Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ooh, Ooh, Lookie, Lookie

These are not the best photos in the world but I'm putting them up because they are of my first kangaroo paw flowers. See.

This photo shows the characteristic kangaroo paw shape better while that below picks up the rich and vivid quality of the flower's red and green against a leafy green background - the plants behind it are red poppies of the kind that we use a symbol for Remembrance Day.

These flowers are those of the Red and Green kangaroo paw ( Anigozanthus manglesii) and are the floral emblem of Western Australia. It's also sometimes called Mangles kangaroo paw and was used as a food plant by the local Noongar people who knew it as Kurulbrang.

The reason I'm so excited is because I have tried to grow them repeatedly for many years and had no success. It seems they can be fussy about growing conditions and are susceptible to ink disease, a fungal disease which blackens the leaves and in severe cases can kill the plant (the stunning hybrids you can find in gardens all around the world now are less susceptible apparently). All my previous attempts at growing them have resulted in ink disease and death but if there's one thing certain about me and gardening it is that I don't like to be beaten so I try and try again.

Last year all but a few of the kangaroo paws I put in succumbed to ink disease so, instead of trying yet again to grow them in a garden bed, I planted the survivors in a large pot. To my surprise they thrived and now they are in bloom. It's a great thrill and reminds of my childhood visits to bushland at Red Hill on the Darling scarp where the hillside was carpeted with these spectacular flowers in Spring. Inspired, I've invested in some more plants. They're tiny at the moment but who knows, next year I may have my own carpet of these lovely flowers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Star Trekkin'

So I needed cheering up and then I came across something that used to give my kids and me great pleasure as we belted it out in the car back in the early nineties. It makes fun of Star Trek using catch phrases from the TV show at an increasingly frantic pace and we loved it. I give you Star Trekkin' by UK novelty band, The Firm.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Well, That Was Unfortunate

I injured my hip somehow about a month ago and I've been struggling to walk much and there have been days when it's been all but impossible. The constant pain has been debilitating, too, and I've been exhausted most of the time because I haven't slept well. My GP arranged for me to have an injection a couple of weeks ago which took quite some time to work but the last couple of days things seemed to be improving. I got out into the garden for a couple of hours over the weekend - nothing strenuous but I don't do well when I don't get outside so, although I was physically limited and ended up having go and put my feet up for the rest of the day, it was worth it.

That was until this morning when I was going through the family room and my foot caught on a footstool that someone had left out of place - I won't dob them in but they know who they are - and now I can barely hobble again. My plans for the day are completely wrecked and I am not a happy little camper.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Teething Troubles

Last week I had my six monthly clean and check at the dentist and they do feel lovely. Some of it went very well: the hygienist complimented me on how I take care of my teeth. This is largely thanks to my old dentist. I've followed his advice on cleaning technique religiously for years and it obviously pays off.

Unfortunately it hasn't been enough to stop many of my teeth developing fractures even to the point of several shattering. The first time this happened was when I was at Clarion South in 2007 - miraculously it didn't expose the nerve so I was able to wait until I got home to have it dealt with - but it was the beginning of a series of teeth falling apart with no-one able to say why. As a result I have rather more crowns than I would like and now two more teeth - I already knew from my last clean and check they were showing fractures - have reached the point of having to be crowned. As well another has developed some worrying fractures but it can wait a while yet. At the present rate I'll end up with a mouthful of crowns. Just as well I have good private health cover, isn't it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Crassness at the Rio Games

So far - and bear in mind we're only just over a week in - much of the media has managed to sink to appalling new lows when reporting on women athletes. Commenting on Katinka Hosszu's world record and gold medal in the women's swimming 400 metre individual medley an NBC commentator credited her husband with being responsible for her record swim but then his euphoric celebration of her win became the media focus - because husbands aren't supposed to be proud of their wives' achievements apparently. Then, when reporting on the trap shooting bronze medal won by US woman, Corey Cogdell-Unrein, the local newspaper, Chicago Tribune, initially tweeted leaving out her name but mentioning that she is married to a local footballer. You can read about these and other crass comments here and here and there's an interesting article of how sexism is rampant in sport reporting in this article by Gabrielle Moss at

It is a sad commentary on just how women athletes and, for that matter high achieving women in any sphere, are viewed because I don't believe for a minute that these are aberrations. These are reflections of a society which has yet to really come to terms with the fact that women are sentient human beings whose choices of spouse (not to mention garments or personal decoration) are not of more importance than their other achievements.

But while they are the most often insulted in this way, women aren't the only ones who are getting idiocies thrown their way. When eighteen year old Australian, Kyle Chalmers, won swimming gold in the men's 100 metre freestyle event our local newspaper - yes, I'm looking at you The West Australian - used the headline 'Golden Child'. Although Chalmers is in his final year of school he is still legally old enough to marry, vote and undertake any other adult activity but he's a 'child' in the eyes of this newspaper - and, while I know it would have been one person who created this headline, that no-one realised this was inappropriate as it went through the process of publication speaks volumes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Today's Questions

Why does our (the Australian) government persist in the idea that marriage is only between a man and a woman. This is the legacy of previous Prime Ministers who subscribed to a 'traditional' view of marriage and the important part about this is previous. They are no longer in those positions and, however genuine their beliefs, society has moved on. We don't need a plebiscite on whether we should legislate to legalise same sex marriage - in particular a plebiscite which the government has  said will be non-binding on our Federal representatives. It's already clear from polling that the vast majority of Australians don't subscribe to these ideas. For goodness sake, an ever increasing number don't even believe that marriage is necessary and live in long term de facto relationships.

The truth is that marriage is a legal creation largely to deal with issues like children - and who has what responsibilities in rearing them - and property with divorce a way of ensuring that those responsibilities are met and jointly acquired property is equitably divided when a relationship ends. There's a lot of other stuff that has adhered to the concept of marriage over time or has remained attached to it from history - and some of it remains in legislation like the Marriage Act 1961 (Australia)  and the subsequent Marriage Amendment Act 2004 (Australia) which defined marriage as 'a union of a man and a woman' and specifically excluded same sex marriage.

To me this is simply codifying certain religious beliefs that many may not agree with. Personally, I have no problem with people making a religious commitment - Pisces and I married in a church many years ago and that was a deliberate choice we made - but I can see no reason why that is required of everyone else. Our children married in civil ceremonies and that's fine, too.

Actually the more I think about it the more convinced I am that all the legal aspects of marriage should be covered by having civil partnerships - a secular ceremony of commitment conducted by an secular official - as the legally binding contract. By all means have the union confirmed by a religious ceremony after the civil ceremony if you wish to but make the law so that this has no legal status.

Once you institute civil partnerships you can sweep away the idea that marriage is only a union of a man and a woman - and, in my opinion, we should have done that long ago. A more humane and honest definition would mean those who don't fit into the box of heterosexual pairs could make the same commitment to lifelong partnership and receive the legal protections presently denied them.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Emirates EK521 Aircraft Crash

I've just been watching passenger video of the evacuation of Emirates EK521after it crash landed in Dubai. It's horrifying - not only because of the fact that an aircraft with 300 passengers and crew has crashed though that is bad enough - but because of the idiots who are collecting their baggage out of overhead lockers as the cabin fills with smoke and the cabin crew desperately try to get them to drop everything and get out as quickly as possible.

How anyone can be so stupid I do not know. The gold standard for evacuating an aircraft is ninety seconds because - unless you're lucky - that's how much time you're likely have before the plane catches fire or explodes - and when the cabin is already filling with smoke it's a fairly reasonable assumption that either or both of these things might happen as in fact they did within minutes of this plane crashing.

Obviously these idiots are special little flowers who don't bother to watch the safety briefing or read the safety information because it won't happen to them. But it can and in this case they and the others they obstructed were close to losing their lives.

There are reasons for not wasting time getting your baggage. First is the obvious time constraint but then there are the equally obvious dangers that hauling bags with you can cause. You could hit someone as you pull it down knocking them unconscious and blocking the passage way - and if you don't think this could happen, I've seen enough near misses when people are rushing to get off without it being an emergency to know this is a real possibility. But once you have your luggage what can happen next is even more disturbing. Bags can catch on seats even during an orderly standard disembarkation - aircraft aisles are narrow after all - and when people are panicking in an emergency it's even more likely that it will obstruct the aisle blocking others from getting out.  Then there is the danger that bags can catch on the evacuation slides, tearing them and rendering them useless. As well, how do you use the slide appropriately if you are clutching a piece of baggage. You risk broken limbs or worse for yourself and harm to others using the slides.

I understand why it's hard to leave your valuables behind but surely your life and the lives of those you are blocking are more important than material things. If you're worried about losing important documents why not keep them on you in a waterproof pouch (planes do sometimes come down over water). Then you'll have them with you at all times - and keep a USB stick with irreplaceable information with them as well. That's simply common sense and it won't matter if your laptop gets left behind and destroyed.

And just one other point - cabin crew are not just glorified wait staff and ticket checkers. They are highly trained to keep you safe both in the air and in any emergency. It's their job to get you off a plane as quickly as possible in an emergency and they know what they are doing. They have to learn to cope with all possible crash scenarios and their training is rigorous and on-going. You ignore their instructions at your peril in a disaster situation.