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
Superannuation:
  • 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. 

NOT HARD.


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. 
Source: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/booing-adam-goodes-australians-must-unite-against-racism-20150731-giosk2.html#ixzz3hX6fcc00

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."
Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/adam-goodes-gutted-after-13-year-old-girls-racial-slur-who-called-the-sydney-champion-today-to-apologise/story-fni5fan7-1226650256245 

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


Jul 4, 2015

When men piss me off with their art

This is a ranty post. It's also not entirely serious, but it is a little bit serious, because the things I mention really did/do annoy me, though probably not all to the degree I'm presenting them here. I'm exaggerating a little to make my point.  It's just for fun :)

When men piss me off with their art


You won't get any argument from me that most great artists are men. You will get an argument from me if you try and say that's because men are better than women at art, but that's another story.

(The pram in the hall - I'm just saying).

Anyway, as there is so much great art, high and low, produced by so many talented men, I have been a big fan of a number of talented men all my life. And when you're a huge fan of someone with huge talent, it is easy to assume that that person is also a wonderful human being who you would personally like and admire in the flesh, and that they generally see the world the same way you do, because after all, don't you both agree on what makes awesome art??

So it is a shock when these artists disappoint you. You might find out they might not be nice people (Terence Howard - you disappointed me greatly, sir). Or, as is equally jarring, an artist you love suddenly produces something that pisses you off!



Gordon Lightfoot


I LOVE Gordon Lightfoot. If there is a better slow sultry country song than Sundown then I haven't heard it. I love Early Morning Rain, If You Could Read My Mind, Carefree Highway....

Carefree Highway. I do love it, but it also never fails to piss me off a little. Take a listen:

Carefree highway, got to see you my old friend
Carefree highway, you've seen better days
Got the morning after blues, from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you


What's it about? A guy who is down on his luck, lost (possibly because his girlfriend left him, or perhaps that was some time ago), not knowing what to do. And what does he do? Takes off. Hits the highway, as he's done before. Sure, run away from your problems! It's not like anyone else ever has the same impulse, is it? Nice to be able to just throw everything away, pack your bag and take off when things get hard!

In my even less charitable moments, I think, what a GUY thing to do!  A bit like:



Bruce Springsteen


Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never came back...






Paul Theroux


For years, Paul Theroux was my favourite writer. I read most of his books in my teens and early twenties, and I didn't mind that he was arrogant and grumpy. At least not until The Happy Isles of Oceania, when he was finally too grumpy even for me. Plus I was a bit offended when he referred to a bloody sanitary pad on a beach as "that disgusting thing" - I mean sure, it was disgusting that it was there on a beach, I get it - but there was something about the way he phrased it that was a bit... anti-women? It seemed?

It may well be wrong or unfair, but sometimes it feels like you read something that shows a true glimpse of the writer's feelings or character.

Here's the main thing I remember, from all my hours and hours of reading Paul Theroux. Hours and hours, and books and books, and this is what has stuck with me:

This is from My Other Life, which was a weird experiment that annoyed me a bit in itself, even while it was a great read. There is a chapter where Paul Theroux (or possibly a fictional character! He won't say which!) has invited people for dinner and is forced to cook and organise everything himself because his wife, tired from her day at work and under some kind of unnamed stress, is angry with him and refuses to help with any of it, saying repeatedly "It's your dinner."

The thing is, even young as I was when I read this, and even being a massive Paul Theroux fan, I totally got his wife's point of view in this, without any more context from Paul Theroux. In this one incident, in which he imagines he portrays himself as the injured party, he instead unwittingly outs himself as a probable bastard who routinely expected a lot from his wife with little reciprocation or notice. She was busy from work, tired and stressed out, and was angry at him for a lifetime of precisely this kind of shit. A lifetime of watching him swan off to travel and write memoirs which included boastful hints of affairs or at least flirtations, and her at home to raise the kids plus keep her own career going, and then also have to entertain his last-minute mid-week dinner guests when he was back home?

Fuck off Paul, it's your dinner!

AND WHAT'S MORE: After enduring the unreasonable and unfathomable reaction from his wife, Paul Theroux (or, okay, the fictional character), happily and competently makes the dinner. He prepares a pot of curry on the stove - taking care to describe the deft and relaxed way in which he prepares it, as counterpoint to his wife's unreasonable stress - then ducks out to the shops to buy whiskey for his guests while it cooks, because his wife wouldn't go and get it.  As he walks, he passes the local pub and "wished that I could be sitting there irresponsibly reading the evening paper over a pint of draft Guinness."

Oh. My. God. I do believe this is the part that actually irritated me the most. This whole section is meant to convey how relaxed and competent he is in the kitchen and at life, but in that one sentence he conveys his sudden pique at having to do all this himself when he really, obviously, didn't think he should have to.  What an asshole.


Cat Stevens


As a teenager I discovered my parents' Cat Stevens albums, and fell for them hard. I LOVED Cat Stevens. I taped Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman and listened to them for years. I loved the beautiful melody in the song Wild World but it also has always pissed me off.  As a kid I had been confused by the way men seemed to sing romantic songs to girl-children ("little girl"). It took me ages to understand that the "little girls" in songs were actually grown-up girlfriends. As I got older it just started to really annoy me. I didn't know the word "infantilising" but I knew that's what it was. It was always either really patronising or really creepy and sometimes, as in Wild World, it managed to be both.

In Wild World, the singer's character is upset that his girlfriend is leaving him, and he is begging her to reconsider. We all have contradictory feelings in anger and the song is well written: the character veers between grief, despair, concern for his girlfriend and flashes of anger ("I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear"). But it is super patronising, and gives the girlfriend no credit for having any intelligence at all. It refuses to believe she has any good reason for leaving him. I mean I know it's just a "story", in character, and it's about feelings, but it just always really irked me. It is absolute proof that the girlfriend was making the right decision. You run far, girl, and don't look back!


You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do
And it's breakin' my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you sad, girl
Don't be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware


Yeah.... see ya!



And finally...


Jim Carrey


While I was looking for an image I could use for this post using search terms "angry woman" I came across this Jim Carrey quote/meme, and it pissed me off!


StatusMind












Jun 27, 2015

Colour

Of all the wonders of the world, colour is one of the most perplexing and amazing. All the wonders of the world are perplexing and amazing when you look at them, of course. But colour is one of those things - like music, like beauty - that sings to our senses and affects the way we feel.

Our favourite colours may be a mystery to other people. When someone says "blue" is their favourite colour, most people will nod and many will agree. When someone chooses "red" you may instantly form an opinion of that person's personality. (Or maybe that's just me?)

I remember when I was a kid asking my dad his favourite colour and he said "orange" and I was thunderstruck. Orange? Who would choose orange? Orange was the most jarring, thirsty colour there was and I hated it. I could not fathom that someone could ever have that as their favourite colour. I told my mother and she laughed - she could not understand it either.

Nowadays, I quite like orange, and have a lot of it in clothing and accessories. But I still remember the horror I had for it as a child. I equated it with Fanta: horrible, glaring, hot, thirst-inducing.

On the other hand my sister's favourite colour as a child was yellow, and that to me was a very suitable, happy colour. I also had a bright yellow transistor radio that I loved - perhaps this was before the onslaught of little-girl pink in all things?

My favourite colours have always been some shade of blue or green.  An image like this is like heaven to me:

blue green


I remember in primary school in L.A. in 1980, all the girls were into baby blue and lilac. I loved both colours but didn't feel I was worthy to share lilac with the popular girls (with their blonde hair, lipgloss, painted nails and beautiful clothes in pastel colours), so I stuck with baby blue.





I also adored - and still adore - mint and pale greens. I had a pale green gingham dress my mum made me which made me want to twirl and sing, and that mint green that was everywhere in the early eighties was one of my favourites. Just today at K-Mart I lobbied hard and unsuccessfully for one of my daughters to choose a gorgeous mint green shirt that took me right back to that time. (It should be sold with a Walkman).

Best eighties mint green


mint gingham


The late eighties didn't leave me unscarred, so for a short time my favourite colour was electric blue.

electric blue



In high school I ventured into darker colours. I was the proud collector of cool shirts in bright colours. My favourites were hot pink, teal, tourquoise, aqua and zambezi green.

teal


Zambezi was my declared favourite colour for a few years.

zambezi green car


In the early nineties I loved lime green and spring green - and I still love them (though no longer to wear). I do love my neon green Chux Super Wipes kitchen cloths!  (I alternate between the green and the blue)





My whole life I have also loved midnight navy: the inky colour of the sky after sunset. I had a beautiful dark navy satin shirt in the eighties (with a cowl neck and massive shoulder pads, of course) that I teamed with a grey-and-navy striped yoke skirt (calf-length, of course), and navy "court shoes" when I was feeling fancy.

glorious deep midnight navy


Growing up in Auckland, there was always the bay. Often it was glittery blue in the sunshine, but just as often it was dark and overcast, and I loved it best like that. My parents briefly had a holiday house in Pauanui on the Coromandel, where most times the beach was windswept and overcast. The stormy denim of the sea and sky of those memories is etched in my head, and my favourite colour of all time is probably a version of this.


Stormy Blue


What's your favourite colour? What memories does it evoke in you?





Jun 19, 2015

You learn something new every day: refrigerated minced meat edition

I learned a couple of new things today.

Firstly, I learned that I am getting too old and wussy for scary movies.  I nearly had a heart attack throughout almost all of Jurassic World, and actually got quite emotionally terrified when a flock of escaped pterodactyls flew across the island toward the crowds of unsuspecting tourists. (I actually got a lump in my throat, and when the pterodactyls started to swoop I for real started shallow-breathing and almost squeezed out some tears. The children! The children! What would I do if I was herding my kids through a stampeding crowd chased by raptors and pterodactyls?? What would I do, dammit?! The horror, the horror....)

So that was number one. I can obviously no longer go and see scary movies, or even enjoyable adventure movies with predictable character arcs and what I am sure is deeply inaccurate science.

But: despite all that, Jurassic World is actually pretty good and I did (kind of?) enjoy it. I am just an emotional idiot.

The second thing I learned was that managing minced meat can be a whole lot easier than I ever knew. I was making bolognese sauce, and you know how once you've heated the oil and sautéed the onions and garlic, you get the beef mince out of its packet and drop it into the saucepan, and it's basically a big red cold brick that you have to sort of hack away at with your wooden spoon, if you don't want to tear it into chunks with your bare hands first? And it's actually quite hard work chopping it all up and mixing it and turning the pieces until it's all broken down and brown and starting to cook?

Well, it turns out you don't have to do that. Today I dropped my red brick of cold minced beef into my saucepan, then turned away momentarily to read a couple of pages of a book I am reading, then got lost in the book and completely forgot about my saucepan... until a faint cooking smell wafted over, and I hurried over to resume. Voila! My minced beef had all "melted" into the pot, broken down and almost all browned, and only needed a couple of easy stirs to get all mixed in and ready for cooking.

So there you go.


Cute Dino Pics



Jun 14, 2015

Great idea!

My daughter M has a cunning sort of cleverness about her that I am sure will serve her well in life. When she uses her powers for good, she comes up with some smart stuff.

Here are three of her recent ideas - two just from today - that I think are pretty good:

  • Sweets van:  Like an ice-cream van but selling sweets, like lollies (candy) and cakes
  • Digital devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) that are charged by the energy in your body
  • A high-powered hot-air fan that dries and warms your body as soon as you step out of the shower

I told her today that she comes up with some pretty good ideas. She said, "Well, that's because I want a lot of things in my life that I don't have."

I guess all inventions come from wanting things that don't yet exist.  The more I think about it, the more I want the third one too.




Jun 12, 2015

Belt-tightening 101: the answer

I've been thinking about the question I posed yesterday: why don't politicians trying to convince the public on the need to cut spending cut some of their own salary or allowances to win hearts and minds?

And I think I know the answer.

In a parliamentary system one of the hardest jobs the leaders have is to rally, control and maintain unity among their MPs. These may include members who've worked very hard to win marginal seats, members on the back bench not earning big bucks, members already getting disillusioned or embittered and members on the rise looking for any excuse to either jump ship or try and take your job.

Most governments try and do the cost-cutting early in their term, aiming to get the pain - and public anger - out of the way early and betting that the electorate will have forgiven and moved on by the time of the next election.

So the most important hearts and minds the leaders need to win during this sort of program are those of their own MPs.

And of course, from a purely budgetary standpoint, cutting MP allowances won't deliver the same millions or billions beckoning them temptingly from the list of public benefits and subsidies, so they probably don't see it as worth the pain, considering the factors above. To sell a belt-tightening program and help you through all the hard work of your pet reforms, you need your MPs on-side and energetic, not bitter and angry.

Politics, eh?

Jun 11, 2015

Belt-tightening 101

I guess it's not news that Joe Hockey is out of touch. 

The man who insisted that "poor people don't drive" is now coaching first home buyers through the property bubble with the advice to get a well-paying job. Good idea Joe! I mean, why do so many people stick with their low or average wage jobs when they should just get a well-paid one? It just shows, people are not rational.

But more to the point.

As fascinating, in a train-wreck way, as these gaffes are, Joe Hockey's are usually explicable by remembering that instead of talking like a savvy politician, he usually talks like an economist, which can seem insensitive to a regular person. ("If housing were unaffordable in Sydney, no-one would be buying it," he said.)

What I find more interesting is how governments never - inexplicably in my view - offer to tighten their own belts while they claim the need to cut back on public spending.

It's quite amazing how many of our parliamentary leaders - one is tempted to say "all of them" - claim every monetary allowance their jobs entitle them to, even while: 
(a) they are rich 
(b) their claims are not really in the spirit in which the allowances were intended, and 
(c) the same politicians are operating a nation-wide belt-tightening manifesto and do not hesitate to chastise less well-off people for claiming less ambiguous entitlements.


Let's let point (a) slide, as I know, everything's relative. The richer you are, the more expenses you have, so sure, none of these guys feels rich I am sure.  And they work hard for us, right?


On to point (b). Sorry to harp on Joe Hockey, but I will anyway. Thanks to Nick Xenophon, we learn that Joe Hockey, like many other MPs, claims a $270 per day travel allowance while he's staying in Canberra, and uses that money (as he is allowed to), to pay off the mortgage on his Canberra home. 

Obviously, travel allowances for MPs to go to Canberra make sense. And maybe even this usage of them does too - when you get into the detail, it's hard to draw a line in the sand on these things.


But - point (c) - politicians don't find it hard to draw a line in the sand when it comes to entitlements paid to other people. Things like maternity payments, single-parent allowances, Newstart allowances, pensions, schoolkid bonuses, and all the rest that are paid to the leaners and double-dippers and bludgers of this nation, who neglected to secure themselves a well-paid job and a chauffeur and travel allowance.


In a liberal democracy where votes are bought with tax cuts and spending programs, the tax system and the government transfer system always get messy. Periodically a review is done over the whole system and changes are proposed, and by and large they never happen.  That's one of the drawbacks of the system and it will probably never be fixed.  Likewise, whether a particular payment is "middle class welfare" or "tax justice" for bracket creep, to what degree payments are undermined by rorting and to what level benefits should be paid, are all never-ending debates. 

But people are fairly reasonable. They won't buy a "budget emergency", but they will agree on the general necessity to limit spending and maintain a working budget. Disregarding the diehard left and right, most people agree that governments should not tax unreasonably, should support the needy and provide basic services, and should maintain a strong economy. 

So here is what I don't understand. If governments want to get people to accept spending cuts and a "belt-tightening" regime, why don't they ever reduce their own entitlements?  I mean just a little??  In my living memory, only Mark Latham ever did anything along these lines, when he cut MP super entitlements to match the public rate. (Maybe only the more... ah... out-there politicians attempt this stuff).

I would think that if Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott got up and said, "Look, we're cutting all these things, but also, we're cutting these travel allowances / placing a moratorium on any MP study tour that can't be managed with a couple of Skype calls / freezing MP salaries for three years", that they would win a lot more hearts and minds.

So why don't they do it? Just a little? Cutting just a few things would at least show MPs are tightening their belts too. They wouldn't even need need to cut that much - just offering SOMETHING would arguably only reduce their total compensation by a little, and yet would pay off hugely in the form of much-needed public support.


Seriously, I don't understand why this is never done. Can anyone enlighten me?


"Politics" according to a 9gag user

Jun 8, 2015

New job

I have a new job. 

After 15 years working in stockbroking operations, I am now working for a software vendor and loving it. The vendor's product is fantastic and the company is small, nimble and growing - everything I've been looking for. 

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in agile and cloud-based business and I decided a little while ago that was where I wanted to be. In my last job I worked closely with a couple of very good vendors and it really opened my eyes up to this whole "new" world of agile methods and business in "the cloud".

I've also become a bit disillusioned with much of the financial services industry. I know! It seems like such a good, honest industry, right?! Actually, what I meant by that was, the last few years have just become a bit of a downer. No one is making a lot of money, clients are understandably leery, and as a result of everyone trying lots of different things to try and find new ways of making money, the landscape is constantly changing and there is a lot of "work" but not too much excitement or optimism to go with it. I love the people I worked with - some of them for many, many years - and I did like and will miss many things about my last jobs, but it was definitely time for a change for me.

The new job has been a learning curve for me. I'll admit my first week left me absolutely exhausted. By the end of my second week I was merely fatigued. So by the end of next week I should just be tired! Full steam ahead!

With a change of workplace comes also a change in location. I've worked at the eastern end of the CBD for nearly 15 years, and am now all the way diagonally across the city, at the north-west end.  Many years ago I worked down this way and always did like it. It's a nice part of town.  It's also much, much handier for public transport, and much, much worse for driving - so after only two weeks I have thoroughly broken my previous bad habit of driving to work.  My commute now takes no longer and is much, much cheaper!

The only downside is I am too far away to meet former workmates for lunch. But I'm sure we will work something out.


So, some photos.


My last photo from atop the Herald Sun building on Flinders Street. A little sad to lose this daily view:






My last iCaramba wrap from the Blue Bag cafe on Exhibition Street :(


You can also see on the right of this photo, the iPad loaned from my old job, which I spent my last lunch break restoring to pre-me condition to return it to work - deleting my daughter's Minecraft, Instagram selfies, photo edits, apps and webpages only to remember at the end that there is a one-step "delete iPad" option in Settings.



... And so to the other end of town:

Flagstaff Gardens:






King Street:





Some of the old buildings and remnants of old Melbourne:






And I have no idea what this is, but I love it:




A change is as good as a holiday, right?

I hope so, because I won't be getting a holiday for quite a while.



May 12, 2015

Blowback: Mothers' Day

Blowback. Otherwise known as the law of unintended consequences. Always an eye-opener.

Last week was the occasion of that glorious annual institution, the school Mother's Day Stall.

A. announced she intended to spend her own money on me for her gift this year. "That's lovely, honey, but you don't have to do that," I said (stupidly). "I'll give you both $5 each to spend."

A asked, "Next year will you give us more pocket money and we pay for our own gifts?"

"Why yes," I said proudly, "That is indeed the plan, and is how pocket money should work. We'll start that next year."  (We've talked about it before, I just have to work out how much pocket money I'm going to give them, so they can manage it).

M did not even hesitate. "Well, if we do that, I'll just buy really really cheap presents."

Oh yeah. Obviously.

Our work continues.






May 3, 2015

Still here

I'm still here.

I will post something again, but life is busy and changing, my kids are getting older and I can't really blog about them anymore, and work is getting exciting, and so things are a bit different. All in a good way. Life is good.

In lieu of a proper post, here is a quick list of how I've been spending my time. Ciao for now!


CLEANING


DECLUTTERING
My Spring Cleaning


RE-ARRANGING FURNITURE




COMMUTING

funny-traffic-sign


WORKING



COOKING



GODDAMN LAUNDRY
how to do your laundry,

KIDS AND THEIR FRIENDS

Photo


SWIMMING (a little bit)



DOG

Photo


LATE NIGHT STUDYING



NECESSARY PRODUCTIVITY BREAKS / FURTHER BRAIN TRAINING



NETFLIX






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