Saturday, August 28, 2010

Crown of the Dalemark

The kid is so absorbed in Crown of the Dalemarkthat he brought it shopping with him, read it in the car, read it while the husband (who was severely caffeine depleted) and I drank coffee, read it while walking around the fruit shop and kept on reading while I paid for the green groceries. He read it in the car on the way home, and is presently reading it ostentatiously spread across an arm chair.

Every so often he surfaces to provide commentary on the action and to express his amazement at diverse turns of event.

He is such a satisfactory reader, he becomes so engaged with the characters and stories that I wish authors could see him go at it. I think they would be very gratified. The authors I would invite to watching-the-kid-read-their-books sessions would be Diana Wynne Jones, Garth Nix and Sandy Fussell. Everything about him is alert to the book at hand when he reads those authors. He loves plenty of other books, but those are the ones that he keeps on talking about, as if he is going to wake up one day and walk into their worlds and he needs to be prepared.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I am feeling oddly nostalgic for high school home economics kitchens. Nostalgia makes no sense at all.

I would rather feel nostalgic for something that had not required so much energy with the scrubbing and so forth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Claiming victory

The kid is going to his Book Week dress-up day as Mitt from Drowned Ammet and The Crown of the Dalemark.

I have achieved everything I wanted to as a parent. Not sure what I'm going to do for the next ten or forty years. My kid loves Diana Wynne Jone nearly as much as I do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On things I noticed at the polling booth

Today I handed out how to votes for about three hours at our local polling booth. If I was a social researcher I would give you all some kind of insightful analysis, but instead I give you things I noticed and felt like commenting on.

Some families arrived together and clearly intended to vote the same way. They tended to march, tended to be led by a large man (or a man who thought of himself as large) and took only one kind of how to vote cards. Often the card was Liberal.

Some couples arrived with the same kind of large man, holding tightly to a woman and seeming to pull her along. He took how to vote cards, and she didn't. Often the card was Liberal, occasionally ALP, never Green or Get Up.

There was one Liberal volunteer (later assisted by his amusing wife, who was in no way dragged along).

There were two ALP volunteers, one pushy and wanting to talk loudly about ALP policies and why the Greens were no good. The other ALP volunteer stood as far away from him as possible in the space and chatted to the Greens volunteers and Get Up volunteers.

There were three Greens volunteers, all women, one with difficulties walking and also cold feet because she didn't have any socks on. The Greens women broke first and went to get coffee.

There were five Get Up volunteers, one of whom wore a very fine felt hat. He was going to hand out how to votes for the Greens in the afternoon, and expressed mild embarrassment that Get Up had ticked boxes for all their policy analysis for the Greens, as if it meant he had some kind of conflict. He said he was going to 'wear a different hat' in the afternoon, and for a moment I wondered if he meant it literally. The Get Up volunteers broke first at the sausage sizzle, and ate more sausages than anyone else.

All the volunteers were polite and friendly and helped the voters to get information on the other parties if requested and made sure no one's sandwich boards fell over.

Only one voter was aggressive, and he had been a Liberal voter, and could not stomach the climate change denialism of the present leadership. The Liberal volunteer stayed calm in the face of finger wagging and low-voiced anger. The voter did not take a Greens or a Labor how-to-vote.

Only one person remembered to bring snacks.

Many voters did not know the difference between Territory and Commonwealth issues.

Many parents were explaining the electoral process clearly and effectively to very young children.

Two people fell over, because the ramp faced the wrong way for easy access to the hall, so people unsteady on their feet braved the two steps. The Liberal volunteer and the Greens volunteers were the most helpful.

People in our neighbourhood have very friendly dogs.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue Milk is fed up with 'undecided voters'

Go here and see.

Today I met

Today I met a man from Dubbo.

Today I met a woman from South Africa, who was cold and waiting for the bus. The right bus didn't come, and I left her standing there. She didn't believe it would ever be warm.

All the other people I saw today were people that I've met before.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One day the election will be over.

So that's something to look forward to, isn't it?

In other news, the cold change this afternoon was something fierce. It was like I imagined Canberra would be like before I lived here and lost my heart to sunshine and frost.

The very first flutter of blossom is on the trees outside the Japanese Embassy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cat in the truffula tree

We are minding a cat. It's owner has seen fit to remove to Adelaide, in a post-two-years-in-Canberra flit. It is common, it seems, and if we stay in Canberra for infinity we will have to become resigned to people upping stumps for Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. Presumably people go to other places, but the go-home factor seems strongest for those three.

So this cat is a bit, well, un-relaxed at the best of times. It has calmed down considerable and now only wakes us once at about 3.30 am most nights, and can wait until 6.30 until it miaous for its brekko. But yesterday it went missing, which is the nightmare of cat sitters everywhere. Poor husband (who is a great lover of pets generally) searched, in the rain and cold cold wind, and could not find the cat. Mysteriously, he could hear it miaou, but could not see it anywhere.

I didn't get home until about 8, and I could hear it and a little jingle-jangle of its bell, but no visible cat. Me and the dolphin torch struggled out at about 10.30 pm in the Dark and the Cold and the Wet and called and called and called and there it was, a little, tiny, sad sounding miaou miaou, jingle jingle. But no cat.

And then something, in the corner of my eye, moved. Up high. Up high in the top of a palm tree most like a truffula tree, except kind of taller, and among the fronds twitch twitch of tail.

So now my ugg boots are wet (they are the indoor kind usually) and I am wet and also astonished and the husband starts to clamber up the tree but that is no good because it is a very tall and very thin tree after all. So he pulls on the tree and we are afraid that the cat will caterpault (hee hee) across the road and land splat (not hee hee) and that would be the end of the cat, but then the tree falls over and the husband lands, but more splodge than splat, and the next thing we hear is jingle-jangle running behind the house. And when I open the back door there is a Very Wet Cat Indeed, and a tired and hungry one, waiting to come in the house.

If you go and visit you will see that yesterday was a very not nice day to spend stuck in the top of a truffula tree.

The tree did not spring back but stayed resolutely in two pieces (sorry tree). Luckily there are about another six bits of tree still in the traditionally upright tree position, so it does not leave too much gap in the greenery.

But in happier news, this morning there was snow on the Brindabellas outside and a warm, dry cat resolutely inside.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Without wanting to expose someone else's anxiety, there's an interesting discussion about what it means to be a member of an online community going on in the comments at Humanities Researcher.

For the record, I suspect I do use this particular place to project myself (partly because I don't feel like I can project myself very effectively elsewhere) but I think it is a fairly harmless vanity/pressure valve. I am not getting anything from it, except for chats with nice people who otherwise I would not have met. Oh, that does sound a bit like a community after all.

The main draw back of online interactions as far as I can figure is that I can't share my banana, coconut and choc-chip minimuffins with you all. Canberra based readers, you are welcome to pop around for some.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Plugged in child and monsters, monsters everywhere.

Junior has hit the whole web thing hard recently. He and his friends at school have all joined gmail so they can chat with each other, and they are all playing an online game about monsters with so-called 'educational' content.

As far as I can tell the point is to encourage children to buy buy buy under the guise of a kid-friendly and learning-friendly online space. The monsters are made happy by buying them stuff and the model of the game is that you can play free for as long as you wish, but if you don't pay you are excluded from some areas of the game and from many items for sale. You can only send gifts to your friends if you are a member. Membership only costs about $6.00 a month, but that's not really the point. The point is you have to pay to be socially included. I find that more than a little troubling.

The education content is basic at best, and can only be described as a pretext. The game also claims that contact can only be made (through messaging and chat) between people who already know each other's user names outside the game. However, members have space for up to 500 online friends, and you can enter into other people's spaces online and learn their friends' usernames as well - there seems to be no privacy in the game space for limiting your ID to only the friends you wish to show them to.

The kid is loving the game and the interaction with his friends, so I am trying to keep my doubts to myself while still monitoring what's going on. There seems to be an in-built scope for bullying and exclusion in the game. It's obvious to all who has the most friends and who doesn't, for example, quite apart from the membership issue.

It also bothers me that in the 'information for parents' section, it claims that no child can sign up without parental approval. But my kid did. He has his own email address and just entered it into the correct field. There's absolutely nothing in the sign-on form that suggests or requires a kid to get a parent's permission. So that's one outright lie on the site.

A person doens't know how to raise these issues for discussion without raining on the kid's parade of very cute monsters.

random title

Random content.

The End.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I don't find anyone annoying, myself, of course. No.

This is from XKCD of course. I hope they don't kill me for borrowing it. I have bad etiquette.