Category Archives: Life and things

Notre Dame will rise again

When I first saw the news about the fire destroying the spire of Notre Dame de Paris I was sickened, appalled, and ultimately grief-stricken. My post on Facebook said it all – “Notre Dame. Oh no, oh no, how tragic”.

Although I was raised in a Christian (Protestant) household, I have been for many years an atheist, so my response might seem a little odd, so let me explain.

I had always been interested in history when I was at high school, but the history teacher inflicted upon my class in my final year did his level best to beat that out of me. Even so, when I enrolled for my first year at Uni, I decided to take one unit of history, in an area we hardly learned anything about in school – Medieval Europe. That is, the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of the Renaissance. The lecturer was one of those rare academics who could make the subject come alive. It wasn’t just a string of dates and dynasties, she talked about the people and their lives in those very different times. The world was divided into nobles, artisans, and peasants. Jobs and skills were handed on from father to son, mother to daughter. The only tall structures were castles – and they weren’t very tall, either, once you’d walked up the hill on which they were built. Everybody believed in God and the Devil, and the Catholic church, having survived some turbulent times, was wealthy and powerful. It was in this context that the great Gothic cathedrals were built.

I was entranced. Our lecturer showed as slides of the great cathedrals, the soaring vaults, the wonderful flying buttresses to keeps those walls upright, the wonderful gargoyles spilling rainwater from the roof to the ground, the statues of saints and nobles carved into the stone above the entrances, the magnificent carvings around the pulpit, the choir, the organ. And the statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the Apostles, all decorated with gold leaf and bright paint. Just being inside these places with their towering arches three and four storeys tall is a humbling experience, even to a non-believer like me.

Notre Dame is much more than ‘just’ a Catholic cathedral, it’s a monument to the ingenuity of mankind.

It was built by humans equipped with nothing but hand tools, building on the foundations of structures that had stood there before, combining two earlier basilicas into one. Think about it. The two bell towers are sixty-eight metres tall, and the roof is thirty-five metres high. The work was carried out without cranes or hydraulic lifts, each stone and oak beam put into place by hand. And it’s not just a matter of placing blocks of stone on top of each other. Figures are carved into doorways and windows – saints and kings and characters from the scriptures. The incredible rose windows were put in place high above the ground, each piece lovingly created before it was fitted into the whole. Women wove tapestries. Artists painted murals and paintings. Generations of craftsmen worked on this project. Some of their skills we’ve never been able to reproduce – at least not the way they did things then.

I’ve been to Notre Dame many decades ago when cameras had film. I’m sure the pictures are somewhere, but it’s easy enough to find photos of this French icon, as I’ve shown on the post. However, I recall the wonderful rose windows which still (and thankfully even now) have their 13th century glass. We’ve lost the art, you see. Crafts were handed down from father to son. Nothing was written down. And when many of the lower windows of the cathedral were damaged during the French Revolution and the 20th century wars, they were replaced with modern glass. Compared to the original glass, the new glass lacks… something. An inner glow, a lustre.

Now, a few days after the fire, we know the organ has survived relatively intact, as have the irreplaceable rose windows. The main structure has survived and many of the statues and holy relics were removed to keep them safe while the main spire was renovated. So there’s much that has been saved.

I have no doubt that Notre Dame will rise again. After world war II many buildings in Europe were resurrected, including cathedrals. That was because the people thought they were worth the effort. The ruins of the Frauenkirche in Dresden – not much more than one wall and a pile of rubble – were carefully guarded by the citizens of Dresden until after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when they could finally rebuild.

There are those who point fingers at wealthy firms and billionaires who pledged hundreds of millions to a restoration fund within days of the fire, asking why the money didn’t go to feeding the hungry and other worthy causes. This IS a worthy cause. The cathedral is part of the soul of Paris. And remember, those donations will pay artisans, purchase raw materials, put factories to work. Those donations will make their way through the city, the country, all of Europe – and bring a community closer together. And that has to be good.

 

 

Why I’m not giving up on Facebook

Everybody who uses the internet has heard about how Facebook collects private information and uses it to target advertising. Nobody likes it, especially when email addresses and telephone numbers are sold off to other parties. I’m with you – something needs to be done to prevent this abuse but if it’s a choice between giving up some of my privacy and giving up Facebook (FB) – I’ll stick with FB.

My Facebook profile provides as little personal information about me as I can get away with. Facebook’s goblins know my date of birth (although I could have fudged that) and nothing else. No address, no phone number, no interests, no religious views etc. I use FB Purity to remove sponsored posts and advertising. This doesn’t mean FB knows nothing about me. Of course they know I’m an author and an amateur photographer, and that I’m interested in science. I’m okay with that. The system collects data from what I post and my reaction to what others post. For instance, I mentioned that Billy Dee Williams is to appear in the next Star Wars movie, so he’s listed as somebody I’m interested in. Frank Oz is another – because I quite often refer to Australia as ‘Oz’ so the goblins got that wrong. You can find all this stuff by digging through your FB settings and clear it if you wish. They use it to target ads. Before I got onto FB Purity I used to get ads for older men wanting to meet women, weight-loss options, beauty treatments and the like. Everything an elderly woman might want from life.

I use FB because it gives me a whole new, real and vibrant, social world. I wasn’t an early user. I guess I started using the app regularly after the writer website Authonomy became a snake pit. Quite a few of us retired hurt and joined up again on Facebook, so it’s no surprise to know that many of my friends are fellow scribes. Pretty soon I connected with family members I hadn’t seen for years, old friends from the Palaeolithic I’d lost touch with decades ago, people I worked with in Perth and Melbourne and a few (a very few) locals. They were joined by extended family in the Netherlands and then, over time, people we met on holiday.

I don’t accept every ‘friend’ request I get. For a while I got a whole slew of American military officers (generals and such) and medical doctors. They were all older gents, either widowed or divorced. I was flattered, of course I was, but none of them had any other friends (poor souls) or if they did, they seemed to be either all women, or African. Somehow I wasn’t convinced they were genuinely interested in ME.

In some cases I met people before we became FB friends. In others, I got to meet FB friends in real life. In each of the latter cases, it was as though we already knew each other – because we did – through Facebook.

Through FB I learned what it was like for people affected by the floods in Townsville and cyclone Veronica which hit the Karratha area, or the effects of the Californian fires and the American floods and hurricanes. I’m hearing all about Brexit from the people who will be impacted, and from both sides. I hear opinions about Trump, Bernie Sanders, Pence, Mitch McConnell (and in the past Obama et al). I discuss writing and publishing with my author groups and recipes and cooking with quite a few, especially those getting great results from the keto diet.

And just like any other community, I hear about births, deaths, and marriages. I’m sure MM Bennetts, who was invaluable to me when I was writing To Die a Dry Death, was ill for a long time but that was never shared with the FB community until she died. The outpouring of grief when we heard of her passing was remarkable. At the moment we’ve all been watching one of our colleagues as he undergoes a heart transplant. This very healthy man in his late fifties had a pacemaker fitted a year ago. When it failed about a month ago doctors diagnosed him with a very rare, incurable heart condition. His only option was a transplant – although, this being America, his name wasn’t added to the transplant list until his insurance company undertook to pay the bills. He was lucky he had insurance. Many Americans don’t. He discussed his situation with humour, sharing the tribulations of being in an intensive care unit as he waited for a donor. He endured endless tests, IV tubes, providing stool samples, blood samples etc at all hours of the day and night. A suitable donor heart became available remarkably quickly and our patient shared the ordeal of waiting for surgery. Then his wife took over and kept us up to date while she sat in a waiting room for hours on end. The doctors had him sitting in a chair not much more than a few hours after the transplant. And we’re all thinking of him – and the nineteen-year-old whose heart is now beating in another chest.

Some people died suddenly, or without fanfare. I knew two ladies who were struck down with cancer and blogged about their treatment. They both used FB as a place to connect with people and share their stories. At the end, surrounded by family, one of them shared posts with her online friends (I guess one of the family did the actual typing). The other woman was someone I met online because of a shared interest in gardening. At the time she lived in Victoria but by then we had moved to Queensland. She later moved to Maryborough, 40km from Hervey Bay, so we finally got to meet. After she was diagnosed with cancer and sent home for the last stages, I visited her in Hervey Bay hospital. She wrote a last blog post, which her husband posted to FB after her death.

I hear about new pets and the loss of much-loved pets. I see pictures of people when they were young and fit. One lady’s husband passed away, another lost her daughter, aged in her late twenties, to cancer. I’ve known three men who decided to become women, had the operation and everything. They’re still the same nice people they were before. I’m friends with men who are married to other men and women in relationships with women. I know people suffering from depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia among others, and know people who have Asperger’s or who are autistic.

Sure, I’ve removed a few ‘friends’ who turned out to be not the sort of people I want to share my thoughts with but not very many. And I’ve run the occasional ‘purge’ where I removed people whose names I don’t recognize because I’ve had nothing to do with them.

But all in all, for a confirmed introvert Facebook has been a great way of staying out in the people world. In fact, that incredible mix of people from all walks of life would be impossible for me in the real world.

So I won’t be giving up Facebook anytime soon.

 

Baby Boomer Bashing

It seems it’s baby boomer bashing time again. Apparently us old farts are increasingly a drain on the national purse. We don’t pay tax and we want pensions and healthcare. All those poor young people earning wages and paying tax right now are forking out for us. We’re an undeserving burden. And we shouldn’t come out with all that rubbish about how hard it was for us. These days it costs half a million to a million to buy a decent house in a reasonable location. Both parents have to work to pay the mortgage, too.

Look, I get it. I feel sorry for young people saddling up to a mortgage with eye-watering numbers like $650,000, even with interest rates at an all-time low. And if both parents work and they have children, half their income goes on childcare. For many, they’re better off if the wife doesn’t work. And then, if you went to university you’ll have to pay back your HEX debt as well.

But let’s get all this into perspective.

My first fulltime job was as a graduate clerk in Canberra where I worked in the Archives office. It’s one of the few salaries I actually remember because it seemed like such a lot of money to a kid from a poor family. It was a little over $5,000pa, around one hundred bucks a week. Back in Perth a few years later, as a clerk in the public service I earned a bit over $8,000, which was around the median wage of the day. [1] Most married women didn’t work. Although women were no longer obliged to resign from Public Service jobs when they married, that was a recent change.[3] Around the same time (1976) the median house price in Perth was $33,000, which was roughly four times the median salary.[2] Sounds cheap, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at what that house was. Around then 7-800 sqm blocks were common. The house would have been fibro or increasingly, double brick because that’s what they build in Perth. It would have had two or three bedrooms, one bathroom, a laundry, kitchen, lounge, maybe a family area. No games room, ensuite, reverse cycle air conditioning, outdoor kitchen, theatre room, swimming pool etc etc. Maybe not even a garage or car port. And a new house would be out in the sticks with no gardens, no schools, and very little public transport. These days those little houses which used to be out in the sticks are coveted inner city properties worth near on a million because of their location. In Manning, where I grew up in the fifties’ and sixties in a little State Housing Commission (these days Homes West) house, home units are being sold for $700k and up. Home units!

Interest rates in the mid-seventies were around 9%, soaring in the eighties to over 18%. [4] Actually getting a loan was hard, and near on impossible if you were a single woman. And a lot of things today’s generation take for granted didn’t exist. For instance the only financial assistance the Government offered families was a tax deduction for a child.

The ageing workforce is not something we’ve only just recognised. Paul Keating as treasurer in the Hawke government saw the writing on the wall. He introduced a compulsory superannuation scheme for all tax-payers, with contributions taken from their salary. The rhetoric said the employer paid but at the end of the day it was part of employee remuneration. Keating intended that as far as possible, tax payers would pay for their own retirement. We tax payers were encouraged to contribute extra to our super fund and many of us did just that because there were tax breaks. In fact, we were encouraged to retire to make room for the next generation needing jobs. My mum didn’t want to retire at 65 but she had to. Those were the rules. In the mid-nineties a lady I knew at Australia Post went to the tribunal because she didn’t want to retire at 65. Like most women, she didn’t have much superannuation so she would have had to survive on the old age pension. Nevertheless. She was forced to give up her job. Those were the rules. As an aside, women aged over 55 are the fastest growing group among the homeless in Australia.

Australia’s big super funds are very, very wealthy. The Government has been eyeing off these riches and trying to devise ways of getting access to some of that money. Bear in mind that the super funds derive income from tax payers (our money) and then invest those funds to grow the profits for us. The super funds pay tax on monies earned. Some people with private funds derive income from dividends paid by companies in which they own shares. Some of these are franked credits which can be used to offset tax payable – because the company has already paid the tax.

Because the big funds expect significant fees from their members, people were allowed to set up their own, self-managed super funds (SMSF). There were rules and regulations that had to be followed, of course, like any other business, and at first it was a great idea. I had my own fund, associated with my consulting business.

Pete and I made our plans, worked out how much we’d need to have on retirement day to enjoy a reasonable lifestyle, and put those plans into action.

And then the Government started moving the goal posts.

Pensions in Australia are means tested. If you’ve accumulated too much wealth, you don’t get a pension although you are entitled to medical benefits (so far, anyway). The Government has (so far) refused to include the family home as part of the asset test. But there’s pressure on to change that. The argument is that a couple of old farts living in a house in Manning or Morley that’s now worth a million bucks should sell up and use the proceeds to fund their retirement. It’s the same little house they bought back then, maybe with an extension and an air conditioner. They’d have to leave the neighbourhood they know and relocate – somewhere. A nursing home? Some place on the outskirts of town a cut lunch and a compass from anywhere? If that’s brought in, just about anybody who saved enough to buy a house will be struggling to be entitled to any pension. There’s also pressure on to tax franking credits, because it’s income. But if it’s taxed, what it really means is the government will be receiving tax twice at the expense of retired people generating an income from those funds.

Over time the rules governing SMSFs became more and more draconian and the costs of maintaining a SMSF were such that it wasn’t finacially viable unless you had a LOT of money. It actually cost more to pay for accounting, reporting, and auditing than the profits generated from the investments.

When we first retired, Peter and I received a miniscule pension from the Government. But because of that, we were entitled to claim for discounts for council rates and car registration. Then the Government changed the way the asset test was calculated and reduced the amount above which claimants were not entitled to a pension. Since we no longer qualified for a pension, we  lost the other benefits. The financial impact of the change was much larger than anybody had anticipated. As usual, the bureaucrats had a good idea but didn’t carry out any proper analysis. (Some of those benefits have now been widened to cover all retirees.)

What’s so unfair about these changes is that they are effectively retrospective. The plans we made in the past no longer fit because the rules we worked under no longer apply.

There are considerable financial pressures on the Government to provide benefits for many people. Payments to help families pay for qualified childcare so mothers can work, payments for disabled people, increasing health care costs etc etc. And us old farts live so much longer these days. Instead of encouraging people to retire early, now the age at which people will be able to claim a pension has been raised and we’re all encouraged to work longer. Needless to say, the cost of living goes up for retirees as it does for everyone. The difference is we have a fixed income and even if we wanted to find work, if you think being over fifty is a disincentive to potential employers, try being over sixty-five.

I’ll admit I wouldn’t like to be saddled up with a half a million dollar home loan to go on top of HEX repayments to pay back the thousands I might owe the Government for financing my education. But then again, young couples don’t need to buy a first home at City Beach or Peppermint Grove. House and land packages on the edge of cities or (heaven forbid) in larger towns outside the main capitals are much more affordable. Visit the display homes at new housing estates on the fringes of the big capitals and you’ll find two-storey houses with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a theatre room, a family room, and an outdoor kitchen on a tiny block. What’s wrong with a small, older-style house until you can raise enough equity for something grander? Or perhaps move elsewhere, where there’s more room and less traffic. Here in Hervey Bay you can buy decent-sized homes for $300k+. All you need is a skill for a job so you can get work. Trades people are always welcome. That’s what we had to do back in the day.

I’m too old to expect ‘fair’. But we Baby Boomers worked and planned for a comfortable retirement – paying tax all the way. Hang in for another decade or so and we’ll have shuffled off. Then you can all look forward to getting similar complaints from your own offspring.

 

The rain has (finally) come

I’m delighted to be able to report that we have been rained upon – nice, gentle, soaking rain which can continue on for longer if it wants. Encouraged by the 30mm or so we’d had before, I planted a cutting that I’d had under shelter, developing roots. The plant had a good root ball – but the ground where I planted it was only damp for about 3mm. The water had simply run off. I was surprised but that’s what you get after a prolonged dry period. I’m hopeful this time will be better.

All the plants in all the gardens in town have heaved a huge sigh of relief and started to develop new growth. This was, of course, particularly true of the weeds, which always take advantage of any opportunity. The big task now is to keep the weeds under control and give the grass a chance. The callistemons (see above) are flush with new growth and even flowers, which have pleased the resident honey eaters. The one at the top is an Australian noisy miner feasting on a flower. That’s great to see.

The weather has had other consequences. Pete and I, like quite a few other people in town, have contracted a kind of fluey virus that makes us lethargic, hot and sweaty, and achy. The doctor has assured us we’ll get the runny nose and coughs in due course. Something to look forward to.

I’ve been amusing myself by re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books. In the first one, Wee Free Men, Tiffany is nine years old. It won an award for children’s books and I suppose an older child could read it. But I was nine about… let’s see… sixty years ago and I’ve enjoyed the book several times already. Like all Terry’s stories, it’s a mix of hilarity, mythology, and life lessons. Oh, and it breaks that Rule of Writing that states you should use dialect sparingly in novels, just enough to get the flavour. The Wee Free Men are Feegles, fairy folk six inches tall who could easily be mistaken for Scots, right down to the kilts, the swords, and the wode. They speak in broad Scottish accents. All the time. Here’s a wee example. “Rob Anybody looked offended.  ‘We ne’er get lost!’ he said.  ‘We always ken where we are!  It’s just sometimes mebbe we aren’t sure where everything else is, but it’s no’ our fault if everything else gets lost! The Nac Mac Feegle are never lost!’ ”

If you’re bored with Brexit or Orange Don, have a look. Wee Free Men.

Apart from that, I’ve had some fun creating posters for my books in Photoshop. Here are a few examples.

To find out more about the books just click on the picture.

Autumn has arrived

Autumn in the botanic gardens in Christchurch, I haven of serenity in this beleaguered city

The world’s been a pretty awful place lately, what with drought, floods, and terrorism. But I’ve said enough about that stuff, so I thought I’d talk about the weather.

Here in Australia our weather woes are continuing. Two large cyclones are active in the northern parts of the continent – TC Veronica on the west coast and TC Trevor on the east coast. Veronica is set to hit Whim Creek, between Karratha and Port Hedland. Trevor has crossed Cape York into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and is going to make landfall in the Northern Territory. Both storms will wreak havoc – and bring much-needed rain to the interior. If we’re lucky, Trevor will start to move south-east and we might get something from its tail. We have had some rain here, enough to revitalise our garden, but we’d like a bit more.

Majestically ignoring the concerns of its inhabitants, the world has continued its dance around the sun. The equinox has passed, so now the days in Australia are becoming shorter. Autumn, or Fall as many call it, is my favourite time of the year. In cooler climates the trees put on a spectacular show. In warmer places like ours the temperatures are warm and calm. So here are some of my favourite Autumn photos taken over the years.

I’ll start with the botanic garden at Christchurch, a beautiful haven in that beleaguered  city.

I took this in Christchurch’s botanic garden when I visited the city last year

One of my favourite Autmn photos. Autumn finery reflected in the Rhine

Autumn in the Wachau Valley October 2015

Autumn colours and sunrise tints at Durnstein on the Danube

Autumn from the deck at our house in Greendale. The evergreen eucalyptus forest is behind our exotic deciduous trees

Silver birches preparing for the winter chill at Greendale

Golden light and calm seas are what Autumn’s all about

The sun’s just up and the rupples sparkle like silver paper

Calm seas, clear skies, bright ripples

Just a little bit blue

I wrote this post before we heard about what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday. People were murdered while worshipping at mosques.Once again, it was a white supremacist male picking a soft target to vent his hatred. Gunning people down at any place of worship is particularly gutless and ugly, every bit as gutless and ugly as the white supremacist who gunned down people in a synagogue in the USA, and the white supremacist who gunned down black Christain worshippers in a church in the USA.

I despair, I really do, that there are so many people on this planet who think slaughtering innocent people just because they’re not the same as you is a way to manage the problems of this world.

And now I’ll get back to the things I talked about before I learned of this latest horrific mass murder. These other matters seem trifling in comparison. But life goes on and to some extent the pathological hatred expressed by these individuals is fuelled by events in the greater environment. Who knows? Perhaps these killers fume in impotent rage, blaming Muslims, Jews, Christians, Blacks, gays, kids who play loud music… until something snaps.

So… let’s ptetend it’s Friday morning and Christchurch is still a New Zealand city most famous for the devastating earthquakes in 2011…

I’ll admit to feeling a bit blue of late.  Brexit to the left of me, Trump to the right and here we are, stuck in the middle with only a few months to go before we have a Shorten Labor government.

I have some concerns about the jury system in the courts, with parallels with the Lindy Chamberlain case coming to mind. While we in the West are above the spectacle of physical public excutions we’re happy to participate in the virtual kind.

Pete and I went for a walk on the beach the other day and noticed two girls in their early teens kind of standing around for quite a long time. When we got closer we saw that both of them were intent on their phones, not even noticing the ocean, the birds, the sand. Sad.

It seems kids are being allowed to take time off school to protest about burning fossils fuels on account of wanting to stop climate change. I wonder what the turn-out would be if they switched the march to Saturday or Sunday? That way, the kids wouldn’t have to interrupt their education. And hey! Here’s a thought. Maybe they can get their knickers in a knot about something humans can actually change, like the amount of plastic packaging used for every bloody thing. After the supermarket chains sanctimoniously patted themselves on the back for ceasing the provision of one-use plastic bags, now they’re selling bananas in plastic boxes. Bananas. Which come in their own bio-degradable disposable packaging. The hypocrisy is simply overwhelming.

Call me a cycnic, but I reckon it would be nice if teachers got back to teaching kids how to read, write (or type), and add up. Then maybe how to carry out research and think for themselves. You know, like the olden days.

On a brighter note I was pleased to see the Crime and Corruption Commission in WA has caught yet another individual living high on the public purse. This one lived it up in Japan for seventeen years. I do have to wonder why his activities weren’t picked up sooner. I hope there are a few people quaking in their boots at the possibility of being caught, in WA, anyway. I’ve not heard much about any other state carrying out such thorough investigations.

 

Apart from that, here are a few Moods of Hervey Bay.

Low lide and cloud cover

Unusual sunset with fingers of sunlight probing the clouds

Misty morning at the beach

The Torquay pier

Ibis at sunset

Beachfront reflections

Let’s talk about women

It was International Women’s Day yesterday in Australia (8th March).

I’m a woman. When I was a teenager I recall taking a different route walking home to avoid having to pass the construction site and the wolf whistles and crude remarks of the tradesmen. I’ve had to work out what I was going to do if the fellow followed me home. I’ve had my bum slapped by a work colleague who thought that was okay (it wasn’t and I told him). I have friends who have endured sexual assault and/or domestic violence… etc etc etc. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory.

I’m glad to say things are beginning to change. Women are finally being recognized for work they have done instead of having it appropriated by a male colleague – or have it ignored completely. I watched the movie First Man recently. It’s about Neil Armstrong and the program to land him on the moon. I didn’t think it was a great movie (I wrote a review here) but I noticed in a one-second grab of the control room as Armstrong was finding his landing spot on the Sea of Tranquility one African-American lady. That was no doubt supposed to be Katherine Johnson, now 100 years old, who out-performed IBM’s very new computers to calculate all the maths needed for that epic mission. Her story was told – as well as that of two other African-American women who worked at NASA in those early days – in the wonderful film, Hidden Figures. That one I recommend unreservedly. I wrote a review of that, too.

I can’t write an article like this without a reference to the #metoo movement. And for what it’s worth, yes, #metoo. Just about every woman I know has encountered some sort of sexual harassment in their lives. It’s been around for a very long time.  Hollywood’s ‘casting couch’ was where the movement started, with women finally objecting to being required to ‘perform’ to get a part. In fact, the casting couch was a joke when I was a teenager, it seemed to be part of the job description. I’m glad it is being addressed and people like Weinstein and Bill Cosby got what they deserved. But I recognise that there’s another side to it, with women coming out of the woodwork to make accusations against men. In some cases, we’ll never know the truth of it, so I’m pleased a few men are fighting back. It’s a bit like my post last week about deserving justice.

While I’m on the soapbox I do not agree with the idea of quotas in the workplace – for women or any other ‘disadvantaged’ minority. It should always be ‘the best person for the job’.

While things are getting better for women generally, the tendency for women to be kind of put in their place is still far too common. To illustrate, here are three examples I’ve encountered of how men don’t ‘get it’ which I’d like to share with you. Most of you will have heard the term ‘mansplaining’.  For those of you who haven’t:

Here are two examples.

This fellow decided to tell women how many tampons they’d need for a year and how much they’d cost. I’ll leave you to spot the egregious errors. You might find some of the responses pretty funny, too. I sure did.

https://twitter.com/TheSciBabe/status/1102808340743086080

 

The next one is of a similar vein. A gentleman explains lady parts to a female audience which includes a gynaecologist.

https://www.thepoke.co.uk/2019/02/11/chap-tried-mansplain-difference-vulva-vagina-takedowns-brutal/

This one is also a laugh a minute.

And the third one is more related to my hobby as a writer. On the whole, we’re a pretty supportive lot. I’ve had a lot of help from fellow writers and I try to give back in kind. But sometimes things work out differently.

This is a small grab from a quite long blog post which you can read here.

***

“A few days ago a fellow author had written a post about authors being nasty to other authors in reviews. It was a pleasant discussion in which one writer – ‘Adrian Meredith’ wrote that he was struggling to get reviews and didn’t understand why he was not selling.

Kessily being a kind hearted lady, someone who helps when she can, went and downloaded the book on KU and had a read. To give him a sale and see if she could pinpoint an area he could improve and to leave him an honest review.

She came back with constructive feed back that I 100% agreed with.

Along the lines of issues with his formatting, the very short length of the book for the price and the fact that he had breached amazons 10% content rule and might get in trouble. In other words the extra filling in his book was more than 10% of the Bob story which the cover and blurb suggested the book was about. It was about 50% of the book which is a big no no. Amazon are very strict and would not only pull the book for page stuffing but permanently ban his account. Kessily did not want to see his account closed so pointed it out.

His response to Kessily. ‘F*CK OFF YOU C*NT’”

***

And things went downhill from there, with the ‘gentleman’ in question writing a short story in which he fantasised about a brutal sexual encounter with a woman called Kessily and then, when he’d had enough, had her beaten up by his male friends. This was all posted publicly on Twitter.

I don’t deny this fellow appears to have mental health issues. I also know plenty of women can be put in the ‘authors behaving badly’ box. But this fellow has immediately turned to a sexual offensive, something women don’t do. Would he have reacted in the same way if a man had offered the advice he was given about his original story?

It’s not a one-off, either. I belong to a group of writers and we kicked out one man who routinely reacted to any sort of criticism (along the lines of ‘we don’t allow that in this group’) with ‘F*CK OFF YOU C*NT’ or similar.

Please note I haven’t made a big thing about unsolicited dick pics. I’ve never received one myself – I’m probably too old – but I know women who’ve received such images from strangers. Basically, EWWWW. It’s another example of how guys get it so badly wrong.

So in case you don’t think International Women’s Day is worth much, maybe think again. For a laugh, here’s an amusing little video of a man living for a day as a woman. (It’s only a couple of minutes).

A day in the life of a woman

I couldn’t possibly finish off without a reference to the weather. You remember all those damaging winds smashing up the East Coast of Australia? Here’s what happened at our beach.

Surf’s up

We have had a little bit of welcome rain but we’re hoping for more. At this time of year we start to drift into our dry season. Let’s hope it turns out as contrary as the wet season wasn’t.

Even the powerful deserve justice

Around Christmas 2018 Australian news sources were full of articles about the suppression of news about a ‘high profile Australian’ who had been involved in a court case. Since the news was only suppressed in Australia, it didn’t take much investigation to come up with the name Cardinal George Pell.

For my non-Australian readers, Pell is Australia’s most powerful Catholic. He was recruited by Pope Francis to work in Rome, looking at the Vatican’s finances. In effect, he was the world’s third highest ranking Catholic.He has long been the target of campainers against clerical sexual abuse. Pell was a one-time friend of convicted child molester, Gerald Ridsdale, and he has often been accused of covering up such behaviour.

The news of Pell’s trial was suppressed here because he was due to face other charges of a similar nature and knowledge of the verdict in the earlier case could have prejudiced the jury in the second case. That was right and proper, even if suppression in these days of the internet is almost impossible.

As it happens, the second case was withdrawn, so now we (formally) know. Cardinal Pell was convicted of child sexual abuse.

I’ve spoken in the past about justice. I wrote a blog post entitled Who Deserves Justice? In 2017. Here’s a little of what I said back then.

“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.”

Based on the reports I’ve seen in the press, I have no doubt that Cardinal Pell, as a bishop and archbishop, helped to cover up the actions of evil clerics who preyed on kids. From that perspective, he deserves everything he gets.

But that was not the charge he faced.

He was found guilty of the rape of two boys in St Patrick’s cathedral when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. Immediately after the conviction became public, the doubters came forward with (to me) compelling arguments. Here’s what Andrew Bolt had to say.  And from a link in Bolt’s article, please read ‘famed church historian’ George Weigel’s timetable of improbabilities. Having served on a jury, I know the press reports do not cover everything disclosed in the court room and that twelve people came to the conclusion, based on the evidence presented, that the man was guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt. But plenty of people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Justice must be just.

There will be much more said about this case. It will go to appeal. If everybody deserves justice, then so does George Pell.

Waiting for Oma

This “wet season” has turned out to be a pretty dry season. No, a VERY dry season. In previous posts I’ve mentioned we had 1mm of rain in January. So far in February the rain gods have managed 35.5mm, which is slightly less than two tenths of bugger all in this part of the world. I’ll show you what I mean. This graph shows cumulative rainfall per month per year over the last ten years. 2019 is that tiny yellow bump at the bottom.

Mind you, these things can change very quickly hereabouts. Townsville, which is usually a pretty dry place nicknamed ‘brownsville’ was absolutely flooded just a few weeks ago. I mentioned those floods a couple of weeks ago in the post entitled ‘a typical Australian summer‘. We did ask nicely if they’d share, and I’m sure they would have been delighted to oblige but it doesn’t work that way. Townsville is about 1,100km north of Hervey Bay, so the system would have had to come down the coast to reach us. It didn’t. It moved out to sea, where it became Tropical Cyclone Oma.

When the old lady (Oma means grandma in Dutch) started moving towards Hervey Bay we got all excited. Not that we particularly wanted all the wind and such, but we did like the idea of rain.  Mind you, Oma was a cat 3 at its worst, then downgraded to a 2, but it’s wise not to underestimate the power of a cyclone.

Here’s the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) best guesses for the cyclone’s track on the 19th.

This is a very good indication of how well the weather bureau, with all its fancy computers and wonderful algorithms, can predict the path of a cyclone. In this diagram the most likely path takes it round about through Fraser Island.

We got a cyclone warning and everything. Expect over 100mm of rain per day for the next several days, perhaps more. Clean up your yard, empty your gutters, make sure you have emergency supplies in case you’re cut off and/or there are power outages.

Emergency supplies

So we bought a couple of cans of baked beans, a packet of mixed nuts, Cadbury’s favourites, and stocked up on Scotch. Then we tidied up the yard. Pete took garden refuse to the tip and we put away our garden furniture and anything else that might have turned into a projectile.

The wind picked up on Thursday afternoon, but the clouds scudding up the coast from the south missed us – and most other people’s properties.

On Friday morning the BOM’s cyclone chart looked like this. Oma looks as though she’s going to stall and then head north again, well out to sea. If she does cross, they’re guessing poor old Townsville and Cairns which have both had quite sufficient for this wet season, thanks all the same, will be in for a little bit more inundation.

So… we’ve still had no rain. Windy and dry is very hard on plants and many of ours are suffering.

If any of you are in to pagan rituals, offerings to the rain gods, naked dancing, weird chants and whathaveyou, any offerings or supplications on our behalf would be gratefully accepted.

Seems to me if all the meteorologists were given a coloured marker and then blindfolded and asked to put a dot or several on a map of Queensland, they might well have ended up with a similar result to those projection charts. And although I know ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ are two different things, if the algorithms they use to predict one cyclone’s path are in any way analogous to the climate models that predict the climate in one hundred years’ time… well, make your own conclusions.

I remember years ago watching a wonderful documentary about the Chaos theory (entitled ‘Chaos’). It talked about the development of the mathematics around fractals, and the work of Benoit Mandelbrot whose name was given to the basic mathematical formula that produces the wonderful patterns (the Mandelbrot set). In the early days, computers were used for weather forecasts. Even then, when the best of computers weren’t a match for the processing power of the phone in your pocket, a computer did a faster, more accurate job than a human. The algorithms were complex and calculated figures to nine or ten (or something) decimal points. One day something went wrong and the forecasters lost their data, although they did have the final results. They re-entered the figures, using only three decimal places. The results they obtained were vastly different to what they got from the raw figures, which led to the question ‘why’ that leads most ground-breaking science. Which goes to show that tiny fluctuations can make huge differences. The plotting for cyclones is a great illustration of that truth.

Fascinating stuff.

Oh – and I’ve nearly finished that book.

 

 

A typical Australian summer

Sun, surf, and sand, yeah? Barbies at the beach, or next to the backyard swimming pool. That’s the ideal. But it’s Fake News, folks.

In the real world, record-breaking rain (really record breaking, not that pretend stuff) has drenched Far North Queenslan. The drought has ended but now cattle are dying in their thousands because of the floods, which are visible from space. And that’s without taking into the thousands upon thousands of native animals and domestic pets affected by the water. The only critters not complaining are the crocs. They say ‘if it’s flooded, forget it’ – flood water up there contains anything from nasty bacteria to a four-meter salty (salt water crocodile), maybe a few snakes and spiders, and of course, good old blind mullets (sewage).

The rain has finally stopped. Townsville, which seldom gets good rain, is sodden. But its community spirit is fantastic and they have the good fortune to be home to Australia’s third battalion, so there are plenty of willing helpers with heavy duty equipment.

Townsville flood photos: the aftermath of North Queensland’s weather event

Meanwhile, much of the green and fertile island of Tasmania has been on fire for weeks. Welcome rain has fallen to help the exhausted fire fighters. But just because the fires are out, that’s not the end of it.

Rains bring relief to bushfire-weary Tasmanian towns and fire crews

Somwhere in the middle Sydney’s western suburbs were lashed by a severe storm just a day or two ago. Roofs were ripped off, trees felled, power lines destroyed. And, of course, flash flooding.

Sydney lashed by severe thunderstorms, power outages, flooding

And what’s happening back home, here in Hervey Bay?

That brown stuff is grass and dirt

Summer is our wet season. We don’t get the tropical monsoon but we can get very heavy rain in December, January and February. We recorded 78.5mm in December, about half our ten-year average. The highest we’ve had in December was 593.5 (not far off 24″). In January, where we’d normally get 100-200mm, we recorded precisely 1mm. In February we’ve been watching the radar maps, hoping that massive low over Townsville would drift further south but it never happened. Little groups of clouds like a loose mob of sheep have drifted up from the South East, bringing bits of moisture to coastal towns. So far, we’ve had 21mm, which is little more than a tease.

Little groups of clouds

We’re struggling to keep the larger plants alive, even the drought-tolerant species like acalypha. The grass is only green in the rare places which benefit from run-off where we’ve watered an adjacent bit of garden.

Needless to say, the birds here are doing it tough. As I mentioned last week, we have fifity and more lorikeets, along with miner birds and blue-faced honey eaters, turning up for breakfast and dinner juice. Magpies, magpie larks, and butcher birds enjoy bacon rind. Just about everybody likes a bit of bread.

Us? Well, we’re just hoping for rain.