Sunday, 29 March 2015

I investigated curing some

olives yesterday. One of the people on my regular bike  route offered me some. 
He lives with his dog and his dog will eat the fallen, raw olives. They are not the best food for a dog. The best solution is to pick the olives and offer them to anyone foolish enough to say "yes".  
After being asked more than once I said "yes" in order to relieve his anxiety to be rid of them. Then I wondered again if I could be bothered.
There is, naturally, more than one way of doing it. Whichever way you choose it is a long process. I read. I read some more. I looked at the olives which are small and black - not those big Kalamata olives Middle Cat's mother-in-law used to deal with so competently.  Were they worth at least six weeks of work? A lot of salt and a lot of water were involved too.
I consulted a Greek friend. She looked at me as if I was more than slightly insane and said, "Don't bother - not worth the effort."
The Senior Cat said, "Put them in the compost. They won't get wasted that way."
I put them in the compost.
But, I feel a little guilty. They were, potentially, food. I hate wasting food. When I cook I like to be able to plan ahead so that things don't get wasted. And yes, we do eat olives in this house. 
Perhaps I just need to think of it in terms of knowing that I have saved the dog a tummy ache - and his owner the anxiety.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

I suppose I should not try to

comment on news websites. It doesn't seem to matter how carefully I word a comment someone will take offence. 
This is particularly true of the Guardian website which, unfortunately, I need to look at. I say "unfortunately" because many of those who comment there seem to be belligerent and quite incapable of listening to anyone else.
Of course there are some intelligent and measured comments there but many more add nothing to any debate. I wonder who these people are and how they have time to do so much. 
I look at the Guardian website if something comes up in a news feed I get. Their rolling coverage can be useful to me. I need to know what the news media is saying about an incident. It won't always be that accurate but it will give me a general idea. If there is an incident which is likely to become a major humanitarian disaster then I can prepare myself and alert other people. 
But I am sometimes caught by an article on the website. I read it and I am foolish enough to make a comment. 
Yesterday I asked a simple question. I made it very plain that it was a question and not a comment but someone almost instantly fired back and told me to find out for myself. I was accused of "insinuating" something simply by asking the question. It was rude. It was unnecessary. 
I was waiting for a response to a message I had just sent someone so I did something I had not done before. I looked at the previous comments made by the same individual. And yes, as I suspected, there were many more similar comments. They were almost always rude or belligerent and, all too often, they were attracting attention from similar individuals. 
I have not had time to explore further but I suspect other news websites which allow comment are similar. There will be individuals who comment frequently on them. They will rant. They won't "listen" in the sense that they won't read and take in what anyone else has to say or they will misread it so that it suits them and gives them the opportunity to cut someone else down, be rude to them and generally fail to show any common courtesy. 
I can only suppose that some people get some sort of perverse pleasure out of such behaviour. Presumably they feel good  - or just better about themselves - when they can do this.
I wonder though - would they all be like this in a face-to-face situation? Would they dare to insult and belittle others  if  they met them?
The psychology of internet commentary disturbs me. I really should try not to comment so I won't be (perhaps deliberately) misunderstood. It only allows and encourages some people to indulge in poor behaviour. I don't want to be responsible for that.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Yesterday did not happen

- at least it seems not to have happened.
It is partly my own fault. I object to the idea of my nephew and BIL living on "take-away". This tends to happen if Middle-Cat is not at home. The males in her household can cook. They would not starve but right now my BIL is particularly busy at work and may not leave there until late. He then goes to visit his father in hospital and, of course, Middle-Cat while she is there. He finally gets home at around 9pm or even later. Cooking something to eat is not high on the agenda.
Nephew is at the beginning of post-grad work at  university and doing locum shifts wherever he is needed. He would need to do the shopping and....well you get the idea. 
Middle-Cat's household tends to eat Greek-Cypriot style cuisine. So yesterday I made "pastitso"  - after a trip to the supermarket. I made pasties because they also need nothing more than heating up.  BIL and nephew can make themselves the green salad to go with it. (Ingredients in the fridge guys.) It took up a good part of the morning and it had to be done then because we were expecting visitors in the afternoon. Senior Cat had an unexpected omelette for lunch. He is very accommodating about such things.
I was starting to clear the other table to put out things for afternoon tea when the phone rang. It was the mother of my friend asking if I  had  an e-mail from her. No. I hadn't checked the e-mail for about half an hour. They wouldn't be coming. She was ill. Oh. I am glad she was thoughtful enough to not share her germs with the Senior Cat. The e-mail arrived about twenty minutes later. 
As we were expecting her aunt to come later - and take them back to where they were staying - I phoned her. She was out but another member of  the community in which she lives answered the phone and I said I'd call again. Of course she called me when she got in and I explained. Right. She would change her plans and see us later than expected so she could visit someone else on the way. 
And then - another call from her. She was stuck in traffic - an accident at a busy intersection had traffic at a standstill - so would see us and pick up what the Senior Cat had made for her at another time. 
And then, at almost 7pm - yes, you can surely guess by now - my BIL called. He was still at work. He was going to do two hospital visits and then still had work to do. That pastitso would keep wouldn't it?  Nephew (also at work) would pick it up tomorrow.
What was he going to eat? He'd pick up something on his way to the hospital. Right.
And I managed to get all the work e-mail answered, letters written and several hours of serious internet research done.
But somehow....yesterday didn't happen. I didn't do most of what I planned to do... and today?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

There is something called "Clean Reader"

now apparently available for those delicate souls who find the use of Anglo-Saxon sexual terms and other profanities unacceptably appearing on their e-reader screens. My understanding is that you can plug your current book into the application and it will remove all the offensive words and replace them with something else. You can then go ahead and read the book without having to face these offensive words.
Let it be said here that I do not swear. I have never felt the need to swear. My vocabulary is extensive enough (I hope) not to feel the need to use the sort of language which is often considered offensive. 
But I know other people use that language and that writers will use it too. I don't have to read it. It is as simple as that.  
Recently I picked up a book in the library but I didn't borrow it. There was what I felt was an excessive use of offensive language. I felt it served no purpose. It had just been put there - perhaps to shock. It didn't add anything to the story. The subject matter (which appeared to be quite different from the blurb on the cover) did not appeal to me either.
There is the occasional swear word in the light crime novel I am currently reading as my "book at bedtime". It doesn't bother me in the least. The main character is the sort of person who would use that type of language and so are some of the people he is dealing with.
Removing that sort of language would change the book into something entirely different. It would no longer be the book the author wrote. The characters would become flat and colourless. The writing would sound stilted and dull. It would cease to flow. 
"Clean Reader" is not doing anyone any favours. It may even be illegal - depending on the view that would be taken by the court about "publication". Whatever that decision may be though the idea is wrong. The author is entitled to object and object strongly. It is not what they wrote. It is not what they published. 
Would you paint in blue instead of pink in a Renoir simply because you find pink offensive?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My sister had major spinal

surgery yesterday. The operation lasted almost five hours and last night she was still in "intensive care" and on "assisted breathing". The Senior Cat is frantic with worry. He couldn't settle to anything yesterday and he has just prowled out this morning admitting that he did not sleep well. 
We knew this would happen. We did not tell him until afterwards just how complex the surgery was. It was "external" to the spinal cord and, while serious, not nearly as serious as some types of surgery. It was a complex and fiddly "engineering" procedure involving vertebrae. 
All being well however she should be recovering at home in a remarkably short time. 
Still, the Senior Cat worries. He is a "born worrier". I understand. After all Middle Cat is his second daughter.  I can even sympathise. Middle Cat is my sister and I am concerned for her.
There was something else in this morning's paper that made me wonder about the care she is getting. It is probably excellent. The hospital has a good reputation. She knows and trusts the surgeon. She has the medical knowledge and had done the research.
But there was a report in the paper about the way our prison population is growing older and the care that some of the oldest prison inmates might need. It is a problem that most people will never have thought about. We don't expect "old" people to be in prison. A decade ago there was 80 yr old man in prison. Now there are eight more than 80 - two who are 87. They are sexual offenders who were convicted late in life. 
The report is suggesting that they will need to have special consideration and care. Well yes, everyone has the right to the basics of life. I find the activities of sexual offenders utterly repugnant but I acknowledge they have the right to food and shelter and access to the bathroom and so on.
But, the report goes beyond that and suggests that they need to be treated just like any other elderly person in a nursing home and provided with art and music appreciation classes, craft work and other entertainment. With the exception that they would not be allowed to leave prison it is being suggested that they be treated no differently to those outside the prison walls.
My observation of life in nursing homes and the lives of elderly in the community suggest to me that the offenders would actually be better off. Many nursing homes are not able or are unwilling to offer the residents much in the way of activities or entertainment. Many elderly people who still live in the community are isolated from activities simply because it is too difficult to get to and from them. 
If the recommendations of that report were implemented elderly prisoners might actually be better off than many people in the community who have committed no offence at all. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The funeral of the late Gough Whitlam

was a lavish affair. It was held in the Sydney Town Hall. There was an entire symphony orchestra. The ABC covered the event. All the living former Prime Ministers and the current one were present.  Two Prime Ministers, from the opposing side, were booed and heckled on entering and leaving - a disgraceful and disrespectful thing to do to both them and Whitlam. It was an event at which many people wished to be seen.
And now we have lost another Prime Minister. Fraser's funeral is to be held in Scots Church Melbourne - a suitable venue for a former Presbyterian. It won't be the same sort of lavish affair in the least. He would not have wanted that. Members of the public welcome and will be seated in order of arrival. There are arrangements for the overflow. 
There were no such arrangements for Whitlam's funeral. You had, apart from former Prime Ministers and the media, to have Labor credentials to enter the Town Hall. A friend of mine, a former Labor Senator, was nearly left outside because she didn't have the necessary invitation card. Only when vouched for by someone else was she allowed to enter.
Of the two men though I genuinely believe it would be right to say that Fraser did more, far more, for the country. He handed it over in good shape after years of hard work rebuilding it from a chaotic financial and social mess - the mess that Whitlam left behind.
And yet it is Whitlam who is remembered with warmth, gratitude and adulation. Ask anyone and much of what the Fraser government did will be attributed to Whitlam. Those who know better will claim Fraser only managed it because Whitlam had laid all the ground work. Did he really? I have been doing some reading for another purpose recently and , with no disrespect, his government did not achieve as much as is usually assumed. Nevertheless he is seen as a powerful figure in the past political history of the country.
I wonder what will be said at Fraser's funeral. Will they recognise his immense contribution? Of course they will recognise some of it. That is what state funerals are for. But, over the years he changed. He moved away from the politics of the party he once led. He became close friends, and was influenced by, the man he had once ousted - Whitlam. He eventually resigned from the party that had given him so much. Did he regret doing that? 
His funeral will be an awkward affair at best. The condolences in parliament were tinged with that same awkwardness. It was sad to hear a man who had contributed so much being honoured but not really praised.
We went to a funeral yesterday, the funeral of my cousin's mother. Her second husband was opposed to her maintaining any ties. It is one of those things you have to accept. We went yesterday because my cousin both wanted and needed us to be there. He has now lost both parents and his brother. He's the last of the four. 
The service was simple and it reflected her life of love of family and love of music and art. Her old "library ladies" - her work colleagues - came. Some of the staff at the nursing home slipped into the chapel as the service began. I couldn't help contrasting this with Whitlam's funeral. That was like the man himself - big, bold, ready to spend money. I can hear Fraser now urging restraint and saying, "I know you will have to do it but nothing too fancy please. I would rather you spent the money on trees or children or refugees."
And I will say the same when my time comes. A tree would be nice but forget the granite headstone please.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

"I didn't know what to do

with what would have been my screen time."
A group of secondary school students in the UK apparently tried an "experiment" recently. They tried to go without their social media screen time for a week. 
Most of them failed. Some lasted a few days. Only a couple of them managed to stay away from social media all week.
That they failed to stay away from it does not surprise me. I have seen the teens here. They seem to be permanently attached to their phones. But, you know that. 
What interested me were their comments. Some, perhaps most of them, expected to fail. They didn't think they would be able "live without their phone". They said  things like, "You think you're missing out" and "You've got to keep up..."
The pressure on them must be immense if that is how they feel. I suspect they could learn to live without that pressure - if their friends were in the same position.
But what really alarmed me was the fact that more than one of them said that they didn't know how to fill in the time that would have been the time they spent on social media - their "screen time". They didn't appear to have any other interests with which to fill their time. Teens? Teens with no other interests?
In my teens my peer group played sport - and even I participated by passing the umpire's exam in softball and scoring for netball. Okay, some teens do that - but not all of them. At the last school I attended there were chess groups, Scrabble groups, a folk dance group (run by the students themselves), a ball room dance class (useful if you were going back to a rural community where there were Saturday night "footy" dances). The girls sewed and knitted themselves and their boyfriends scarves in team colours. The boys made complex model airplanes and flew them on the school oval. Most of them participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme programme. Yes, they sat around and gossiped a bit too. The girls though would often be doing something at the same time. Perhaps it was because most of them came from rural areas where you didn't "waste time". 
I don't know how many of them read. It was not the most popular activity during the school day. Some of them, like me, must have read at other times. Talking to some of them in later years I am aware that they did read. We didn't have the opportunity to watch television at school - apart from the rare programme that the teachers deemed a "must". 
There was just one girl in the segment who said something like, "I have this huge pile of books I want to read and I read two of them in what would have been screen time. It was great."
I didn't know whether to shout or cry at her words. Surely screen time should not be a substitute for reading time?
At the Whirlwind's school phones are not permitted to be used during the day. The boarders can keep one in Matron's office and use it to call their parents or guardians in the evenings. It's a severe offence to be found using one at another time. Day girls have to leave their phones in the office complex. 
I told the Whirlwind about the television segment. Her father rings her each evening when she is at school - as far as possible at the same time. It's all she uses the phone for during the week. At weekends she takes it with her but has, so far, only used it to talk to him or me or her best friend's mother. I suspect it is much the same for most of the boarders her age because she thought about it for a bit and then said,
"Well, we don't need it because we see each other all the time - and most of the time we're doing something else."
And most of them read a lot too.