Dec 2, 2014

How things have changed

I tell you it's uncanny. A couple of months ago I was thinking about music over the years and about how songs have changed since the 80s. I mused on two things: one is how no one does the "fade out" anymore. Until quite recently all pop songs always ended in a fade out, to the point where it was just the standard way to end a song. That no longer is the case. The second thing was how singers used to do their own "special effects" such as repeats and echos - e.g, Rod Stewart in Young Turks towards the end going "ti-ti-time is on your side, side side side" (etc). It's pretty funny when you hear it in an old song now, but back then it was, again, just standard.

Then a few weeks ago I noticed Slate did a whole article on the demise of the fade-out in pop music, and BAM, I can't talk about this now.

Slate has a way of capturing what we used to call the zeitgeist: things you were thinking or almost thinking yourself which means probably everyone was thinking them. Right there now are articles about how the internet has made us constantly "obsessed" with things ("cultural manias"), how popular Taylor Swift is, and how we should not attempt to bring back extinct species (in case you missed it, some guy wants to bring back dinosaurs, as if Jurassic Park never happened).

Anyhoo, then in the last few days I've been playing with a post in my head about listing all the ways that life is different now compared to when I was a child... Well, I know that's not hugely original. But still, now I see Neil deGrasse Tyson has just done the same thing. What's more, the first thing in his list is about toothpaste tubes, which was one of mine.  So therefore, before I have to delete all my draft posts and come up with something new (of which I have nothing), I'm just going to NOT read any more of Neil's list and I'm going to go ahead with my list as it is.

Things that have changed since I was a child

H is for Home/Flickr CC

Toothpaste tubes were made of metal, and would develop very sharp points where you squeezed them, which could give you a nasty scratch. They were also messy, because they had screw-cap lids which also tended to roll lazily off the benchtop and onto the floor while you cleaned your teeth.

Telephones had three sounds that don't exist anymore. The lovely soft brrrrr made by the rotary dial, which I loved, the lovely soft brrrr-brrrr made by the telephone ringing at the other end while you waited for the other side to pick up, and the horrible, jangly, nerve-wrackingly loud ring at your end when someone called. From the time I was little until the fairly recent advent of soft-tone phones, I HATED the sound of the telephone ringing. Remember that tiny little sound it made right before it started ringing, almost as if it was taking a breath before screeching? Like nails on a blackboard.


Classroom work-sheets from mimeograph machines (mmm, that lovely purple smell...) *

Teachers thought schoolyard bullying was an inevitable part of childhood and didn't do much about it.

Corporal punishment in schools - remember that? We didn't have "the strap" from my parents' days, but boys got a slap with a wooden ruler on the back of the legs, and girls on their open palm. Or girls were told to "touch your toes" and then a slap was delivered to the bottom. Creepy.  I still remember a teacher on the first day of class showing us a wooden ruler with black marks on the back which she said were made by "boys' legs".

More things were made of wood. Rulers, strawberry crates, even some kids' pencil cases (thanks Mum for reminding me of that one). Strawberries were only available once a year.

Our parents and teachers sharpened our pencils with a knife.

We ate less. I'm pretty sure I passed most of my childhood in a state of mild hunger, being fed only with three square meals and two small snacks daily; my poor deprived childhood....

Takeout every Saturday. Fish and chips, occasionally hamburgers, Chinese dim sims with rice and soy sauce, or my favourite, Kentucky Fried Chicken (that's KFC to you, kids).  We rarely ate McDonald's, but when we did, I always had the box of fried chicken. No nuggets in those days.

In school I learned that brontosauruses were real, dinosaurs were covered in scales, and there was this ridiculous new theory that a meteor might have wiped them out. As if!  We also learned that the global temperature was cooling and we were headed for another ice age.

Expensive, special-treat colouring books made of white paper instead of the normal scratchy brown paper. Expensive, special-treat comic books made of white paper with the occasional coloured page in them, when Dad shelled out for the 75c one.

Two-colour printing. Common in children's books, flyers, and posters. This was still a thing, just, into the early nineties, when in my early twenties I worked briefly for a university printing and publishing office.  People would bring in their floppy discs, let us know if the work was formatted or not, and we would book in some desktop publishing followed by some thrifty two-colour printing.

Book pages that had visible wood shavings in them.

I remember when toast-slice bread became available. It was so decadent! A sensible friend eschewed toast-slice bread on the basis that you will always eat two slices of bread so with toast-slice bread you are eating too much bread - thus giving me a lesson in moderation which I remembered but alas, have rarely practiced.

No one I knew got up before 7.00 am. That left ample time for breakfast and the work commute.

If you were lucky enough to have a trampoline or a friend with a trampoline, then you were unlucky enough to pinch the skin of your palm in between the springs around the edge. OUCH!

There was hardly any air-conditioning. Summers were spent sweltering in unbearable heat and bathed in a constant film of sweat. Car rides were torture. School days spent in boiling hot portable class rooms, where the only air came from louvered windows right up near the ceiling that the teacher had to open with a two-metre pole.

We drank less water I suppose, because we didn't carry water bottles around. Or we drank hot water out of drinking taps. Make no mistake, I don't miss this. When I was a kid I used to wish you could buy water in a can (soft drinks were my only reference for purchased drinks).

Homemade clothes. My mother made many of our clothes, even doing a Knitwit course and making us t-shirts and sweatshirts.  So when I grew up I made myself skirts, dresses and once even a pair of cuffed trousers. Then suddenly, at some point in the 1990s, it became more expensive to make clothes than buy them.

What else has changed in your lifetime?

* As Andrew points out in the comments, I might be thinking of a roneo/spirit duplicator ( which I have for years thought of as a mimeograph ( - similar, but different.

Nov 20, 2014

Words for Wednesday: The Recession and the Future

It's been a while since I've done a Words for Wednesday, but this week's words inspired me, and also I can not often resist a rhyming challenge.

'Words for Wednesday' is a writing prompt held by Delores at Under the Porch Light.
Use some or all of the week's words, write a poem or a story or part of a story, and visit Delores' current week's prompt to let her know you've joined in.

This week there were two lists; I chose the rhyming one:







Here is my effort:

The Recession and the Future

The GFC caused wide stagnation
Unemployment, depreciation
The end of the US domination
Of economic occupation

Now things are getting better, slowly
So they say, though here in lowly
Mortal world it doesn’t seem so
Money’s tight and jobs are more so

We read the news with trepidation
Stories lend corroboration
To fears and predeterminations
Nothing seems in moderation

Is it a question of familiarisation?
What’s the secret of acclimatization
To economic deprivation
And social want and dislocation?

We hope for better, kinder days
A future mapped in better ways
We wait and wonder what will follow
When today becomes tomorrow.

Nov 17, 2014


When I was a kid my favorite ride at Disneyland was It's a Small World, but my favorite of the four lands was Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland entrance 1967
Tom Simpson/Flickr CC
Tom Simpson/Flickr CC

ATIS547/Flickr CC

Loren Javler/Flickr CC
Loren Javler/Flickr CC

Space Mountain was awesome - and the first proper roller coaster I liked.

The Monorail was kind of cool, though I never really understood the grown-ups' enthusiasm for it.

The People Mover was fun, because it took you past (or through) all the other good stuff.

But my favourite ride in Tomorrowland was the Adventure Thru Inner Space.

I loved every minute of it - from sitting enveloped in the blue, egg-shaped chairs, to entering the dark tunnel and being "miniaturised", even the huge creepy eye "looking" at us through the telescope. For a kid steeped in afternoon reruns of The Twilight Zone, and who loved science and daydreaming, it was perfect.

ATIS547/Flickr CC

I loved waiting in line and seeing the riders go into the telescope and then come out tiny at the other end:
Yes, on our first time there I asked my parents if those were the real people...

ATIS547/Flickr CC

Recently all this came back to me, suddenly, when I read an article about retrofuturism (you know the sort of thing: The Jetsons, houses under glass domes, meals in pill form, flying cars, etc). That shiny, happy, optimistic vision of the future reminded me of Tomorrowland.

My kids and I often talk about the future, as I started a kind of game with them about a year ago, where we imagine what cool things will exist in the future, and what their lives will be like. We talk about driver-less cars, working whatever hours you want, making meals at the touch of a button, flying to work with a jet-pack, things like that.  It's a lot of fun, and I do think kids should always be excited and optimistic about the future.  Kids these days can sometimes seem cynical and somewhat pessimistic, which may be a function of the times they're living through, or perhaps they always were. We do underestimate how canny kids are after all.

"The Future" by A 

I showed the kids the Corning video A Day Made of Glass on YouTube and they (and I) were in awe. We talked about how their houses in future would be like this, or at least partly like this, and I made no mention of the fact they'd probably have to be rich to have it, or that they might not ever be able to buy a house at all, or that even at best this vision of the future, like all others have ever been, is likely completely wrong.  We do also discuss whether some of these things - like flying cars - will ever really happen, or it they are too impractical, and to what degree we can or cannot imagine the future.

But mostly we just let our imaginations go and talk about what cool, awesome, labour saving inventions they will have when they are grown up.

Kids should see the future as a world of awesome and enriching possibility.

Nov 12, 2014

12 Resolutions: November (and October recap)

Hello again.

It's that time of year. Things are busy. But I haven't forgotten my November resolution (thanks Pandora for the nudge).

This year I'm playing along with #12Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to set yourself short-term, achievable goals, one each month. 

For October my goal was to get more sleep

Tick! I took that to heart. I've been trundling off to bed at a reasonable hour and feeling all the better for it, for the last few weeks. It has curtailed on online activity significantly, unfortunately. 
But there are only so many hours in the day and you can't do everything.

So anyway, on to November.

For November I'm taking a break from self-improvement and focusing on CLEANING, TIDYING and DE-CLUTTERING. The kids' ninth birthday is coming up and we're doing a party at home, and I need this home clutter free and crowd-friendly by mid-December.

So that will keep me busy.

I've already bagged up a lot of gear for donating and hard rubbish, and I have tidied our lounge-room which was a HUGE job. 

Our lounge room was very cluttered.

Put it this way: on Halloween night when the kids went trick or treating, I was able to just bend down and pick up their plastic pumpkin buckets from under my desk, where they had been dumped after last Halloween.

No longer - our lounge room is now spacious and clutter free. (Clutter free for us, that is. It'll never be minimalist).

So what's on your to-do list these days?


January: walk 5 times a week (achieved - I now walk daily)
February: write 2 short stories (failed - wrote none)
March: write 1 short story, and start Project Management course (done)
April: visit GP and complete or schedule the follow-ups (done)

May: complete one module of Project Management course (failed)
June: working day money savers: public transport and packed lunch (done)

July: pay attention to needs, moods and emotions to manage reactions (done, and ongoing)
August: limit time-wasting activities on my phone (done - and still going pretty well)
September: 15 mins floor exercises daily (nope)
October: get more sleep (yes)
November: de-clutter, tidy and clean house for December entertaining

Oct 15, 2014

12 Resolutions: October (and September recap)

This year I'm playing along with #12Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to set yourself short-term, achievable goals, one each month. 

For September my goal was to do floor exercises for 15 minutes a day. 


Not much to recap.

I forgot my resolution! Literally forgot it. I completely forgot I had any resolution going on at all, so needless to say, floor exercises did not happen. We had a lot going on in September - it was a busy and tumultuous month.  No doubt exercises would have been very helpful, if I had remembered I was supposed to be doing them.

'No I can't remember!' by Neil Moralee, Flickr

Anyway, we shall move on.  

For the rest of October (we're already halfway through!) I am making a simple resolution, to get more sleep.  We're approaching the end of the year and things are getting busier. The past couple of months I've found it quite hard to keep up with things and keep my equilibrium, and sleep can only help.

What's on your to-do list this month?

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