31 Sunday Jan 2016
31 Sunday Jan 2016
28 Thursday Jan 2016
Let’s get Fred on the five dollar note.
I’ve signed, so should you.
27 Wednesday Jan 2016
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
In my office under the window I keep a used tap (spigot) (pictured). It is a souvenir from my worst DIY project ever.
It dates back to the time we lived in Ashwood. The shower tap in the ensuite was leaking so I decided to change the washer. I was so successful and with a spare washer in hand, I decided to also change the (other) hot water washer (which did not need replacing).
The second job proved quite challenging as the gap in the tile did not permit removal of the tap. To my horror and disgust I managed to flood the bathroom as I could not properly tighten the tap once it had become loose. This required that I remove and replace the wall behind the shower which had become sodden.
I kept the tap as a reminder never to “fix” anything that isn’t broken.
Life lesson #2
Things aren’t always as bad as they seem …… except in DIY projects.
I consider myself an optimist. I believe that often times we worry about things needlessly. In the end it is never as bad as we anticipate.
Generally speaking I keep this advice to myself. People about to embark on a nervous venture or attend an important meeting don’t appreciate being told not to worry.
But every rule has an exception. DIY projects are fun and challenging but if you are not careful they can bring disappointment. After my leaky tap experience I have always approached them with extreme caution. Always, except for yesterday …..
Life lesson #3
Always read the instructions.
The scene is Australia Day 2016. The weather is fine. The mission is to oil our back deck. The deck is only a year old so the plan is to coat it with a clear finish.
I have worked on decks before and thought this job was well within my ability. In fact, I planned to clean and apply two coats before day’s end.
I bought a cleaning solution I had seen advertised called Cabots Deck Clean. I checked the instructions to learn the correct mix and proceeded to mix it and scrub the deck with it. I allowed it almost three hours to dry while I went finishing my (successful) work of oiling the garden furniture.
The clear finish I proposed to use was Feast & Watson’s Wet Look. I had used it to great effect on the decks at Camberwell and I was in fact excited by what I thought would be a great result on a relatively new deck.
I started with the paint brush, cutting in the difficult corners.
Almost immediately I noticed that things were not quite right. The finish refused to adhere to the timber and began to”pill” and clog the brush.
Remember I am an optimist. Rather than stop and investigate, I ploughed on and on and on until the entire deck was “covered”. It was hard work as the finish would not apply easily and the woollen applicator became clogged and stiff.
At this point I began to question my “cleaning” of the deck. I had used the finish before and had no problem. It looked the same as on previous occasions but the cleaning solution was new.
I read the instructions and to my horror and disgust (sound familiar?) I learned that I had not properly applied the solution or at least washed it off, after applying it. I have extracted the instructions below.
It’s not easy to have a deck look worse after you had tried to improve it but I had managed to do just that.
I spent the rest of the day hose and scrubbing brush (and scraper) in hand trying to remove my work.
In addition I noticed the cleaning solution which I originally splashed on the deck had removed the colour from the adjoining render. More work…..
I will remember to read the instructions next time and this blog will be my souvenir of my second worst DIY project.
Life lesson #4
What starts badly finishes badly
How many times have I advised clients against projects that begin badly. I counsel them to refer them to other colleagues or to get assistance or to drop the project altogether while there is still time. Yet here I was doing the exact opposite. I should have read the signs and called a pause early in proceedings when things did not look right.
Instead I was determined to get two coats down before the end of the day. Pig headed more than optimistic.
I hope my pain is your saviour.
24 Sunday Jan 2016
I have always approached Australia Day with mixed feelings.
For most of my life Australia Day was simply a public holiday. It is only in recent times that the country has embraced the day with patriotic fervour.
The beauty and strength of this nation is the diversity and difference of opinion that our institutions encourage and protect. So it is not surprising that as nationalism has increased there has been a steady rise in a counter-movement against Australia Day and concern for our indigenous population.
Where do my sympathies lie?
I am as patriotic as the next person. This country’s strong government and economy are the envy of the world. Our achievements in the arts, science and sport are to be lauded. The Australian character is unique. Partly laconic, partly rebellious, humourous and inventive. It has seen us develop a culture where (in large part) we give everyone “a fair go”, we scorn elitism and mateship means we watch out for each other. Australian courage is legendary. Our multi-culturalism has enriched us.
I am extremely proud of this country and its achievements (in a short period of time). We should hold our heads up high. We should celebrate this great country.
At the same time we are a nation with a shameful history towards our indigenous people. It is an indigenous population we should also be very proud of.
We have the longest surviving indigenous population in human history. Scientists tell us that Aboriginal occupation of Australia probably occurred 125,000 years ago and can be traced back 40,000 – 50,000 years.
That’s a staggering achievement!
In other words when Christ was making himself known in the Middle East the Australian Aborigines had already been here in excess of 38,000 years!
The cradle of civilisation Mesopotamia was established 12,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptian civilisation was established 5,000 – 6,000 years ago.
When the English settled this land in 1788, they were confronted by in excess of 500,000 Aborigines (some academics have estimated as high as 1,000,000), comprising dozens of nations and speaking several hundred languages.
The establishment of white civilisation in Australia was disastrous for the indigenous population. English arms, ruthless authoritarian policies and disease saw many thousands of Aboriginal die or be killed.
One cannot be happy with the treatment of our indigenous population. I believe it is important not to judge the actions of our predecessors by today’s standards. But notwithstanding, one cannot help cringe and gulp at the treatment and policies that devastated the indigenous population. Our Prime Minister’s apology in 2008 was well overdue.
So where does that leave me with Australia Day?
Australians are (now) a proud nation and such pride is justified and should be celebrated. But in my mind, it is not appropriate to celebrate our achievements on a day that fills our indigenous people with such dread, dismay and disgust.
Australia was not founded on 26 January 1788. On that day the English established a colonial outpost they called New South Wales. (This was an English achievement not an Australian one). Nationhood was still a long way away, it was not guaranteed and depended on a number of contingencies working out favourably.
We are in truth celebrating what happened after 1788. We didn’t become a nation until 1 January 1901 and even that historic event depended on Queen Victoria’s blessing (perhaps her last official act).
So called “Australia Day” is really NSW’s foundation day and should be celebrated in NSW (only).
In my view we should rethink the celebration of this great nation and “decouple” it from the current date.
That’s my view.
I believe we need some leadership and vision on this issue. We need a bipartisan program moving our nation towards a republic.
However, this next step in the progression of our country would be a hollow one if it did not occur without a parallel reconciliation program that addressed all the issues facing our indigenous people. These not only include health and education but land rights and the right of self determination and preservation.
Independent government does not occur until the objectives of the reconciliation program are met and vice versa.
My hope is that at some day in the future we can stand independently of Great Britain while embracing our indigenous people and securing their future.
These are big steps but not beyond the vision, ability and resources of this country.
We have floundered in our moves towards an independent government because our approach has been wrong. (I haven’t forgotten that the last time we looked at the issue it occurred under the false stewardship of John Howard, an avowed monarchist).
What makes us strong also weakens us in issues such a future republic. As a nation we shun elitism, we don’t trust politicians, we cherish our freedom and our choice. Howard was able to exploits these traits to stymy the move towards a Republic.
Next time, let’s not get bogged down in models and mechanics. Our present and likely future leadership is probably not capable of organising a republic. Instead let’s establish a conference or conferences (appointed by the people if necessary) to canvass opinion and develop a vision. Not unlike the conferences that established our federation (and the US federal government).
Reconciliation probably requires a different way. The issue has not been taken seriously by successive governments so a determined and genuine approach would be a start.
Once a republic (or some form of independent government) is established we can have a new Australia Day and the Queens Birthday holiday will be replaced by Reconciliation or Indigenous Day.
Let’s not just dream it, let’s do it.
21 Thursday Jan 2016
I read a disturbing but insightful article in last Saturday’s The Age. The article was entitled “The Big Sleep”. It told the story of Patricia and Peter Shaw who last October carried out a suicide pact in their Brighton home. They left behind three adult daughters.
Peter Shaw was a senior meteorologist. Highly intelligent. Very articulate.
Patricia was a biochemist who taught at one of the universities. Two of their daughters had PhDs and the third was a concert violinist.
The Shaws were sane and rational individuals who had decided that they would choose the time, manner and location of their death. They were non-religious. Sitting around for years with rugs on their laps was not for them.
They were members of Philip Nitschke’s group Exit International. Through the group they obtained the means to end their lives. Pat was to be poisoned and Peter was to die using equipment he kept in the shed.
The Shaws led full lives. Peter was a mountaineer in his youth. He spent some time exploring Antartica. He met Patricia in the mountaineering club. They spent their spare time bushwalking and travelling. They had a close network of friends, were respected in their professions.
Their views on euthanasia were succinctly expressed in Peter’s letter to the editor in 2007 which I have copied below
Pat and Peter decided to end their lives last October, the day after Peter’s 87th birthday.
Age was catching up to them. Peter complained that he had trouble following the arguments he read in intellectual publications. Pat complained of aches and pains. Their children had noticed a deterioration in their condition.
The children were informed of their parents’ intentions and the day they had selected. It would occur at midday.
On the chosen day, the children visited them and said their goodbyes. At midday they filed out of the home and waited in a nearby park.
Pat was afraid of being left alone so her death occurred first under her husband’s careful supervision. He then went to the shed to end his own life.
The girls returned at 1.30 pm and called emergency services. It was important they were not present during the suicides as assisting a suicide is a crime.
I understand euthanasia when a person is suffering with no prospect of recovery. I understand the decision made not to resuscitate a dying person.
I believe that there is an important difference between prolonging life and delaying death. I understand steps taken and decisions made not to postpone death.
But my “open-mindedness” on the subject cannot accept what the Shaws did to themselves.
Intellectually I understand what the Shaws sought to achieve. But my understanding and sympathies finish there.
For me, suicide is still taboo. The idea that people can finish their lives because they want to seems wrong to me. I say this not only because life is sacred and precious. I say it because I feel what the Shaws did was a tad selfish.
Spare a thought for their children. Reading the article I had the sense that the daughters were still deeply grieving the loss of their mum and dad. Their parents were dynamic and intelligent people. Life of the party. Centre of each debate. And now they are gone. Gone because they wanted to go. Because they could. Because they preferred death to this world (yes sometimes it hurts and it is difficult and it’s confusing….), they preferred the big sleep to the company of their children and friends.
Spare a thought for their friends.
Spare a thought for those struggling against insuperable odds to cling to life. To those who dedicate their lives to helping others cling to life. What does this act say to them?
We live in a disposable world but is life also disposable?
Of course the Shaws will say they cannot be responsible for everyone else. They are only responsible for themselves. They can’t live their lives worrying about what others think and feel. What their daughters think and feel.
This “me” attitude is the curse of our generation.
I recommend the article to your reading.
What do you think?
A link to the article is included below
20 Wednesday Jan 2016
The other night my son and I watched a production entitled Trophy Kids. This was reality television at its best.
The premise of the program was to follow the lives of a handful of very talented children (and their parents) as they pursued their chosen sports. Two brothers were talented tennis players. Their mother thought that their talent was a gift from God and that it was her moral duty to ensure her sons could develop and foster their tennis skills.
Two children played basketball. One parent was an over-the-top ugly parent. He had quit his business to “manage” his child. He attended each match and was generally abusive towards everyone; the coach, the officiating referees, his team, the opponents, even his own son. He was ultimately banned from attending his son’s games and interestingly his son’s performance on the court improved.
One child played football and in his father’s eyes didn’t deserve his place in the team or the school or the family. After each game he would reduce his son to tears as he berated and manipulated him with caustic and non-constructive criticism.
There was a girl aged 8 or 9 years. She had serious golf talent. As a golfer myself I was impressed by her skill with a club. But her father/manager was always critical and sometimes abusive towards her, particularly when she didn’t follow his instructions.
I know that reality television is heavily edited and sometimes far removed from reality but I thought there was enough “honesty” in this program to give us a fair view of what was happening in the lives of these children. We have all experienced the glowering of ugly parents and as such the premise of this program is not difficult to accept.
The program was riveting viewing and I highly recommend it. I was disappointed when our internet feed cut out.
For me there were two takeaways from the program.
First. How should parents behave when they learn their child has a significant talent?
I assume we all want happiness for our children. Of course, happiness is an individual thing. We want our children to be accepted in society. To be confident in the company of others. To have dreams and to pursue them. To have warm and supportive relationships. To know and give love. To be well adjusted and successful.
For many this boils down to encouraging our children to be the best person they can be, because we believe that this will put them on the path to happiness. I accept that the preceding statement is filled with loaded terms such as “best” “encourage” and even “be”.
So how should we behave when we find out our child is a “Trophy Kid”?
My guess is to first park our own egos. Make sure that we are doing what makes our child happy and not seeking to make ourselves happy by living vicariously through our child. This means speaking with our children and discussing their hopes, ambitions and dreams.
Secondly setting realistic expectations. Our circumstances may be limited by economics or geography or limited resources etc. Be careful what we promise our children and manage their expectations.
Thirdly provide encouragement and support but being sufficiently removed to be objective and provide our child constructive guidance, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board and so on.
The rest is up to the child… As it should be.
The second takeaway was the irony/tragedy of the drama that unfolded. These children did have a gift but with this blessing came a serious curse in the form of their ugly parents. Each child at some stage would have thought that it may be preferable to walk away from their passion if only to restore peace and normality to their family situation. How sad.
Each child at some stage must have questioned if they had truly received a blessing or a curse. And the cruelest curse at that. I say “cruelest” curse because one’s parents are supposed to be a source of love and refuge. A child should feel comfortable with their parents. Yet their talent had turned their parents into monsters. The loneliness felt by these children was palpable and heart-breaking.
And yet where did this talent come from? Science tells us that such a gift is the product of genetics ie it comes from our parents and their parents. Is the circle complete?
I recommend Trophy Kids for your viewing.
18 Monday Jan 2016
I am reading all the praises and generous plaudits that are being lavished on this outstanding individual, all thoroughly deserved, and wondering why was #Rickman never knighted.
Well it turns out that he was offered a CBE but politely turned it down. As did David Bowie. Honours Refuseniks!
Perhaps it’s time the English reviewed their honours system and adopted a more universally accepted regime. Or would the Refuseniks still decline such recognition?
Alan you have only increased in my estimation.
RIP Hans Gruber 😦
17 Sunday Jan 2016
James Hird has spent the week talking to the press and media. Tonight he appeared on the ABC to give his side of the story.
You be the judge.
15 Friday Jan 2016
14 Thursday Jan 2016