Friday, 21 November 2014

There are apparently going to be some cuts

to our ABC and SBS. For those of you in the northern hemisphere the first is the approximate equivalent of the BBC and the second is the so-called "multi-cultural" channel which provides a more ethnically diverse content than other television stations.
There is, of course, a wailing and gnashing of teeth about these cuts - and claims of broken election promises. I know a lot of people love their television programmes too.
But, I am less concerned than I might have been. First, there are now multiple other stations - all competing with each other for an audience. There is also a duplication of services. The ABC set up a 24 hour news channel but Sky already had one. Did they need to do it or was it to try and compete with Sky? Who watches it? What's the content really like? I am told it is highly repetitious. I suppose there is only so much news at any one time.
There is also a tremendous amount of sport on television. It is sometimes impossible to find a major network not showing some sort of sports programme on a Saturday afternoon. That's fine if you like sport - and television channels seem to assume that everyone is interested in sport. (The Senior Cat and I have no interest in it and I know others who feel the same way but, clearly, we are in the minority.)
And there seem to be a great many "repeat" shows. Television stations sometimes claim there has been a demand for a certain programme to be repeated. There has been one shown in the last few days which will be repeated. We will be told that there has been a demand for it. The reality is that (a) it was expensive to make and (b) it is giving a message about how people can change racist attitudes. 
If the latter is true then yes, it will be worth repeating - but the real reason for the repeat will be the expense of making it and the complex politics of the message.
Oh yes, politics. The ABC has been accused of a "left" bias. SBS has also been accused of the same thing. The "commercial" stations are apparently more inclined to pander to public opinion. I don't watch enough television to make an informed comment now.
Yes, I have pretty much ceased watching television. I have too many other things I want to do. I know I am missing out on some experiences, that my "cultural literacy" probably needs to be improved. I have never seen Game of Thrones or any similar programme.
So I am not too concerned about the cuts to the ABC and SBS. If they can cut some of the sport and bring on some decent documentaries or something genuinely funny then - mmm....I might be interested.
The only thing that bothers me is that they might cut the wonderful Global Village programme. Those short multi-national documentaries about people, places, animals, festivals and other things have taught me so much. I have been to places I will never get to in real life and experienced so many things I will never experience in real life. That is television worth watching.
Could we have some more of that please?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

There is currently one of those thrilling

family sagas being played out in the courts in this country. It has been going on for some time. The media has been making much of it. I suspect most Australians are aware of it - and many of them are taking an interest in it.
I am aware of it. I have taken little interest in it. I am just aware that the ultra-rich are not necessarily happy.
I am with the mother on this occasion. She has worked hard, very hard. She has amassed a fortune. Yes, she inherited money from her father - although not nearly as much as people often believe - but she went on to use it and make a great deal more.
I don't think I would particularly like her if I met her. Her business methods may or may not be good but they are successful. I know very little about her.
What does interest me however is her comments about "sense of entitlement" and her older children. They are also wealthy but they have not worked for it. Rather like the American woman who has claimed a billion dollars from the mega-rich man she is divorcing they claim their inheritance from their grandfather is not enough and they want even more. The younger child does work for her mother - although the older children claim she isn't really working. I suspect she does work. Her mother is not the sort of person to pay idle people.
But, should the older children be paid to be idle? Are we better off without having them in the workforce? The son at least claims lost business opportunities because of a lack of finance. Really? Many people start without anything. They work hard instead. It is clear that his mother does not think he would have succeeded even with money behind him. She apparently looked at the "business opportunities" and concluded they were no more than "get rich quick" schemes. She offered them opportunities to work inside the business - from the bottom up. They refused.
I know other people, often in my generation, who say they are "spending it now" and that their children won't be left with much. All too often however those same children do expect to be left a substantial amount - on top of the "loans" they have already received and the child-care services now being provided.
My sister and my brother each have two children. They have given their children most of their inheritance already - in the form of supporting them through school and university. It is a sort of family tradition I suppose. My paternal great-grandparents had almost nothing when they came here but they worked hard and gave their children an education. In turn my grandfather's generation gave their children a chance to educate themselves and so it has gone on.
My sister married a man whose parents were Cypriot-Greek peasants. They worked hard too. They didn't have much of an education themselves but they saw to it that their children did and now their grandchildren are also getting an education.
It is, I think, a magnificent inheritance - and one we are all entitled to if it is at all possible. It is perhaps the best sort of inheritance as well because it is one for which we need to work.  

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Prorogue parliament?

Our state Premier is about to prorogue parliament. The state went to an election on the 15th March this year so of course this is now totally essential - not.
The Premier says it is all about a "clean slate" for the coming year. It allows them to "start afresh". (If you prorogue parliament all the outstanding legislation on the agenda gets wiped and has to be resubmitted.) That should not be necessary.
Yes there are two by-elections coming up. One has been caused by a death and the other by a complex set of family circumstances the member does not wish to make public. Neither is likely to change the make up of the 47 seat Lower House.
So, why prorogue parliament? The only answer is that the government is trying to avoid scrutiny. There are issues coming up that the government does not want debated. They will, once again, go to the bottom of the legislative agenda. The government hopes they will go away - or that circumstances will change. Maybe they will.
I was discussing this with the Senior Cat. He is about to make a new will or, perhaps, update his old one. A number of things have changed in the last few years and he is anxious to ensure that his will is scrupulously fair to everyone concerned. Our immediate family is close and he wants it to remain that way. So do we.
He can, in a sense, also work on a clean slate but he is making reference to what is written on the old slate. It is an occasion on which it is right to look back - and then look forward. I am doing the same.
We are often told "don't look back" but it seems to me that there are times when it is right to look back because, unless we do that, we can't look forward. If we don't look back then we might also repeat the mistakes of the past instead of learning from them.
We also need to make sure we deal with unfinished business. Some things won't go away. Some things won't change.
Parliament isn't going to change either. The Premier's tactic is not going to work. It might seem to buy time but our state has fixed-term elections so he has time anyway. It leaves me wondering what else he is trying to hide - rather a lot I suspect.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I wad given some rayon

boucle yarn by my friend - the one I was helping at the craft fair. She has asked me to make something as a sample. It is hand dyed in various shades of green.
There are two skeins of it - yes, skeins and not balls.  I have to wind this stuff!
I have a "swift" - one of those strange devices that look like a merry go round lattice fence or a moving yurt frame. You put the skein of yarn over it and then, hopefully, wind merrily away.
The Senior Cat made this for me some years ago. He also made one for the knitting guild I belong to. It was a fiddly thing to make.
But, you need the right tool for the job and this was it.
Unfortunately one of these skeins was tangled - played with perhaps by a customer who wanted to see what the colour progressions were like.
It is sometimes hard to imagine these colour progressions in actual knitting. Unless you are a knitter it will be hard to imagine this but try to imagine a circle of yarn with rings of colour around it. It will not knit up looking like that. Knitters talk about "striping" (obvious I think) and "pooling" (blotches of colour caused by the same colour coming together) and other colour variations. Experienced knitters have some idea how something will turn out but even they can be surprised. And no, I am not talking about the fancy, so called "fair isle" sock yarns made by commercial companies. That is something entirely different. They are designed in a different way.
No, this is hand dyed and hand painted - literally painted with brushes. It means that no two skeins are ever exactly alike and, if it is difficult to match dye lots in commercial yarn, it is impossible to match dye lots here.
But these two skeins were, I imagine, "painted" at the same time. They are very close in pattern and colour. I will still alternate the yarns. That should vary the colours nicely - from pale green to dark and back again mixed with dark to pale. We will see.
I often look at colours mixed together in gardens and wonder how they would translate into hand painted yarn. The colour of the jacaranda flowers against the rough texture of their mouse brown-grey bark would make a wonderful combination - perhaps with a hint of sky behind? Or what about the darker lime green of nasturtiums with all the brilliant yellows, oranges and even reds peeping through at intervals? I don't do much dyeing but I love colour.
But, what to make with it? I have to design a top. It will be interesting to see what happens. I can "see" a top - perhaps with spaghetti straps. It is not in the least the sort of thing I would wear but the rayon feels like silk and should drape nicely. It is, I think, the sort of thing a teenager might wear if dressing up for the evening - although Ms Whirlwind was not impressed by the idea. No, it isn't her sort of thing either. "But A.... would wear it," she told me. A.... is one of her friends who manages to look elegant even in school uniform.
I may get A... to model it if the idea in my head turns into reality.

Monday, 17 November 2014

After four days of

standing on my rear paws I am, once again, in awe of those who do selling for a living.
If people want to buy something and I am there to do the job of taking their money then I will, of course, do it. But, unlike my nephews, I am not a natural salesperson.
I have one nephew of the "could sell sand to the Arabs and ice to Eskimos" ability. His job involves vast sums of money in anyone's terms - other people's money. I could not handle that. Another nephew is also good at selling if he has to but it is not his job to do that. They have peculiarly modern skills when doing these things.
I am happy to offer help rather than advice. There is a difference I think. I can help by explaining what a certain sort of yarn is and what the properties are, what it is normally used for and why. I am happy, as an example, to explain why sock yarn normally has nylon in it.
The friend I help also does a lot of that. We also had someone come looking for a certain type of yarn to make hats for a children's charity. My friend sells yarn which would be suitable but it is expensive and really intended for another purpose. We looked at each other and then at the would-be customer and gave her the name of a very well known on-line company here in Australia. They make a product which is half the price and will be ideal for her purpose. It didn't make my friend a sale but perhaps it bought her goodwill. Other people might hear about her attitude. I hope they do.
There were several people who mentioned they had come simply to come to the stand I was working on. I can understand why. It's a brilliantly coloured display of very high quality yarn unobtainable anywhere else - not even in the few specialty shops left interstate. Yes, it tends to be expensive - until you consider the hours of entertainment a project might give you.
One woman brought her project from last year so we could see it. She had bought a skein of lace-weight silk. It is very fine. It is smooth. It is slippery. It has hand dyed. It is very expensive. 
This woman bought it not to knit with but to embroider with. I thought she was setting herself a huge challenge. Yes, she was. She rose to the challenge and showed us what she had done. It is exquisite work.
"I know it seemed like a lot to pay but, so far, I have been entertaining myself for about fifty cents an hour and that will drop even further when I finish the skein."
Looked at in those terms it is cheap entertainment and, unlike some other forms of entertainment, she will have something of lasting value to show for her pleasure as well.
A teenager happened to be there while we were looking at this woman's work and she admired it too.
"It's not my thing but I'm learning to crochet and so far it has been a heap more fun than a rock concert. A whole lot of us are teaching ourselves and helping each other. We still go out and stuff but we take stuff with us to do. It's awesome because you can hang out and still do things."
Not the most elegant way of describing it but I am more than happy to sell her the pleasure of making her own.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

There is food available

at the craft fair I am working at for the last time today.
I take my own sandwich. I don't have the time or the money to queue and pay for food. I have about fifteen minutes to eat and be back on the stand. We all do and, for four days, I can handle that.
But, I do get an opportunity to observe what other people are eating in the area where you can sit and consume both food and drink.
Some people bring theirs from home but many people, well over half buy their lunch.
I was talking about this to my friend and came to the conclusion that it must be part of the "day out" experience. There can be no other explanation for it. The food available is expensive. It always is at that venue. I don't find the food very attractive either.
Yesterday a woman sat down opposite me with a serve of fish and chips. It came in a cardboard container - the way such things do these days. I suppose the food was considered to be fit for sale and consumption but I have seen - and smelt - much better takeaway fish and chips. These had been cooked somewhere else and then reheated. They had to have been. There is nowhere things like that get cooked at this venue. Perhaps that is why she needed two tiny packets of salt and one of pepper sprinkled over the top. I left rapidly.
I went back to the stall I am working on accompanied by another stall holder who works nearby. She was carrying a clear plastic container of fruit salad and a coffee. Although she lives in another state she always brings some of her lunch with her. The fruit salad?
"It looks nicer than it tastes," she told me, "But I didn't have time to stop at the market when I got here. It's expensive buying it like this."
I did not inquire about the price. I know what the price was a couple of years ago and it was very expensive.
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate? Very expensive - and in throwaway containers. Soft drinks? Again, very expensive.
So, I take my own sandwich, a piece of fruit and a drink. I consider myself fortunate that I am not an interstate stall holder who would find it much more difficult - although not impossible - to take food from home or from where I was staying.
But I did rather envy the woman sitting next to me who had a container of the most delicious looking home made salad.
"I like to cook," she told me as we watched someone else arriving with an over-flowing container of what had to be more reheated chips.
Yes, I suppose "buying lunch" is rather reminiscent of that once a term occasion on which we were allowed to buy it as children but I genuinely prefer to take my own.
And anyway, the money I have saved might buy a rather nifty ink pad I saw. I have a friend who makes cards and it will make the perfect birthday present for her.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

"If you are any good at basic mathematics,"

I tell her, "You could take one row of hearts out and then knit the border."
The would-be knitter of the shawl looks at me as if I have gone mad. Fortunately her friend laughs and says, "Oh yes, just adjust the repeats? Let me see..."
She looks at the chart for the pattern and says, "Simple. I'll help you."
I sell the pattern and more yarn to the first knitter.
After they had gone I had a moment to contemplate the experience. I know most people just follow knitting patterns just as they are written. They don't have the confidence to adjust a pattern. They will even knit the sleeves too long because they don't know how to adjust the increasing - or decreasing if you are working top down.
Most of the time it is a matter of basic arithmetic. They could, for the most part, do the arithmetic if you asked them to do a straight forward division or multiplication. Older people would probably do the calculations mentally, younger ones will take out their phones and do it on that. Ask either group to apply the calculation to a problem however and they are lost.
The tension (gauge to readers in North America) is 20sts to 10cms. You want something to measure 100cms? Yes, you need 200sts. You want it to measure 110cms? Yes 220sts. And so it goes on.
I know it is not always easy - and I have given a very simple example - but it can be done.
I was talking to another knitter later in the day. We talked about Philae landing on the comet - something she had, like me, found fascinating. I mentioned how I hoped it might excite current school students to study science, particularly maths and physics. She agreed.
Then she asked me how she could alter the pattern she was interested in. (She's a very big girl and she has to adapt everything to her 1.9m height.)
I told her what she needed to take into consideration but I said, "You teach maths. You can do the calculations yourself."
She looked at me in alarm and I said, "Basic mathematics S...... but send me an e-mail if you aren't happy and I'll check."
"Cheeky Cat!"
Perhaps. It made me wonder though how often I also lack confidence when I am outside my comfort zone.