Wednesday, October 31, 2007

the week that almost was

I don’t know. If I walk or cycle to work will it halt global warming in its tracks? If I put in a water tank (estimated cost for a small one $1000+, installation $1000-25000, with up to 36 weeks waiting time) will it stop food prices going up because of the drought? If I have to fly to NZ 6 times a year to help my aging parents, can I grow enough trees to offset the carbon?

Amidst the men bloated with self importance crowing about how we can save the planet, or their own skin at least, with oxymoronic wonders like clean coal - the cost of fuel, water and food keeps rising. Like the rat on the wheel, we have to work harder just to keep up with yet another interest rate rise that we were promised would never happen. We are the generation that was raised on the fairy tale about a life of leisure time, that most will never attain because the government keeps pushing the retirement age up and super is not making the investment returns necessary to enjoy years of healthy older age. Only a handful of us work the 3 day week myth we invisaged and for all our forward planning are met with a weird mix of scorn and resentment from those who feel they have no choice but be over-employed to keep their head above water, or buy the latest plasma screen.

In the meantime I have become a tax collector and dutifully spent far too many of my precious ‘non work’ hours in the past week, processing my GST and juggling how long I can put off paying my work rent and other bills to avoid a late payment and one of those nasty flags the ATO has a habit of slapping on your file.

When the going gets tough, there is no better place to be than the movies. Escapism Central took me to the bleak world of Manchester to see “Control”, the gritty dramatisation of the life of Ian Curtis. I fell in love with Joy Division all over again, as you do. Then a touch of light relief after I contemplated my cash flow predicament, for an hour or two in the dark with assorted pensioners to watch “Death at a funeral”. If you have ever taken hallucinogenic drugs in your life, then you will likely find this hilarious.

In the end laughter is better medicine than tuning into the lies spouted from all sides of the election debate. So bugger it, I think I will skip the country for the weekend and go somewhere with green rolling hills, more water than you can poke a stick at and not a politician in sight.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

random mogblogging

Poor little possum has been sneezing all week. Paroxysmal sneezes, up to 10 in a row. No wonder she's looking slightly deranged.

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election issues: the environment #1

Malcolm Turnbull:

Kyoto - Good*
Stopping Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania - bad

* or is this the latest "leak" where the government pretends to be emabarrassed but really is trying to raise its 'green' profile in a weird kind of way?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ad vitam paramus

I was firing off an email to someone I barely know, as you do in this hyper communicative world of the internet, when I had a flashback to being a 14 yo schoolgirl.

Picture this, a kid brimming with hormones and creativity, locked into a rigid old school curriculum studying Latin and French. I was interested in words and loved the former but detested the latter. Not many schools offered Latin in that time in NZ (I’m sure there are even less now) and it worked as an unofficial streaming system. The inference was that you had to be incredibly bright to want to study a dead language but in reality the classes (there were more than 60 of us) were a popular way to get into the best public high school in the city, for kids who lived out of the designated zone.

In the second year everyone got to choose an elective. They tried to herd the bulk of us into taking up German. Considering I detested French and saw no relevance for it in my life I had no intention of following the crowd. As far as I was concerned it was a clear toss up between creative writing and typing.

I don’t know what guided me into being such a visionary. At this time computers were the size of a small house and no one predicted that we’d all become slaves to the keyboard when the monoliths got shrunk down to the size of a manila folder. I figured I could combine the 2 subjects by injecting some free writing into the class designed for girls in the “commercial stream”.

The first hurdle was that “Latin girls” didn’t learn typing. This was a subject coupled with domestic science to set young women up for a well-trodden career path from secretary to housewife in the shortest time possible. Those with brains the size of the planet had no need for such skills as how to type faster than they could speak and the correct format of business letters.

Somehow I managed to convince the powers that be in the school timetabling department that I could fit in the subject with no chance of jumping the fence and upsetting the balance of order in their narrow world. I got to sit with dozens of other sweet young things at a sturdy manual typewriter with our own home sewn keyboard cover (to prevent peeking) to learn to touch type – no spell check, no white out, word perfect at a dazzlingly fast keystroke per minute ratio.

In no time I’d mastered asdf jkl; and got the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog ad nauseum. As I figured I wouldn’t be spending my life sending letters to Mr Brown or Mr Smith, it was time for creative writing to kick in. Pre-empting my first career in Political Science, the Potty Party was born and first the manifesto, then the weekly newsletter began flying off the platen. I have no idea what gems these epistles held but it sure baffled the “Commercial girls”.

A world away, I tap at the keyboard of a very different beast and delete a screed of nonsensical information from an email to a once met blogger and transfer it to a post instead. After all, what is Other Rants if it’s not the Potty Party's weekly flyer a couple of decades on?

As for the “Commercial girls” - if you are reading this over your morning latte at the multimillion-dollar company you run, drop me a line. We always knew that those who mastered the keyboard would rule the universe, while a CV of perfect amo, amas, amant’s would lead to a dusty, dead end in academia.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A heads up from dumbo feather took me to the Slow Guide to Melbourne.

This is a concept right up my alley (or being a Melbournian perhaps that should be laneway as that is where the cosmopolitan culture is based in at the minute…or maybe that was so last year because we’ve segued now to rooftops in the city thanks to the generosity of companies that would like people to continue smoking…but I digress). I love slow. There are times I wish I had the ultimate sensory recorder but until such a devise can capture not just sight and sound but also humidity and smell – the job will be left to the vagaries of the human brain to recall it.

Last Friday, I left my office in the CBD to early evening on the streets. Chestnuts were unseasonably being roasted; buskers competed on each corner creating a soundscape cushioned by the sound of chatter on the tightly packed pavement, with the percussion of trams in the background. My skin felt of summer and whispered the promise of languid nights, scantily dressed, sipping cool drinks with friends. Bundling these senses together they could be tagged life, hope or even promise.

In 2 blocks to the tram stop I was more stimulated than I had been all day.

Slow for me is about soaking it up, tapping into each sense and storing it away for a rainy day.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

maybe I'll walk to work today

This morning there has been the 3rd tram-to-tram collision in a month.

Another good reason to not privatise public assets.

Speaking of which, I had a minor gas leak that the plumber found yesterday. I was told to call the gas company. Their guy turned up in half an hour, looked at the connection and said are you sure there is a leak? My plumbers apprentice got his magic spray out, gave it a squirt and the gas company bloke sighed. You could see he really didn’t want to do anything about it.

Well, he said. I can tighten the connection on MY side of the gas meter but you will have to pay someone to fix the connection on the OTHER side. Really I should switch the gas off and you might have to wait a couple of days til someone else can come out and do it but since I know your plumber I will trust him to get the job done.

He got out his shifter, tightened it and wandered off.

More privatisation gone mad.

Friday, October 19, 2007

politicus interuptus

The angel of death is hovering over my family again. A ridiculous statement from an athiest I know. We are waiting to find out if my father has a second nasty cancer. In the meantime my mother is not exactly blooming in good health and I live in another country away from them. I would guess that if the family doctor dials international to speak to you off his own bat, then there is little space for optimism.

I type this while my partner's family is visiting from interstate. I left the dinner table because this is day 7 and we are having the same discussion about politics...again. Is that rude of me to get up before they finish eating, contemplate playing tetris on facebook and do a quick blog instead? Let's just call it a survival mechanism.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

rudd and howard find more things to agree on

It seems both took offence to a song on The Chaser knocking sacred cows - Princess Di, Steve Irwin and Don Bradman, all in the same ditty.

I must admit I kind of liked the image of Di being a dirty little slut with an Arab semen stained dress...but that's just me.

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election issues: shifting allegiences

You've got to love Rod Quantock. I do wonder if the guy ever gets paid for his gigs these days as he is always the first to put his hand up to support worthy causes. He's equal opportunity too when it comes to political parties, with a recent gig for the Greens and another later in the month for Socialist Alliance.

The ACTU are also getting into the equal op. business over the Work Choices issue, with their announcement that they will hand out how to vote cards for any party that is commited to abolishing the legislation.

Hot on the heels of the Electrical Trades Union shift away from supporting Labour, with a financial pledge for the Greens in this election, it is beginning to look like the latest Liberal ad linking the ALP with the unions is yet another case of misleading advertising.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

election issues: the politics of personality

Great opinion piece in today’s Age by Monica Dux, who captures the cusp of the anti-Howard generation. Though chardonnay and latte’s are not my beverages of choice, she nails a very important point. This election is all about getting Howard out, rather than looking at who we are voting in.

As I declared in my position statement – I don’t like Howard. I don’t forgive him for his lies – about Tampa, weapons of mass destruction and not bringing in GST, to name but a few. I don’t like his inaction on climate change, nor his blundering into indigenous communities. But Rudd? He makes my skin crawl.
Why would I vote for a man who’s agenda is of (his) party embracing the “fully rounded Christian gospel”. This man makes Howard look positively agnostic. As for policies – with Peter Garrett rubber stamping Turnbull’s stance on Gunns pulp mill and the back flip on Work Choices, it is very hard to tell the two parties apart.

But where does this leave us Howard-haters? Supporting the Opposition simply out of spite against the Prime Minister, without asking what we're getting instead? Perhaps we're wrong and we're not the moral voice of the nation. But if we're right and we are, then aren't we abrogating our responsibility? It's as if we've stopped caring who or what we vote for, as long as Howard loses.

Dux’s point is that it is very well for us to rejoice about an anticipated end to the Howard regime. But let’s start asking some questions about the alternative.

Monday, October 15, 2007

election issues: Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania

Don Burke

versus those who Don would probably class as not "very genuine" greenies, who would like a word with Mr Smith.

You decide.

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Election 2007: Position statement

Which way do I jump?

I am anti-Howard but not pro-Rudd.

I consider the current manifestation of the Liberal and Labour parties to be on the conservative/right, with very little between them.

I believe that all parties should be judged on their past and recent actions, as well as their policies.

I do think that Australia would benefit from a strong third political party, particularly in the Senate.

I stopped voting for the Democrats after they rolled over on GST.

I am still learning about the Greens policies and political effectiveness.

Personal stats (how typical am I according to the 2006 census)

I am a woman (50.6%)
I am 25-54 (42.2%)
I am not married (33.2%)
I was not born in Australia (29.1%)
English is my first language (78.5%)
Depending on how you look at it – I am either single or a “couple with no children” (37.2%)
I pay my own mortgage (32.2%)
I am an atheist. (18.7%)

On average I represent 40% of the population, however none of the major political parties represented my interests at the last federal election.

I am also

self employed
have no employees
have no superannuation

Beliefs and quirks

My personal beliefs put me into the small ‘l’ liberal, “very liberal” and generally “lefty” category.

I believe that power corrupts the majority of individuals.

I am very angry that Labour did not fully disclose its preferences at the last federal election, resulting in a minority party whose only agenda was to represent Christian families (ie: not me), gaining a seat in the Senate.

I have always voted “below the line”.

I am concerned that the last federal election was won on a sole platform of appealing to the hip pocket of heterosexual, non-indigenous, nuclear families. I believe that this only serves to divide and conquer and takes the focus away from wider issues such as the environment, defence commitments and spending, community amenities (public schools and hospitals, the requirements of a rapidly aging population) and our responsibilities as a global citizen. As a consequence these community and global issues have worsened since the last federal election.

I do not trust the media to be remain unbiased.

I do not claim my own commentary is neutral but at least this statement makes my bias clear.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

game on!

As Peter Costello let out of the bag on Grand Final Day - the election has been called for the last Saturday in November.

With the latest polls even worse than when he began procrastinating about setting an election date - I'm guessing Howard may be secretly wishing he retired gracefully 18 months ago...or maybe it's not too late for a heart attack scare so he doesn't go down at the polls.

update: Within an hour the first party invite arrived complete with a morphed Howard/Rudd pic - which said it all. It's going to be Don's Party all over again!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

laneway art

I'm often dashing through Degraves Street in search of lunch or to nip underground to check out Sticky. It wasn't til I actually did my walk in reverse on a weekend stroll that I saw the world from a different angle and found Heather Swann's art work. From a distance I thought if was a heap of black plastic shoes shoved into a hole in the wall.

Closer I find this creature.

Try walking a different route today and see what you find.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

tune in, switch off but don't drop out

Why I’m switching ON today

While some other bloggers are making a point to “switch off” for 24 hours, once more I will be swimming against the tide. I am not a rampant advocate of the unnecessary use of resources. In everyday life I endeavour to walk, cycle or catch the tram wherever I can. My arguments with the NB about use of the heating and cooling are legendary. I do love the planet - but for me, today it’s going to be business as usual.

This decision was made even before I saw that Peter Garrett has put his hand up for the big switch off. His signing up has just been an added turn off of another kind. What credibility has that guy got left after he backed Gunns all the way to the poll this week? While the organisers of today’s event have no obvious link to the government, actions such as this further validate the incumbent’s policy to suck the little folk with campaigns such as “I can do that”, while shifting the resources issue sideways with such misguided schemes as water desalination. Sure we have a water crises but employing this type of technology only adds to global warming through the massive power usage of such plants.

Until we start looking at the health of the planet holistically, until we make no differentiation between business and home use of resources (places like Crown Casino pay a pittance for their power compared to the valiant domestic user who thinks they are saving the planet by turning off the phone charger at the wall when not using it), until politicians stop trying to hoodwink us with ludicrous ‘solutions’ like nuclear or making us think that coal can ever be clean – switching off for the day will make no difference.

For the benefit of your psyche by all means declare today the perfect day to walk to the park for the picnic. Sit around this evening telling stories rather than watching TV, trawling the net or bashing the xbox. Sing a cappella. Spend time with your family. All these things can benefit the soul. But the planet needs extraordinary individuals to change governments, think laterally, support innovative science and be prepared to sacrifice more than the Sunday night movie.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

national walk to work day wasn't til I got to work that I realised my mistake.

Perhaps I'll start a new trend?

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Thursday, October 04, 2007


I think we've all been there!

Thanks Lisa

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Monday, October 01, 2007

do you past the test?

10 years ago I took the plunge. It was the greatest act of commitment I have ever made. After getting cold feet a couple of years earlier I finally filed the paperwork and submitted to the ceremony. I became an Australian citizen.

It was politics that drove me to it - perhaps in the end it will be politics that may lead me to renounce it. With a past life as a political science graduate I found not being able to vote more frustrating than the average resident. It was Jeff Kennett that pushed me over the edge. Every corpuscle in my body wanted that man dethroned.

The first time I sent off for the forms I could not bring myself to fill them in. I agonised that although I would not have to give up my New Zealand citizenship, I just couldn’t go the whole hog and become “Australian”. This nation to me seemed racist, often sexist and many negative ‘ists’ in between. In the intervening years the desire to have a voice, to take responsibility for the mess of my adopted homeland, won out.

No longer would I be able to say, “I’m a kiwi, I’m not responsible for the abhorrent treatment of the native peoples of this country”, that certificate doomed to be filed and lost meant otherwise. Sure, I could be eligible for grants and funding if I wanted to hit academia again, I’d be able to vote that bastard Kennett out (sadly it took til second time around there and lets hope Howard will be third time lucky) and I could now – what did they tell me at the citizenship interview? – be called up to defend my new country (or suffer the consequences of refusing to do so).

But a decade down the track, if I was to apply for citizenship as of today I don’t know whether I’d pass the first hurdle, the freshly minted citizenship test. The test is based on this booklet. Would I be able to get the minimum 12/20 questions on Australian culture and history correct? I know nothing about sport and as for dates, facts and figures – even with 2 degrees under my belt in my native speaking English tongue – I haven’t got a clue when Federation was or what the population of Australia is.

But more than that, I don’t know if I agree with the conclusions made in the booklet about life in this wondrous land. Under Australian Values – the first 4 proclaim:

• respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
• freedom of speech
• freedom of religion and secular government
• freedom of association

I ask myself is this really true? Look back over the past year. The sedition laws. The anti-terrorist and other ‘security’ legislation. I don’t know how free our speech is any more (and here I am not comparing it to some other regime, rather the Australia of the late 20th century), how much the government and it’s agencies actually respect the individual.

Sure Haneef wasn’t a citizen but we too could be detained under the same conditions, if the Federal Police got the wrong end of the stick.

And when it comes down to it – just how secular is our government when the 2 major parties feel the need to court favour with extreme Christian groups?

And if there exists another of the values, equality between men and women – why are women still lagging behind in equal pay, representation at corporate board level and as CEO’s? While men only lag behind in the hours of housework they perform.

The test can include any information found in the booklet such as the national holidays, gemstone, colours, flower and coat of arms. They are undisputed facts, though there are an awful lot to memorise. For example you may also be asked the length of the Gallipoli campaign, the amount of casualties and the soldier who epitomized the Gallipoli spirit.

Then there is sport – 2 pages of it. The Bradman legend, Pharlap, Lindrum and all the footy codes. You may be asked to name Australia’s Nobel laureate, the christian name of Henry Lawson's mother or give details of the Heidelbery School. The final pages cover the complexity of the many teirs of government, right down to who is responsible for immunising your children.

So how do you think you'd go?

Below is the sample Citizen Test. No cheating – how did you score?

1. In what year did Federation take place?
2. What date is Australia Day?
3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
4. What is the first line of Australia’s national anthem?
5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?
6. What is the population of Australia?
7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?
8. Who is the Queen’s representative in Australia?
9. How are Members of parliament chosen?
10. Who do members of parliament represent?
11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?
12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?
13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?
14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?
15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?
16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian
citizenship: true or false?
17. In Australia, everyone is free to practice the religion of their
choice, or practice no religion: true or false?
18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be
an Australian citizen: true or false?
19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby
born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?
20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol
on the electoral register: true or false?

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