Tuesday 30 June 2020

I do not understand Facebook

or how it works when a perfectly harmless post by me can be seen by some  people but not by others. Why?
Yesterday, mostly for the benefit of a few people I knew might be interested I actually managed to put up two photographs. It seems some people cannot see them and others can. 
I thought they were harmless.

They are simply pictures of the front and back of something I have not quite finished. The skivvy hides the many ends I have not yet had time to deal with...and dealing with them is some way off as I have the other project to do. That one is rather more urgent than this one.
This was one of those, "Well now that I have all those little pieces I might as well do something with them" sort of projects. I never intended to make it - blame "social distancing".
There was no chance of having visitors - not that we have many anyway - so I pinned an i-cord (tomboy stitch or french knitting) outline on some polystyrene and filled it in over the weeks. 
It is not the sort of project that you can start and go through straight to the end without interruption. The dining room table is the wrong height for a start - back and neck suffer.  Although I had enough pieces to fill in about three  quarters of the outline I also had to make some more. 
Making more pieces meant designing shapes that would fit into the blank spaces. I had to cast on and off in unexpected places. 
I also had to find yarn in among the stash, yarn of the right colours, weight and type.  
The yarns are mostly linen or cotton. There is a little rayon and some metallic yarn with a patch or two of mohair. Some of the yarns have been combined with other yarns. There is no acrylic in it. I don't have acrylic in my stash.
There are some small pieces that have been knitted together but many of the pieces I made were single yarns I was trying out for other reasons. 
These are not my favourite colours. I prefer blues, green-blues and greens, greys and navy. They were colours I used for other people. But what is wrong with it?
I really don't understand why Facebook would decide some people cannot see it. It is not rude or racist.
Maybe it is because it really is rather ridiculous? 

Monday 29 June 2020

Designing a knitting pattern

is fine. It is writing it up that I detest. I like writing in the general way.  Pattern writing however is something quite different. I think I have mentioned, probably more than once, the problem with writing instructions for anything.
Writing knitting patterns involves a certain amount of mathematics too. That's okay. I can cope with basic mathematics. I have a computer program that does the basic calculations. It is very basic but that is actually what makes it so useful. I was alarmed to see that the same program is no longer commercially available. I suppose it has been succeeded by "better" things.
I also have a very much more advanced program I am still learning to use. It is not intuitive but, up to a point it also writes some of the pattern - if that is what you instruct the program to do when you start.  I need to remember this - and have forgotten more than once.
The gap between the design and the writing of instructions however is immense. That is where the basic calculations have been so useful. That is where those tension (or gauge) squares have been so useful.  Combine those two things and you know what you have to work with - or so it would seem.
Right now all I am designing are squares.  This should be simple. It isn't. I need to fit things within the same measurement each time.  I thought I had the row count sorted for one square but it won't work for other reasons. Sigh. I also need to remember that some types of knitting are more stitches or more rows (or perhaps even both) in the making than others.  
I will get it done. I will. I will. But it is alarmingly slow and time consuming and there is so much more I want to do. 
And that is what so infuriated me about another knitter boasting of how she had managed to get a "free" copy of a complex pattern. She "borrowed" it from someone else. I know it happens all the time but I thought of all the work that had gone into the pattern. The writer of that pattern depends on sales to help pay the bills for essentials. The authors of books depend on sales to help pay their bills too. At very least they need the measly amount that comes in from the lending rights of books which are in libraries. 
I have committed to writing this pattern for a purpose. It is my contribution to trying to keep something important to our community alive. I will do it for that reason. 
I will be angry if someone else makes money out of it - but they might well do just that.  

Sunday 28 June 2020

Someone has gone missing

and his mother is, as always, worried.
I saw her yesterday. She had gone out into the front garden to look down their street, phone in hand, hoping he would appear.
Her son is a grown man but he has serious mental health issues. Every so often he simply disappears. Sometimes it is for just a few  days. More than once it has been for several months.
He knows how to disappear. He takes cash from his bank account. He takes his "pup" tent and his sleeping bag and he goes - on his pushbike. Nobody has ever been able to find out where he goes.
I suspect he doesn't go that far but the police, alert to his disappearances, have never found him. He can blend in with the environment in ways that nobody else I know can do it. 
I travelled on a local train with him once. We were going up into the hills behind us. I know better than to ask him any questions. He sometimes talks to me because I  do not ask questions. Questions make him suspicious - and angry. He volunteered he was going into one of our national parks that day. 
The park begins one side of the railway line and I was going to the other side. We both got off at the same stop. He is sufficiently socially aware that he actually helped me take my tricycle off the train. By the time I was outside the station he had disappeared  completely. There was no sign of him at all. I remember another passenger looking puzzled and saying to me, "Where did he go?"
He might be in the park now. 
It is what passes for winter here and it will be cold but it doesn't seem to worry him. A couple of weeks back, at a really low point, he was outside in nothing more than a singlet and shorts - nothing on his feet. He was talking to a light pole. I pedalled past without saying anything to him. You don't interrupt such "conversations" because he could turn violent.
His mother was worried then. She is more worried now. She is in her eighties. He is fifty something. He has been a problem since early childhood. Back then the other families in the street asked his parents to keep him apart from the other children because he would lash out for no discernible reason. The other children were frightened of him.
When he reappears he will be taken "into care" for a few weeks. His medication will be adjusted. He will be sent "home". The cycle will begin all over again. 
While he is in care his mother will have some respite. She can visit her other son and he will visit her. These things are not possible while this man is with her or missing. He will have nothing to do with his brother. The very sight of his brother sends him into a violent rage. He has injured his mother more than once because he believes she has had some contact with his sibling. His mental condition is such that he has never been convicted of assault. His brother is doing his best but the "mental health team" insist that this man is "better off at home".  His brother told me once that he did not believe this and that he was putting aside savings for when his mother could move "to somewhere safe and comfortable".
It is becoming too much for his mother to handle. 
   "I've tried Cat. I am getting too old for this. He frightens me more than ever. They keep telling me this is the best place for him to be but I want to sell up and go somewhere safe."
She is too old for this. She has the right to somewhere safe. This has to be about more than the "best place" for him. I doubt it is the best place for him anyway. It is simply the cheapest option, the option that allows others to wash their hands of the responsibility. For them it isn't about "safe" - and it should be.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Some football event or other

is apparently going to be held in Downunder. It is being shared with our friends across  "the Ditch"  I am told.
I was told all this by a clearly excited dog walker of my acquaintance just after I had waved off a visit from our friend P.... 
I do not share his enthusiasm. The dog looked bored too.
When we lived in a tiny rural community with a two teacher school (at which my parents were the teachers) Brother Cat was expected to play football simply because they needed him to have enough to get a team together. He loathed it. He was better than the local bank manager's son. B... would be described as a "nerd" now. He was so intelligent the Senior Cat did the only thing he could do B went from year 4 to year 6 in one leap and still came top of the group of about six or seven children. Brother Cat was not good at football but B... was hopeless. 
B... was so bad that Middle Cat, a GIRL!!!!, took his place. She was smaller but "about ten times more useful" I can remember one of the boys saying. She was out there in about the smallest size boots available and a guernsey that our mother had made for her. Her ball skills far exceeded those of Brother Cat. 
Middle Cat would come home battered, bruised and covered in dirt (or mud on the rare occasions it rained). Our mother would listen to the long winded description of the match and the tactics used. The Senior Cat would read something. My brother and I would sit in stony silence. We were NOT  interested. 
We still aren't  interested. I have never watched a football match in my life. My brother has only been to those he was forced to play in.  Middle Cat and the Black Cat have both played. They have both played netball and five-aside basketball. Middle Cat has played softball and hockey for the state and apparently had a "whizz-bang" tennis serve as well. 
I haven't seen her since the announcement that Downunder won "the bid" but I will be interested in her reaction. She would not let her two boys play more contact sport than was required of them at school. Now she is much too conscious of the dangers. Her knee replacements, wrist and ankle problems have arisen partly through her many sports injuries.
We see what happens to the men who play football. They are not fit old men at all. Some of them have serious problems, not the least brain injuries from head contact with each other as well as the ball.
The praises of "the game" were being sung on the television news later last night. The reporter sounded even more excited than the dog walker. 
I prowled off wondering whether, somewhere down the track, people will regret playing because of the long term injuries they do themselves.

Friday 26 June 2020

Defacing statues

is a popular pastime right now. The statue of the quiet pen pusher who laid out the city I live in was defaced yesterday with the words,
        "No pride in genocide."
Whoever did it has absolutely no idea who he was. He had absolutely nothing to do with the slave trade. He did no harm to the indigenous community either - to the contrary. His own heritage was part Asian. 
But it seems that any statue is now ripe for defacing - even one acknowledging indigenous service men, also defaced.
Where will this end?  It is not about the daily discrimination faced by some. 
In  the past week I have been accused of being "racist", "far Right", "far  Left", "moronic", "stupid", "ill-informed", "intolerant" and a "bigot".  
The reason for all this seems to be because, despite my genuine concerns about the way our police are trained and my even greater concerns about the way a minority of them behave, I generally support the idea of a police force. We need one. 
Yesterday a member of the police force stopped me as I was pedalling past.  No, I had not done anything wrong. The officer in question wanted to know where I had bought the cover for my bicycle helmet. The cover has a peak and a flap. It looks a bit like something a member of the foreign legion might wear. I know I look faintly ridiculous in it. Still, I don't bother to take it off when I am simply going into the supermarket for milk or the library for a book. There is no way to lock it to the bike. It is much less likely to get stolen from my head if I am wearing it.   
However being stopped by the police for any reason at all is apparently not a good idea. Someone else insisted I "must have done something wrong".  It seems some people can only see the police in a negative light - and that anyone who supports them in anyway is just as bad. They want the police replaced - and don't realise that replacing them could lead to something far worse.

Someone I know in the UK recently told me he was reported to the police for "illegally" travelling to the village in which he normally lives. There was a serious issue with his home there - caused by vandals. It was a danger to the elderly neighbour who had informed him about it. Workmen could not get in without doing more damage to the heritage listed building.
The whole thing was handled observing the correct social distancing measures. The police took no action. Nevertheless it took up police time that could have been better spent elsewhere because someone decided to make a report. 
"We haven't reached Gestapo point yet," the home owner informed me, "But the spies are honing their reporting skills."
 I really do worry about this. Taken to extremes  it would mean a sort of society which would be controlled by the worst of the Gestapo, the KGB, or various organisations responsible for "State Security".
Is that what we want?

Thursday 25 June 2020

I have been reading JK Rowling's

serialised story, "The Ickabog". I confess I glanced at the first chapter when the other issue arose. Since then I have read more of it - partly because it reminds me of something that the Senior Cat used to do.
It started the year I turned twelve and went on for the next three or so years. The Senior Cat began telling Middle Cat and the Black Cat a bedtime story. They are of course much younger than me or Brother Cat and were still at the age where the bed time story was an essential part of bed time routines.
I wish now we had recorded the story. It involved both of  them - under vaguely Russian sounding versions of their names  - and a hot air balloon. They had wild adventures. 
I know my mother sometimes worried about the content - especially when the balloon would be collapsing and were they going to make it to ground safely.  My brother and I would sit outside the bedroom door with our hands over our mouths trying not to laugh out loud at the absolutely ridiculous story lines. Even my mother would occasionally listen in. It was fun.
I reminded the Senior Cat of this recently. He remembers doing it and admitted that he had taken some of the story lines straight from the books he had read for English in his degree, the history he had studied and the Latin classics - all three of his university subjects. (Geology did not get much of a look in - if at all.) Of course he had changed the stories to fit his purposes but the general outline was there -  with hot air balloons in place of sailing ships and landings on the moon rather than earth and much more.
Now I am very aware that the vast majority of parents would never have been able to do what he did. Some even have problems with talking about the events of their own childhood. We were incredibly fortunate because we had not only the Senior Cat but  his parents. Both my paternal grandparents were able to talk about their childhoods. Add the Senior Cat's creative skills to that and we have a rich cultural heritage denied many children.
And that cultural heritage is being increasingly denied many children. Parents are "too busy" to read bed time stories - and creating one would be beyond far too many of them. Then there is also the "well if I am going to read to them it should be non-fiction so they learn something" parent. Non-fiction is fine, indeed absolutely essential but children also need to be challenged to use their imagination in other ways. Finding out how a machine works is important but finding out about what sort of person designed it is too. 
I worry too about parents who are refusing to allow their children to read Harry Potter because of "something the author said". I know one parent who refuses to allow her children to read anything unless it is "realistic" - all fantasy is banned. She told me recently that she thought her children were "not very imaginative". I wonder why?
The Ickabog might not be great literature but, for many children, it will simply be good fun  - and they can learn from the brave and resourceful Bert and Daisy.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Changing the look of a website

appears to be very popular right now. 
Have all those technical whizz kids had extra time on their hands while self isolating at home? 
Blogger is apparently due to change soon. Growl...I like the old design. I have at least a limited understanding of how it works - enough to use it without too many problems. 
That has not stopped some of my regular readers complaining that I should put up photographs and the like. This would be for their entertainment. I do not like being photographed at the best of times and I most definitely do not want my image on the internet for all the world to see. It is not safe.
Recently I complained to a company which advertises on another site I need to use frequently. I know the site is paid for by the revenue from the advertising and that there is little that can be done about it. It will occur even if you have an "ad remover". It is the price you pay for using the site. This does not however mean that anyone needs to put up with an advertisement which flashes, especially one which flashes at a rate that will bring on an epileptic seizure or a migraine. I emailed the company. They were not happy. I persisted. The advertisement no longer flashes.
Yesterday I logged in to a very large knitting website. It had a completely new look. They were going in for an upgrade. That's not an unreasonable thing to do but why on earth didn't they get some advice about visual perception? The background is a stark, unrelieved white. It is very difficult to look at. I had to stop investigating there. I prowled off to think about while I dealt with other issues. This morning someone else had already thought about it. Apparently the new look is causing the onset of migraines, nausea and seizures.  None of this surprises me. 
This morning I logged on to a work site. They had made some "changes" - oops. It meant I could not access one of the languages I often need to use. I sent an urgent message. Oh? Oh! "Sorry Cat we didn't think anyone but (that particular group) used it." Now they are trying to work out how to fix the problem they have caused and I have to try an work without access to it - almost impossible and very time consuming.
Why can't people leave things alone when they work? This is not about improving things at all. It is just about playing around and making something different because they can.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Rhodes Scholars and High Court judges

are not chosen by the government.
It became very obvious yesterday that the general population does not understand this - and that some sections of the media were only too happy to allow these misconceptions to spread for their own purposes.
This happened because a former High Court judge was "found guilty" of sexual harassment after an investigation by the current members of the High Court.  I don't know whether the allegations made against him are true or not.  
I do know he was not popular. He was not popular as the Commissioner who oversaw the Royal Commission into certain aspects of the Trade Union movement. He certainly allowed a former Prime Minister to avoid answering questions that should have been asked - something many have questioned since then.
He was also "conservative" in his judgments - and a Catholic. 
I also know it is easy to make allegations of sexual harassment. That is not to say these things did not happen or that they should not be taken with the utmost seriousness.
But the statement made by the Chief Justice of the High Court allowed others to use that statement to make statements that are not correct. When a vacancy occurs High Court judges are not simply plucked from the air and placed on the bench.  I was at Law School when a vacancy occurred and the process was discussed. I know that staff there were consulted about possible names, other members of the legal profession were consulted about possible names. There was a great deal of discussion. There were interviews, reviews and more. The Opposition of the day was also consulted - something which may surprise people who, all too often, see these appointments as purely political. They aren't - although if the Opposition does not get their choice they will claim they are. Once in a while there will be a dud appointment or someone will be appointed for political reasons - because of their sex on one occasion or to be rid of them from parliament on another occasion.  Even those people had sufficient qualifications - although there were possibly better candidates available.
The process is not perfect but it is not correct to say that it is who you know or what you are that alone gets you appointed.
The same is true of Rhodes' Scholars. I once discussed the process with a former Governor of this state. He was chairman of the committee that chose the candidate. Interestingly he told me that people were never granted a scholarship the first time they applied. The committee in question was made up not of politicians but of people from academia, people like the Governor and people who were able to assess what the candidates might have to offer over a long period of time. It was not simply a matter of being a  good scholar who was good at sport and had played some sort of leadership role at university. They are, among other things, looking for young people who have some sort of wider vision for the future.
But all this was of no account to people on Twitter yesterday. The former High Court judge was "appointed" by a former Prime Minister - a man the left loves to hate. The appointment was of course in return for the former Prime Minister having been granted his Rhodes Scholarship by the High Court judge. Neither of these statements is correct or even close to reality but those who tweeted and retweeted knew that, repeated often enough, they would be able to get some people to believe that is how these things work.  They are of course doing damage to our legal system and to anyone who obtains a Rhodes scholarship. No doubt they believe this is "justified" in some tortuous way - although I struggle to work out how it benefits anyone.
This is also how "false news" starts.

Monday 22 June 2020

"And how did you feel about that?"

is the question  the cat is "asking".
Middle Cat keeps us supplied with a "Bad Cat diary" - a tear off calendar of cat pictures with captions. This morning's cat is on the psychiatrist's seat wearing a collar and bow tie and asking the question. The cat is called Mozart - age two and a half years.
Yes, I suppose it is funny in a way but I have had about enough of all the pseudo-psychology and pseudo-psychiatry which has been circulating of late. Everyone seems to have an "expert" opinion about everyone else. 
It is this pseudo-psychology/psychiatry which is used to explain bad behaviour and downright nastiness. No, it isn't because the teacher told you off for "borrowing"  your neighbour's pencil in school that you decided on a life of crime to "get back" at society. It's because you made the wrong choices.
Yesterday someone came to help me. I have only met him once before. His mother had asked him to come over and look at my computer. He is one of those incredible technical whizz kids who can do all sorts of things that make no sense to me at all. I was worried I had been  "hacked" and he turned up to finish checking on site rather than simply remotely. I know what he does for a living and I was happy to let him investigate.
Was all my work data safe and secure?  Yes. It would take a very determined person to get into that. The technical issue had nothing to do with me at all. Someone else had been hacked. That had caused the problem. It had been "very cleverly done" according to him. I don't know what he did but I heard him say to himself, "Got you! That's fixed you!" 
He has sent a message to the person who has been hacked and it will be up to them to take the final step to secure their data. Now he assures me, and I have no reason not to believe him, that he managed to do all this without breaking the law. I know there are certain things he can do for the purposes of his work that we technical imbeciles are not permitted to do. He may have done something like that. I don't know. I didn't ask. Sometimes it is better not to know. 
Afterwards though we discussed the issue in general. He tells me that there are very young people, mostly male, who can "trespass" almost anywhere without any great difficulty. For them it is a sort of game. It is often intended to do no harm. They "just walk in to take a look" and then leave again. Unfortunately some of them then realise they have done it without getting caught so they do it again and again until they believe they can enter into places and do harm, great harm, without getting caught. 
I would very much like to talk to the person who hacked into the other person's private space. I doubt they bothered much, if at all, with what was on it. They simply used it to move on a little further and do some damage there - the equivalent of pulling out plants in a garden. It was like walking through a private garden in order to access a more public space and then doing damage.  
I wonder what excuses they would use to justify their actions? Would they claim some childhood event caused them severe trauma? 
Yes of course traumas in childhood can influence people. Some people are unfortunate enough to live through the most appalling experiences. They don't necessarily turn out to be bad people. The Governor of this state, a highly regarded man, was a refugee. He had an immensely traumatic childhood. I know a man who saw both his parents murdered. He's a doctor who works in the slums of a big city in a South American country. It's a very dangerous place but he has chosen to work there - because of what happened in his childhood. I know a great many other people who have experienced great traumas in childhood and gone on to do good.  
The person who hacked will never see it that way. They would justify their actions. If something similar happened to them and they were asked "And how did you feel about that?"  I wonder what their answer would be? I doubt they would feel anything apart from, "It's all about me."

Sunday 21 June 2020

The food police are at it again

and telling me that fruit juice is as bad for you as soft drinks - because of the sugar content.
Now I have always been a good little cat and bought the "unsweetened" variety of orange juice for the Senior Cat's breakfast. There is a particularly nice, indeed outstandingly good, brand of orange juice available in this state. I buy that. We do not drink a lot of it. The Senior Cat has a glass about the size of a sherry glass for breakfast. If I have some I water it down a bit. I always have done. We thought we were being well behaved, restrained and sensible about this,
But it seems that we are not and that we should not be drinking fruit juice - because of the sugar content. Uh? Fruit has sugar in it. Fruit is supposed to be good for you. I know you shouldn't be consuming large quantities of juice, that a large glass of juice is likely to be several large oranges worth of juice. It is like many other things isn't it? A little of it is actually a good thing?
No, the food police want to label it the way they label soft drinks. It seems they are not taking into account the fact that there are differing sorts of sugars. The real problem with the sugar in soft drinks is that they are made with added sugar, not naturally occurring sugar. Are the food police going to tell us to stop eating fruit too? Of course they won't.
What they need to do is educate people. It would be better to put a picture of sixty oranges on the container and say, "It took this many oranges to make this much juice. A serve is equal to six oranges." (I am making the numbers up of course.) That would be much more likely to make people think. They could cease to make sweetened orange juice. We don't need that. Simply telling us "this is not good for you" won't work.

Saturday 20 June 2020

Increasing the cost of an arts degree

and making it one of the most expensive to do is a mistake.
I know, "arts degrees are useless" - or are they?
The Senior Cat has an arts degree. Under the system here he had to do three arts subjects and one science subject. His degree is therefore in English, History and Latin with one year of Geology. He chose Geology not because he had any interest in the subject - he had none whatsoever - but because he had a good friend who was majoring in Geology and who helped him through it. He passed Geology but had much higher marks for everything else. Now he would have been encouraged to go on to a higher degree but back then he was doing his degree two subjects and then one subject at a time while teaching full time. It was not easy. He wasn't the only teacher to be doing this. It was very typical just after the war. 
He used his degree - to teach English and History (and help me with Latin). He went on to research the teaching of reading and the psychology of learning. He could do this because his previous studies had taught him to do that sort of research. It is not the same as research in the "hard" sciences.
But Arts degrees are about more than that. They are about our cultural heritage - something we are more than ever in danger of losing. They are about understanding the past, about understanding people, places and ideas. The idea that this is no longer important is disturbing.
If I need to help a student who is struggling with an essay I often ask them which subjects they studied in their final year at school. All too often the answer is something like, "I did the suicidal five" - by which they mean Mathematics I and II, Physics, Chemistry and a "soft science" like Biology. They did not do English, History or a language - the very subjects that would have cultivated their imagination and critical skills - subjects which would have given them the skills to write a well constructed essay.These students have study skills for the sciences. They do not have other essential skills.
It is no good studying physics or astronomy, nursing or teaching if you lack imagination and cannot communicate. I know children who prefer non-fiction to fiction. That's fine - as long as someone is getting them to think about what they are reading, asking them if they can design that "better mousetrap". There isn't much time for that sort of thing in the last year of school so it often has to be done earlier than that. Then we need to be careful to still cultivate imagination and critical skills. Science stagnates if it is not leavened by imagination.

Friday 19 June 2020

Solar power is supposed to be

the ideal renewable source of energy in this state. Oh yes, we have some wind turbines as well but solar panels can be fitted to many roof tops. It is fitted to about thirty-five percent of roof tops in fact. All this is supposed to be a good thing.
This morning's paper now tells us that the power generated by all those solar panels might need to be switched off sometimes - because it contributes to an instability in the power supply. That instability can cause a power failure.
There might be people reading this who will remember that we had a major black-out in this state in 2016. It was some days before power was fully restored. It cost the state millions of dollars. Since then the "big battery" has been supplied but that does not solve the problem either. 
I thought back to our time in "the bush" - remote areas of our state. My parents lived in a galvanised iron house on the top of a hill when I was born. It was the only available accommodation in the small rural town. They were waiting for the then "Housing Trust" to finish the accommodation for government workers down in the township itself.  There was a windmill which supplied a sort of intermittent  power.  It made a lot of noise. Perhaps that is why I now like quiet.
Down in the township there was 240v power. We went from there to the city and then back to the rural areas of the state. We had no power at all at one stage. My mother cooked on a wood burning Metters stove and we had kerosene/paraffin lamps for lighting. Eventually they supplied a  32v power system that the Senior Cat had to set running to keep the batteries charged. It was not reliable the lights would suddenly go dim even when we did our best to conserve the power so that my parents could prepare lessons at the kitchen table. We made the most of the daylight hours.
My mother used heavy irons she heated on the stove and a treadle sewing machine. The Senior Cat chopped wood every morning - wood we children had collected in the surrounding bush along with a load of "mallee roots" dropped off by one of the farmers.
We moved around, sometimes having 240v power and sometimes 32v power. One school ran on a massive diesel engine.  If that failed there were 600 plus students and the staff without power.
We coped with all of this.  There was no internet then. If there had been and we had been relying on it and the other power dependent things we now take for granted life would have been a great deal more difficult. 
If our power supply is not stable because of renewable energy sources then I wonder how people will cope now? 
And there is one thing that many city dwellers who do not know what it is like to be without power at night have never had the pleasure of seeing properly - the stars at night. Perhaps we were fortunate.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Communicating with the elderly

male can be a trial at times. No, I do not mean their deafness or their confusion or their tendency to forget things in the normal way. This time it was important but not serious.
Brother Cat phoned yesterday. The Senior Cat was curled up on his sleeping mat but awake. I had someone here. I took the phone in to the Senior Cat because he wanted to know if the Senior Cat was all right. 
My visitor and I went on talking. When she left I went and brought the washing in - just as the Senior Cat was finishing the conversation. Right. Did he want a cup of tea? Good idea.
    "And you know what that was about?" he asked me of the conversation.
    "No, I just passed him over to you because W... was still here."
    "Oh, R...'s son has had the baby." R...is my SIL. This is her son by her first marriage.
    "You mean his wife has?"
    "Is everything all right?" This was not a silly question. She is forty-one and it was the first child. There has been some cause for concern.
    "Boy or girl?"
 There was silence and then, "I don't know."
I emailed R... and asked her for the important information. Yes, caesarean because the baby was breach/breech and there was another potential complication. All went well however and the baby boy weighed in at 3.8kg. (8lbs 6oz).  They have not yet named him.
Armed with this information I informed the Senior Cat who said,
    "I did wonder."
 A female would have asked those questions. I know, that sounds incredibly sexist but a female would have asked those questions. We might have gone on about APGAR scores (fine in this case) and Guthrie tests -  although the latter will not yet have been carried out. The male of the species, unless of the medical profession, would seem less likely to ask about these things. 
But I would have thought they might ask about the sex... or are they simply following a modern trend of some sort?
What the heck....baby is apparently fine. That really is all that matters.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Political corruption does not matter -

until you get caught.
If it was not so serious it would actually be funny that the Premier of the neighbouring state has finally acknowledged the corruption in the ranks. It has been common knowledge for a very long time.
No, I am not being partisan here. Corruption exists on all sides of politics. Corruption is part of political life. You can try to avoid it of course. There are rare politicians who do succeed. They are usually "independents" or people who never climb very far up the political ladders. The internal structure of a political party and the "factions" don't help overcome the problems of corruption. The sense of entitlement among many who have been there for years doesn't help either.
If you ignore what you have been told it does not exist. If you don't discuss what you have been told it does not exist. If you don't do anything then the problem will simply disappear.
Or will it? This time it seems a journalist accessed illegally recorded conversations and has made the issues discussed in them public.  The fall out - one Minister being sacked and two more resigning - has actually been minimal. It goes nowhere near to facing up to the issues raised.  
That does not surprise me. A former Prime Minister is complaining that celebrating his successor is "bizarre". They both belong to the same party. It is an issue designed to sidetrack people from the issue of corruption.
I have no doubt I could find equivalent examples elsewhere in other parties. Politics is not about people but about power.
It was nice therefore to get a letter yesterday, a letter from a politician. It was a personal letter, a very personal letter. There was even a little bit extra scribbled by hand on the end of the official bit. I won't tell you what it was about but I can say action has been taken over an issue of concern - and I was thanked for raising it.  It's just a pity that the politician in question is not likely to retain his seat at the next election. 

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Falls in the elderly

can be serious, even fatal so the Senior Cat is extremely fortunate. In the small hours of this morning he somehow managed to "slide" out of bed and end up on the floor. He ended up on the wrong side of the bed as well - the area with much less space. 
I heard him calling to me. He did not do this until he had finally realised (yet again) that he cannot get up by himself.
I cannot get him up either. He only weighs about 58kg - if that - but he is awkward and unable to help himself.
Although he claimed to be all right I know that, if something like this happens, then someone with more medical knowledge than me needs to see him. Middle Cat? No. I could not see her and her husband, both of whom would have been over here in an instant, being able to get him up.
I pressed the emergency button. It was 1:37am when two cheerful ambulance men arrived and we all went off to the Emergency Department. The Senior Cat was feeling very cross - with himself. 
At 6:00am I thought I had given Middle Cat enough sleep time and phoned her to let her know where we were. By then the Senior Cat had been given the requisite ECG, had blood taken, and x-rays of his back and chest had been taken.  He had told the nurse he couldn't recite the months of the year backwards but he knew the year and what day of the week it was. We all shrugged off the months test and he, lucky cat, dozed off. 
I had grabbed his medications, my phone, my purse and - some knitting. I needed something to keep me awake. Without it I was in danger of being restrained as "confused" or some such thing. 
I answered questions. The Senior Cat answered some questions - just occasionally. He snoozed. I knitted.
He is "okay" - a little shaken at how easily it happened but definitely not injured. He is now having a good cat-nap. I have had no sleep. I am trying to stay awake for a little longer because I sent some work off a moment ago. I just hope it makes sense - and that when they get back to me I can snooze too. 
But through it all I thought of how fortunate we are to have a hospital system which works and whose Emergency Department was not full of suspected Covid19 cases.

Monday 15 June 2020

There has been a reported increase in "elder abuse"

as well as "domestic violence".  I have put quotation marks around both those things because, for me, these things are criminal acts. 
I hope, even when I sometimes want to scream at the Senior Cat for doing something stupid - like trying to pick up something from the floor when he is not sitting down,  I will never be guilty of abusing him or hurting him or stealing from him or failing to provide something he needs to keep him warm and comfortable and safe. 
   "You live at home with your father?" people ask me suspiciously.
I say, "Yes" and leave it at that. Perhaps though I should say, "As the unmarried child I moved back in to care for both my parents so they could stay in their own home. "  It was a decision two of my siblings and I made. It was the right decision even though we would have preferred it was not necessary.
My mother died almost twenty years ago but she was not well and quite incapable by then of caring for herself and the Senior Cat. The Senior Cat, much as I love him, has absolutely no idea about  cooking or many other household tasks. He is of the generation when boys simply did not do these things. On the other hand  he was once outstandingly good about all the outdoor things and the wood chopping and water pumping and the maintenance. He has taken his turn, more than taken his turn. In "retirement" he did such things not just for us but for neighbours, church members, friends and a women's shelter. It would be utterly wrong if he did not now get the help he needs especially when he once gave it so freely.
But perhaps the problem elsewhere is that some people have moved back home for other reasons. They want to try and save money, a marriage has broken down, they are escaping a situation of domestic violence, or no longer have a job. All those things, and more, would make for a different sort of relationship. I can imagine abuse occurring.
There are other sorts of elder abuse too. There are demands on parents to do school runs and care for the grandchildren in school holidays...."if you don't do it then you don't love us and you won't be able to see them" is elder abuse. There are financial demands "because we are going to get it eventually".  
I have sometimes been told, "I suppose your father pays you."
No, he doesn't. He doesn't pay any of my expenses either. I pay my own health insurance and medical bills. I buy my own clothes and I pay a fair share of the household expenses. He would do all this, indeed keeps telling me this, but it would be all too easy to let that happen...and then the next thing... and the next thing. I am there to look after him because he is my father not because I am a paid carer.  
And I am not doing it for "nothing". I do get something from it. I get something which money really cannot buy. I get his love.
I wonder if those involved in elder abuse really have that?

Sunday 14 June 2020

"We are having visitors"

someone told me yesterday. 
Those four words suggested that "things are getting back to normal".  I considered this - and then decided things are still far from "normal". It is even more likely that the future "normal" will be different.
Yes, people are visiting one another now. We have someone coming for lunch on Wednesday. She is older than I am but younger than the Senior Cat.  The likelihood of her being a carrier of the virus is so remote that we all decided to take the risk. It  is a risk we think is worth taking because the Senior Cat is becoming depressed at seeing only me and Middle Cat. 
If the weather was good then he might have prowled, very cautiously,  out the front and sat there watering things. I might need to go backwards and forwards shifting the hose but I would happily do that if it meant he could watch people going past. There would be people who would stop to chat and their dogs would bound in to "talk" to him.  Pluto, the cat who thinks he owns our garden, would keep an eye on him.
The weather has been cold and damp. The Senior Cat has been outside once - to visit the podiatrist and the doctor last Thursday.  He is not, according to him, "bored" but I can see the frustration. At 97 he still has the intellectual capacity to want to do things - and he can't. Getting dressed tires him. He will shortly prowl out for breakfast. When he finishes I will have to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the table - and end up with his head in the marmalade.
It is little wonder that he is looking forward to seeing a visitor on Wednesday.
We might have another one too. Our friend P..., a nun, was  due to visit but she had to spend a night in hospital instead of visiting us as planned. She will be as cautious as we are about visits.
There are little things that so many people seem no longer to be aware of. I  hope there are no new cases of the virus but it will not mean that it has gone away. 
We are going to have to go on taking precautions. If we do then perhaps the Senior Cat and so many others like him can have the pleasure of seeing family and friends again.  I am going to keep my distance from people and keep on washing my hands...and hoping.

Saturday 13 June 2020

I was accused of being "racist" yesterday.

I had supported a short piece written by a member of the police force asking for people to be more aware of what their job involves. I simply said that most police are ordinary people doing a difficult job. Apparently this is "racist". 
It is  apparently racist even though I have serious concerns about the way police here are trained. It is apparently racist even though I do not believe our police are perfect. 
Their training leaves something to be desired. There are people, perhaps too many people, in our police force who are there for the power it gives them over others.  
It does not mean that we should be protesting against the job they have to do. I will protest against excessive use of force or power or incidents of brutality and expressions of racism.  I will not protest against the entire policing system.
Why? Because we need it. We would be in a state of anarchy without it. 
Imagine a society without a police force. Imagine a shop keeper trying to prevent shoplifting without the support of the police. Imagine trying to use the roads if people simply chose to ignore road rules, speed limits and stop signs. Imagine the victims of domestic violence trying to protect themselves and their children without help. How would you protect the most vulnerable members of society, the wandering Alzheimer's patient or the frightened autistic child lost in the bush, and also give support to those involved in caring for them? 
Yesterday I went to buy something for the Senior Cat. I had to go to a more distant shopping centre and decided to pick up the milk for the weekend at a supermarket there. As I was about to be served there was a serious altercation at the back of the store, one which resulted in the police being called in. The assistant who had been going to serve me - and I had already unpacked the trolley - excused himself and went to help. He used a judo throw to take someone to the ground and prevent him from doing more harm. Other people then took over and he returned to help me. It was a very unsettling incident and people were relieved to see two members of the police force - who must have been buying their afternoon coffee at the cafe opposite - come quickly in. 
Yes, people were relieved. Here was "law and order", people who had the capacity and the legal right to handle the situation. The person serving me had no such right. He could be charged with assault if "unreasonable force" was used. He clearly knew what he was doing but it was still a risk. The situation needed the police.
But someone felt differently yesterday. She chose to challenge me and claimed that, by supporting the police request for understanding of their job, I was not supporting the demands of the protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement. She now considers me to be "racist". Nothing I could say or do would convince her otherwise. She even rejected my right to use a word from the language of the local community. It is not her first language by heritage either but she claims a right to use it. I don't speak the language but I know some words and have been encouraged by those who speak the language fluently to use them when communicating with them. A common language is a powerful bond and it has never before been suggested to me that the use of another language is anything other than a compliment to the native speakers of it.  Still, she saw my use of a single word as "racist".
It was at that point I realised that, no matter what I said, she would continue to believe that I am "racist". It won't matter to her that my friends and acquaintances are of a more than usually diverse background and culture. I have almost certainly experienced more discrimination than she ever will. It will make no difference.  She sees me as not supporting something she is clearly passionate about. 
Do I support different training and increased training for our police force? Yes, it is long overdue. Yes, but I am also realistic enough to know that changing attitudes is very very difficult. It is going to take a very long time. The protest movement might produce some changes but those protesting will lose support if their actions result in anarchy. Protesting will not be the catalyst but positive and workable suggestions for change arising from it might well work where protest fails.
It is for that sort of reason I will support the police in doing their job. If that makes me a "racist" then too bad.

Friday 12 June 2020

There was an owl in the avocado tree

late yesterday afternoon. 
Middle Cat saw it fly in and settle high up just as dusk was settling. It is very rare to see an owl here, especially in the city so I went out to have a look. Yes, definitely an owl. It was probably a "Boobook". They are not very big. This one was not much more than my hand span - about 20cms high. 
It gave us a sleepy look and settled down, eyes closed, for another nap. I heard it again in the night and that confirmed that I had heard it the previous night too. 
I wonder how long it will stay? Is it taking a holiday from delivering letters to Harry Potter at Hogwarts?
Quite apart from the delight of seeing it was the sheer pleasure of thinking about something other than the endless protests that seem to be dominating the media right now.
Yes, some of those protests are about something important, very important. Others are not.
This morning the front page of our state newspaper is about the demands of the hotel industry to open up to more people. They want to be allowed to have a hundred rather than twenty at a venue. This is apparently so people can drink while watching a football match.  Some of those people would normally be at the football match but "social distancing" has meant that there will be just a fraction able to attend.
Apparently all this is more important than actually getting our economy back to something approaching "normal". We are in the middle of a nasty spat with China -  because we dared to demand an investigation into the origins and handling of Covid19. The Chinese are saying that there has been a massive increase in serious racial attacks on their citizens and that it is no longer safe for  university students from China to  study here. That is nonsense and the Chinese authorities know it but it suits their purposes to say it.
I noted this yesterday because I had to go to a bank. Their ATM in our shopping centre, the only ATM available outside shopping hours,  has been out of action for over a week. I suspect they are intending to remove it. It will leave many elderly people with no available ATM unless they are able to drive - and increasing numbers of them do not.  
The bank branch in question knew nothing about it of course. I did not think they would but they noted my reasons for keeping it open and actually sent an email while I was there. It is unlikely to do any good but at least I have done as I was asked to do. 
Coming out of the other shopping centre however I passed a clothing shop having a "sale" - actually getting rid of summer stock at very, very low prices. There was a neatly dressed indigenous woman standing outside the shop. She was looking at a rack of clothes but not touching any as someone else was pulling things out and roughly putting them back in.  Some of them had fallen to the ground.
I won't describe what happened next. It still makes me too angry to even think about it.  Suffice to say it was a very nasty piece of racial abuse aimed at the indigenous woman who had started to pick up the items which had fallen to the ground. The shop assistant heard it too and came to look just as I was going in to get some help. The indigenous woman was standing there with an armful of clothing being accused of theft. 
    "No, you were letting things fall to the ground. She has already put things back on their hangers," I said. The other woman glared at me and said, "It's all rubbish anyway!" She stalked off.
The indigenous woman looked terrified, as well she might. It would be all too easy to believe that she was planning on shoplifting.  The shop assistant looked at me and then, with a smile at the indigenous woman, said, "Thank you for doing that. They do keep sliding off. Were you looking for a particular size?"
A shake of the head and then a whispered, "Skirt?"
    "We have some on sale inside. Come and have a look," the assistant told her. 
I could see her reluctance but also her longing so I said, 
    "Why not? You might get just what you want."
I spent the next few minutes looking at clothes I did not want while she looked at skirts. She eventually found one and, I was delighted, she looked at me as if to say, "Do you like this one?"
    "It's lovely,"  I told her, "It will go with a lot of other colours."
It was a lovely skirt too. She paid $5 for a skirt marked down from over $100 and went off. The shop assistant asked me if I wanted any help and I told her why I had stayed. 
    "I hope she doesn't remember every time she wears it," the assistant told me.
I hope what she remembers is the shop assistant thanking her. 

Thursday 11 June 2020

"Those who cannot remember the past

are condemned to repeat it" wrote George Santayana.
To that I will add a Gaelic proverb,
       "Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho'n d'thainig  sibh" - remember the people whom you come from.
If we don't do these things then what will the future hold?  
It is tempting to cheer when a statue of a tyrant, thief and murderer gets knocked down. Why did anyone put it up there in the first place? We might well ask but, at the time, at least some people must have believed it to be the right thing to do.
I personally think statues are rather silly things. I don't think they serve much of a purpose.
I have several pewter mugs with inscriptions for various prizes won over the years - and a "silver" plate which is probably tarnished too dark to read the inscription. I suppose I could use the mugs but it seems more than a bit pretentious.  If I used the plate I'd put a paper doily on it to hide the inscription although it would still seem pretentious.
But statues are different. They are out there in the world and everyone is intended to see them.  They are, I suppose, intended to acknowledge the great and the good - like those along our "North Terrace". The tourists are more likely to notice those than the locals. There are also brass plates along the inner edge of the footpath. I doubt many people notice them.
All that said though I don't think there is any point in removing them simply because the achievements of those people are no longer considered cause for celebration. Did they do no good at all? Were their actions acceptable at the time?
The Romans had a slave trade. They bought and sold people in the market place. It was am absolutely vile thing to do - and they would not have been the first but they are among the best documented. Through the centuries though nothing much has changed. We still have a slave trade. People are still bought and sold. Much of it was hidden then and it is hidden now. We conveniently forget that many African Americans are descended from people who were actually sold to white slave traders - sold by other Africans. That in no way makes what happened to them right but is it part of a past that needs to be acknowledged? Why don't we do that?
Much of the history in this country has also been taught in ways that have conveniently ignored the actual circumstances. We have abandoned the concept of "terra nullius" (land unoccupied) in favour of acknowledging that this country was inhabited. The Mabo case is in fact a major and very important turning point in our history.  We could put up a statue to Eddie Mabo in every capital and town in the country - but what would it do? It is not what he would have wanted. He has a place in the constitutional law of this country instead. That is a good thing. 
Where we have problems it is because we still persist in teaching myths about such things as deliberately infecting blankets with measles to wipe out the original inhabitants. Measles did cause the death of many of the original inhabitants. It is highly contagious and there was no immunity as the disease was unknown to them. The same might be said for small pox and chicken pox. There are still those who argue that infection was deliberate but it did not need to be to inflict the damage that it did. Saying it was deliberate suits some versions of history. It is as if we have to flay ourselves for the actions of the past.
I am not responsible for what others did. My ancestors also came far too late to be involved but, even if they had come on the First Fleet, I cannot be held responsible for what they did or did not do. What I have to live with instead is my conscience and the way I treat others.  I can learn from the past but it needs to be the actual past and not a convenient version of it. History is not there to make me feel guilty or ashamed but to try and understand so that I do not repeat what has become unacceptable. If we simply pull down the statues I won't have those essential reference points which will help me to understand the present anger and work towards a better future. Let's put more plaques on statues instead - so they can explain the past and the present and work for the future.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Computer programs are a mystery

to me. I do not understand how they work at all.
I tried once. It was a required component of my statistics course at  university. I somehow scraped through. After that I managed to use SPSS - the "Statistical Package for the Social Sciences". 
I used that program because, like the statistics course itself,  it was a required part of my studies. Statistics themselves however are something I have little time for when they are applied to the learning abilities of actual people.
Once in a while since then I have had to do a simple statistical calculation and put it into something I have been writing.  For the most part I have avoided such things. I understand there are now computer programs which will do all these things in an instant. My students have used these - and probably do not understand the maths behind the figures.
But there are computer programs which will do other things. I have several in the machine I am currently using. They do the mathematical calculations for a knitting pattern of one sort or another.  There is also a  cross stitch pattern maker - not that I cross stitch but it made useful knitting charts. I need to remove that as it no longer works. 
And there is the new knitting program. Well not quite "new" I bought this over twelve months ago. I researched the available programs first, found out what the publishers of knitting patterns preferred,  read the reviews and went ahead. It was not particularly cheap but it was not the most expensive program either.
The computer technician had problems loading it and sent frantic messages off to the maker. No, they could not work out why it would not load. There was nothing unusual on my computer apart from the Blissymbol program - and  that was not causing the issue.
Eventually we managed to load it.
Other things happened. Last year was not a good knitting year for me. The Senior Cat needed more help, other people needed more help. I had some extra work to do. I completed my second doctorate. The garden needed more watering. Children needed minding and adults needed a listening ear.
I now have to come to grips with this program. I have a major project to design and hand over as quickly as possible. It isn't "urgent" in the sense that I need to sit day and night at the screen until it is done but it needs to be completed more quickly than I otherwise might do it.
This program will produce a chart and knitted instructions. It is actually very good. I am sure it is very good. I am the problem. It requires the ability to manipulate the mouse to land the pencil or the paintbrush (for colours) precisely on the little squares. My paws do not like this. Then there are things I still have to work out how to do - a repeat for instance. I would like to repeat an entire block not just a tiny part of it. Do I really have to click in eleven ships for the First Fleet? Couldn't I just do one  and then repeat it eleven times? How do I add columns of stitches - and take columns of stitches away?
I thought I had worked it out - and lost the entire afternoon's work.
I am a frustrated cat!
I will not be beaten by this thing. I will go back to it. I will work on it.  
If I don't you might find me curled up in a corner with one paw over my ears and another paw over my eyes...and I will be a quivering mess.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Moderation of news websites

needs to be moderated.
I had something "rejected" by a "moderator" yesterday. It was a completely harmless comment, nothing more than a clarification. I wrote it simply because it was clear the some people were unaware of a verifiable fact and that was causing them to be confused.
The rejection puzzled me until I realised that a moderator had almost certainly failed to actually read it. Yes, they looked at it - hence the rejection. They did not read it.
The site was busy with other stories as well so perhaps the moderators were working overtime. I don't know. 
What I do know is that, by rejecting the comment, the moderators have allowed people to go on believing something which is not true. My comment did not even have the dubious merit of being a political opinion. 
I wonder how long it will take the misinformation being debated to spread out into the community and become a "fact"? It is likely to do so very rapidly in this day of "social media".
"Social media" is really not very "social" at all.  All too often it is the vehicle for bad behaviour, vile comments, racist remarks, and much more. At a distance people will do and say things they would never dare to say face-to-face. Yes, we all know that.
Moderators are supposedly there to prevent the worst of all this. I assume they do or we would have anarchy on their hands. But - a big "but" - moderators also have opinions and beliefs. They also have power. They can direct a debate simply by rejecting comments which do not support their opinions and beliefs. They can "white out" verifiable facts that do not suit their agenda.
They are supposed the guards and, as the saying goes,
   "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"  

Monday 8 June 2020

Childhood sweets or lollies

were not quite the same here as they were in England. We did not have those glorious, magical shops filled with glass jars of mysterious sweets that our mother tried to prevent us from eating.
There were no pear drops or lemon sherbets in my childhood. Other children may have had them from somewhere but I doubt it. 
We did have "Conversation Sweets" - small round discs printed with things like "love me" on them. They were pink, lavender, pale yellow and paler green. There were "licorice all sorts" and "bananas", "ripe raspberries" and "spearmint leaves". There were long thin "jelly snakes" and small sticky peppermints  with red and white stripes. We also had plain chocolate frogs, aniseed balls, gum balls which changed colour as you sucked them and sherbet  in "Wizz Fizz"  packets with a tiny spoon to dig it out. Oh, the glory of that sweet fizziness against our eager tongues! Best of all were the hard pink squares of musk flavoured "pastel" that could be sucked slowly and made to last  or the similarly hard "sticks" of musk, lime or  orange which could be carefully sucked into a point on the end - and then used to jab an annoying sibling or friend.
When permitted we would spend our very  limited pocket money on these things as well as packets of "Life Savers".  The proper way to eat one of  those was to suck it until it was almost not there and then give the resulting paper thin ring a final satisfying "crunch" before continuing to suck the last of it. 
Mum completely banned "Fags" - sweets made to look like cigarettes . They were very popular but if Mum had caught us buying them we would have been beaten with the hair brush and lost all chances of having any sweets. What is more we knew they didn't last like other sweets. 
What we liked most of all was probably the hard home made toffee poured into "patty pans" - small paper cake containers - and sprinkled with "hundreds and thousands" or the same toffee, coloured with cochineal coating an apple on a stick. Those things lasted. We could suck them.
We were patient about sweets. It made them last.
Of course there were more expensive sweets but we rarely saw those. I was in my teens before I found out what a "Polly Waffle" was - a tube of waffle like biscuit filled with marshmallow and covered with chocolate. I was similarly in my teens before I tasted a "Violet Crumble" - essentially a bar of honeycomb covered in  chocolate -  and an adult before I tasted a "Crunchie" and decided they were superior.
We would sometimes be given single squares from a "grown up" block of chocolate or Crown Mints or humbugs - "black and white" peppermints.
My paternal grandfather understood our need for something sweet occasionally. He would buy our grandmother "Scotch mints" - small balls of peppermint that were relatively soft and slip us a packet of peppermint flavoured Life Savers  or some Conversation Sweets as well. I doubt she ever bought herself anything like that. 
My maternal grandmother liked "jubes". They were soft and probably suited her false teeth. We children did not think much of them. They did not last and could not be pulled apart in layers like licorice all sorts. We preferred her to buy cashew nuts - a rare luxury back then -  the only nut she could manage. She bought them from a shop run buy people my grandfather knew. It was probably the closest thing to a sweet shop we children knew.
So, where did we get our sweets? 
For the most part we went with our paternal grandfather on a "Short walk". The "Short" in this case was the surname of the people who had first owned the delicatessan on Jetty Road. By the time we children were old enough to go there it was run by a Mrs Clements and members of her family. It sold just about everything you needed in the way of groceries and newsagent items. 
There, behind the glass,  on a tray were the sweets - four for a penny or the block of pastel for a penny. Mrs Clements knew full well what we would choose if we could. One glorious afternoon she even told us, "Now just be patient. The box only came in this morning. If it is pastel you want you will have to wait a moment."
We waited without moving while she went "out back". Would she find the box? We held our breath and then let it out with an anticipatory sigh of pleasure. She opened the box and my brother and I spent our pennies on those squares which seemed to last, if not quite forever, such a long time.

Sunday 7 June 2020

"Protesting" is a democratic right

but it comes with responsibilities.
Yesterday there was a largely peaceful "protest" in the city but I was alarmed by how many people attended it. There were more than the usual number that such a protest would garner. 
Ms W gave me a clue as to why. 
    "Some of the others are going."
    "And you aren't?"
    "No. They reckon I don't care but it is because I do care. They are just going so they can go out."
I waited and she sighed,
    "I talked to Dad about it. He explained about how they closed off the APY lands to protect people. What if someone goes to the protest and gets the virus and then takes it off there?"
The traditional APY lands most certainly do not need anyone with the virus going in to visit. It would be catastrophic. They were isolated from the rest of the state even when we were in the most serious state of isolation. Rightly so too. There are already far too many health issues in those areas.
   "Have you tried explaining that to the others?"
   "Yes but they won't listen. It's just like something to do for them. It's like an excuse to go out. I mean like if they really cared they would always be nice  - like you said this morning in the paper."
I had the lead letter in yesterday's paper.  
    "You know my friend S.... ,"Ms W went on, "Her dad has a heap of people working for him. There's a little bunch of them who are all different... two boys with Down Syndrome who went to that school down there and a guy in a wheelchair and then there is this big tall really skinny boy who comes from up north somewhere. He's from the lands. He's learning how to do things - like an apprentice - and Mr R.... says they are just as important as anyone else. He tries to get everyone to mix. I don't know if it works but it should be like that."
I agreed. I also agreed with her decision not to go to the protest. I left her sweeping up leaves. 
On my way home I saw her father who was concerned by the whole protest going ahead. The government was not happy with it but knew all too well that to refuse to allow it would bring about criticisms of "racism". It was the job of the Police Commissioner to sanction it and he was, rightly, concerned about the potential for infection.
I wonder how many people would have gone to a protest if the situation had been normal? It is a long weekend here. Many people would have been away or going to sport or other activities. Social isolation is not likely to have changed attitudes or behaviour.  Ms W may be right about some of them when she said, "They are just going to go out."
We need to change permanently.

Saturday 6 June 2020

Cutting down trees

is not something I like to see done. I know it is essential sometimes. The tree might be dead or in a dangerous condition.
In order to avoid that state of affairs Middle Cat sent her "gardening man" over with his chainsaw and wood chipper yesterday.  It has to be explained here that Middle Cat's "gardening man" does not appear at her place on a regular basis. He comes in to do the things she cannot do and her husband does not have the time to do. (S....often works a sixty hour week  - some of it at very odd hours indeed.) 
But T.... arrived yesterday, late because he had left his chainsaw at  home.   "Blimey Cat - I'd leave my head behind..."
We looked at the bottle brush and  the avocado. The bottle brush should be a bush but Mum let that one grow. She hated cutting back anything at all. Our regular "heavy gardening" man has been trimming it but  there was a  dead branch that was in danger of dropping into the driveway - perhaps on to the roof of a car. 
    "That bit needs to go," T.... said. I agreed.
    "I can get at in round the back."
I agreed again. He looked some more, marked out some likely points. We stood back and looked. Yes, that seemed sensible.
The avocado tree came up by accident. Again, it was just left to grow. It's too high for me to reach any avocados that do happen to appear. The possums usually get those.
    "Needs to get cut down a bit as well as back - all those dead bits can come out. I'll get rid of these three suckers. What about that bit?" 
 "That bit" goes across into the garden next  door. Both the neighbour and I have been hoping that it might bear fruit. It never has.  I explained.
   "Best it get cut back because it will help this bit here."
I left him to it and tried not to cringe at the noise of the chain saw.
Four hours later the whole job was done. Our "green" bin was less than half full because he had used his wood chipper. The drive way was swept clear of all debris and he had gone to mow Middle Cat's back lawn. 
The whole job cost us a tenth of what a "professional" tree service would have cost. 
    "Nah, I told your sister what it would cost. That's plenty," he told me. "Let me know if you need anything else like that done."
We will.
When he had gone I looked up at the bottle brush. The birds had gone back into it.  And in the night the possums were back in the avocado tree. This morning I looked again. It was almost as if the avocado tree smiled at me and said, "Thanks for the hair cut."

Friday 5 June 2020

The planned protest march

here should be abandoned.
I know many people will disagree with me. They will have the say "we have the right to protest".  I agree. There is a right to protest. 
It has to be done legally and sensibly and without risk to other people. Provided those things are taken into consideration then there is a right to protest.
Right now though people have been told they may not gather in large numbers. It is not sensible to do it and protestors are risking the health and safety of other people as well as themselves. 
The lives of my friends, whatever their racial background, matter to me but I won't be going out there to protest. There are better ways of showing them I care, of showing that I care about all people.
A couple of days ago at the shopping centre I was undoing the lock on my bike when I heard a warm, "Hello Cat, haven't seen you for a while." I looked up to see my friend J.... She is Muslim, wears the hijab and dresses traditionally. We met long ago over a discussion about biscuits when her youngest child was still not going to school. Both her children are now at  university. Ours is the sort of casual friendship where we don't visit one another at home but have sat and had a cold drink together on a hot day and a hot drink on a cold day. We know about each other's families. I have met her children more than once and her mother once.
It still saddens me that there are people who seem to think there is something wrong with this. "You shouldn't talk to her," I was told once. Why? I talk to young hijab and jeans wearing students about their coursework  in the same way and often in the same place. What's so different?
Chatting to J... and sharing some time over a drink is a better form of protest than going on a march.
I didn't get a hug from my friend M... when I saw him recently. He usually gives me the best sort of bear hug but hugging is not allowed right now so we gave each other a non-contact high five and laughed about it. The bank clerk did not look impressed.
    "Do you know him?"
 I wanted to say, "What business is it of yours?"
Instead I said, "Yes, I've known him since my teens. He's been like a brother to me."
I hope my tone of voice told the bank clerk, "It is none of your business and would you have asked if the colour of his skin had been different?"
M... has been a friend for more than fifty years and, were it not for the wretched virus, we would have hugged. Doing that in public  is a much better form of protest than going on a march.   
I could add examples from the lives of people I know. They care every bit as deeply and passionately about others as those who want to go out and protest. They are just getting on with the business of being friends, being supportive - and sometimes assertive. 
If everyone who went out to protest actually did that in public every day then perhaps we would not need those sort of protests.

Thursday 4 June 2020

We are now "technically in recession"

apparently - and the Opposition is having a field day about the "mismanagement" of the economy.
Is it really that bad?
I was talking to a neighbour yesterday. She is a retired economist who once held a quite senior position in the public service. Her view is that things could be a lot worse than they are.  She feels the present government has actually done a good job balancing out keeping people as safe as possible and stimulating the economy.
I said "but a lot of people have lost their jobs and businesses have closed". Her response was,
    "Cat, some of those businesses were going to close anyway. The way things were they were not going to survive. This has just caused it to happen sooner rather than later."
I do not pretend to understand economics - apart from the very basics of "I have enough money to buy this but not that" and "if I want to save money then I need to spend less than I get".  
There have been times in my life when I was not getting any money. I watched my savings, such as they were, dwindle to almost nothing. I have never been homeless and I have always been able to think, "I can eat today" although I have sometimes wondered how long that would last. 
What I don't know is what it feels like to pour everything into a business you believe in only to lose everything. Two of the businesses in our shopping centre have closed for good. The manager of a third spoke to me yesterday - to thank me when I had picked up something that had fallen from a rack outside. We chatted for a moment and she said, "We aren't bringing in any stock for winter this year."  I know part of that is a supply problem  - most things in that shop would come from China - but I also wondered how much of it is a different problem. They seem to have had a "sale" of one sort or another for the entire year to date.
Even the manager of the supermarket has told me that, apart from the panic buying, the pattern has been different of late.  
My brother and his partner moved house last year - out of the city and into a much smaller country town. It is still close enough to the city to be accessible but the cost of living there is going to be less. Further still and they might have the additional costs of living in a rural area but this seems to be a nice balance between the two for lifestyle without the added expenses. The house is small and there is presently no space for a workshop. It has cost my brother almost $20,000 to date to get the necessary permissions to build a room on to the house to be used as one until it needs to be turned into another bedroom or a "granny flat". He can and will do the actual work himself with some help from his son-in-law who works in the industry. Unless he did that he simply could not afford to do it. 
The cost to my brother far exceeds the cost of providing what few services have been provided.  He expected this - although it has now exceeded even his down to earth expectations. Everything has gone up in price because of the twin disasters of the bush fires and now Covid19. More regulations have been brought in. There are different ways of doing things. He commented that they had budgeted for this and that not being able to take a planned holiday means they can afford the extra cost. In the end it will add value to their home. It's a calculated risk that will pay but, like me, he is watching businesses go to the wall and wondering what it is like to lose everything.
Looking at the empty shops yesterday though I was reminded of Mr Micawber,
"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Access to the internet

and the ability to use a computer seems to be taken for granted. It should not be.
There is a letter about that very topic in this morning's paper but I was reminded of it last night. A friend rang me to say that a mutual friend had fallen and injured herself. Could I please let someone else know? Why? Because the person who phoned me does not have internet access and had no way of finding as much as a telephone number. You look those up on line now - and that only works if it is an old "land line" sort of number. Mobile numbers are nowhere to be found.
Once there would have been a telephone book with a print size you could actually read (if with a little difficulty) and she would have made the call herself.
This morning's letter pointed out the increasing insistence on doing business through a website or contacting a government department or other service through a website. I immediately thought of all those people who depend on spending time at the library to use the computers there. Many of them are older unemployed people who do not have access to the internet. They do not have the sort of mobile phone plan (if they even have a mobile phone) that allows them to make endless calls and "hold the line" for minutes on end. If they need to make contact with Centrelink (our social welfare service) then they need to go and make an appointment to - wait for this - make an appointment.  They have cut the number of offices for  Centrelink so many people have to travel further. 
The past few weeks must have been a nightmare for such people. They would still be expected to show they were searching for work and those who were already seeking help are now competing with those newly out of work but with the advantage of recent experience. 
There are all sorts of little issues that come up. Some of them are relatively simple. Even I can sort some of them out - mostly because I am used to reading forms and trying to work out what the writer intended and how the relevant legislation might be applied. There are things however that confuse me completely. I simply do not understand how the mind of the so called "public servant" worked at that point. I have seen legislation applied in very creative ways and for very creative reasons. It does not help when you log into a website and you are faced with a range of options and not one of them applies to the problem. Phone them? The same options might apply - or there might be fewer options. Go to the wrong option in the hope of talking to someone, anyone? No, that doesn't work. It is not their responsibility. They cannot give you an answer. You will need to contact.... And so it goes on.
Perhaps it is time for some smart individual to set up a service which allows people to say, "I need to actually talk to a real person" and get them through to someone who can help. 
Is it time to stop relying on computers and starting to rely on communicating instead?