked to each other - the regulars knew one another and strangers would sometimes be included. Downunderites are a reasonably friendly mob. 
I have done a lot of knitting on trains. I have taught a transit officer how to turn the heel of a sock and shown another how to make a one row buttonhole. I have also been told off by another passenger for "fidgeting" and distracting him - from, I suspect, the game he was playing on his lap top. 
There have been many students doing last minute cramming for an exam - and now they do it on their lap tops. Early in the week one of them is almost bound to be texting or chatting on their phone - the topic is usually the activities of the weekend.
In other places people do other things. There was once an Italian class on the Brighton to London line. It suddenly stopped and the other passengers investigated - only to discover that the entire class had gone to Italy on holiday. Some regulars apparently play bridge or compete to see who can do the Times crossword at the greatest speed. 
And yes, I know more than one writer who writes on longer train journeys. 
That's fine. I don't mind it but I wonder if all these people really need "free wifi". Is it all so urgent that it can't wait until they get to their workplace? 
I know someone who now lives in Belgium. When he lived here he had a journey of about twenty-five minutes into his place of work. He also chose to walk to the closest station - about another ten minutes away. He would turn his mobile phone off when he left the house and  he would not turn  it on again until he reached the office. It was, and remains, his belief that he was actually more efficient that way. He was, and remains, the head of a big international business and he insisted on his staff doing what he did.  "Your work is valuable," he would tell them,"I want you to be able to work efficiently but I want you to do it at the right times. I also want you to take a break when you need it. I want you to start the day when you get to the office."
Oddly, they got more work done than people in similar occupations. His staff always seemed happy to me - and I had plenty to do with them at the time. His business did well too, so well that he expanded it and took over two more before moving to Belgium - where he had taken over more.
Of course there are times when working on public transport will help - and, for someone who wants to write, it might be the only opportunity to do anything like that. But, do we really want to live in a world where people are staring down at a screen and ignoring each other all the time?

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Unpaid fines

are back in the news - with one person apparently owing more than $300,000. The government is apparently owed many millions of dollars - over $300m in unpaid fines.
Now, I am sorry but it should never have been allowed to get that far. 
The Senior Cat once had a speeding fine - only it turned out not to be him or his car. The photograph showed a different car entirely but with an almost identical number plate. Nevertheless a puzzled and worried Senior Cat had turned up at the relevant office ready to pay the fine. He told the person at the counter he  had not been there that day - he had been at a meeting on the other side of the city - and the person at the counter had arranged for things to be checked. 
     "Don't pay it yet. If there is a genuine mistake...."
Good. That's the way the system should work.
But it seems some people simply don't bother to pay their fines. They go on not bothering...and not bothering. They get more fines and they don't bother about those either. They lose their licence. They go on driving. They add more debt and more debt. They drive unlicensed and uninsured in unregistered vehicles.
An MP has suggested their vehicles should be confiscated "after a very generous 100 fines". That is way too generous in my view. Such people are simply not fit to drive. They should never be behind the wheel of a machine that has the potential to kill others.
Driving is not a right. It is a privilege. The road rules and the speed limits are there for a reason. 
I had to go out yesterday. I use pedal power. I am slow compared with any car on the road - and I stay on the footpaths as far as possible. A car passed me at high speed on the side road leading to the railway crossing. At the corner it had to stop because there was traffic in both directions, a lot of traffic. I could see the driver tapping with impatience as I pulled up on the footpath. I turned left and then did a perfectly legal u-turn when another driver let me through the traffic. I was up the footpath and through the maze before the car that had passed me at high speed was even across the traffic. 
At that hour in the morning bikes but not cars are permitted to do a left turn into the next road. I did a left turn, stopped to deliver something to the person who was waiting for me and, a moment later, the impatient driver roared past - having done an illegal left turn.
I went on to leave a book at the chute in the library - and there was the impatient driver...and a police car.
Oh yes, he will get a fine for something. The problem is that he probably won't pay it and he will go on driving. 
I wish they had the capacity to take away his car there and then.       

Monday 17 July 2017

"I need to read the picture"

I told the person with the problem.
I was at the craft event again yesterday. I have been going to these events for long enough now that I know quite a few of the regular stall holders well enough that, if they are working alone,  they know I will stand there for a few minutes while they rush off to the loo and then on to get yet another mug of their caffeine fix of choice - usually coffee.  When my friend P.... is not there, and she won't be there until September, I get asked to help.
So, I prowled down to the show grounds before starting time and was almost immediately pounced upon. 
     "Can you crochet?"
     "Can you help?"
     "I might be able to but I am a left pawed cat."
The person asking me laughed but then turned serious. I didn't know her but someone else had sent her over to see if I could help.
She explained that she knew only the absolute basics of crochet but she wanted to enlarge something her daughter had made for her. She had the motif pattern but she couldn't read the instructions. Alarm bells rang but from a distance as she said that. Instructions are notoriously difficult to write and crochet instructions tend to be even more difficult than knitting instructions. Most crochet instructions now tend to be in diagrammatic form. These were not.
      "Have you got a picture of the motif?" I asked her.
She looked at me in a puzzled sort of way and I added,"I need to read the picture."
I am not sure she thought I was making sense at that point but we had time so she produced hook and yarn and brought up the pattern on her fancy phone. 
      "That's what it says," she showed me.
      "And what is it supposed to look like?" I asked.
She scrolled down a little further. I looked. Thankfully it was actually very simple. It was the corner that was bothering her. 
She went back to the instructions but I told her,"No, I have the picture in my head. Leave me with it for a moment and I'll see if I can do it. I don't want to look at the instructions."
And I didn't. It was one of those moments when looking at the picture made far more sense. I could see exactly what the person who had designed the pattern intended and how she had done it. The written instructions made no sense at all even though I understand US terms - which are different from the rest of the world. It is little wonder a novice crocheter had a problem.
I tried it out.Yes. That was it. I showed her. I had done it "back to front" from her because of working left handed but she could see how it was done. I undid it and made her try right handed. She did it slowly. 
Her husband, also working on their stand, gave me a nod and said,
     "That's an excellent example of a picture being worth a thousand words."
She threw the ball of yarn at him. He laughed. I prowled off to  do what I had come to do thinking, "Thank goodness' for pictures."

Sunday 16 July 2017

Scott Ludlam didn't know

he was still a Kiwi? 
I find that hard to believe...if only because at least one other person did and advertised the fact there might be a problem. It is the sort of thing someone on the Senator's staff would have been immediately alerted to and questioned.
Is it just possible that Ludlam was hoping that, if nothing was said, he might get away with it? Did anyone else in the Greens know?
Questions were asked long ago about Tony Abbott and whether he had renounced his British citizenship before he became an MP. Yes, there were people who were anxious - even very anxious - to see him ousted. They got their way but not because he wasn't properly elected. 
Labor is trying to get rid of another Coalition MP - simply because there happens to be a post office in a shopping centre owned by the MP. Their argument is that he is receiving another benefit from the Commonwealth - illegal for a politician. I suspect that argument is on rather shaky ground. It's a business paying rent on a commercial basis - hardly a benefit as such as they chose to be there. If the decision does go in Labor's favour there is no guarantee that they would win the resultant by-election anyway.  
But citizenship, especially dual citizenship, is a different story. I would renounce my Downunder citizenship for citizenship of the UK if it meant the right to live and work there. That seems only fair to me. I doubt I would want to live anywhere else now... NZ perhaps. I am too old to cope with traffic going down the "wrong" side of the road in most of the rest of the world. 
I know someone who has lived in the UK for many years - about fifty  - who has never renounced her US citizenship. It means she has never been able to vote.  I think that might bother me. There might be other things which would niggle too - and there is a lingering question of why anyone would want to retain their citizenship of a country which has long since ceased to be "home" and to which they no longer have any ties. 
I doubt Ludlam has too much emotional attachment to NZ but he must have known about the citizenship issue much earlier than was claimed.  The real problem is that, should he admit to that, there is a hefty salary which needs to be returned...and, if it can be shown that he did know and that the Greens knew, then perhaps they need to think about returning it. The rest of us would have to do that in similar circumstances...indeed we might find ourselves in a great deal more trouble than the Senator. 

Saturday 15 July 2017

Craft fair and

your resident cat is about to spend the day telling people that it "really isn't difficult" to knit.
Now that is both true and not true.
As a kitten it took me a long time to learn to knit. I was so badly coordinated that even holding one needle in each paw was a challenge. Manipulating the yarn as well was...well, even more of a challenge. 
There were rather a lot of tears, frustration, fury...and a certain determination that I WAS GOING TO LEARN TO KNIT. I have no idea why I wanted to learn to knit. Part of it certainly had to do with the fact that my mother said I would never learn to do it...and my paternal grandmother saying, "Of course you can."
I did it. I remember that blue potholder made out of blanket wool that took me forever to knit - in secret - that I gave my grandmother for Christmas about two years later. It was far from perfect - but she backed it with some fabric and she used it. I loved her even more for that.
So today I will spend some time helping very young kittens do a stitch or two or three on the "knit a row and go" scarves that sit there for people to try. They look dreadful in terms of their actual knitting, different tensions, dropped stitches, gained stitches, odd colours, different yarns...and more. But they are made with a sense of "I did a row of that" and more. Someone should take a photograph and record at least one of them for posterity.
I will talk about knitting - and crochet. I will talk about patterns and people and yarn and where to get help and resources on the internet - and say that nothing beats getting some help from a patient human.
I will say knitting is slower than some crafts, slower even than crochet...after all you are creating the fabric. I will say it is satisfying to design my own and that yes, what I am making is my own design. 
And if there is another small boy standing there who says, "I  wish I could do that" I will tell him he can and about the seven year apprenticeship for men in mediaeval times. 
And I will tell everyone that, "Yes, you can do it too."

Friday 14 July 2017

Sharia law

is a topic apparently being taught in a subject called "Muslim minorities and the law" at the University of Sydney. It apparently calls for Sharia law to be recognised with respect to such things as polygamy and lowering the age of consent for marriage. The lecturers of the course use a book they wrote themselves and, it is said, claim that the failure by police to recognise "conservative Muslim values" makes it harder to control terrorism.
I did not do my degree in law at the University of Sydney. I also did it long enough ago that, at the university I went to, we had plenty of Muslim students but nobody would even have contemplated that there was a need to teach anything like this. I taught many of the Muslim students the finer points of legal language. I am still friendly with some of them. There is just one of these former students who might - just might - approve of such a course being taught. Discuss these things? Yes. Suggest or ask for them to become part of  Downunder's legal system? No.
So, what's going on here? Polygamy used to be a means of making sure that a woman whose husband died was supported. Way back in history a man would "marry" his brother's wife in order to make sure she had a home. Over the centuries that changed slowly. In some parts of the world it is still a means of support or a means of showing how wealthy you are. 
The vast majority of countries have out outlawed polygamy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee considers it violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
Despite that it seems we have a course being taught in one of our leading law schools saying it should be recognised. Not only that but those teaching it are suggesting that the age of consent should also be lowered. In New South Wales, the state the course is taught in, the age of consent is 16. In two states it is 17 - and 16 in the others.  It is unrealistic but the age of consent is surely something which should coincide with the age at which someone is recognised as being an "adult" under the law? To suggest that it should be lowered to fit in with Sharia law is something I find disturbing. There are issues of "willingness" and "consent" - two different things - which need to be recognised too. 
In our society there are good reasons for laws about monogamy and the age of consent. They are there to protect people, particularly females, from being abused. All too often the "second" wife (and any subsequent wife) is also treated in a second class fashion. There are still arranged marriages - where the girl is not willing but has given her "consent" because she sees no means of avoiding it. Why should the law actively support such abuses in a country where there is no need for women to marry in order to be independent?
I know there will be people who will read this and say, "But you don't understand Sharia law" - and no, I don't. However if you can explain why it is a good thing and how such "conservative values" fit into the present day then please do. 

Thursday 13 July 2017

New work boots too

but not for me.
I was puzzled to see what amounted to an advertisement for "gold" work boots on the front page of the paper this morning. They are apparently going to be made, in a limited edition, by a company which is well known to most Downunderites. 
I know the brand but nobody in my family owns any items of clothing or footwear made by them. Yes, they tend to be expensive. Like that famous hat worn by a certain golfer they tend to be a fashion statement. (I do know someone, not a family member, who has one of those hats. Hers is scarlet and she looks magnificent in it but I would look ridiculous.)
But, the boots? It used to be that they came in brown...and brown... and then black and, after more years, something I think they call nubuck. Colours just weren't the thing. Why would they be? These were work boots. They were worn by people who worked  on farms and in similar places. (No, they aren't the same as those even heavier industrial boots with steel toe caps used on building sites and in industrial areas.)
And then... something happened. Maybe it was because somewhere, in another part of the world, someone wore a pair of those Doc M... boots. Someone else saw them wearing those boots. They made mention of it. People bought them. The people who made them saw a new market. It was potentially a big one. It turned out to be a huge one. They make those Doc M.... boots in all sorts of colours and designs now. 
Now, for the most part, I wear ankle boots on my rear paws. For me a pair of shoes is like female humans wearing outrageously high heels... don't do it if you are sensible. The pair I am wearing at the moment were bought some years ago. They were bought with comfort in mind - and they also happened to be on sale in the local shoe shop. The girl in there actually put them to one side knowing they were my size and that I wouldn't care about the colour - after all they weren't meant to be a fashion item. They are a dirty olive green. I bought them. They were made somewhere in Germany and the leather is soft and flexible. I have worn them and worn them.
And yes, I know people who have bought the boots made here. They have bought them in brown and black and they have worn them and worn them too. It was only a few weeks back I saw someone collecting his much loved pair from the shoe repair stand. They had been given yet another lease on life. Their owner is a "tree doctor". 
But, there must be many other people who own a pair of boots who scarcely ever wear them. I don't see them on feet - or rarely so. Why would you wear them in the city?
There used to be a time when those boots were worn by people who lived on farms and rode horses as part of their daily work. Like "jeans" they have been taken over as fashion items. Unlike jeans they lack the flexibility of the other footwear "fashion" item - the so-called "jogger" or "running shoe".
And so they must be hiding in cupboards wondering what their purpose in life is - while my non-fashion pair lead a much more interesting life. 

Wednesday 12 July 2017

A new bed and

a new mattress are due to be delivered today - for the Senior Cat. He is, as he will ruefully tell you, a shockingly restless sleeper. He tosses and turns and twists.
I hear him. (These days I sleep with "one ear open" in case he needs help.) 
His bedclothes are a jumbled mess in the morning. I make the bed "from scratch" again. 
     "Did you sleep well?" I will ask him after I know he has had a particularly restless night. He will nod and say something like,
     "Not too badly."
Of course, at 94, he does get up in the night - more than once. He takes a little white pill before bedtime too. (And he has a siesta.)
When he was very young his mother used to pin the bedclothes on with giant size safety pins...just so he would stay warm.
 When he married my mother they came to an arrangement...they slept in single beds. Even so he was so restless he would keep her awake and because the beds were, for the most part, side by side, there was still a danger of my mother being woken by an arm or leg being flung out.
The bed he now has been repaired twice - by himself. He couldn't do it again. Middle Cat and I eyed it off and declared, "You are getting a new bed."
He remonstrated. I told him I didn't want it collapsing completely in the middle of the night. Thankyou. 
So, a new bed is coming today. A new mattress is coming today too. The old one has had all those years of acrobatics performed on it. He needs it.
My sleeping mat is old too. The base is fine. It is an old "divan" type bed. It was made by one of my former maths teachers. He left it with us when he went off to London. He never came back. The mattress was not new then.I have invested in a new one.
I would like to think this will mean a good night's sleep for both the Senior Cat and me.
I am also certain that the Senior Cat will still toss and turn - and so will I.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

School holiday activities

apparently need to be planned.
A neighbour came over yesterday, grandmother of the two little girls, to thank me for the marmalade I had left for her. As she was talking she mentioned that there had been a "family meeting" to decide what to do for the next two weeks of school holidays. 
There was an activity for every day it seemed. The two girls want to do things - and every one of them will involve adult supervision. Their grandparents have backed off the more physical activities - for fear the girls might hurt themselves. I can understand this, grandparents tend to feel more responsible for grandchildren than they did for their own children. "They don't belong to me so I need to be extra careful" might be labelled as a genuine anxiety syndrome.
I wonder how many other children will be in the care of anxious grandparents who will supervise, or at least be there, for every moment of the time. Certainly I am very conscious of the hordes of anxious grandparents in the shopping centre and at the library. 
     "I'll be so glad when they go back to school," more than one grandparent has told me.
These of course are the children who don't go to holiday programs at school.
Ms W however turned up, dumped her books and said,
      "We have heaps to do as usual."
I investigated. She will manage it in a few days even if she does it very thoroughly - which she tends to do.
      "And what else have you got planned?" I asked.
      "Well I have to go to a film with...   and ..... wants to go to the place where you can do skating and  her mum said I could go... and a couple of other people have things planned."
She didn't sound enthusiastic.  I waited, guessing what was coming.
      "What I really want to do is a heap of gardening and I need to tidy my room and clear out the messy cupboard in the kitchen and I want to make something and may be cook some stuff and shove it in the freezer for when we have heaps of other things to do."
I know she will discuss this with her father. She has reached a point where he will leave her for a day. He knows that she can come to me or go to an elderly neighbour if she needs help. She spends all her school weeks at school  in the constant company of other girls.
Although, from observation, she has a wide group of friends she sometimes just wants to be on her own and "get things done". She is content with her own company. She doesn't need the constant noise of a radio and, unless she wants to see a documentary, doesn't watch television. She still doesn't have her own social media accounts - her father offered and she declined. 
All that worries me - and her father - is that other people will think she needs to be organised and entertained.
      "Kids should be bored sometimes - it makes them get things done themselves," she quoted back at me. I told her that years ago and it seems she hasn't forgotten. 

Monday 10 July 2017

Japanese knitting patterns

come with their own unique set of instructions. Japanese crochet patterns do too.
Most of them are beautifully designed. They are so well designed that I can read them.
No, I do not read Japanese. I can read less Japanese than I can read Chinese - and I could never read Chinese as such.
I had to learn some Chinese characters once. It was part of some research I was doing. I didn't learn them as Chinese...that is, to say them in Chinese. I read them in their English meanings instead. Now I can only remember a few for words like "man", "woman", "tree", "moon" and "middle". I am not sure how useful they would be if I went to China. I can the equivalent of "how are you?" to my Chinese neighbours and that is about it. 
Japanese is even more complex. It has katakana, hiragana and kanji - and they throw in some romaji (roman letters) for good measure. I don't even pretend to understand it.
But, I can "read" a knitting or crochet pattern because the sensible Japanese craftspeople use diagrams. These diagrams use standard ways of doing things. They use nice, neat western style numerals - the sort the West took from the Middle East all those centuries ago. They use standard symbols in charts. 
I don't use other people's knitting patterns. I am much too lazy a cat to bother with that. I prefer to do my own thing. But, I look at other patterns and I will use elements from them.  
Japanese knitting patterns are also remarkably useful teaching tools. The very fact that they are diagrammatic helps a knitter see how the entire garment or object is constructed. The diagram can show how one piece fits into another too, and perhaps how a pattern moves from one point to another. 
      "I can't follow a chart!" and "I'm no good at reading that sort of thing!" I have heard my fellow knitters and crocheters wail. 
Yesterday one of them turned up looking for some help. She had, in the belief she "couldn't follow a chart" written out a very complex pattern in "long hand" - the line by line instructions. It was several pages long.
She was in a mess and nearly in tears. She "loves" the pattern but she told me "I can't get it right". 
I sent her off to the library (fortunately open on a Sunday afternoon) and told her to use the photocopier to enlarge the chart - enlarge it by at least 200% and make a dozen copies. She growled off and came back about half an hour later still with her "it won't work" attitude. 
I made her a cup of tea and then we went through the first half of the thirty-two rows. I showed her, one action at a time, what she had to do to get it right. This is something I actually find physically very difficult to do. Perhaps that helped a bit this time. I was showing her that, if I could do it, she could do it too.
We got to a point where the pattern reverses itself. She could see that. She could see where she was going. It made sense. 
She was working with one sheet of paper - marking the lines off with a high lighter as she went.
And yes, she thought the Japanese designers might just have something with this charting business.

Sunday 9 July 2017

The G20 summit

always seems to attract the rabble rousers...and I don't just mean the mob which protests.
The Senior Cat, a wise individual who gives much thought to many things, was pondering this yesterday.
     "I wonder," he asked me, "what would happen if all the wives met to solve the problems instead?"
Now you will have to excuse him, his generation thinks of partners as husbands and wives. Same sex? Doesn't bother him. 
But, the male-female divide. Yes, he sees a difference. He believes there are distinct differences in the way males and females handle things. He may be right. 
I was reminded again of something that happened to me in law school. One of the people I went to law school was a senator in the federal parliament. She was about to retire from politics and she was doing her degree, one subject at a time. I got on well with her. She is still a friend - as is the one on the opposite side of the political fence who held a similar portfolio.
But, we were sitting in the lecture theatre that day and the professor was talking about a case that had reached the courts and how the minister, whose judgment had been questioned, had come to the conclusion and why it was correct in law. She listened for a while and I could see her growing increasingly irritated and uncomfortable. 
Finally she muttered to me, "I can't stand this any longer." Then she spoke up and said, "The Minister is present and the Minister made the decision on the basis that she was and is a wife and a mother and that is what she would have wanted for her family."
Yes, the decision was the correct one in law - but it was also the correct one for other reasons. Now the Senator in question was a kind person. She had no intention of putting the lecturer down, particularly a professor who was likely to mark her examination papers. But she knew, better than he did, that making decisions isn't just about the law - or even staying in power.
The professor in question took it well. The following year when he had to teach the same case he, according to the students, included her remarks in his lecture.
Making decisions is about people.

Saturday 8 July 2017

The "world's biggest battery"

is supposedly going to be built here...or is it?
Now dear humans please don't misunderstand me, as a cat I am all for this renewable energy business. I like the idea of the sun rising and warming my sleeping spots (not too much though please) and then setting at night when I am comfortably inside. 
I don't mind the idea of wind power - although it can ruffle my fur when there is too much of it. Wave power? Well, if you can do it that is fine too...only, as a cat, I am not keen on wet paws. Hydrogen? Well if sea levels are rising then it might make sense to find a way of splitting that H2O stuff into hydrogen and oxygen and using the result.
But, a battery? I know you humans have problems with batteries. The Senior Cat in this household has problems with batteries. There are the teeny, tiny batteries he uses in those things to help him hear me. There are the batteries which power those shiny things he uses to see because, unlike cats, he can't see in the dark. There are batteries in other things...I really don't understand. We cats don't need batteries. 
We like electricity. It can help to keep us cool or warm - without effort on our part. It can warm our saucers of milk. It provides a certain degree of entertainment...all very useful. Thank you, we can still catch our own mice and drink water.
I don't know about this battery. It will be very big. It will only provide a limited amount of electricity, not enough to solve the problems you humans seem to have. How do you keep putting the electricity in and getting the electricity out? Will it go "flat"? Do you have to replace it the way you replace other  batteries? Won't it cost a lot?
I really don't know. I hope you humans know more than I do. 

Friday 7 July 2017

Boot camp for bad teens

is something I was reminded of yesterday - in an email from a regular reader of my witterings. He said, "Don't forget they can send them off  into the bush with Operation Flinders."
One of the men who ran Operation Flinders excursions a while back lived at the corner. He was a retired army officer. His own children behaved. There was, I suspect, always the threat that he would take them on one of those eight day stints in the bush.
The idea is to take groups of up to 100 (in much smaller groups) at risk of offending teens into the north Flinders Ranges and, over the eight days, get them to hike about 100km, abseil, cook, and care for themselves in the open. There are no tents provided but "hutchies" - one person shelters - are provided in case it rains. 
The participants get the basics of a sleeping bag, food (which they have to prepare themselves), the hutchie and a means of putting it up, and an implement for digging their latrines at the end of the day. They can take basic personal items but they don't have access to the outside world.
It's generally "tough". Our neighbour at the corner told us how on one occasion one of the boys participating fooled around and lost his box of matches. He tried to get more from the group leader who told him, "No, sorry. The matches were your responsibility. If you can't cook your food too bad."
And it stayed that way. The group leader did not give in. The kid tried bullying the rest of the group but group leaders are very aware of that sort of thing and he didn't get away with that either. I don't know what happened in the end but I have heard similar stories of group leaders not giving in - and individuals learning harsh lessons about what is expected of them.
Our neighbour at the corner has also taken several very small groups on extended trips. They have always been boys, boys who have already offended, sometimes seriously, but still boys those responsible for their welfare have some hope for in the future. They have done month long trips - the hard way. It is hard for the adults who go with them too. 
Does it work? For some, yes it probably does. Long before Operation Flinders started there was the wise magistrate who looked at a group of teens in trouble and told them they had a choice. They could go into youth detention or they could go on the trip of a lifetime to Africa. If they went to Africa it was going to be really tough but they might learn some useful skills.
They went to Africa. It was tough, very tough. They were homesick at first. They pleaded to be allowed home. They had to stay. In the end they built a hospital and then a school and then put in a water system for someone the magistrate knew. Since then they have been to Indonesia and the Philippines and done disaster relief work. In between they work as skilled builders who can turn their hands to almost anything.
As one of them said to me before they set off for the Philippines,
     "Someone believed in us even though we didn't believe in ourselves."


Thursday 6 July 2017

The death of a cyclist

always reminds me of how vulnerable cyclists are or, in my case, tri-cyclists.
Yesterday I had an email to say that a close friend of another friend has lost her son to one of those senseless accidents that leave you wondering "why?" The woman who has lost her son is, from all accounts, a good woman who cares about her family, friends and neighbours. Her son sounds as if he was a good man too. He leaves behind a wife and two sons. They must all be devastated.
Even though my contact with the mother of this man has been minimal I feel for her.
It is a subject which has come up in this household of late. There has been much made in the local media of the very short sentence given to the young fool who stole a vehicle, drove it at high speed - and still higher speeds when chased by the police, crashed it and killed a woman. It was not the first time he had stolen a car and driven unlicensed - too young even to have a licence. 
For his actions he will spend 18 months in juvenile detention. Whether he has managed to learn anything positive while there is doubtful. And yes, keeping him there any longer will probably just teach him new ways to steal cars.
I was asked what I would do with such a boy and replied, "Torture is not allowed but I would strap him into a simulator and force him to drive at very high speeds. He would have accidents and, each time he had an accident, I would give him an electric shock. I would make him go on "driving". I would keep him awake and make him drive and have the shocks until he was screaming and begging to be allowed to stop. If he re-offended I would do it again."
No, I am not a nice cat at all. I have far too much imagination. And no, in real life I could not do it. 
I have no idea how to handle such people. I do know that I strongly believe the age at which you can obtain a permit to learn to drive should be raised to 18. It is 16 here - far too young. I would also like to see a probationary period of at least three years, preferably five. If you get caught breaking the law in that time then  - start your probationary period again. 
Tough? Not as tough as a family, friends and neighbours having to live with the death of someone because of the stupidity of someone else. 

Wednesday 5 July 2017

The Chinese website

I used yesterday had some of the usual rather quaint English. Apart from that it was not difficult to negotiate, indeed less difficult than some other websites I have come across. 
They did not have my usual means of paying for things on the internet so I used a credit card. 
What????? The Senior Cat was alarmed.  I soothed him with a gentle pat and told him, "It's all right. I used a post office credit card. There was less than a hundred dollars on it...just enough to pay for what I needed to get and keep the card alive."
Oh...he stopped looking so anxious but muttered, "I still don't like it."
Well, I don't like it very much either. Nevertheless it seems to be the modern way of doing things. 
I don't have a regular bank credit card. I inquired about one of these some years ago. Yes, they would be more than happy to give me one - even on my limited and variable income. I decided against it.
I keep a debit card - again, a very limited amount - that I can draw on as necessary. 
I know how to pay the household bills. I know how our joint finances work. The Senior Cat shows me everything and, sometimes, I will do the necessary transactions. It is however something he can still do himself and, while he can, I would rather let him.  It would worry me if he didn't involve me. There are too many people who have no idea how to pay the bills because their partners have always done it.
But the Chinese website? I paid the small amount they were asking for and, at the end of the transaction, they asked me if I wanted to set up an account with them. I declined. 
All I wanted was a spare part for a kitchen appliance. It means I can go on using the appliance. I won't have to buy an entire new appliance.
It's a useful way of doing things - but I am not going to link a credit or debit card with more money than I need to spend at the time to any site on the internet.

Tuesday 4 July 2017

There was a boxing match

in Queensland over the weekend. Apparently there was a "record crowd" who were stupid enough to pay money to see two grown men fighting one another.
No, I don't like boxing. Boxing is not a "sport". It is the ultimate stupidity. The whole idea is, apparently, to knock your opponent senseless, to injure him (or even, these days, her). 
I find the whole idea terrifying.
I think brains in adults tend to weigh around 1.2 to 1.5 kilos - the doctors who read this will no doubt happily correct me if I am wrong. Slamming a fist into the skull of a human being and knocking that brain, in the confined space, around doesn't seem like a good idea to me. 
Oddly it is the thing that other sports are concerned about - although not concerned enough in my view. There are games and positions in games where helmets are used - and rightly so. Getting hit on the head with a cricket ball or a baseball can be instantly fatal. 
Middle Cat would not allow her two boys to play soccer.  Bounce a ball off your head? Most definitely not. She knew she couldn't protect them from everything and they played other sports. They still go to gyms on a regular basis, run, cycle, and go-kart. But soccer and football were games of high contact and, as a physiotherapist, she told them of the dangers  - and they accepted it. 
So, why do other people do it? At the top level it must be about the money I suppose. There is a picture in this morning's paper of the "winner" with one eye shut, stitches, bruising and no doubt more injuries we cannot see. 
I heard his proud boast that he and his wife were expecting their first child. If that is the case then his behaviour in participating in a boxing match is even more reprehensible.
It isn't just the result now which counts. It is what the boxer will be like some years down the track. You get a bang on the head. It knocks out some brain cells. They don't regenerate. You go on getting bangs on the head. You knock out more brain cells. They don't regenerate. Your personality can change. You might become violent. You lose other abilities. You might become seriously physically disabled.
As a very small kitten I had a brain injury. I have lived with it for my entire life. The consequences are the cause of a great deal of frustration in my daily life. I know a great many people who are much worse off than me for similar reasons. I wouldn't wish their lives on anyone.
Why anyone would engage in an activity that has more chance than not of leading to those sorts of problems is beyond me.
Boxing should be banned.

Monday 3 July 2017

Keeping promises

or undertakings is something I try to do. If someone asks me to do something and I agree to do it then I will make every effort to do it.
I did two things yesterday. Both of them were the result of a meeting on Saturday.
The first was relatively simple. I found a knitting pattern for someone. She came to me at the meeting with a tiny pair of knitted socks. Did I have a pattern for anything like that? Yes, as it happens. The pattern is a very old one. It is long out of copyright so I was happy to take a photocopy and leave it with a note for the person who wanted it. Job done.
The second thing was much more difficult and the job isn't finished yet. The knitting group I belong to is a "guild". Like most organisations it has a constitution. It has apparently not been updated for twenty years. Things have changed since then. It needed to be reviewed.
Now the sensible thing would have been to ask me to be on the sub-committee which reviewed it. I would have been happy to help. It would not have been a particularly onerous task. I could have contributed something. After all I am, to the best of my knowledge, the only person with any legal knowledge. 
But, they didn't do that. They went ahead. They came up with some "amendments" to put to the AGM. People were given copies. I was, as always, late arriving. (I give the Senior Cat his lunch before I leave. Cats of 94 should not be playing at getting their own and, in winter, they need something hot.) I was aware of the copies because someone showed me their copy.
I glanced at it and agreed with them that there was a problem with what she had pointed out. 
     "You can bring it up though," I told her. She agreed. I didn't bother to read the rest there and then. I'd find someone to give me a copy later.
No such luck. The Secretary pounced. She waved a piece of paper at me. It had my initials in the corner....nobody else (except perhaps the committee) had their initials in the corner. Would I have a look at it?
I sighed inwardly. There are other issues that need to be addressed. There is an issue hanging over from last year that they still have not addressed, despite the fact I told them it must be addressed. 
I felt like saying, "If I do the necessary work will you actually listen to what I have to say?"
I kept my mouth shut except to say I would have a look at it. I asked for a copy of the constitution. 
      "I need to read the amendments in context" I told the Secretary. She looked surprised but gave me her copy. 
So, yesterday I spent some hours working my way through the document. I commented on the amendments and gave reasons. 
It took me most of the day to put the arguments together in a form I think everyone will understand. I have tried to make the language simple. I have tried to be a diplomatic cat.
I will spend a little more time on it today and then email it off. My guess is that my work will be largely wasted.
But, I will have kept a promise. It won't be my fault if they don't listen.

Sunday 2 July 2017

A dog and his boy

in the park are having a game...and yes, it is the dog who is leading the game - not the boy.
I pedal through a park to go to the meetings of my knitting guild. I could go another way, along a busy road. Going through the park is much nicer. 
It's a big park. The far side of it has play equipment and a barbecue area. The side I pedal through has a small bridge over the creek and the bike path. On either side there are dog walking areas.
Of course you are not supposed to let your dog off the leash  except at certain times. Still, people do. They always will. 
So, there is the dog and the boy.  The dog is not much more than a pup. It is full of bounce and energy. It is curious. The boy is about ten and he is laughing.
The boy is chasing the dog. The dog bounds ahead, stops for a moment, looks back and then continues on around in circles. It's a game!
It sees me, skids to a halt. I stop pedalling. We look at each other. His tail is wagging so hard it will surely come off?
      "He won't chase you," the boy says, "I taught him not to chase bikes."
We chat briefly about the dog. He's a "poodle-something" cross and "probably won't get much bigger". 
And his name? The boy hesitates and then tells me, "P.... it was my Dad's name. My Dad died just before we got him. It was all planned. My Dad and I were going to train him properly. So now I do it for him. You have to train dogs properly so that they respect you. It means you respect them too."
      "You're absolutely right," I told him, "He knows that too."
I pedalled on. The boy and the dog went back to their game. I could hear them as I cross the road on the other side.The dog is training the boy as much as the boy is training the dog. I think they will both be all right.

Saturday 1 July 2017

The Grinch is stealing

not just Christmas but our culture - or so it would seem.
I have no problem with state schools being "secular". I do have a problem when they acknowledge the traditions of religious minorities and fail to acknowledge the traditions of the majority. 
The Census showed that a majority of people in Downunder still see themselves as Christian. So why am I now reading that schools could be put into the position where Christmas carols will be banned? Why are they being put in that position when a local school which has just eight Muslim children recently had a fairly lengthy exploration of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr? 
When I was a kitten we had something called "Religious Instruction" at school. It was one lesson a week. It was, for the most part, taught by people who came in from the community. Some of them were priests  or parsons, pastors or ministers. Others were simply people who had taken on the job of trying to instill some Bible knowledge into our heads. 
Discipline was often pretty poor in these lessons. I suspect it was because the people who volunteered were well meaning but lacking in any knowledge about how to control an unruly group of children not much interested in the subject matter. (Most of the Catholic children were at the local parish schools but, from memory, the nun who came to teach the remainder had no such problem.) I know the Senior Cat, and all other heads of schools, used to worry over the RI lesson. But, we still had it. I suppose I managed to learn something. I know I behaved. I would not have dared do otherwise. The people who came in to teach me would have known my father and my paternal grandfather well. 
Now, no such lessons occur. Children are supposedly taught about "religion" in the course of other things. Christianity gets little mention. Come Christmas or Easter and it is just a holiday from school with presents at Christmas and eggs at Easter. What it is really all about is a mystery to most children. 
I am not suggesting that children should be indoctrinated. That would be equally wrong. But, if we are to have an exploration of what  one group believes, one which is still less than 3% of the overall population, then surely we should have an exploration of what another group, a majority, believes?