Nov 2, 2015

Halloween keen

As I've mentioned before, I love Halloween.

My formative trick or treating experiences in Los Angeles as a child were fantastic, and the whole thing was just so much fun. So I have been gung ho ever since it looked as if Halloween might take off here.

It hasn't. It probably won't. Too many people don't like it. It's a bit of a shame, as it's such easy, harmless fun.

From a good strong start three years ago, Halloween has sputtered out a bit in our suburb; last night I got three trick or treaters and one of those groups was a kid from two streets away who knows I do Halloween and probably headed straight here when she left her house.

As always, I massively over-catered with a deep casserole ("cauldron") and a fruit bowl full of lollies from which our kids and their friends ended up doing massively well.

The kids and I had decorated the house and attached balloons and skulls to the fence and lamppost to attract the roaming hoardes... to little avail. 

At one point I saw some kids hesitate at the end of our street, and I almost opened the door and called out to them. Then I remembered that would be weird.

However, always hopeful, I manned our front door and dipped only occasionally (i.e., quite often) into my overflowing cauldron to munch on jelly eyeballs and Milky Ways.

My kids were originally meant to meet at a friend's place for trick or treating but the parents had to cancel, so everyone met at our place instead.  While I tried not to eat all the good lollies the other three mums walked the streets with our gang of zombies, witches, skeletons, gypsies, grim reaper/Scream ghost and Batgirl.

The kids had a great time roaming the streets and knocking on doors. Most of those doors didn't open, but those that did were (as always) friendly and most had candy or treats.

Once plastic buckets were full, they all came back to our house. After a big bowl of potato wedges and cold drinks the kids played outside and we mums all sat down with a glass of wine. It was a fantastic evening and if I end up hosting a Halloween party at my place every year, I will be very satisfied.

Or... maybe I will set up a light show, some dry ice and a Vincent Price soundtrack to attract more trick or treaters?

What - too much?

Aug 12, 2015

Best Twitter Accounts (at the moment)

I know not everyone likes Twitter, and lately I don't much like it either. It's all a bit exhausting. But there is still plenty of gold in Twitter. These are the accounts that are currently making me smile.

We Want Plates (@WeWantPlates)

Showcasing the worst of the restaurant craze for serving food and drink in silly things.
The photos make me LOL.

ManWhoHasItAll (@manwhohasitall)

So, so good. When you've spent a few years wrangling parenting and work AND dealing with the endless scream-worthy, useless, unfair and impossible "advice" in women's lifestyle articles, welcome to your soulmate, ManWhoHasItAll.  Turning all the stupid "work-life balance" advice for women around as if it were written for men:

I could keep going. I have retweeted so many of these I've virtually stolen the account.

Spineless Wonders (@SpinelessWonder)

I love short stories, in particular of the speculative fiction type. And I love flash fiction - when it's good (which it often is not). All last month under the hashtag #MicroLitMonth, this account put up some really great short short fiction.

Like this one

The Conversation (@ConversationEDU)

Source of excellent articles which look at issues and ideas slightly differently, with the benefit of academic insight. The articles are a good length, striking just the right balance between Buzzfeed and Longform, and they publish them all under a Creative Commons license. Nice work, The Conversation.

God (@TheTweetOfGod)

The God we really need.

Daily Dose of Puppies (@TheDailyPuppy)

Cynical exploitation of internet-cute? Sure. But ADORABLE.

And my favourite tweet today:

Aug 7, 2015

Fixing MP Entitlements

The politicians are saying the problem is the rules are too opaque, and they need to be made clearer. I guess they need rules where they are not tempted to push the definitions of what is allowed to the absolute limit of shameless logic-twisting, intention-denying interpretation, just because everyone else in the parliament is doing it too.

In fact all this really needs is leadership: one decent PM who will say, at the beginning of his or her term in office, "Look, let's stop all this nonsense and all agree to just claim the bare minimum, and let me set up someone whose task it will be to check what you're claiming and disallow anything that would make a reasonable person go, 'Well, that's not reeeeally what the designers of this entitlement had in mind...' "

But since we don't have that, sure, I guess we need to tighten the rules and make them "more transparent".  So fine, it's not that hard.  In fact, the existing rules are actually pretty clear, except for spelling out what is an allowable business trip.

But ok, here are my new rules:

Travel and Accommodation:
  • Business Class air travel is fine
  • no charter flights or helicopters unless there is no commercial flight
  • no air miles can be accrued (the same rule some companies have for business travel)
  • you pay for any family traveling with you
  • taxis or hire cars for urban travel but not for travelling between home and your electorate office
  • no travel allowance for party fundraisers or social events
  • if you have a "work meeting" at the same place as a social event, you pay half the travel cost (and travel rules as above still apply)
  • you can't use your accommodation allowance to pay off your mortgage on a Canberra home. Yes you might have bought the home because you have to spend part of the year in Canberra for work, but the fact you are buying it gives you a personal financial advantage (property wealth) so you can't DOUBLE-DIP by claiming an allowance as well. 
  • To achieve the above, change the flat dollar allowance MPs get for accommodation and food while in Canberra to two separate items, being a flat amount for food and a claim for accommodation, which is only paid for booked-and-paid accommodation 
Study Tours:
  • Stop that nonsense
  • Same as the rest of us
Retirement allowances:
  • existing redundancy arrangements for MPs who lose their seat are fine
  • no funded office or driver. Use a home office
  • Scrap the Gold Pass arrangements for free air travel within Australia for retired long-serving MPs - it's encouraging too many of them to stick around for too long. Let's make it 3 free Business Class trips a year for self and spouse, to attend the odd thingy. 


I also think it's a good idea as someone has suggested, to rename them from 'entitlements' to 'expenses' or 'claims'. If you are told something is an 'entitlement', you are apt to claim it. Just as many taxpayers routinely put in work expense claims for the couple of hundred dollars' stationery claims you are allowed to make without receipts - and can I just add, that I also think this is appalling. Don't do it, people.

There has been unhappiness about MP entitlements before, but this time it's the current government's own harsh budget and rhetoric ("The age of entitlement is over!" - oh, I love it) combined with Hockey's out-of-touch announcements ("poor people don't drive far", "people should get a good job paying good money") combined with the usual dubious expense claims by all of them, that is bringing this to a head.

To finish off: this is the funniest Bronwyn Bishop helicopter meme in my opinion:

Aug 1, 2015

I Stand With Adam

I'm not a joiner, usually. I wholeheartedly support marriage equality, but I didn't rainbow my Facebook profile. There were enough of those that mine wasn't needed - and that's usually the way I feel about protests and public acts of support once they get a big enough following.

But I actually feel quite strongly about this one, and I do agree with Fairfax that this is an important turning point for our country. These days where anything public is drawn out and carried on to exhausting length thanks to social media, there is also the need to manage and direct the momentum to make sure it is carried in the right direction.

So I stand with Adam.

The attacks on Goodes in recent times have reached such a level that they are reflecting poorly on our entire nation. We all have a duty to help end this travesty – and prevent repeats – by having the courage and decency to call out such behaviour as a racist disgrace. It certainly has no place in a nation that would pride itself on being diverse, multicultural and, above all, fair. 

We know now, these days, the damage to a person's psyche and future that bullying causes. We know the damage it is causing Adam Goodes. No reasonable person, surely, can still argue that constant, sustained booing doesn't do any harm. We might have thought that once. We might have believed that sportspeople have to accept this and that they tune it out. We know differently now.

I know that many of the people booing Adam Goodes aren't racist. And I know that not everyone likes Adam Goodes, and public figures can be annoying in all sorts of ways. But the level of ugliness and vitriol flying Adam Goodes' way daily is beyond anything that white players ever get, and is beyond anything reasonable.

Adam Goodes is a bloody legend.  He's a great footballer obviously, having won TWO Brownlow medals and kicked 454 goals; he is loyal to his club, and he's racked up an impressive amount of community work especially for young indigenous sports. He's been a big name in football and in his community for more than 20 years.

So why the hatred?

What's he done wrong?

Staging for free kicks? I'm not a footy person so can't speak to this, but others have - like here (the Herald Sun!), and here and here.

Aboriginal war dances? If so, so what? Celebrating your own culture is not the same as attacking others.

Refusing to celebrate Australia Day? It's time Australians realised that the majority of indigenous Australians feel this way, and this is not news, nor is it surprising.

Using his Australian of the Year award to call for action on racism? An absolutely appropriate use of the platform I'd say.

'Bullying' a 13-year old? Hardly. Firstly, the 13-year-old had to learn that she couldn't racially vilify. She did learn that, justifiably. The humiliation and horror she felt after this incident must have been awful, but she also had plenty of love and support around her, and the public aspect was over fairly quickly. The media didn't drag it on, and Adam Goodes himself, once he knew the girl's age and accepted that she didn't know she was being racist, was reasonable. He didn't let it go - why should he? But he was not cruel, and he talked to her to help her understand.

When she called to apologise the next day, he got the word out:

From the beginning, he emphasised the impact of her slur on him (it was 'devastating' and he was 'gutted').  Which was necessary for Australia to hear.

Check out his words after the event:

Goodes said the fan's offensive remarks had shocked him."I was just like, really? Wow could that happen?""I don't know if it's the lowest point in my career, but personally I've never been more hurt."It felt like I was in high school again being bullied. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt by someone calling me a name. Not just by what was said, by who it came from."

I can't know what racism feels like. I have an idea, but I can never feel the kick in the guts that Adam Goodes feels, when despite being successful, loved and respected in the community, a single racist epithet - and from a child, meaning she has learned it from the community around her - can bring it all down.

Australians overall are fair and inclusive. Most Australians now have grown up in a multicultural environment and are not overtly racist. In my years travelling I loved seeing Australians overseas interacting with people.  Australians treat everyone the same in a relaxed natural way that stood out for me observing it.

But there is an unmissable ugliness to the vitriol being pumped Adam Goodes' way, and in the anger with which people are defending their treatment of him. I understand people who don't like him and who are not racist, being angry at being made to feel racist. But you have to examine the underlying feelings and beliefs behind your reactions, especially when they are disproportionate.  Waleed Aly is right when he says that Australia likes its minorities happy, grateful and quiet - when this is the case we adore them. When they are not, we find it too confronting, and we kick back, hard.

An American caller to ABC 774 yesterday also was not in doubt. A resident here of 20 years, he found the booing racist without a doubt. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but he said, "Australia is a wonderful society, and there is not the overt racism we have in the US, but there's something about this, what's going on now... This thing is putting me off."

#IStandWithAdam. Australia should learn from this and grow, but with no further negative impact to Adam Goodes.

Adam Goodes - Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Jul 11, 2015

How to make your 1980's hair 2015 bendy

Not to brag or anything, but in the 1980s I had perfect hair.

My hair is brown and wavy/curly and thick, and it just wants to grow OUT rather than down, so in its natural state it is like a messy, bouffy oval that reaches its widest point a few centimetres out from each ear, and sits just below shoulder-length.

As a child in the 70s, I wished I could replace my Shirley Temple curls with long straight hair and a fringe, but in the 80s my hair was excellent. I cut it short a couple of times, but mostly I wore it thick and shoulder-length, brushed to make it as soft and fuzzy as possible (like the novels I remember from that time that described the heroine's hair as like a 'soft cloud around her head' - that was a good thing. No anxiety over frizzy hair back then).

The hair goal of all teenage girls back then was this:

Rachel Hunter, 1985

The epitome of female beauty to me was Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. Who I loved because she had hair just like mine. (And also my sunburned red nose, but that's where the similarity ended).

Alas, by the late nineties the tide had turned against thick curly hair. Even Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford started straightening their hair.

My hair has always been difficult to straighten. Even when a hairdresser straightens it, it will start to kink by the time I get home, and by the next morning it's back to its messy, wavy self.

I came late to hair-straightening and never fully committed. Unless I wanted to stand in front of the bathroom mirror for an hour and a half with aching forearms, my hair sizzling and steaming under the irons in small sections at a time, and repeat this process every single morning, I was never going to achieve straight hair. I came to a compromise of running the straightening iron through sections around the front and the top and leaving the rest as is, which worked well enough.

But once I had kids and discovered the preciousness and rarity of free time, I lost all interest in spending even twenty minutes of it straightening my hair. It was the mid-2000s and my hair was definitely not correct.

That was a difficult decade for me, obviously.

Now, in my mid-forties in the mid-2010s, I am back to (mostly) loving my hair.  The aspirational hair texture these days is "bendy".  Bendy hair is shoulder-length or longer, often brown, and is supposed to look like soft, natural kink as if your hair does this naturally (but of course it doesn't)

You are supposed to secretly spend lots of time and dollars on conditioner and bendy rollers and curling irons to create this look, but here is how you can achieve it with next to no effort if you have my hair:

How to get 2015 bendy hair when your hair is from 1985:

  1. Get regular haircuts (8 weeks max) so your hairdresser will at least somewhat remember what s/he did last time. This is important for curly-haired people as our hair quickly obliterates haircut shapes.
  2. Colour your hair regularly to cover grey, obvs, but with the pleasant side effect that your wiry frizzy hair is rendered softer and glossier.
  3. Wash your hair every two to three days. 
  4. If you want massive, curly sticky-up hair, by all means wash it the night before work. But for better results, wash it in the morning and follow the rest of the steps below.
    Step 6
  5. Shampoo and condition in the shower as normal. 
  6. Blow-dry your hair until almost dry. It should look like you're a member of an 80s stadium rock band at this point.
  7. Brush your hair out to remove tangles and curls.
  8. Tie your hair behind your head into a pony-tail-bun thingy. A pony-tail-bun thingy is when you pull your hair through the first and second loop of a hair elastic as if you are going to do a pony tail, but then don't pull the hair all the way through on the last loop so that it looks a bit like a bun.
  9. Spray your hair with just a bit of hairspray (not too much or you'll have to wash your hair every day).
  10. Leave house for work or wherever.
  11. As you walk into work/reach your destination, reach back and pull out the hair tie, and casually run your hands through your smooth, bendy hair.
  12. The next day, brush your hair when you get up and repeat steps 8-12.
  13. Enjoy your ongoing success!

Selfie. I somewhat resemble Rose Byrne

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