May 31, 2013

Photos From the Olden Days

My mum recently gave my sister and me each a big envelope full of our old school photos and school reports. It's funny looking at photos of your child self that you haven't seen in years. Memories come flooding back; sometimes things (or you) look different to how you remember them; sometimes even the photo is different to how you remember it.

This is me in Grade 5 or 6 when we lived in LA. I loved this lavender t-shirt. I was never a cool kid, and my clothes were pretty non-cool with the occasional exception, and this shirt was one of them. It was the perfect shape, colour and fit, and was so in. Likewise my Ocean Pacific-inspired shirt with the flowers and sunset, which unfortunately does not survive in photos.

The pendant around my neck is from Mexico, and I still wear it.

This is my class photo from Grade 1, 1976.
I am in the second row from the top, and I have very curly hair.

Here I am in Grade 5 in the US. No school uniforms over there!
I'm in the top right corner, behind the teacher.

High school, in Auckland New Zealand, 1985. As if you can't tell.
I'm at the bottom, third from the right. I remember I was quite proud of how my hair looked at that period in my life. Oddly enough.

My kids found these photos a lot of fun. I asked if they could pick me in each one, and to my surprise, they picked me right nearly every time.

I guess I haven't changed as much as I would have liked. :-)

May 26, 2013

The End of the Ford Falcon

Big companies have responsibilities to their communities, especially when they have provided jobs for thousands and custom for other businesses for so long that families and towns identify with them.

Ford is meeting those responsibilities, from what we know so far.

Ford Australia has been operating in Geelong since 1926. Ford cars have been a huge part of the Australian landscape since then.

by Hugo90 via Flickr

by racin jason via Flickr

by Highway Patrol Images via Flickr

Every big corporation makes bad decisions. Every US head office of every multinational has misjudged  their overseas markets and kept business going when they shouldn't have or pulled the plug at the wrong time or failed to take the local conditions and culture into account. That's global capitalism, and it's part of the pay-off we accept in return for jobs, markets, economies of scale, choice and convenience.

Ford has given its workers three years' notice and will I am sure provide good redundancies and assistance with training or job search.

Not that that doesn't mean that the next few years won't be awful for Ford workers. They will.

But the news of Ford's closure here has been greeted by most with a sort of sad inevitability. Even its workers were "shocked but not surprised".

Most people understand that manufacturing is increasingly difficult here. Few of those who commented agreed with this angry rant in The Age, for example. We all see what has happened over the years to manufacturing - and to cars. The days of the big corporate fleets and the big family sedan are over. Most people accept Ford's statement that manufacturing their cars in Australia is no longer affordable.

So what of the government's propping up of the car industry here with stimulus and assistance packages?

Well, there were reasons for those.

Firstly, while it's logically a waste of money to prop up losing industries, in practice it's not that simple. Whole industries can't just be cut off and left to fail without causing massive upheaval economically and socially. It's not just politically unsound to let that happen, it is wrong.  So all reasonable governments end up spending too much on losing deals propping up failing industries, and are no doubt as irked at having to do so as the public are at having to bear the cost. (Though of course, the actual cost to any non-involved individual is close to nil, while the benefits of not having a huge industry suddenly fail are real).

Secondly, post-GFC, all governments in a position to do so threw money at stimulus programs to keep the economy moving, and that included much dubious spending, because the spending was more important than the product, at that time. No one was especially happy at propping up car manufacturers during this period, especially in the US where the government had already suffered the political fallout from propping up banks, and where the car company reps flew to Washington for their bailouts in their private jets.

But that's how it all works.  Otherwise we'd be Greece.

Until 2011, I too worked for a US multinational, and I was made redundant after long months of uncertainty, stress and misery. The packages were good (not as generous as they had been in the past, but times had definitely changed), and the company provided a career counselling service which gave employees resume help and access to office space for a month.

I was not in the same industry as the workers facing redundancy at Ford. I was lucky to get another job in the same industry working with people and a company I knew well. So I don't pretend to be in the same boat. But say what you will about multinationals (and most of what you say is justified) - at least they are big enough to provide entitlements and protection to workers. Unlike small businesses, which tend to leave workers stranded when they go under.

I have quite fond childhood memories of being driven around in Ford sedans. My dad and grandfather loved Ford cars, and in the seventies my parents drove a Cortina, a Falcon, a Fairlane, and memorably in America, a huge Lincoln Continental.

The family sedan was good for Sunday drives to the Dandenongs and for family holidays. We drove to the Central Coast in New South Wales or the Gold Coast in Queensland, epic two or three-day family journeys involving car sickness, counting games, roadhouse stops, seat belts chafing against childhood necks, sweaty backs sticking to vinyl seats, and my sister and me sleeping with pillows propped against the armrest while we sped through the night.

My dream car when I was a kid was the red and white Ford Gran Torino in Starsky and Hutch.

But those days are long gone. No one wants a sedan any more, and no one can afford to make them in this country.

by aidenjewell via Flickr

May 23, 2013

The Charm of Coincidence

My dad just moved house and cleared out his stuff, and I was very happy to be given this relic from my childhood, now yellowed and cracked like ancient parchment.  When I was a kid my dad went on business trips to America and on one of them he brought back this:

You can read the list of Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences, and an explanation of the "mystery", at Snopes.

Before the internet could debunk this with a simple search, I was utterly captivated by this list of coincidences. It seemed so strange (though even I could see some of the comparisons were a bit of a stretch). I didn't for a minute believe there was any kind of "fate" or weird time travel conspiracy linking Lincoln and Kennedy. I just thought it was one of life's weird, puzzling little mysteries.

Like most humans I'm fascinated by questions of chance, risk, cause and coincidence. We find it so hard to believe things are random, pure luck or unconnected. Most scientists believe this is an evolutionary 'side effect' of our beneficial ability to 'join the dots', connect and analyse.

Some examples of things we find hard to accept are random (or at least not determined by the things we think they are), are:

  • apparent psychic ability - telepathy, predicting the future
  • the feeling of being stared at - the belief we can will someone to look at us by staring at them
  • poker machine spins 
  • human evolution
  • lotteries
  • surviving a disaster 
  • meeting your partner

Some things truly are random coincidences, and some are not really coincidences at all, but just seem so because we assign meaning to the outcome.

As Richard Feynman apparently said at a lecture to demonstrate the fallacy of this type of automatic human thinking:
“You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!”

I think we can all read that and immediately think of instances where we have mistaken randomness for coincidence, or coincidence for meaning.

Here is another little snippet on coincidences, from the Seinfeld episode 'The Statue'. You may remember, Jerry hired a cleaner, Ray, who he suspected of stealing a figurine from his home, when he saw the same figurine in Ray's apartment.  In this scene Elaine and Ray's girlfriend Rava are arguing about it.

ELAINE: Well, I mean, he was in the apartment, and then it's gone and it's in your apartment.
RAVA: Maybe you think we're in cahoots.
ELAINE: No, no... but it is quite a coincidence.
RAVA: Yes, that's all, a coincidence!
ELAINE: A BIG coincidence.
RAVA: Not a big coincidence. A coincidence!
ELAINE: No, that's a big coincidence.
RAVA: That's what a coincidence is! There are no small coincidences and big coincidences! There are just coincidences!

Yes, there are. And they will always fascinate us.

How about you? Succumbed to any good logical fallacies lately?

May 21, 2013


Two things caught my eye in blog posts this week:

This post on Freakonomics about a study on the effects on a marriage and a woman's work inside and outside the house when the wife can earn more than the husband (short answer: bad);

and this post on Blue Milk about a confessional essay by a feminist man examining his own hypocrisy. In referencing this essay Blue Milk posted:

"[O]ur personal relationships are usually where our most brutal hypocrisies present themselves. I wish we talked more about that part of our lives."

I am glad to hear that this is not just me.

So okay, I'll start:

  • I resent the fact that I do more at home than my husband does, but I also sometimes do a bit more to help him feel more masculine and me feel more "wifely"
  • It is very important to me that I, the children's mother, be their primary carer - even though it makes more sense economically for their father to do it
  • I am sometimes resentful - against all fairness, logic or even what I actually want - that I didn't marry someone with a career which would allow me to be a stay-at-home mother
  • when I read blog posts by feminists I admire I often wonder about their partners, how they make their partnerships work and how many of these feelings and compromises they deal with and what if any non-feminist measures they take to "improve" their relationships

I am sure most of us have these feelings. And I am sure the important thing is how you act on them and how you talk yourself down, not the fact that you have them.

What about you?

May 19, 2013

The Evolution of Spam Comments

So, spam comments on blogs have changed over the past couple of years.

At first they were purely complimentary, like this:

Hey, great blog man! I really like your style, and your unique way of writing! Check out my website as well, and let me know what you think!
Howdy! I could have sworn I've been to this site before, but after checking out a few articles I realise it's new to me. Anyway I have bookmarked it and will be coming back often. Feel free to visit my site:! 
Wow, thanks for your marvellous posting, you really are a talented author! I have added your site to my RSS feed and will keep reading with interest. I want to encourage that you continue your great work, have a nice weekend! Check out my site,

Sometimes these were so nice I was really tempted to publish them.

Others don't do it quite as well:

What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience on the topic of unexpected emotions. Here is my weblog:

Then gradually I noticed a touch of criticism creeping in - probably to make them seem more like real people?

Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. However think about if you added some great graphics or videos to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this blog could certainly be one of the greatest in its field. Fantastic blog! My site -

I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout of your website? It's very well written; I love what you've got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people can connect with you better. You've got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures. Perhaps you could space it out better? My site -

You might be correct, but f*** off anyway, spam robot!

Or there's the fake "hey just letting you know" type:

Hello there, I believe your web site could be having browser compatibility problems. Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I. E., it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, fantastic website! My site:

Lately, they seem to have given up all pretense, and just slam you with volume (hundreds of comments a week) and WORDS. Each one is crammed with as many SEO-friendly words as possible. They don't even attempt to make sense.

Factors several benefits together with the service to the software. If the insurance company believes the repair will be too costly they would rather not pay to fix it. There is a Gamestop located at [address]. My advise is to take some time to research and study the process yourself, which would give you enough leverage to do the property deal on your own. Here is my site:

I know this post is going to get me inundated with more. But I couldn't resist.

Do you have a blog? How are you dealing with spam? 

by Ambro via

May 18, 2013

The Ribbon

Children love the most unexpected things. One day on a whim I popped into a haberdashery store and bought two metre lengths of wide ribbon, one for each of my kids.

"Here you go," I said, and gave them the ribbons which I unrolled with a flourish.

"What for?" they asked.

"Anything," I said. You can use them for playing, or you can decorate something, or you can cut them up and use them for a craft. Whatever you want."

They loved them. They initially used them as gymnasts' twirling ribbons, then various other things, and after awhile A cut hers into smaller strips and made flags with straws and sticky tape, and that was her ribbon all used up.

M still has hers, and she still plays with it a lot. It is a rope, a scarf, a swing, a tightrope, a bell rope, a hair ribbon, a belt, a weapon, a blindfold. Today she got me to wrap it in a bow around a rolled up piece of paper to make a scroll.

May 15, 2013

Cat bed? I already have beds

Our cat Tia spends a lot of her time lately wandering the house looking for a place to lie down away from the dog. She walks around and hisses at him as he follows her, then turns to me and mews pitifully, until we put the dog outside or she finds a spot out of his reach.

So although she never used her old cat bed and I finally threw it out, I thought maybe it was time to get her a new bed and put it somewhere cosy and private.

My mum gave me her old cat's bed, which is enclosed and comfy and just the right size.

I tucked it behind the clothes horse where she has taken to curling up sometimes.

Not interested.

I placed it on the treadmill where she had been sleeping the last two nights.

Not interested.

Maybe interested.


ONLY WHEN I WANT TO.  I found this in the morning:

The next day I moved it back near the clothes dryer which is where she likes to sleep.


The clothes basket provides a little more protection from Harry.

May 8, 2013

Everyday Beauty: Sunset

On the weekend before last there was a magnificent sunset over Melbourne.

We were at Rowville, which is a much maligned big new suburb out east. I secretly don't hate Rowville (there's the last of my credibility gone I guess), and it does have the benefits of open space and big sky - the perfect place to see this.

By the time we got home it was mostly over, leaving only a soft blue sky and a huge full moon.


May 6, 2013

Wow, Really, Body? Really?

So I took a tumble stepping off a simple curb yesterday, sprained my ankle and am on crutches.

Yes. Less than a year after breaking my arm (which took almost a year to heal), my brain and body decided they were bored and it was time to hurt myself again.

All my life, up to 43 years of age, I suffered nothing. Not an illness, not an injury. At least nothing serious.  There were two minor injuries: a broken tailbone when I was twelve, and a lightly sprained ankle when I was 22.  The tailbone broke when I fell backwards on roller skates onto my bum on a tiled floor (because I was too scared to roller skate on the concrete outside). That hurt like a bastard and left me with a tiny little shooting pain every time I sat down for about ten years. But I didn't even know what I had done until I happened to read about broken tailbones about 12 years later.

The sprained ankle happened when I was on a camping trip, and I did nothing about it, because we were camping and I was 22 and I was an idiot. It wasn't so bad that I couldn't walk, so I carried on, and was left with a weak left ankle as a result.   It has a tendency to give way occasionally while walking and has caused me a couple of falls and near falls over the years.

So yesterday after visiting my dad with the kids, I stepped off the curb onto the street and my ankle rolled and down I fell. It didn't hurt much but I got such a shock I promptly burst into tears. My kids each reacted differently. A cried "Mummy!" and ran to my side, hugging me and trying to help me stand up. M turned tail and ran to the car and jumped into the back seat, not wanting a bar of it.

I drove home and was planning to hobble inside and put my foot up with an ice pack, but once home found I couldn't stand on my foot at all, so we ended up calling my mum who drove us to the hospital.

Outside the hospital we waited on the curb while mum went to get me a wheelchair, and A whispered to me, "Mummy, I'm scared."

"It's OK," I said. "I'm OK, and this is a nice hospital. It's NOTHING like the scary hospital in Greece." I grinned and made a scared face and she laughed so hard and so fast that I knew that was exactly what she had been thinking of.

And here I thought the kids had buried those memories.

The hospital was great. We were lucky, there weren't many people in emergency and we got in fairly quickly and I was x-rayed and iced and bandaged and out within a couple of hours. I was however shocked to learn that a sprained ankle takes 3-6 weeks to heal and I would be on crutches for a week! I'd been thinking 1-2 days.

A lovely physiotherapist showed me how to use the crutches - which is much harder than it looks, when you can't put weight on the bad foot at all (as I couldn't at that stage).

We got home and I was pretty embarrassed (even though it's just my mum, and she's not judgmental), because the house was a tip. Y. had been busy with music and had also been sick the past week so hadn't done his share of the housework, and my plan that afternoon was to come home and blitz the house.

So there are dust bunnies all over the floors, baskets full of clothes and stuff piled on every surface, and the bathroom is grimy.

Looks like Y gets to make up for his housework break this week!

Anyway, elevation and ice-on, ice-off have helped a lot and today I can put some weight on my bad foot (yes, even MY weight!) and hobble around a bit easier, so things are looking up.

A funny thing though, you never know how stuff like this will hit kids.  They went through so much with my broken arm saga, this little accident has freaked them out a bit.

Last night they couldn't sleep. M came out multiple times before Y installed her on the couch next to me, and she hugged me so tightly and sobbed, and told me she was scared of the dark.

M has been sleeping in a completely dark room through her choice for months. She hasn't been scared of the dark since she was five.

A came out too and also needed some hugs, and both girls took awhile to settle back to bed. M hugged my neck and whispered to me, ashamed: "Mum, when you fell I just ran to the car because I was a bit freaked out."

"It's OK," I said, hugging her back just as tight. "It's OK."  I smoothed her hair and kissed the top of her needs-a-wash hair (that was the other thing we had planned to do tonight).

It's lovely and heart-breaking at the same time when your kids want to look after you, and still need looking after themselves.

May 3, 2013

Awesome Autumn

Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL mild autumn day in Melbourne today.  It was my favourite kind of weather: sunny but cool and breezy and crispy clear.

It was casual Friday and I had on a comfy good to go outfit: leggings, jersey skirt and top, flat shoes. In this weather you can have a good brisk walk without breaking a sweat, the air is blowy in a nice way and trees are beautiful.

And how did I not ever notice this magnificent tree on the intersection of Exhibition Street and Flinders Lane?

It's not for nothing that autumn is so many people's favourite season.

What's yours?



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