Lord Mayor of Sydney says: "Sydney must join the public transport renaissance occuring in cities globally"

(City of Sydney's logo for Sydney Festival 2010, Australia, a 'helmet-law-land', groan, - note their omission of a 'top-half'! - everyone knows there is nothing chic or inviting about an image clad with a mini-ice bucket - Marketing 101!)

It was so heartening to read Clover Moore's e-bulletin last week and to realise that not only does she understand that we have to adapt to a new low carbon, more sustainable future, but that she also recognises we can learn from other cities who have faced the same issues and inspiringly found solutions.

Here is an extract of her thoughts:


There are many financing options available and Government should not be spooked by the big numbers involved. Investment in transport is an investment for future generations, so debt financing is an option and could be repaid over a longer period to spread the cost burden.

This is a time to be bold and visionary; to make responsible long-term decisions that leave a legacy for future generations. Convenient, reliable and efficient public transport is critical to reduce congestion, cut emissions, ensure sustainable development and keep our City liveable.


...she also continued in her e-bulletin with exciting news of plans to 'share' Johnston's canal pathway:

Council has endorsed a concept design for the next link in our usable city-wide cycleway network-a shared cycling and walking route along Johnston's Canal, connecting Orphan School Creek with the Glebe Foreshore.

The Johnston's Canal cycleway has three parts. Existing paths will be widened to connect Bicentennial and Federal Parks with The Crescent, before crossing the canal into Hogan Park in the Leichhardt Council area. After crossing the canal again, the third part of the pathway will provide a safe and direct link for pedestrians and bike riders to Orphan School Creek.

To establish the preferred cycleway route, the City assessed a range of options in conjunction with local residents, bicycle groups, Leichhardt Council and State Government agencies.

Detailed designs will now be developed with further community input. The final design will improve accessibility and amenity for pedestrians and bicycle riders, with new native landscaping along the route and traffic calming devices in Wigram Road.

The City has allocated $76 million to build a usable 200km cycleway network that safely gets cyclists to places they want to go. While the City gives priority to building separated cycleways, some paths shared between pedestrians and bike riders are essential, particularly where there is insufficient space for separated paths.

On shared paths, cyclists need to give way to pedestrians and cycle slowly. Our recent education campaign advised cyclists to do just this-slow down, ring use their bells and maintain a respectful arms-length distance from pedestrians. We also install a range of shared path markings to promote safe riding, particularly at narrow points, blind corners and around playgrounds.

I want to promote a new culture in Sydney where pedestrians, cyclists and drivers share our public space equitably. International cities such as Copenhagen show that large numbers of cyclists can safely and peacefully co-exist with pedestrians and drivers-if the right facilities are available.

The City has received a grant from the NSW Government's Sharing Sydney Harbour Access Program for the Johnston's Canal cycleway project. Work is expected to begin late this year.


The Lord Mayor's initiatives sound amazing - I am so impressed, and citing Copenhagen really shows a committment to change!

...BUT we need to get rid of mandatory helmet requirements if we are truly to get utility cycling off the ground. There are no mandatory helmet requirements in Copenhagen even though the helmet spin lobby looms large. Resolutely they have managed to resist the aggressive helmet promotion so clearly evident in Australia. As a result of 'not succumbing' to the 'shameless spin' broadcast so liberally in the name of safety advice, they have a vibrant cycling city that everyone wants to visit.

...that aside, well done!, Lord Mayor, - you are impressive!!

Quiz Question (3)

A two part question this time. Both of the answers are titles of well known books.

1) Who was Oliver Mellors?

2) Who was Sarah Woodruff?

I will post the answer in the 'comments' in a few days. There are no prizes, merely the glory of being first to answer correctly.

And to make it ridiculously easy there are two photo clues.

"NO" to mandatory bicycle helmet laws = "YES" to traffic solutions

(Beijing, China, a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land - from 'threeparadiso', flickr)

The city planners in Beijing are revisiting 'the bicycle' as a traffic solution after years of debilitating traffic congestion and attendant pollution.

Whilst unapologetically old-fashioned, and formerly dispensed with during Beijing's car craze, the bicycle is demanding respect for its definitive traffic solution capabilities.

The bicycle clearly 'punches above its weight', and global acknowledgement for its properties (in terms of freedom of movement & health) is liberating many of the world's grid-locked cities.

What are our city planners waiting for? - it should be 'curtains' for 'mandatory bicycle helmet laws'!

Three cheers for my 'booking sergeant'!!!

(Copy of photo-postcard sent to my 'booking sergeant' last week of Paris, France - a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land!)

He has replied to my postcard!

...and I now have a copy of the in-car DVD taken on the night I was charged with riding a bicycle without a helmet - three cheers for him!!!

Thus given that the prosecution's declared brief of evidence is finally complete, should the judge choose to avail himself of the opportunity to view the in-car DVD, he will be able to do so. Whilst extremely dull and boring, it is a record that my views on the mandatory requirement for riding a bicycle with a helmet have not changed, and that I felt equally imperiled back in March 2009 as I do today.

Thank you, sergeant! x

Dear Exhausted

Dear Alicia,

I am so tired of working and want to retire by this time next year. How do I make a fortune in a year, and how do I convince my family that I haven't lost my mind?

Exhausted in Oklahoma

Dear Exhausted,

I assume that you have eliminated the standard get-rich quick ideas:
  • Marry money
  • Inherit money
  • Rob a bank
  • Win the lottery
  • Win in Vegas
Have you considered a personal injury lawsuit? Of course, that would require some form of personal injury, one significant enough to merit a lawsuit, so you may not want to go that route. But it's a thought ...

Since I can't figure out a way for you to make a fortune, let me look at the first part of your letter I am so tired of working.  Do you have to work next year? Can you take a sabbatical year?  I know that sounds crazy, but is it feasible?  Can you and your spouse live on one income for one year?

You'd be in a lower tax bracket, which would help.  You'd be spending less money on work-related expenses, which would help.  Your kids would qualify for more financial aid in college, which would help. You'd feel better, which would improve your productivity at home. You'd feel better, which would improve your attitude about going back to work after one year. You'd feel better, which would improve the quality of what you can give your family, which would make your family feel better. 

It would just be for one year. Can you live on one income for one year?  Think about it.

The answer to your second question is quite easy: The very fact that you want to quit working proves that you haven't lost your mind.

Enough is enough - say "NO" to bicycle helmet laws!

(San Francisco, California, a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' state - well, not for the over 18s anyway!)

It has been said before, and I'm going to say it again, bicycle helmets should be a matter of choice, rather than a legal requirement. To get this 'matter of choice' to actually be the situation here in Australia, a 'concerted community campaign' is necessary to persuade our state governments to act upon the evidence provided by the countless independent researchers across the globe.

There are a significant number of us in Australia who have urged the various state governments to restore our right to choose and to cease their pathetic executive subscription to the philosophy that helmets are the 'first & last' words on road safety for cyclists. Yet we continue to be either ignored or disregarded or both.

However I have no intention to accept this 'continued' dismissal, and in fact, intend to 'cycle' to MacQuarie Street the next time I am in Sydney to ask some of my 'pressing' questions in person to any minister who comes within 'spitting' distance of me and my bike (figuratively speaking, of course - the 'spitting' distance that is!!)

Feel free to join me at any time whilst I continue with this important quest!

The gaping hole

For the last several months, my mom has been coming over to my house four or five times a week to play the piano. She comes at around the time I leave to pick the boys up from school and leaves when we get back.  This has given her about an hour of piano time each day, sometimes more when there are errands to be run. She has loved that time, her hands remembering the music she learned as a teenager, and she finally asked if we could move the piano to her house.

It's a beautiful piano, which belonged to Nick's great-aunt. She was a concert violist, and Nick's grandfather -- who was both a concert violinist and a piano tuner -- chose it for her.  It has amazing sound and the smoothest action imaginable. It's sat in my living room for 15 years, ever since Gizella died. It's been an anchor for the room, with my favorite painting hanging over it and my favorite treasures -- including my favorite photo of Nick -- sitting on top of it. And it's been silent since Nick died.

Could I let Mother have it?  Of course. Why not?
I don't play it; the boys aren't interested in it; and it's only temporary.
Why not?

The movers took the piano to her house this morning. And when it was gone, I looked at the empty space in the room, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, crying out in anguish like I haven't done in a very long time.

It was Nick's piano. He and I made beautiful music at that piano. We sang together; we played piano-recorder duets. He played through Mozart and Chopin and Bach, while I turned the pages for him. The boys climbed onto his lap while he played. When he died, all that stopped; the heart of music left the house.

He's gone. The music is gone. With the piano gone, the gaping hole is revealed once again.

American v. British English

This subject provides a rich vein of humour/humor and interest. There are hundreds of words that are totally different depending on whch side of the Atlantic you live and a lot of words that have different meanings.

As Winston Churchill said, referring to the USA and the UK: "We are one nation divided by a common language". I recognise/recognize that Canandian, Australian and Indian English all have their own identities.

When I chose this topic in my former blog  (click here)  it was one of the more popular posts so this is really 'part two'.

In case any reader is unaware here are some examples:

USA word/s                    UK word/s

Two weeks                       Fortnight

Truck                               Lorry

Elevator                            Lift

Eggplant                           Aubergine

Liquor store                      Off licence

Desk clerk                        Receptionist

Duplex                             Semi-detached

Line                                 Queue

Public school                    State school

French fries                      Chips

Chips                              Crisps

Realtor                            Estate Agent

Dull (of a blade)                Blunt

This list could be hundreds of words long and we haven't even scratched the surface.

Some expressions have completely different meanings in the other country.

In the UK "My word, you do look queer" although rather old-fashioned means that you look ill.

A friend went to the USA and told a co-worker who was looking sad to "keep your pecker up".

In England this means 'to remain cheerful'. Apparently it means something else in the States!

All of the above doesn't even cover the grammatical differences there are. If you have any good examples of English variations in any country please let me know - it's an endlessly fascinating topic.

Bicycle Helmet Laws v The Paying Passenger

(Photos: Maureen Donnelly)(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land)

In Australia:

* Why don't paying passengers on bicycles have to wear helmets
* Why do non-paying passengers have to wear helmets?
* Why is it thought to be safer to pay a fare?
* Why is it thought to be more dangerous to not pay a fare?
* What is the government rationale?

I am completely mystified - any clues? anyone?

Sorry Mum, still no news

Man do I miss my car. I'm quite exhausted from all this bussing and walking. Yesterday I saw my counsellor in Albany (how many buses did I take in total? Five?) for some Gestalt therapy which is a new one on me. Basically I pretended to be myself at the age of ten or eleven talking about my lack of friends, then I took on the role of an adult talking to this young boy. Our session was taped.

I managed to upset my mum on Sunday night. She said to me, "had a busy day? No." I told her to please stop saying that. She's been doing this for some time, asking me if I've done something and then saying "no" immediately afterwards. "Did you apply for that job? No." "Did you phone Dave? No." She always fears the worst for me, expects the worst. "I don't know what you'll do when you get back from the UK. I doubt you'll get a job, and you'll be paying all that money in rent. And don't go out and buy another car because it'll only get nicked again..." Dad is just as pessimistic but at least I can have a reasoned argument with him. With Mum, I'd obviously upset her and I felt very bad about this, but it was no use trying to rectify the situation. She just totally shut down. A lot of the problem here is that my parents phone me every day. I know it's because they love me and worry about me, but I find these daily 9pm phone calls put unnecessary pressure on me. Usually nothing of note has happened since the last time we spoke and I feel guilty about that. I suggested to Mum that maybe every day is a bit much, to which she replied, "well I won't ring then if you don't want to talk to me." Oh dear. I do want to talk to her, just perhaps not every day.

My interclub tennis was all over in double-quick time last night. We won our doubles 6-3 6-0 but then I got thrashed 6-1 6-2 in my singles. An unusual pair of results for me: I prefer singles and generally fare much better at it than doubles. My singles opponent was very much a confidence player; last time we played I won a tight first set, after which his confidence was shot and he effectively threw in the towel. This time it was the exact opposite. I had love-40 on his serve in the first game but couldn't take any of those break points. In the second game I had yet more chances but they too went begging. Soon his confidence was sky-high and I was powerless to do anything. The type of shot I played had little bearing on the outcome of the point, so in the end my tactic was to take the pace off the ball and just get everything back. This resulted in some long rallies and multiple deuce games but I invariably came off second best. Knowing his temperament was fragile I never gave up until the last point, though the killer blow for me came in the penultimate game. At 2-4 and deuce, after trading groundstrokes, I hit a lob onto his baseline which he retrieved; his next shot was a clean winner. When it was all over I walked home, grabbing easily the spiciest pizza I've ever had on the way back.

In today's badugi session I picked up right where I left off from last night's tennis. I play 300-hand sessions, give or take a few, but I have a "mercy rule" whereby I quit when I get down $20. Today I invoked that rule after just 140 hands. It was carnage. I won only seven hands, three of those pre-draw and just two at showdown. After taking that kind of hammering I don't feel I can play my best, hence the mercy rule.

I had a very enjoyable, if slightly tricky, Italian lesson today. If I didn't already know some French (which has proved very useful) I might have been all at sea. After the lesson I had the pleasure of riding in a Fiat Bambina.

Tonight we had the men's group. We had a new bloke there who writes stories; tonight we acted one of those out. I'm always envious of anyone who can write anything.


Went to Raglan yesterday (Sunday) to see what 10kts of breeze was like over there. Won't bother to do that again! It was so light I had trouble staying in the air. But I did get to try flying the knob to the south of the stream - something I hadn't done before.

The pics show looking both ways up the beach. The one with me is looking south and the other shot is looking north with an arrow indicating where I was standing in the other shot. Hope that's not too confusing :-)

"Bicycle Helmet Laws" are the "Emperor's new clothes"

(Photos: Georige Abbott) (Essaouira, Morocco - a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land)

When will a 'little child' in an Australian crowd alert us to the reality that Australia's "Bicycle Helmet Laws" are nothing more than the 'Emperor's New Clothes', leaving us naked and ridiculous?

Bicycle helmet manufacturers are not unique in their aggressive pitch for market share - check out 'Big Pharma' - and it appears their intense commercial reality has dictated that any adverse data is discounted. We only have to glance at spin-based helmet promotion tactics, coupled with the frequent use of sensational quotes and unsubstantiated statistics from various medical opinion leaders, to appreciate that this is the case.

Notwithstanding, helmet spin is eagerly adopted by the Australian public media even though conclusive evidence pertaining to helmet safety is absent. It is a great shame that the Australian public media so willingly contributes to the advertising campaign for bicycle helmet manufacturers without the slightest 'investigative' thought:

*Why do the Australian public media so readily swallow the market research and press releases so generously distributed by bicycle helmet PR companies?
*Why don't the Australian public media take up the invitation to delve further into this issue?
*Why don't the Australian public media ponder for more than a glib one-liner as to why the majority of Europe so successfully cycles in their urban and rural areas, and in such large numbers, and so safely?

Upon reading James Hansen's excellent article "We are selling indulgences", it occurred to me that our bicycle helmet laws parallel proposed "cap & trade schemes" of energy companies, promising the notion of heaven on the whiff of a prayer, but paid for dearly by us. Not only have mandatory helmet laws notionally hoodwinked us, they have completely failed us in terms of cycling safety, traffic congestion and any 'street-cred' in negotiations for a global climate accord. Given that many countries are now facing the consequences of oil-saturated societies, and have been urgently required to discuss the issue of climate justice & access to climate justice, Australia urgently needs to comprehend that we have responsibilities that ought to include a new approach to cycling and a 're-visiting' of our mandatory helmet laws.

We cannot afford to miss these deadlines in our charter of global responsibilities - mandatory helmet laws must go.

Dear Bazza 1

Dear Aunt Alicia,
Am I wasting my life blogging? It takes up so much time but I prefer it to watching TV.
I do have a life!

Dear Bazza,

No doubt there are some bloggers out there who waste their time (and ours!).  But no one who quotes Philip Larkin and posts Cezanne images can be a total waste of cyberspace.

Does blogging bring you pleasure? Satisfaction? Are you proud of (at least some of ) what you've written? Do you want other people to read it? Has blogging connected you with interesting people? Introduced you to interesting ideas?

Do you know what day of the week it is? Who the current Prime Minister is?  Can you name two events that have captured global headlines in the last month? Do you know, without looking out the window, if it's day or night where you are right now?

If you have more "yes" answers to the above questions than "no" answers, then you're probably okay. I, for one, am glad to see you back in the blogosphere, and I'd miss you if your so-called life got in the way of your blogging!

Sincerely, Aunt Alicia

1 This is the first (and maybe last) installment of a new, occasional feature of this blog, Dear Alicia.

Fun and games

It's been a good day - hot, but at least that horrible humidity has largely subsided. I played tennis with Andy at Belmont this afternoon. In the heat of the day we both worked up quite a sweat. When we called it a day, I was leading 6-0 2-0, or as Andy had it, 6-2. After the game we had a welcome beer and an equally welcome swim in the sea at Milford.

I have to say I enjoyed tennis with Andy considerably more than yesterday's interclub experience. In the men's doubles I played with an 18-year-old who served at about 110 miles an hour. His service games consisted almost entirely of aces, unreturnable serves and double faults, so my role in every fourth game was almost ornamental. I never got into any rhythm which was a shame because it was a match we could have won. That 6-4 6-4 loss was frustrating but nothing compared to the mixed match. We lost that one 6-1 6-1; I couldn't wait to get off the court, and thankfully I didn't have to wait long. During that match I thought, gosh I remember when I used to enjoy this. I'll be back on the court again for more interclub - singles and doubles - tomorrow.

I've been having more success on the online poker tables of late than on the tennis court, and am currently showing an overall profit of US$169. Last weekend I plucked up the courage to play the 25c/50c badugi cash games. All that time I spent (wasted?) on those silly badugi freerolls means I can now play the game in my sleep. That doesn't necessarily mean playing well, asleep or awake, but I do think I have a better understanding of the game than most at these low stakes, and my results over my first couple of thousand hands would certainly back that up. In my last two sessions I've tried to mix up my play a bit, which is something I'll have to do if I ever want to move up in stakes. My bankroll has also been boosted this week by making the top four in both tournaments I entered.

Tomorrow I'll be seeing my counsellor. We'll try and figure out ways that I can get out and meet people of my own age. That's something I've been hopelessly, well, hopeless at for as long as I can remember.

Dear Alicia ...

I received a comment on one of my posts at 50-Something that had nothing to do with what I'd written.  Apparently the writer thought she'd found a support group or an advice columnist.  I pointed it out on Facebook and Stella suggested that I start an advice blog. I giggled at that; Annie echoed that we could share our hard-won wisdom.  I snorted at that.  But the idea stuck.

So, just for fun:


Send me a dilemma and I'll give you my best thoughts.

More Construction

As you can see, I've made some wingseats and test fitted them to the fuse. Earlier this week I spent a long time trying to get an aerial layout that gave a good range test. I've decided to place the receiver and the aerial wire inside the wing simply because there will be carbon longerons embedded in the fuse and not enough separation for the aerial in the fuse. (I worked out with the Vampire that I need 50mm separation to prevent interference)

Of course I have the added problem of my alloy box section ballast tank in the wing and this created a major headache with reception interference. However after muchos trialling of different layouts I stumbled upon a wire route which worked! So fingers crossed that it will be okay on maiden day.

Not flying much at present - went out on Sunday and flew the Su Flanker for the last time - have decided to sell it!! Here's the pic for the trademe sale - will be for sale shortly.

Lost years - can I make up for them?

I guess it hasn't been a bad week. Since I last posted I've paid two visits to my counsellor, psychologist, call her what you will, and I'll be making another trek that way tomorrow. Without my car (no it hasn't yet magically appeared), getting up to Albany really is a trek. And a hassle. When you lose your car, your independence goes with it. I still haven't decided whether to get a new one before I go away.

In those last two meetings we spent some time discussing my teenage years. I found this subject a bit upsetting: in those so-called formative years I never really "formed" at all. Four months before my 13th birthday - yes I can pinpoint it accurately - every shred of self-confidence melted away. For the next half a decade I found myself almost completely alone. Peer groups, which play a major role in shaping teenagers, didn't exist for me. It wasn't until late 2001 that I finally developed an identity I was happy with, only for it to be snatched away months later when I left university.

I had a tough time of it on the tennis court last Monday. In the doubles (I played with Superman yet again) we were completely outclassed. Our opponents were an imposing force at the net and everything happened far too quickly for us. After barely half an hour we were behind 6-0, 5-0, staring down the barrel of a double doughnut. We put together a nice little cameo performance at the end to at least salvage two games, but really it was a complete mismatch. In the singles I surprised myself by taking the opening set 6-3. It was the best set of tennis I'd put together for a very long time and reminded me of when I could actually play this game. My opponent had the upper hand in most of the rallies but I was able to work my way into the point and eventually hit a winner myself. He was aggressive at the net but all my passing shots found their target. I couldn't have played any better, but it was still a close set, and it was no surprise when his extra class told in the final two sets which both finished 6-2. I wasn't disappointed with the loss; he was simply a better player.

I've moved my Italian class to a daytime slot and a slightly higher level. There always seems to be a skewed gender ratio at language classes but at last Tuesday's session I was the only bloke there. Not that I minded. It was a small class so we were all able to participate. I'm really happy with my progress in the seven months since I started.

It's been horribly muggy in Auckland this weekend. I only had to poke my nose outside the door and my T-shirt would be sticking to me. After this afternoon's tennis it was like a wet rag.

Sicky Sicky

Been laid low lately with what seems like flu symptoms - so not been able to get out flying. Wanted to go yesterday with 30kts it would have been a real blast. Johnny Searle made it for a huge fly and said it was real tricky bringing his Banshee in to land. Read about it here ... http://johnflys.blogspot.com/

In the hanger, you can see I've started on the fuselage for the 2m sloper and did a quick mock-up pic to get first impressions.

The 2012 Olympic Site

The Olympic Stadium with 895 days to go!
My office is only a few hundred yards away from the huge building site for the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games.

Last Wednesday we were given a guided coach-tour of the spectacular site by Huw Edwards, the Government and Business Relations Manager at the Olympic Delivery Authority.

The project is on, or slightly ahead of, target for completion time.

At this moment the site is an ever-changing maze of driveways, open pits, piles of sand and mud and venue sites under-construction in various stages of completion. Security is high on the agenda and impressive systems are in place and working well and presumably will be a well-oiled and high-functioning element of 2012.

The thing that impressed me the most was the Aquatic Centre roof (above). It was built on scaffolding, then rasied one-and-a-half metres into the air by crane and lowered onto just three concrete towers. It was lowered by a computer-controlled crane, one millimetere at a time, taking a week to complete. Below is an artists impression of the Aquatic Centre after completion.

The beautiful project was designed by Britain's world-renowned Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid. Incredibly it is her first major British commission.I think the reason that London was favoured above Paris as a choice of venue for 2012 was London's imaginative legacy programme. The 4,000 capacity Olympic Athlete's Village will be turned into 'affordable housing' in a deprived area of London. Although larger companies are obviously winning the major building contracts there are regulations in place to make sure some of the sub-contracting and third-tier contracts are given to smaller and local businesses.

There is a free website (https://www.competefor.com) where any business can register and upload their profile and receive a regular list of contracts that they can bid for.

If you are interested in following the progress of this development, probably Europes largest current building project, you can visit:

Charity begins at home

"The world" hIce_Storm_CRST_SDCFas responded quickly and generously to the earthquake devastation in Haiti.  It feels good to be generous, to respond to human suffering, even if all we do is click a button to donate $20 to the American Red Cross. But what about the the suffering right here at home, in the United States? 

I'm not talking about the ongoing poverty in Appalachia or the relentless misery of our urban hell-holes -- you know, the kind of situation that often elicits "the poor will be with us always." I'm not talking about the 1.5 million children in this country who are homeless or the half million women who are victims of domestic violence every year -- you know, the kind of situation that stirs public debate on whether the government should spend any money to offer shelter or medical care.

I'm talking about the current emergency in South Dakota. Yes, the emergency in South Dakota. You haven't heard about it? It's been headline news for two weeks -- oh, wait. It hasn't.

A major ice storm hit the Northern Plains states the weekend of January 22 -- more than two weeks ago. More than 3,000 utility poles were knocked over, and since then more than 15,000 people living on and around the Cheyenne River Reservation have been without electricity, water, heat, and gasoline.  The temperatures have been below zero, with fierce wind. The situation is desperate.

Students at the University of South Dakota have been collecting shoes to send to the area -- shoes! In the "richest country in the world" people living in the one of the harshest climates need shoes.  The South Dakota Community Foundation is accepting donations to offer immediate assistance to people in greatest need.
It's easy to give money to disaster victims in a foreign country (like Haiti) or in a beautiful city (like New Orleans).  That makes us feel good. It's easy to ask broader questions about the history of corruption that got Haiti into such dire socioeconomic straits. It's easy to cluck our tongues at the lack of Haitian infrastructure. It's even easy to talk about the questionable wisdom of building -- and REbuilding -- a city below sea level. It's easy to read stories about the big snowstorms shutting down Washington, DC, as long as the photographs are of children making snowmen, 20-somethings organizing snowball fights, and a few thousand inconvenienced travelers. That's entertaining.

But nobody wants to ask about the history of the people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Nobody wants to ask why their infrastructure is allowed to crumble. Those questions don't make us feel good, and the answers aren't entertaining. The discomfort hits too close to home, because it IS here at home: The discomfort is right in our own back yard.

Did you donate to a Haitian relief fund? Did you write a check or click a button? Can you do it again? Can you reach out to your neighbor one more time?

Originally published on this date on the now-defunct 50-Something Moms blog

Disaster relief needed in South Dakota

I saw this on MSNBC last night:

It's shocking to me that this has happened and nobody knows about it.

We know all about Washington, DC, being shut down by snow.  Why don't we know about this? Could it be because this disaster is on an Indian Reservation, and not in the Nation's Capital? Because it's just more suffering of poor rural people, not the outrageous inconveniencing of suburban families?

There's all kinds of rhetoric about the US role in enabling the crumbling of Haitian infrastructure, which has contributed to the desperate situation in that country. We talk about the US support for the corrupt regime of the Duvalier family. But we dare not talk about the crumbling of US infrastructure, about US policies that allow thousands and thousands of people to live in substandard housing and constant desperation.

I wrote a more temperate piece for the 50-Something Moms blog; you can make a donation to assist the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation here.

Thursday morning: I broke the link to the 50-S Mom post.  Yup. I broke it. I'm sure they'll fix it soon...
Friday morning: The link has been fixed.
Sunday morning: The link has been fixed and the post has been picked up for syndication!


Two thousand and ten.
That's how many days it's been
since you breathed your last.

Two-thousand-ten times
that I've waken and wondered
how time keeps going.

Twenty-Ten. Zero.
Counting up or counting down
Numbers change nothing.

Two thousand and ten
Days? Years? Moments. Memories.
They're all the same now.

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don't have any kids yourself.

-Philip Larkin

Despite the surprising coarse language in the first line, this poem can be considered as one of his last and therefore more mature poems having been first published in Larkin’s final collection, “High Windows”, (1974).

The poem is written in a bouncy, almost childlike, tetrameter (four accented beats per line). The poet achieves this by a simple abab rhyming scheme and uncomplicated single-word perfect rhyming words, mostly of one syllable.

This contrasts with the seriousness of the subject matter and the poem has more depth than first sight might reveal. There is little in the poem’s three stanzas that is throwaway or without due consideration. For example, the fact that your parents “fuck you up” can be taken as a pun and operates with two meanings; they cause your generation initially and your degeneration eventually.

While the first two verses have a comical element to them the final one becomes more poetic with a serious admonition at the end.

Personally I think Larkin is only talking about himself despite the last two lines. He may have meant the poem as an epitaph.

After all, he took his title from Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Requiem”.


My car got nicked while I was away. I had it parked outside my flat (well not exactly outside, maybe three doors down on the other side of the road, I can't remember precisely). Whatever, it's gone now. And for the first 24 hours after I got back from the South Island I was too depressed and dead to the outside world to even notice. I called the local police, then my insurance company. "There's no insurance on that car." "What? I'd never dream of having a car uninsured." But when I moved into this place I never let my insurance company know, so I never got the letter telling me it was up for renewal, and I'd let it lapse. I've always had problems with organisation. I'm particularly bad with mail. In the last couple of years, for some psychological reason, I've tried to avoid opening it. I'd let two weeks' worth pile up in my letterbox before bringing it in, I'd wait another week to open it and at least one more week would go by before I did anything about it. I've made some recent improvements on that score but it's still a problem.

I've since come to terms with not having a car. It wasn't worth much and thankfully I hadn't left anything valuable inside. Maybe it'll still turn up. It's such a common car (and colour) that on numerous occasions in the last two days I've been convinced I've seen it.

I played interclub tennis this afternoon, making the most of the sun. Unfortunately I had the tricky task of playing with Superman - again. I felt I was letting him down - again - but at least this time we ended up on the right side of the ledger, winning 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a fraction under two hours. I haven't won in two sets, in singles or doubles, since the very first match of the season. The woman we were due to play in the mixed pulled out because of the heat. That was a shame but in some ways it was nice just sitting in the sun watching the other matches. I expect to be spending a fair chunk of tomorrow down at the club too - they've got a working bee with some tennis afterwards. What is it with this word "bee"? There are working bees, spelling bees and plenty of Esso bees. Maybe one day I'll even find a suitable jay-oh-bee.


I went downhill almost immediately after submitting my previous post, to a point I haven't reached in months. I think my feelings as a result of the wedding, basically that everyone else's lives were sorted out while mine was in an impossible mess, had come to a head. Just before I left my parents' house yesterday I banged my head on the edge of the living-room door, rather like I used to do with the tennis racket. Andy (the guru I see once a week) suggested I stop playing tennis; avoiding doors isn't quite so easy. I definitely think I could benefit from avoiding weddings however. When I finally got home last night (I had to wait nearly an hour for the ferry), I was depressed, exhausted and totally lacking in energy. I also had a sore head.

I played two poker tournaments today; I didn't feel good for much else. My progress in this morning's single draw had the makings of a big finish, but the turning point came when I ended up folding a pat smooth nine. I never recovered and I was extremely lucky to sneak into the 21st and last payout place. I made a strong start to the badugi but quickly found myself languishing at half the average stack. Then, in the space of ten hands, I was twice dealt pat 10-9s. Each time I had no choice but to put my tournament life on the line as a 62% favourite, but both times they held up for me, and suddenly I had a healthy pile of chips. At the final table I drew two in the big blind, made a monster, and eliminated two players in one hand. I went card dead after that and when we got down to three I was the short stack. I outlasted my nearest competitor but was massively outgunned when we got heads up. Though I could make no inroads into my opponent's huge stack, I was more than happy to take second place out of 97 players for a profit of just over US$30.

I got a surprise phone call from Bazza today. I hadn't spoken to him since Christmas - he moved to Papakura in December and I didn't have his number.

Tomorrow I hope to see some recruitment agencies in person rather than on the phone where they're more likely to fob me off. This was something I'd planned for today but I wouldn't exactly have showed myself in my best light. I hope to see Andy in the afternoon.

Explanation ...

After reading the comments to my previous post, I realize I need to clarify things.

No, I'm not moving back East.  As much as I want to, I am committed to being here in Arizona as long as my mom needs me -- which is to say, as long as she is alive. It's a good thing to do; it's the right thing to do. There are huge benefits for the family as a whole.

I actually am very happy with the boys' school. They have responded to the boys' needs and situations with compassion and concern. They are academically superior to the public schools.  Of course, this is Arizona, so that's not saying much.

So, why the change?  Mostly because we are NOT moving back East anytime soon.

There are 35 students in the 6th grade, the oldest grade in the elementary school; the current 7th grade class has 27 students.  I think that's been fine for HardPlace the last few years: He needed the smaller class size and the more nurturing teachers to make the adjustment to having moved here.  But he really hasn't made any friends, kids that he hangs out with, and he's reaching an age where (I think) that's important.  Students at the private school live all over Tucson: His best buddy in class lives a full hour away.

Going to public school will give HardPlace a chance to meet kids who live closer.  There are boys in our neighborhood, but because HardPlace doesn't go to school with them, doesn't ride the bus with them, he hasn't really had a chance to get to know them.  Going to the public school will also put HardPlace in a whole new universe of KINDS of people, not just this small bubble. He's an extreme introvert who doesn't like change, but I think once he gets over the shock, he is more likely to find more boys like himself, who enjoy building things, who enjoy thinking about things.  He really hasn't found a like-minded set of boys at the current school.

There's also the financial aspect, and I only partly mean that it is too expensive (although that's obviously a factor). Tuition jumps from the grade school to the middle school, which means that the children who stay in the middle school come pretty exclusively from families with money.  We've been on scholarship, and have just managed to get by. But the difference between the "stuff" that HardPlace and his classmates have, and the difference between family vacations, family vehicles, etc., has become more and more obvious. The social atmosphere is starting to be difficult for him. He also makes it hard for me: I get tired of having to say that he can't have things that his friends have because we can't afford it.  He needs to see how well off he is, in comparison to a great many other people.

So... It seems like HardPlace should go to public school for middle school. And once I've made that decision, it makes sense to send Rock to public school as well -- if for no other reason than so that they can be on the same calendar.  The private school and public school calendar is off by a week for both starting and beginning, and their spring break is on totally different weeks as well. Then all the little days off through the year are askew.  I wouldn't mind the days here and there being different -- each boy would have a chance to stay home with Mom alone -- but having the major breaks off would just make me crazy.

Rock has the social needs, as well. His best friend from school lives 35 minutes away. Wouldn't it be nice to make friends with boys in the neighborhood? That could possibly improve MY social life, too, by the way, giving me a chance to meet and get to know some of the other SAHMs.  Academically, the private school may be better than the public school, but it doesn't have the programs in place to help children who aren't in the mainstream. Rock is bright. Very bright. He understands new material the first time around and gets bored when the teacher explains things a second or third time.  I'm hoping that Rock will be able to fit into an accelerated program in the public school.  Hoping.

Finally ...

We aren't going back to Maryland now. But we will. And I see pulling the boys from the small nurturing environment (which they NEEDED when we got here) and putting them in the mayhem of public school as a dress rehearsal of sorts.  The change from private school to public will be huge for both boys, and they are going to have to make serious adjustments. The 2010–2011 school year can be a chance for them to practice and make mistakes. Then when we go back to Maryland (2011–2012??), they'll have a better handle on the social pressures, larger classrooms, etc.

I don't know. I'm pretty sure I've made the right decision. I wish Nick were here to join me in the confusion.

February Already!

Wow, that was fast, January's gone already. But I did manage to get a pic from my birthday month - here's the snack I invented for the occasion - brie on crackers drizzeled with spicey plum chutney and topped with blueberries. Goes well with home brew :-)

Not a lot of flying done in January - here's one attempt I made. After an assault on the Mount traversing the East Face and, running low on mint cake, I made the summit only to look out on this murky view :-( Oh well, not every day's a flying day...

And finally David, here's a shot of the 2m sloper wing showing painfully slow progress to date. Balsa skin on one side and servo pockets cut out. No sign of the fuselage yet - it's still mostly floating around in my brain and will need a gale force wind to blow it into shape :-) But I think the wing is looking ok.

Fair winds and good lift....

Reason #2,003 I hate being an only parent*

This morning I told the boys' school that they would not be enrolling there this fall.

Given how much I have loved the place, it was a very hard decision to make. I'm reasonably sure that it's the right decision, but I hate that I had to make it alone.

* Nick died 2003 days ago; every day that he's gone brings a new reason I hate being an only parent.

Once in a no moon

The lunar cycle takes approximately 29½ days; the average month is slightly longer so you occasionally get two full moons in the same month. The second of these is known as a blue moon, and occurs every second or third year, hence the phrase "once in a blue moon". A far more unusual event is happening this month, on this side of the planet at least, for February won't have a full moon at all. I don't know what the technical term for this is, but I'd tend to call it a "no moon".

Moon or no moon, February is now upon us, so I've now officially been boring people rigid with my inane ramblings for a whole year. I like to think I've made some steps in the right direction in that time, but the last couple of days clearly show that I've got a considerable way to go.

All that wedding stuff is finally over and I'll be heading back to Auckland later today. I'm glad about that. About 85 people attended the wedding; it turns out I was invited after all. The church bit was fine, but predictably I found the reception an ordeal. Worst of all were the speeches. Everybody spoke at length and with a remarkable level of confidence. Where do they get it from I wonder? Of course there were endless jokes, or rather anecdotes, the sort of jokes that Kiwis love and I struggle with. It's not that I don't get them, just that I personally don't find them funny. My cousin and her husband are successful people. They've been living in London for the last two years, making a lot of moolah and travelling extensively throughout Europe and beyond. They've been everywhere. Partout. Dappertutto. As I listened to tales of what they got up to on their ski trips or at the running of the bulls in Pamplona or the Palio in Siena, I really just wanted to crawl into a hole. After the dinner and speeches there was dancing of course, but I successfully escaped that. We were home around 11:30 in time to see the end of the men's Australian Open final. What a finish it was. I felt a bit sorry for Murray - he was unlucky not to at least win a set, and it was obvious after the match how much it meant to him.

The next day we had what they call the after-match function. I ate and drank almost non-stop, not because I needed (or even wanted) any of it but because it gave me something to do. I've now learnt to stick to beer rather than wine at these sorts of events, because you can drink much more of it without having to pay for it later. I did also make some conversation - my extended family are good people on the whole, and there are one or two I'm able to talk to reasonably easily. Somebody, who obviously doesn't know me that well, was desperately trying to convince me to go on an Outward Bound course.

There are no more family weddings on the horizon (though someone from the tennis club is tying the knot the weekend after next, and I'll be going to the reception). Last weekend Mum said to me, "wouldn't it be nice to go to your wedding one day?" I imagine that day will be some time after the next no moon.