Archives: May 2006

30 May 2006, Comments Off on Mopping and Laughing

Mopping and Laughing

Author: Helen

Which of Henry VIII’s wives are you?
this quiz was made by Lori Fury

Congratulations! You are Katherine Parr.
Katherine Parr spent nearly her whole life married to crotchety old men: Henry was the THIRD old fart she was forced to marry. Is it any wonder she turned to books and religion to occupy her time?

Katherine wasn’t just smart, she was a tiny bit uppity, too: she almost got herself thrown in jail for arguing with His Royal Fatness about some theological issues. After Henry croaked, Katherine dropped the prim and proper act and married Thomas Seymour, a handsome, dashing pirate kind of guy who was also as dumb as a post.

Which goes to show you that even bookworms know how to get it on.

(Via Pavlov’s Cat)

Parr was a survivor, too. The survivor. I remember an old poem from my childhood, by Eleanor Farjeon:

(mumble mumble)…Katherine Parr,
Sixth and last and luckiest far,
for this time it was Henry who
Hopped the twig, and a good job too.

Googling for Eleanor Farjeon, I came across this:

“It’s all very well,” said Gypsy,” for us to be lighthearted in our own lives, and even in the comparatively grave matter of earning our living; but as well that we must remember that the world is full of crying evils . . .”
“What do the evils cry for?” asked Ginger.
“Reform,” said Gypsy.
“Then let’s reform them,” said Ginger. “But we needn’t cry along with them, need we? . . .”
“No,” he said . . . “It’s no use crying over spilt evils. It’s better to mop them up laughing.”

That’s a good thing to remember.

And while we’re on literary things: go and read Sarsaparilla, Laura of Sills Bend’s new group blog. I don’t know How She Does it…

27 May 2006, Comments Off on Unhappy little vegemites

Unhappy little vegemites

Author: Helen

It’s happened again: the equivalent of the whole adult population of some country towns is about to be sacked from a manufacturing company in Victoria, the sackingest state in Australia. This time it’s Kraft. Which makes, among other things, Vegemite. Hence the title. (Vegemite will still be produced in Victoria, while other products will be outsourced – a heartwarming show of support for our cultural icon, especially since it’ll soon be all these workers can afford to eat.)
He's doing his bit for his Dad... since his Dad got the sack to increase profits

Heather Ridout, the CEO of the Australian Industry Group, came out with one of her intriguing fudged statements, which I have always filed under “dead giveaway”:

NEAL WOOLRICH: The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Industry Group Heather Ridout says Kraft’s decision is another sign of how difficult it is for Australian businesses to compete with low cost overseas rivals.

HEATHER RIDOUT: Part of this decision will be to become more capital intensive to get costs out of their business. And, you know, the fact is you can employ a worker in China for the cost of the workers compensation premium in Victoria.

And whilst it’s not the only consideration, you really do have to become more efficient. And that’s where Kraft is headed, as are other manufacturing companies….

….Kraft is committed to Australia. They want to be here for the long haul. They’ve been in Australia for approaching 100 years; I think it’s about 80 years. And they’re committed to staying here. But they can only stay here while they’re competitive here.

And what they’re trying to do is make the tough decisions that will guarantee their survival.

In other words, despite the lovely advertisements depicting the WorkChoices nirvana with smiling bosses and workers working it all out together to the satisfaction of all… it’s compete with the workers in China, Sunshine, and lose that onerous worker’s compensation, or the company’ll outsource your job.

So, remind me again of the logic behind Ms Ridout’s statements?

1. We want the economy to prosper because we live in a developed or “first world” country where we are able to earn a decent income (with important exceptions, of course.)

2. The economy can’t prosper unless we are competitive with developing or “third world” countries.

3. Therefore, if we get our wages and salaries down to a level comparable to those in the third world, the economy will really be prospering, which means that everybo…

Oh, wait…

For the record, the Cast Iron Balcony prefers Promite.

24 May 2006, Comments Off on One story isn’t data

One story isn’t data

Author: Helen

The Balcony, Pavlov’s Cat and others have been watching, slackjawed with amazement, as that bulging bag of pus Julian MacGauran has spent years harassing the doctors and staff at the Royal Womens hospital.

For those with the good fortune not to know of Mr McGauran, this is about a contentious late-term abortion which was granted to a suicidal mentally ill woman who could not countenance giving birth to a foetus diagnosed with skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism). The ethical situation was complex, the decision lineball. Due to the woman’s firm stated intention to die one way or the other if forced to give birth, the hospital gave her the termination. For this, Mr Pus Senator McGauran is seeking to make an example of her (that’ll teach her to be mentally ill) and the medical staff (sack’em!). In the process, oopsie! Her name was also made public. Quite by accident, of course.

And what McGauran’s excuse for grandstanding and ruining peoples’ lives like this? Well, it’s the overwhelming epidemic of unnecessary late-term abortions, innit. Because as every selfish career woman knows, if you’re going to have an abortion just for the hell of it and because you don’t want to be inconvenienced, it makes sense to wait till the eighth month, when you’ll already be stretched out of shape, have undergone multiple body changes, need to wear absurd maternity garb, and will have to undergo a more risky procedure than an early term abortion.

Yah, absolutely, I think we just redefined the term no-brainer.

So, where’s this epidemic of unnecessary late-term abortion? Let’s assume the mother and the doctors made the wrong decision (which I don’t). This case happened six years ago. So where are all the other instances?Mr McGauran has latched onto this unfortunate case like the sucking parasite that he is because he doesn’t have any others.

19 May 2006, Comments Off on Friday Dog blogging

Friday Dog blogging

Author: Helen

Barista once remarked that he’d quite like a Newfoundland. No, he wouldn’t. This is why.

Let me illustrate with a real Newfie which belongs to a friend of ours.

Newfs are beautiful, loyal dogs with a temperament that is second to none.

Newfs also grow to be about the size of a shetland pony, but that’s only the half of it. They are water dogs from the coldest and harshest of climates, so they have long, thick fur with that woolly under-layer which water dogs have. If you are the friend in question, you will paint your floorboards white, the better to display the tumbleweeds of black wool swirling around the place. You will buy this book to learn how to knit sweaters from the overgenerous fur harvest.

Your newfie is a wonderfully gentle and affectionate fellow, so even though he has enormous jowls with teeth the size of a shark’s, you can trust him with the smallest child (see fig.1.) No, you don’t have to fear his mighty jaws. You need to fear his drool.

These dogs produce saliva at an unbelievable rate. Your newfie will approach you joyfully, lovingly, to thrust nose under arm or into crotch as all happy dogs will. Unfortunately, his huge jowls, with their glistening, exposed gum lining, will quite often have long and thick strings of hours-old viscosity attached to them. You will flee. He will think it’s a game. You will end up with obscene slime on your best work pants.

A newfie’s life is full of tragic rebuffs from people he just wants to lurrrrve.

You will remove the back seat of your car, because he’s too big for a back seat or a hatchback boot. Occasionally, some poor wretch, desperate for a lift somewhere, will brave the seatbeltless cave. This is a mistake. The newfie will either rub the slimy jowls on them lovingly, or– horrible to relate!* — will shake his head as all dogs do, sending long strings of dogsaliva flying left and right. Splat!

You will have to top up the water bowl eight times a day. When you empty it, the remaining “water” will fall out all in one piece.

They’re lovely dogs. Really. As long as they’re owned by other people.

*Too much Edgar Allen Poe at an early age.

14 May 2006, Comments Off on Mothers day

Mothers day

Author: Helen

I hope you got eggs and bacon.

“Say firmly: ‘We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, it says “Disarm! Disarm!”

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.”

Original Mother’s day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe, 1870.

Hat tip to Anarchist Chris.

Photos from here and here.

12 May 2006, Comments Off on Friday Dog blogging

Friday Dog blogging

Author: Helen

This will make you laugh.

This will make you cry.

He is a good dog irrevocably.

12 May 2006, Comments Off on Balance your budget with pork

Balance your budget with pork

Author: Helen

Now that the Budget’s in, you’ll need a recipe to use up all that pork.

I like to try to copy things I eat in restaurants or at friends’ houses. A while back, I had a risotto in a somewhat posh restaurant the name of which escapes me. It was a ham hock risotto – a silky, smoky, melt-in-the-mouth flavour explosion. And because I often make pea soup with ham hocks I thought it shoudn’t be too difficult.

It isn’t. You need two days, just because you need to chill the stock overnight. Day 1 only takes minutes.

Day 1: Bought a ham hock, gave it a wash and placed it in a stockpot with enough water to cover. If you’re not in the habit of buying ham hocks, they’re the revolting things with the brown skin in the Deli section of your supermarket. The ugly exterior, as with many people, conceals an interior of sublime smoky deliciousness, thus deterring more timid eaters from getting any.

I simmered this for about three hours until the meat was falling off the bone. (Obviously, this isn’t much work because you can get on with other stuff in the meantime.) The amount of water? just enough to cover the hock. Add a splash from time to time for the evaporation.

Then I removed the cooked ham hock and used a knife and tongs to get all the yucky bits off – fat, gristle, and that skin, which just peels off. Ewwwww. I left the cleaned-up result in an airtight container in the fridge, along with the stock in a separate container. That part took all of about 10 minutes.

Day 2: All the fat in the chilled refrigerated stock had, of course, solidified and risen to the top, so it could easily be lifted off with an egg lifter (what’s the proper term for those things?) The stock underneath had turned into a jelly, meaning, I think, that it was full of protein. (Nutritionists please weigh in if I’m wrong.) With that done, I got a large, thick bottomed saucepan, and

*Sauteed some finely chopped onion and celery in a generous blob of butter
*(As onions became transparent) added 2 generous cups of Arborio rice
*Sauteed the ricey mixture, keeping it moving, for 5 minutes or so
*Tipped in a cup of white wine (a Mosssac, actually, an embarassing item you
can buy from the local bottleshop)

Then started adding the stock.

Oh, and some garlic along the way – I don’t cook it with the onion because overcooked garlic is an abomination.

Added stock, stirred,scraped, added stock, stirred,scraped. (Remember it’s from the ham hock, so no salt.)

When the rice still hadn’t quite cooked I added a large amount of chopped flat parsley.

When the rice was just about nearly ready, I added the ham which I’d stripped from the bone with a sharp knife and chopped into bite-sized pieces, and more parsley. Too much is barely enough.

It was just like the real deal, for about $12 worth of ingredients for a family of four, with a bit of parmesan and cracked pepper on top. It just goes to show how those restaurants make their profits.

Unfortunately there’s no picture. It looked more delicious than this, which is a random photo I found on the web.

Imagine this has more dark green bits and delicious porky bits.

9 May 2006, Comments Off on Apples and pears

Apples and pears

Author: Helen

Interesting discussion on public education, here and at Crazybrave.

I donít want to be an apologist for KB, but private schools are here to stay, like it or not. As lefties we just have to face reality (Guy)

Don’t forget I was talking about my wish fulfilment fantasy!

Fantasy aside, nothing ever changes if you think too much in the “this is the way it is, so this is the only way it can be” mode. I hear so much of that. With political will, things can change, especially if the government does. Unless the new government is as neoliberal a bunch of nongs as the ones before them.

While there are some filthy rich private schools who deserve a lot less government funding, there are also quite a number of poor private schools who probably deserve more than they get now. I don’t think Labor or any other party is going to get anywhere by smashing non-government schools (in general) into the ground. There ís lots of ordinary parents (see the graph from here – an increasing number) who send their kids to very un-ostenatatious private schools across the country. (Guy)

How many of the parents sending their kids to “poor” private schools are doing so out of real choice, and how many of them are doing so because they’re railroaded into it because of (1) being seen as bad parents if they go public, (2) fearmongering about the roughness, toughness and seediness of their local High, and (3) the actual effects of their local High being run down for lack of funds?

What might their decision be if the local public schools were maintained in excellent condition, resourced properly, and teachers paid properly?

Are some of those schools cranky little fundy academies of various stripes, for which we’ll pay the human cost later?How many of them are just middling-mediocre, not an improvement on anything, but started up in response to federal government subsidies and the fear-driven streaming into anything “private”?

And “smashing non-government schools into the ground”. Hmm. If the prose is going to get that purple, I’d venture to say it’s the public schools which are already getting smashed into the ground.

When we moved to the suburbs and she enrolled at Brighton High School I rocked up for the Mothers Club to be told there wasnít one. How do you raise money then? I asked.
“The government gives it to us” they chorused (Brownie)

That’s Brighton for you. The private schools get a handout too, which was the original trigger for Kim’s (and Mundine’s) placatory statements, but they probably have the sense to shut up about it.

I don’t think parents and teachers should be relied on to provide hours of unpaid labour to finance a public institution through cake stalls. We don’t expect the Department of Premier and Cabinet to run a choccie drive to
get the basic tools for their work, why do schools and hospitals? (Kate)

Damn straight.

…In order to keep my daughter away from the violent children with criminal parents (Brownie)

Oh for heavens sake! I wonder what school Mokbel Minor and Adler Major attended? as well as the offspring of thuggish but wealthy footballers? The private schools are as much a hotbed of bullying and violence as any.

Maybe the girlchild could take you on a tour of her public school? It would address some of your fears, I think.

I went to a top girl’s school (now called Pembroke) in SA for the first nine years of school. I was a failing student, I think now I might have been a bit ADD, but a dreamer and a C-D student, anyway. Something about the high school (Hurstbridge High school, now closed, like so many) woke me up and I turned into a right swot, although no school ever succeeded in making me enjoy sport. I can’t praise those teachers enough. I ended up, in HSC, with results I’d never have dreamed of before.

Some of the Pembroke teachers were kind, some were vicious, but the school didn’t do squat to address my (lack of) learning.

Boarding school was MUCH BETTER – because our local school was in outback Australia, we tended to get novice teachers. The other kids were unruly…

Of course the local school couldn’t compete; Outback australia isn’t the norm. It’s a special case. Of course it’s much harder to provide education, or any service for that matter, in the outback. Would the boarding school have set up its campus there? of course not.

The teachers at private school were much better; and the parents committee was also much more active (like Brownie observed above). (TimT)

Again… What would be the case if public education was properly funded? Are you comparing a school which can’t afford to pay much in teaching salaries to a school which can?

You know, the most offensive part of that way of thinking is the notion that kids whose parents can’t afford private education should be given up on, thrown to the wolves as it were, with other werewolf kids whose parents sprout fangs, and bugger spending anything more on resources. This kind of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy as kids fail to learn in depressing and impoverished environments, give up on school, and fail. Then it’s the fault of the school, or the teachers.

The public education system does not have, generally speaking, the same level of resources available to many private schools. (WPD)

Now you’re talking.

If we’re comparing private education with public education we might be comparing apples with pears. But it’s not fair to compare fat, shiny apples with pears from a neglected tree.

6 May 2006, Comments Off on You’ve really got up my goat now, Kim-oi

You’ve really got up my goat now, Kim-oi

Author: Helen

That’s it. Bomber Beazley was shaping up as Liberal Lite as it was, but
after this unctuous piece of turd-polishing on PM the other night, I’m never voting Labor again, ever.

Not that I have for a few years anyway.

There are half a million Aussie families putting their kids through non-Government schools and my message to them is simple: “I know most of you aren’t rich and I know most of your schools aren’t rich. I know you’re busting your necks at work and going about without to send your kids to non Government schools. And I know some of you think Labor disapproved of that choice. Well I don’t…

He missed the opportunity to say

There are half a million Aussie families putting their kids through
non-Government schools, and this message is not to cause offence to them, but we can’t afford to move towards a two-tier education system. All schools deserve funding, but we can’t deny any more that the public education system has been allowed to run down by the Liberal government. That is simply unacceptable. A family that needs to take mortage their house for private school fees because there are no excellent public schools in their area is not exercising choice. We must bring back real choice, and we must direct funds to where they are most needed, even if some private school funding has to take a back seat for a while to do that. It’s time we restored some real balance and put education, not tax cuts, in the forefront of policy.”

Well, a bit longer than the original, but in my wish fulfilment fantasies
editors are sometimes in short supply.

6 May 2006, Comments Off on Friday Dog blogging

Friday Dog blogging

Author: Helen

“Finally U hit paydirt,” grumbled the SO (and scanning service) in an email containing this charming picture.

“That’s $10 I’ll never see again.”

I don’t know why he’s complaining – there were a few pictures of humans in the pile as well. And the dog, she is so cute.

Usually she’d be looking a bit more goofy than this. She’s got her slightly put-upon SuperNanny expression on.

I need a digital camera.