Thursday, March 31, 2011

In which the angry acorn lady realises that a life of quiet desperation does not have to mean a passive life

Yesterday an angry woman was talking on her telephone. As she spoke, she searched the ground.

She stared, she grimaced, she ground her teeth. She squinted up her eyes and screwed up her nose.

The heel of her high-heeled shoes, poised. And crunch on the acorn.

Stare, squint, poise, crunch. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones

I can't tell you really how sad I am that Diana Wynne Jones has died. While I know it's her books that have been such a big part of my life, I can't help feeling that she has been part of my life too.

Neil Gaiman, who clearly was dearly loved and loving friend of DWJ, has written here.

The Guardian's obituary
is here.

And this comment from Robin McKinley, that this is not the same world without DWJ in it. That describes exactly how I have been feeling.

I feel that something of Sophie's or Cat's future is gone. I feel like something of my past has gone.

Mostly I feel like the world has not stopped enough to notice this terrible thing that has happened.

And I'm so grateful that someone wrote books that were so perfectly what I wanted from a book, so many times and in so many ways.

Edited 29 March to add a link to Farah Mendlesohn's words, including a comment that 'Diana had not just grown fans, she had grown writers.'

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dinner conversation

Last night we went out to dinner with a bunch of friends. The kid ate crunchy noodles with broccoli and beef and hummed 'Girlfriend in a Coma'.

Friends discussed random items such as nappy services, human rights, mandatory detention, real estate, cooking and the drums the drums.

People are quite odd, really.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On being flexible

So this week I am pioneering flexible working hours. The other week at an International Women's Day event, a union representative said that hardly any women in the Commonwealth Public Service are accessing flexible working hours. Quite a few are working part-time, and people use their flextime (oh blessed flextime) on an adhoc basis, but very few to none are using formal flexible working hours.

This told me two things. One, people who are working formal flexible arrangements do not fill in union surveys*. Two, I like a challenge, me.

From this week I will be working four slightly longer days, and one short day on Friday so I can drop the kid off at school and then pick him up again. It took a bit to screw my courage to the sticking place, but no one has blinked an eyelid about it. We'll wait and see what happens when there is an urgent deadline I suppose, but I've always thought that urgent deadlines on a Friday afternoon is a sign of poor management, actually.

This afternoon we went to the bakery for the traditional Friday afternoon bakery treat, and then we played Pandemic. Today was the first time we beat the epidemics, which are very thrilled with. See, shorter working hours save the world!

*Because I know there are a few people with flexible arrangments at work.

A nice letter to the people who think that paying public servants is a waste of tax payers' money

Dear tax payers who would rather their money was not spent on paying public servants, because you think it is a waste of your money,

Which of these things would you like to give up today?

Well maintained roads
A health system that is available if you have an emergency
An air safety system
The defence forces
The police forces
Public toilets
Public gardens
Clean air
Clean water
Access to drinking water in your taps
A system that takes your smelly pooh and wee away from your house
Children's television
Classical music
Food that is safe to eat
Medicine that you can afford to buy
A system that protects your children from being exploited for their cheap labour
Public transport
Road safety
Australian Standards
Research that might save your life
Family tax benefits
The age pension
Benefits for veterans
Quarantine which keeps things like rabies out of the country

I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point.

Lots of love

A Public Servant (who also pays taxes, actually)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Physics is the jazz of science

You have to watch your mouth.

Weird things can come out of it.

Friday, March 18, 2011


At the swimming pool today, some kid called my kid a loser.

My kid is in a beginner swimming class, despite being 9, because he has missed out on a lot of swimming-class chances through being sick or recovering from being sick. Getting cold is a real problem for him, and it's harder than you think to find very warm swimming pools.

I think the other kid called my kid a loser because he was in that class.

My kid was pretty calm about it. Generally he thought it reflected badly on the other kid, not on him. My kid said sometimes other kids at school have called him a loser, but he doesn't mind because no one likes those other kids. None of his friends or people whose opinions he cares about would say such a thing, he said.

I wasn't calm about it. My first impulse was to go and push the other kid over. My kid said it's lucky I'm not the kind of person who actually does things like that.

He's very sensible. I remain outraged.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Little Blog of Calm

I've decided to change the focus of my blog from wild rants to *deep breath* caaaaaaaaaaalm.

So you can all think about beautiful rainforests and rain drops on kittens and eylashes made out of string.

Or you could go and have a nice swig of Drambuie, which is what I am going to do shortly.

Ponting's day soured further, according to SBS

No one is reporting on the relative sourness or sweetness of my day, even though I write for Australia just like Ricky Ponting throws tanties bats for Australia.

Sour things:

Being impressed by that new ad about getting fit and losing weight and instead of just saying (in a 1930s cricket kind of tone) 'Oh well done, chaps' I yelled out a fake siren noise 'woot woot woot, look outside, someone in the public service had time to think, mustn't be working hard enough, give them some more busy work'. Even though today I spent the whole day (except for one very productive and short meeting) doing research and thinking without being bothered once. Sourness rating - 4 out of 5 non-Meyer lemons.

Sweet things:

Well, literally, lots and lots of cake. I spilt the cherry tart on the floor, but didn't spill any of the three-layer vanilla and cream sponge cake. The sponge cake made me think of Mrs Jackson (my grandma's next door neighbour). Mrs Jackson made a killer sponge cake, which I rarely got to taste because the only time it ever entered Grandma's house was on the occasion of Grandma's birthday, and she was not going to share, not on your nelly. I snaffled some once, by promising I wouldn't tell anyone else that I'd had some.

Mrs Jackson also had a few ABBA records and a record player with a microphone and a seemingly endless tolerance of a six year old dancing and singing along to Dancing Queen. She also liked my outfit of a nylon lace petticoat over the top of a red skivvy. I blame this approval for pretty much every outfit I wore between 1986 and 1994.

Things neither sweet nor sour:

The husband has packed 32 boxes of books to date. I have chucked out various random bits and pieces. I have been planning a Slightly Old Fashioned Buffet Supper followed by Parlour Games for a house warming.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sticky beaks

So why does the bank need to know our marital status anyway?

So why does the bank, having demanded we tell them our marital status, get it wrong and write 'de facto' in our contract, despite us ticking 'married' in the box in the application?

And where is the 'registered civil partnership' box, if they are really concerned with our status as registered with the government or not?

Is there really no one at the bank who is married but has a different surname to their partner?

And despite us always putting my name first on the forms, as the main breadwinner, why is my name always always below the husband's name on the versions that come back?

And apparently no one has read Anne of Green Gables, because they cannot spell a person's name right.


So yesterday I was working myself up into this big blog rant about value for money and risk and spending so much money on risk and assessing value for money that there's less money to actually do the stuff the government wants to do and how that's really frustrating for public servants because regardless of what you might think public servants take spending tax payers' money very seriously indeed because we are also tax payers and we would really rather spend money sensibly on helping people and why don't they ask more sensible questions about spending money at Senate Estimates hearings and still thinking accountability is really important because there are some bad people and some incompetent people out there and I was feeling very frustrated about it all. And then I stopped and took a breath. And then we solved the problem*. Hurrah.

*when I say 'we solved the problem' I don't mean I have forever solved the many and diverse problems of spending government money, let alone some of the things I would like to see improved about Estimates hearings, I just mean we solved our very small problem about spending a small-ish bit of money on something quite sensible, actually. [Edited on Friday 18 March.] Oh no, we didn't.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day

A person is feeling a bit disenchanted with late-capitalist individualism, actually. Apparently feminism is over because some women can afford $150 bras *insert squeal here*.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Excitment plus fear = something something

Turns out we will shortly own part of a house which we will shortly live in. In 30 years or so, apparently, we'll own the whole house. The bank will let us stay in the house until then, which is nice of them, isn't it?

So all that cash we'll be paying out is not called 'rent' any more, they tell me.

We've run out of domestic sparkling wine.

So, thank you St George, thank you ACT Government's generous stamp duty concessions, thank you dead cousin Billy, thank you ball boys.

Especially thank you to all of you who are about to volunteer to turn up unannounced at our house and pack our books for us. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

*crickets chirping*