Category Archives: Life and things

Afternoon tea

Line-up on the pool fence

Strange fruit

They start to gather a couple of hours before sunset, when the shadows start to lengthen and the light takes on that late afternoon glow. Sometimes there’s a line-up on the pool fence, sometimes it’s a couple of stalwarts clicking their claws at the feeding table. When I appear the tension ratchets up. As I pour the juice into the two bowls a couple of the bolder ones will sidle up, one red eye fixed on me, to steal a sip before the crowd arrives. But they’re already gathering, landing just outside my field of vision in a flurry of sound. I step back and there’s a rush, everyone trying to get their beaks into the juice. They drop down from the fox tail palm above the table, or the trees on either side where they’ve been waiting patiently. Bossy boots and his missus try to claim both bowls as their own, but while it works for small groups, the pair is overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

Afternoon tea time

A flurry of golden wings

The din is incredible, a cacophony of screeching that reverberates in my head. There’s more than thirty birds trying to reach two bowls of juice. They argue, push, shove, take off for a break or try to fit in, a sea of heaving green backs and golden wings. The light from the lowering sun is at just the right angle to make their wings shine golden, like bad impressions of angels. Drops of apple juice sparkle in the air. I swear half of it isn’t drunk at all. There are too many birds, too close together, so we toss out other enticements – apples cut in half, or a slice of multi-grain bread. That gives them something else to fight over, and lessens the crush at the table.

Sometimes one smarty-pants sends up an alarm signal and they take off in force, only to return in minutes as they realise it’s a false alarm.

Alarm call!

It’s almost hovering, looking for a spot to land

We’re out of juice (This Winky s/he only has one eye)

It’s over in ten or fifteen minutes. The juice is gone. Some hopeful souls bend over to look under the table to see if more is forthcoming. Others repair to the bird bath for a drink of water or a splashing soaking. Yet others return to the trees for a preen, with each couple doing that hard part at the back of their partner’s neck.

As the warmth of the day fades they’ll leave in groups of six, or four, or two, heading North to the trees along the foreshore or the major road, where they’ll roost for the night. There are a few more raucous fly-bys with their mates, a bit more pushing and shoving for the best roosting spots. Then after the last light has drained from the sky, the noise ceases for another night.

 

It’s time for the bats to venture out.

Another Saturday morning – refugees, terrorists and Masterchef

The full moon – taken with the Big Lens

Things have been happening in the world since we returned from holiday. I wrote my blogs, of course, as memories of our journey, but during that time, the world has faced new horrors. Especially in UK. We saw the brutal murder of innocent kids attending a concert in Manchester, the slaughter of people enjoying an evening near London Bridge, and now the terrible fire at the Grenfell Tower. This account in the Guardian is awful reading as people inside try to survive.

I’ve wondered for a while if I could be described as Islamophobic, and I think the answer is I’d probably be labelled as such. The Weekend Australian magazine today has an interesting article written by two people, a man and a woman, both born in Pakistan and raised as Muslims, who have renounced their faith. The woman’s story in particular resonated with me. She is a psychologist who has studied the Quran, and has lived in Muslim society, so she know of what she speaks. She says she is no longer a Muslim because Islam is essentially misogynistic. And I think she’s absolutely right. However, I’ll add that there’s a big difference between fundamentalist nut-jobs and people just wanting to live their lives.

I suppose some people will say the men who committed the murders in Manchester and London were nut-jobs. Could be, but people who shout Allahu Akbar as they shove a knife into somebody are terrorists. So is the fellow who took a backpack bomb filled with shrapnel to kill and maim as many as possible at a concert, in a location where it would do maximum harm. All in the name of God.

Man Monis, centre of the Lindt cafe siege which led to the deaths of two people, was undoubtedly a nut-job. But  people in Iran asked why we had allowed this known criminal to enter Australia? Apparently Iran had asked to extradite this man. If he’d been sent back, two people might still be alive, and a lot more would not have been traumatized.

Then we hear that men accepted into Australia because they feared being killed if they returned to Iran actually went back home for a visit, at least one to get married. When the minister cancelled their visas they appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who overturned the decision. Here’s the article in the Herald Sun. These ‘refugees’ deliberately lied to obtain visas in Australia. They should be packed off back to Iran (or wherever they came from) on the first flight.

We allow men in Australia to flout our law by having multiple wives (married under Sharia law, not Australian law) and even support the women and their kids through CentreLink. In other words, they are ripping off our welfare system.

And just the other day the Queensland government was apparently left ‘red-faced’ when a dinner for ‘movers and shakers’ in the Islamic community to celebrate the end of Ramadan included sauces made with alcohol. Okay, devout Muslims don’t drink alcohol. That’s fine. I want to know why the Queensland Government is hosting dinners for Ramadan? Does it host dinners for other religious minorities? According to the census, 2.2% of Australians are Muslim. But 2.1% are Buddhist, 1.3% are Hindu. Does the Government host special dinners for their feast events? Or do we only do it for the Muslims to prove we’re politically correct?

All this talk of food leads me to Masterchef. I said in a post a few weeks ago that I enjoyed Masterchef because it was about the food. I’m sorry to say that’s no longer the case. While we don’t have the sniping between contestants that seems to be the appeal in My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef is not about food either. We still get the occasional challenge where contestants come up with clever dishes given a list of ingredients. But several times already in this series contestants have been asked to complete ridiculously complicated dishes created by professional chefs (and no doubt a phalanx of sous chefs making each of the components) in a set amount of time, having been given a recipe pages long, and a taste of the original. One professional admitted it took 45 attempts to get his creation right. And amateur cooks, working alone, are being asked to reproduce these constructions in as little as 5 hours. It’s commendable that some actually complete most of the steps. So once again, the ‘contest’ is about how the participants shape up under enormous pressure.

Speaking of pressure, let’s put it on the table; some of it is contrived. Last year one of the contestants was an airline captain. This year we have a doctor, a GP. Yet early in the piece we were expected to believe these men lost their composure completely. Over a mistake in a kitchen? If that was true, I’d rather avoid the plane and the doctor’s surgery. Masterchef has become just another ridiculous reality TV show. And now the Ten Network is in receivership, this might be its last hurrah. Such a shame.

And now for a few unseen photos from the recent trip…

Cobbold Gorge is very narrow

A moorhen scudding across the dam

Pink and greys at dawn

Stoney creek falls

A whistling kite

 

Oops. I didn’t mean to do that

Deary, deary me. We got home from our trip to the wilds of Far North Queensland, and I couldn’t wait to turn on the computer to take a look at my photos on the big screen. I loaded the pics into Lightroom, then cleared the SD card (as you do). AFTER that I noticed a whole days worth of pictures were missing – the day when I really thought I’d made some great shots.

I didn’t say Oops! Those of you who know me would be aware that a succession of adjectives starting with F was in the mix. Sorry, Mum, but sometimes nothing else will do. We’d stumbled off a train at 5am after a pretty ordinary nights’ sleep. You know how it is – you check the time every hour on the hour so as not to miss the stop. Lesson #1: don’t do anything remotely technical while in zombie mode.

After I’d recovered from the resulting heart spasm, I got my overtired brain into gear.Operating systems don’t actually delete anything. The pictures should still be there. If you’re thinking I could have looked in the recycle bin, the OS only does that with files on the hard drive, not temporary devices like SD cards. But even so, I suspected my files should still be there.

You’ll be familiar with the Explorer interface when you open a folder on your computer. You get a list of files, date, file type, size. Click on a filename, and you get the file. The interface is like an index card. Each entry contains information that the OS uses to find the data and display it. When you delete a file, the record on the index card is flagged as ‘deleted’. That’s it – unless you use special software to erase the actual data. Over time, your ‘deleted’ data will be overwritten as you save new data. But until that time, your existing data is still there, unchanged.

Back in the day, I could have wriggled my way into the OS and toggled that delete flag on the index record – but that was then, and this is now, so I went looking for an application to recover my pictures.

There are plenty of packages out there to do the job, but I’m very careful about software without a recommendation. I paid good money for one, years ago, that looked great – but didn’t work at all. I think they were collecting credit card details – so I cancelled my credit card, with the associated dramas. This time, I found what I was looking for via CNet, complete with a ‘how to’ article. And the best news is, the app is FREE. There is an option to buy a more sophisticated version, but I didn’t need it.

I installed Recuva and ran the app on my SD cards. It worked as described, but while the software found a lot of old data which hadn’t been overwritten, it didn’t find my files from the last month. After a fair bit of mucking about, and a good night’s sleep, I thought the issue was the program was looking for the usual image file types – .jpg, .tiff, .png, .bmp – but not Canon’s raw file format, .CR2. So I went into Recuva’s advanced mode and changed the search parameters to just *.CR2. And… bingo! I have my pictures back!

So if you ever have an ‘oh shit’ moment, deleting a file you didn’t mean to delete, try Recuva. In our case, it’s a bloody sight cheaper than a trip back to Karumba and environs.

And here’s a picture from that day, just as a bonus prize before I write the blog posts for the trip.

 

Reflections on TV these days

I’m not a great watcher of television. Never have been, really, but in the last few years most of the TV channels churn out “reality” TV shows – cheap to produce and I suppose they must be popular.  I remember quite a few years back, Pete and I were returning from Brisbane to Melbourne on a Sunday afternoon. Our car was parked in the long term car park, which is serviced by a fleet of small buses going between the car park and the terminal. We caught one of these buses and listened to the conversation between a large group evidently travelling together. They had been to the Big Brother house, where the reality show was being filmed. They were right into it, talking about the … what do you call them… contestants? in the house as though they knew them. Pete and I exchanged a few looks with each other. I think we managed ten minutes of the show, maybe twice. But we must be in the minority, because reality show ‘stars’ seem to be able to make a fortune out of this stuff. The Kardashian shows have been around for a decade. You can buy the DVDs in Big W etc. And Kim Kardashian’s butt and boobs must be around the most-photographed in the world. Particularly by herself.

Apart from that, we have reality shows following the activities of customs officials, road patrol cops, the dog squad, vets – you name it. We get to see the versions from overseas, too. New Zealand airport arrivals, UK immigration officers etc etc. Then there’s the real set-ups. Married at first sight, the seven year itch thing, the biggest loser, survivor, I’m a celebrity – get me out of here.  It’s pretty hard to find any decent drama on the box these days. Unless you buy a subscription service, or you’re prepared to sit through the endless commercials on each channel’s extra services where they air the old shows.

Even the news has plummeted. The ABC is so far left that it might as well join the Labor (sic) party. With the exception of Aljazeera, which still employs journalists, the other channels seem to revolve their news broadcasts around dolly birds with long hair standing outside places like the law courts or maybe the scene of a crime, telling us what the studio announcer has already told us, with a few guesses at what might happen next. During the recent tropical cyclone Debbie there must have been at least a dozen ‘reporters’ scattered along the coast. One idiot was filmed at Airlie Beach, rain-soaked, with the wind howling, exhorting people to stay inside their houses. As for the morning breakfast programs – I get out of bed and log on to Facebook, while Pete watches TV. I reckon I know about most of the important stories before he does, and I don’t have to listen to the inane banter.

Apart from the obligatory news and weather, just about the only programs I like to watch are cooking shows. I hasten to add that does NOT include the egregious My Kitchen Rules. That’s a contrived program about people set up to present interpersonal dramas (a reality show). ie it’s not about the food. I do watch Masterchef. Yes, I know it has its set-ups, especially when the team competitions take place. But that show IS all about the food. That said, I’d rather watch Maggie Beer, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and the like. My particular favourite was Two Fat Ladies. One of the ladies was an ex-lawyer who was a reformed alcoholic, the other liked a drink and a smoke. She rode the motorbike, while her ex-lawyer mate sat in the sidecar. They made smashing food, with not a low fat alternative in sight. It was always butter, cream, and lard. Real food.

And on the subject of food, have you noticed how weight loss has come full circle? When I was young and slim and conscious of what I looked like in mini skirts and jeans, if I put on a couple of pounds the drill was to stop eating carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes. If you wanted a snack, you ate a stick of celery, or a chunk of cheese. Now, after years of manufactured rubbish like low fat yoghurt and cheese, soft drinks loaded with aspartame, margarine (remember ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter?’), fat meticulously cut off everything before cooking, and no more than three or four eggs a week (because cholesterol), we’ve come back to real (unadulterated) food in moderation. That transition has taken about forty years. I recall my mother always had a jar in which she collected the drippings from cooking meat or bacon. It was a staple of her cooking, as well as a good way of using a valuable resource. Maybe we can start doing that again.

Okay, rant over.

In other news, I haven’t done much writing, although I’ve started a new story. But while I was doing some computer housekeeping, I ran across a blog post I wrote six or seven years ago, about the evolution of my earliest books. You’ll find it at Space freighters’.

Now for pictures. These are some of my favourite bee pictures.

A bee on a sunflower

A honey bee approaches a callistemon

A native blue banded bee (these guys are tiny)

A close-up of a blue banded bee with a salvia flower. This bee is quite old – you tell by the bald patch on its back

Honey bee and Geraldton wax

Matching bees on everlastings

Bee and rosemary

 

Best wishes for Easter

Good Friday is one of only two days in the year when it’s difficult to find a shop or anything else open in Australia. The other is Christmas Day. You can go to just about any town centre and shoot a cannon down the main street without any fear of hitting anybody. Both are holy days, the most profound in the Christian calendar – although, as usual, there are overlaps with many other faiths. For Christians, Good Friday (I’ve always had to wonder about ‘good’ in this context) was the day Jesus was crucified. The Jews celebrate the Passover, when the children of Jewish slaves were spared in Egypt.

Everybody knows that Easter incorporates a lot of ‘pagan’ symbolism about a time of rebirth and the arrival of Spring – eggs, rabbits, and so on, so I won’t bore you with that. But there are some modern discrepancies which I feel are worth mentioning. For a start, some of my UK Facebook friends say Good Friday is a ‘bank holiday’. I assume that means the banks are closed. Is anything else? It just seems to be a curious description for such a holy day. Is Christmas day described as a bank holiday? (Himself had a look on Google (as you do). Seems Good Friday and Easter Monday are both just holidays in UK, same as Oz. Gotta check Everything these days.)

In that most Christian of Western countries, the USA, it seems Good Friday isn’t a holiday at all. Pete tells a story of a business visit to the US. When setting up meeting dates, someone noticed some meetings were scheduled for Easter. “That’s Good Friday,” an Australian pointed out. “So?” the American replied, shrugging. Curious.

Needless to say, in our consumer-driven world, Easter and Christmas have been commercialised within an inch of their religious lives. Hot cross buns appear on the shelves pretty much as soon as the shops open after Christmas. Chocolate eggs and rabbits are not displayed until the end of February, and after that we’re all exhorted to buy seafood for our Easter feast. Shops are packed on the Thursday before the holiday as people stock up for that one shop-free day. The shops will also be packed on Saturday as people make up for that day of abstinence. Needless to say, Easter Sunday has lost its status as a shop-free day, and it’s almost back to normal trading. For most Australians Easter is an extra-long-weekend with Easter Monday tacked on at the end. They take breaks, go on holidays, spend time with family or friends. For others it is a time for worship and reflection.

Whichever way you celebrate the Easter break, we wish you all the best. If you’re travelling on the nation’s roads take care.

Stained glass window

Picture of roses from my garden

Roses from my garden

Waves

Lake Geneva

Who deserves Justice?

(c) Depositphotos_73325631

You might recall a few blogs ago I wrote a review for ‘They all love Jack: Busting the Ripper’ by Bruce Robinson.

It’s a dense book, packed with names and details, and I’ve read it again to pick up the details I inevitably missed the first time. I’ve also dwelt on its themes and what I think it’s REALLY about. For me, that comes down to one word: JUSTICE. The fact that the book is about the Jack the Ripper murders is almost incidental. They are graphic, horrific, revolting events, but they almost pale in comparison with the way the killings were treated by the Establishment. Whether or not you accept Mister Robinson’s argument that Michael Maybrick, much-lauded icon of the Victorian musical world, was the Ripper, the author has in my opinion proved the case that the Ripper murders were parodies (if that is an appropriate word) of Freemasonic ritual. Jack was either a Freemason, or someone who knew more than he should about Freemasonry. Robinson argues that the identity of the murderer was deliberately covered up by the Metropolitan Police, and through its leadership (Sir Charles Warren), the political system to which it answered.

I could not help but feel that our current Establishment is not very different.

My mind kept returning to the cover-up of child abuse in institutions set up to care for children. Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals covered up for paedophile clerics, moving these predatory monsters from parish to parish to PROTECT THE CHURCH. Never mind the kids. I can imagine one of these bastards rubbing his hands with glee as he took up his post in a new parish. Ahahahaha new blood. The hypocrisy of the leadership of these organisations beggars belief. Never mind the men whose lives were ruined because, as eight-year-old boys, they were routinely buggered by a pervert. If they  complained to the hierarchy (as some did) they were  called liars, making things up. We must protect the good name of the Church. In 1888, it was never mind the disgusting low-born whores, (there are plenty more where they came from), we must protect the secret rituals of the Freemasons.

It’s not just the church. In our day, in Western society anyway, the church is not the mighty edifice it was in Victorian times. Now, large institutions rule the roost. Remember the deaths of thousands of poor Indians in the Bhopal gassing? The owners were convicted of negligence and effectively slapped on the wrist with a minimal fine and a few paltry criminal convictions. Or the tragic story of men working with asbestos who contracted mesothelioma. The dangers of asbestos and its link to cancer were well known, yet even now sufferers have to fight a company for a share of inadequate compensation. These days, of course, we have the other side of such cases of industrial mismanagement, as lawyers offer to make claims against offending companies.

Coming closer to home, what about the Global Financial Crisis? It happened because of the greed of moguls in Wall Street and other financial hubs. Governments paid billions (and more) to prop up teetering banks. The cascading effect ruined the aspirations of millions of people: ordinary people trying to buy a house, or small companies trying to earn a buck were bankrupted. Jobs disappeared, rents skyrocketed, superannuation funds lost money. Many, many people took their own lives. The losers were, inevitably, the little people. The people who created this debacle might have spent a sleepless night or two. Maybe. But their wealth and position in society remained unaffected. There are plenty of programs dissecting what happened in 2009. Here’s a link to just one. I need hardly add that nobody went to jail. Oh- I tell a lie. One person was charged with insider trading, I think. Only the Iceland Government had the balls to cancel the debts and charge the bankers.

Okay, I’d better get off the soapbox.

I’ll finish with one more aspect of Robinson’s book. He claims that Michael Maybrick murdered his brother, James, and framed James’s American wife, Florence, with the murder. Be that as it may, reading the details of this travesty of a trial is gut-wrenching. Once again, Robinson argues that it was in the interests of the establishment that Florence should be effectively silenced by being convicted of a murder that she did not commit. This perhaps foolish woman was lucky to escape the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison. She was released after fifteen years. Here’s a Wikipedia article about the case.

It’s not hard to find modern examples of where justice was meted out to the wrong person. The case of Darryl Beamish is just one. Another case more pertinent to the Establishment is that of the Birmingham Six, convicted of planting IRA bombings during the Irish terrorism of the seventies.

I guess in such cases as Beamish and the Irishmen, justice has finally prevailed. Unfortunately, the greedy bastards who caused the GFC won’t get their come-uppance.  Such a pity. And certain cardinals and bishops will escape justice, too – let alone the disgusting perverts whose deeds they covered up. Many of them have died, and presumably Rest in Peace. It’s one of the few times I regret my lack of religion. I’d like to imagine one of those priests fronting up at the Pearly Gates and getting his ticket for the elevator downstairs, where I hope he rots for all eternity.

Pretty pictures. I’m sure I’ve got some.

Why does everybody have to go to university?

Since I went to school education has changed. I suppose it should in over half a century, but while some things are better, a lot (in my opinion) are not. I think the arbiters of education, the public servants in their ivory towers, have become so busy negotiating the murky waters of political correctness they’ve lost sight of the goal posts. Why do we send kids to school?

I reckon we send kids to school to learn how to read, write (type), and add up. That is, the fundamental skills. I was going to add ‘skills without which you won’t get far in this day and age’. But that’s rubbish, isn’t it? How often do you see kids (in particular) turning to a calculator to perform simple addition like 2 cups of coffee @ $3.50 each? THE most important thing you can do for kids in a classroom is get them to WANT to learn. Then (with the necessary skills) they’ll teach themselves. It sound a lot like the Montessori system. You teach kids about social studies, geography, maths, accounting systems, marketing etc etc by showing them what happens at a supermarket. Applied learning. Sure, I understand that greater discipline is required for those who want to go on to university. Scientists need more than basic maths skills, for example.

But not everybody needs to go to university.

All those years ago, I struggled with a choice: give up the ‘professional’ stream of study at high school, and join the other girls and boys intending to leave school at fifteen and learn a trade or earn a wage. I came from a working-class family. There wasn’t much money to spare, so I discussed my options with my mum.

To add some context, at that time high school students were placed according to academic ability as established in a public exam at the end of year seven before going on to high school. I was up there in 1A, signifying the smartest kids in first year. It went on from there to 1B, 1C and so on to something like 1M. (I’m a baby boomer.) At the end of first year, we were asked at the tender age of around fourteen, to decide where our school years would take us from then on. Back then, quite a few girls in 1A opted for the ‘commercial’ stream, where they would learn shorthand and typing. Boys in that stream would concentrate on ‘male’ skills like woodwork and metalwork, as well as basic maths and language skills.

My mum always had higher aspirations for me. She listened to my concerns over money and told me to take the professional stream.

The next hurdle in education was what was called the Junior Certificate, a public exam taken at the end of third year high school (year ten). At that point students with no aspirations for academic places could leave school and enter a brave new world. I obviously didn’t leave shool, and, with the help of scholarships to help fund my studies in years eleven and twelve and then to study at university, I graduated with a BA(Hons).

Which brings me to the point of this essay. I know life has changed since the sixties. I know there is less work for unskilled young people – or very skilled young people. But why is forcing them to attend twelve years of school going to help? In its wisdom the education system has watered down the public examination system by including continuous assessment components, and added Naplan, where little kids are tested at absurdly young ages. It seems they’re all being trained to fit the lowest common denominator. You don’t have A, B and C classes anymore. The brightest kids are put in with the dumbest, so nobody’s feelings are hurt. Teachers are expected to cope with vast variations in both ability, and expectations. Johnny wants to learn how to use a lathe, not muck about with history lessons. Mary doesn’t need Johnny’s disruptions – she’s there to learn.

Much is said about the quality of teachers. To which I say, if you haven’t been there, don’t presume to judge. I’m not saying corporal punishment is a great thing, but these days teachers have no means of controlling young thugs like Johnny, who doesn’t want to be there and is immune from any form of discipline. Teachers are asked to cover a multitude of subjects, and carry out education in matters which belong in the home, not the classroom. I’ve always thought that education should be about teaching people the basics, like reading, maths, and (these days) typing. Sketch in some geography and basic history – enough to get them interested – and then encourage them to use that wonderful device, the internet, to learn what they want. Perhaps THE most important lesson people these days need to learn is that there are fake media sites, Wikipedia is not the whole story, and that to understand something properly, it’s necessary to consult more than one point of view. I think we could call it ‘how to research’.

Back in the olden days we did research in libraries, where we needed at least a basic knowledge of the Dewey decimal system and how to use index cards. It’s so much easier now – but I’d suggest that there is still a need to follow the denser path and read the books.

But I digress. What has happened to the TAFE colleges? The Institutes of Technology? They used to be where people went to learn a trade, to delve into the nuts and bolts of technology, or carpentry, or commercial cooking. That’s where the kids from the commercial stream at high school went, to learn a trade as they did their apprenticeship. There are no TAFE colleges anymore, or Institutes of Technology. There are only universities. Because that way, even if you’re learning a trade, you get to go to university. Whoop-ti-do. It seems to me that the result of this move is that a drover’s dog can get a degree in something at an erstwhile TAFE. Maybe that makes the recipient feel good, but it devalues the degree I earned at UWA, because the assumption is those qualifications are equivalent.

I don’t believe they are.

Despite all being labeled as universities, they are fundamentally different in their approach.  Once again, I turn to my own experience. I have (as mentioned) a BA(Hons) from UWA (the University of Western Australia). I also have a Graduate Diploma in Education from what was then Claremont Teachers’ College, became a campus of Edith Cowan University, and is now a part of UWA. And I also have a Graduate Diploma in Business and Administration (with distinction) from what was then the WA Institute of Technology, and is now Curtin University. This was all back before 1990, I admit. I’ll add I’ve compared my experience with friends who had a similar mix of studies at various institutions.

We all agreed that the standards required at UWA were far higher than that expected at WAIT, and at Claremont Teachers’ College. The fact is they taught different skills. UWA taught you how to think, and do research, and pretty well left you to it. If you didn’t go to lectures, nobody cared. The results would advertise your lack of effort. WAIT aimed its courses at practical skills, like how to program a computer or carry out radiography. Lecturers there provided hands-on, practical courses with the associated ‘how to’ in documentation and the like. Ie. You will plan and present your work LIKE THIS. Claremont taught students how to teach primary kids (under 12), with an emphasis on practical work.

And here, I think, we come to the nub of all of this. Listen up, Government. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A PLUMBER, CARPENTER, RADIOGRAPHER, PROGRAMMER or CHEF. They do not need to be glorified with a degree. Horses for courses.

UPDATE: There are TAFE colleges, and they teach trades as they always did. However, in my defence, I based this article on my own experience in Perth. And it would seem there has been a re-think. Here’s a quote from the WA TAFE website.

“A recent change that occurred to the TAFE system in Western Australia saw a merger occur between the former Central Institute of Technology and the West Coast Institute of Training. The new organisation is the North Metropolitan TAFE, which combines the facilities and resources of both institutes to provide students with a better quality TAFE education. This formed part of a major change to the TAFE system in WA, in which all institutes were joined to form five new TAFE schools. in addition to the North Metropolitan TAFE, these include South Metropolitan TAFE, Central Regional TAFE, South Regional TAFE and North Regional TAFE.”

So you see, we’re changing names. Just as we renamed the Personnel Department to Human Resources. Same role, same staff. But now it’s two words.

And this week I have a new lens to play with.

A baby lorikeet. Note the detail

A couple of pink and grey galahs practising ballet on the TV aerial

A Western dilemma

This is my blog, so I can talk about whatever I want. And today I’m going to spill some thoughts that trouble me. And here the emphasis is ME. I expect some of you (especially those who communicate regularly with Himself) will have another point of view. As is your right. So here we go. This blog is about Jews, Muslims, Islam, and ‘racial’ hatred. For I hasten to add that neither the Jews, nor the Muslims, are a race, .

I cringe at the notion of pointing fingers at people and saying, “You’re a <insert religion of choice> therefore I hate you.” I hate extremists of any ‘faith’ who will kill and maim in the name of god. This includes Crusaders, Inquisitors, Conquistadors, Sinn Fein – and, of course, the followers of Mohamed who surged across Africa and the Middle East in record time in the sixth century.  Most people are not extremists. But even so I do not want to open the flood gates to Muslim immigration. Immigrants who are prepared to integrate with Western culture are fine. But people who come here and cannot and will not integrate because their basic beliefs are different should go somewhere else where they will fit in.

The Koran was written in the sixth century – the world was a different place. Rules that made sense then no longer make sense now, but Muslim clerics persist in peddling this antiquated belief system. We don’t need Sharia law here. We don’t need women having to wear clothing so they don’t provoke men. (It doesn’t work, anyway.) National hijab day? Give me a break. I don’t care what anyone says, it is a form of dress dictated by the mullahs. Look at pictures of young people before the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, or in the streets of Afghanistan before the Taliban. If women want to wear head scarves, that’s up to them. But the fact is the hijab (let alone the burqa) has become something that singles out Muslim women in our society. They’d be better off without it. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald expresses that view from a more compelling source than me. Note her comments about little girls wearing head scarves.

You might be wondering why I mentioned Jews at the beginning of this. Ah, that’s the other side of the argument, the point at which I am faced with a quandary. The Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years, because their religion was different, or they were an easy target, or they were rich. European Jews in 1920-30 Germany didn’t pose a threat to anybody. They contributed to society, paid their taxes, ran businesses. Lived. They were part of the community. But that all changed when the Nazis pointed fingers at them, and blamed them for everything that was wrong with the German world. Ordinary people either joined in, or turned a blind eye. The end result is well-known, although I fear it is starting to recede into distant memory, something that happened so long ago it doesn’t count in our modern world. Take heed, people. The Holocaust was genocide, a deliberate attempt to wipe anyone labeled JEW off the face of this earth. Sure, other people – homosexuals, the intellectually disabled, gypsies and others – died in  front of the firing squads, or in the gas chambers. But the vast majority of those six million people were Jewish. And for those who say it never happened, here’s the proof, pictures taken by the Allies as they liberated the death camps.

Think it can’t happen again? May I remind you of Rwanda. And of Kosovo. And of what’s happening right now in Sudan. And the slaughter of Christians in Syria by Daesh. In the name of Allah.

We must protect our nation from extremists. I watched the horror of the Lindt Cafe siege unfold.  I saw a kid shoot down an accountant in Sydney because he worked for the police. I recoiled at events in Nice, Brussels, Paris, Berlin. Some of the perpetrators were imported, but most were home grown. Home grown happens because the immigrants don’t integrate, don’t feel part of the society in which they find themselves. I can’t help but feel we’d be better off spending our money to help them stay at home, to rebuild their homelands and create a place like Lebanon used to be, when Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East.

Where do I stand with immigration to Australia? I’m an immigrant myself, tagging along with my parents not long after WW2. My parents got nothing from the Government, not even the ten pound Pom thing (on account of not being Poms). My family was dropped off at Northam and basically told to get on with it. No instant welfare, no handouts. I’m not saying it was ideal – but then, the country had just finished a punishing war and needed to rebuild. We integrated. Nearly twenty years later, my husband’s experience in 1974 when he arrived from UK was no different.

And there is the dilemma. On the one hand we have desperate people wanting a better life, on the other, people taking advantage of what we offer without contributing anything in return, in fact wanting to change the way we live. Yes, I’d prefer to allow Christians into Australia – because I think they would be more likely to integrate.  No, we should not let in everybody, because if we do, we will sow the seed for the destruction of the very thing they want to come for – our prosperity and our peace.

Bear in mind, too, our society has changed over the decades. Back in 1955 jobs were plentiful. Now, not so much, especially for unskilled people. Which is a good reason not to bring more unskilled people here. And we should certainly vet anyone who does want to live here, and extend the amount of time before people can claim Australian citizenship. Those who flout our laws should pay the price, as happened recently with a father arranging an underage ‘marriage’ for his 12-y-old daughter.

The very best thing the world could do for places like Syria is first, to end the fighting, and then offer the people help to stay at home and rebuild, just as what happened in Japan and Germany (and the rest of Europe) after WW2.  Accepting thousands of refugees won’t change things, anyway. I urge you to watch this 6 minute presentation that illustrates why it’s better to help the people where they come from.

Yes, folks, fundamental Islam frightens me. Any ‘religion’ which subjugates women and treats them as inferior frightens me. What is especially terrifying is that the barbaric custom of female genital mutilation is rising in the West – and this torture is carried out BY WOMEN on their female children. Seems to me the West is becoming a fast-dwindling outpost of sanity.Unlike the Jews, Islam is more than a religion; it’s a set of social mores than do not sit well with our democratic principles. I don’t want that in my country. Equally, I don’t want people being burnt at the stake because they espouse a different faith. For me it is a moral dilemma with no easy answers. We cannot change Islam. Only Muslims can do that. And they don’t seem to be in a hurry to consider the possibility.

If I were in the least bit religious, I’d be praying that we stand fast. Since I’m not, I’ll just have to hope our ‘leaders’ take note. One more thing – this is long, and was probably the reason I’ve written this post. History doesn’t repeat precisely – but it has trends. Things are trending right now.

And on that happy note, it’s picture time.

The Rhine at sunset

Eagle with snake in its talons

A Brahmani kite carries off dinner – a sea snake

Picture of a Noisy Miner Bird bathing

Noisy Miner Bird bathing in the swimming pool

The abbey at Melk

The trials of technology

It has been an interesting week as far as household goods go. We prefer to cook with gas, on account of it being easier to control than electricity. These days we have to contend with idiot regulations that stipulate one cannot own a cooker with gas burners, grill, and oven. One must choose either a gas grill OR a gas oven to go with a gas cook top.  So we elected to have a gas oven.

We don’t have household gas mains in our part of town, so we use bottled gas. And it appears some bottled gas is not as equal as other bottled gas. Before Christmas, being in somewhat of a hurry, and having 5 9kg bottles to refill, we bought ‘swap and go’ gas instead of waiting an hour or more to get them refilled. For those who don’t know, swap and go allows you to swap your empty gas bottle for a filled one for just the price of the gas. It’s also a good way of getting rid of your “soon to be” ten year old bottles that then need re-certifying.

When the oven started to play up, we called the gas fitters. We were informed that swap and go gas is not of the highest quality – although it’s fine for barbecues. Apparently our law makers, (yet to find out if it was State or Federal, suspect Federal), a few years ago passed a law that stated that bottled gas only needed to contain 51% gas or phrased another way, must contain at least 51% gas. We don’t know what the other (possibly) 49% is made up of but oil of some description is certainly part of it. Anyway the gas fitter explained that this “other” component of the gas cylinder’s content, (let’s call it gunk) will clog up your regulator and in particular the jets in the oven which although still working will reduce the pressure and result in less heat.

There you go. Lesson learnt, but only after the lasagne came out of the oven at the same temperature it went in. Thank goodness we have an outside oven/bbq. Needless to say, a late dinner ensued.

So we resurrected an idea we’d had for a time. Why not try an air fryer? We did some homework and decided upon a not very expensive model with good reviews.  You know the old saying, you get what you pay for? It’s not always true – you can often get a better deal by shopping around – but there are times when, yeah, it might have been wiser to shell out a little more. Anyway there were a heap of these things, all the same model, with prices from $110 to $299, so we took the $110 one and paid for delivery. Many others offer “free shipping”.

It wasn’t so much the unit’s performance. When it comes down to it, they all do the same thing – super heat air and circulate it quickly around the food to cook it with a minimum of oils or fats. But there are differences in the design of the oven. The one we bought looks a bit like a UFO, with a stainless steel removable tub. It said it came ‘with accessories’ but didn’t nominate which ones, so we ended up with less ‘accessories’ than the slightly more expensive units, some of which also had a non-stick tub. The one we bought was the same as the unit in this link – but we didn’t get the four items on the left (oil spray bottle, two flat plates, and the sort-of rotisserie thingy).

Hey ho. I had decided that we would try cooking a chook using a rotisserie provided with the oven. The (very meagre) instructions said that a whole chicken (and chopped roast potatoes, pumpkin, and carrot) would take 15 minutes at 250 degrees. After working out how to turn the bloody thing on (not explained in the Chinese Engrish) we gave it a whirl. Pun intended. We didn’t think the chicken would be cooked in 15 minutes and we weren’t disappointed. Apart from that, the prongs to keep the chicken on the rotisserie were a bit dinky. The chook slid down the pole to one end of the device and stopped turning – fortunately the cycle finished before we ended up with burnt on one side. The vegies weren’t cooked, either. We took the chook off the rotisserie and placed it in the tub with the veg and gave it another 20 at 220. Then we turned the chook over and gave it a final 15. By this time the green veg (on the stove top inside) was over cooked. But the chicken was lovely and moist.

Even after all that time the chicken could have used a little more cooking – it was still a bit pink at the joints. But that’s trial and error, isn’t it? And the oven was very easy to clean.

Apart from that, I have been watching the train-wreck that is America with growing trepidation. And I know it’s not just me. The highly respected New Yorker has an extinguished flame of liberty on its cover and Der Spiegel caused uproar with that highly evocative cover of somebody vaguely resembling Trump holding up the cut-off head of Liberty. There has been a rash of videos from many European countries urging Mister Trump to – sure, have America first – but what about us for second? I’m proud to say the Dutch started it. Many countries have joined in, but I think the best is Germany’s entry. (You’ll find the others listed on the Youtube page.) I don’t recall ever seeing a country’s leader lampooned quite so severely in his own country, and outside.

Meanwhile in Washington Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal of billionaires who know bugger all about the portfolios they have been given. The legislature’s descent into right wing Christian fundamentalist ideology is breathtaking.

On the other side of the world in Moscow several people who were suspected of being complicit in the West finding out about Russian hacking in the US election, have allegedly ‘disappeared’, and it seems one of Putin’s rivals has succumbed to mysterious poisoning. What’s the bet Putin will take over Eastern Ukraine any minute now?

And on that happy note, a few photos that have been artified by Photoshop.

Ancient hills in the Pilbara. Photo taken from the car (so a bit blurring and not great) but rendered acceptable by a PS filter. Paint daub.

Changing of the guard at Windsor Castle. This one was filtered as a poster, accentuating all those lines.

Autumn on the Rhine. I evened out the light in the water bottom left, and took out the power lines. The paint daub filter really brought out the Autumn colours

Geikie gorge. This was a good photo – but the dry brush effect is rather nice.

 

It’s all a matter of perception

Everlasting daisies in King’s Park

A few days ago a friend shared a set of pictures from Gardening Australia on Facebook. They are stunning photographs of flowers taken by Craig Burrows. It’s a shame they didn’t tell us what the common name was for each photo because with the “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” process, they are transported to the extraordinary. In fact, I was very much reminded of the world-building in the movie Avatar. Just for fun I took the above photo and changed the photo’s temperature right down to purple. This is what it looked like.

Not quite ultra-violet

Which got me thinking. We see the worlds around us very much from our own point of view, and we miss so much. Bees see the world in ultraviolet. I wonder if their view is like those pictures? Our sense of hearing is vastly inferior to that of dogs and other predators. I love Terry Pratchett’s description of sense of smell as experienced by the Watch’s werewolf, Angua. For her, smell tells a great deal about the maker of the smell. It comes in layers, and it has a history, so dogs can sense how long ago bitch X was here.

Then there’s hearing. Once again, dogs and cats can hear things we don’t. Elephants can communicate in wave lengths so low we can’t hear them, while dolphins use much wider frequencies that overlap our sense of hearing only to a limited extent. Here’s a brief article on that subject. Dolphins in fact use sound to ‘see’.

And all this is on our own small blue dot. We can’t begin to know what’s out there in the vastness of space. What will a;ien species be able to do? How will they use their senses? And you know, that was the disappointing part of Avatar for me. Pandora was inhabited by wondrous, diverse (if recognizable versions of Earth) creatures. But the dominant species was a new version of pick your location of indigenous tribe. I suppose that was necessary in a romance movie for humans.

For this week I thought I’d share some lorikeet pictures. They brighten our lives, amuse, and annoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jostling over the apple juice. Note that one hanging upside down. I think they think that’s how the apple juice gets there. Also the two in the middle about to have an animated discussion.

This bird inserted himself between the two arguing – because there was a tiny gap

Things get a bit raucous

And sometimes they look like they’re dancing on the air