The Story of Boris




Boris, left, with his brother.
I had an Uncle who was a rare book dealer. Several years ago, after his father's funeral, my cousin John told me this story.

Uncle Ben was interested in Russian literature and was reading a volume of poetry by Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago. My grandfather came from Russia in 1906 in the wave of Jewish emmigration from that place at that time and, although he spoke good enough English, he never learned to read or write it. He saw the book had a photograph of the author on the back.

"That's my cousin Boris!" he said. "No, Dad, that's Boris Pasternak" said Uncle Ben, smiling indulgently.

Grandad (known to our large family as 'Pop') insisted it was his cousin so Uncle Ben set about researching it. Pasternak's father was an artist of renown and his mother a famous concert pianist. While he was growing up Tolstoy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Rilke were regular visitors to the house.

His father converted to Christianity and Boris went off to University and Pop never saw him again but he was proved to be right; all of the facts he gave Uncle Ben were verified and it turns out that Bazza's grandfather was Boris Pasternak's first cousin.

I think it means that I share about 1.5% of my genes with a Nobel Prize winner. Explains a lot don't you think?

The Age of Reason - wouldn't it be nice?

Photos: Jamilah0525, FlickrThe helmet law debate seems to be a political 'bush-fire' that all political managers resolutely avoid - is this because of their risk averse raison d'etre?

Further, compounded by the looming election next year, the NSW government is going into 'shut-down mode', and no doubt will attempt to dodge any contentious or even vaguely contentious issues at all costs. Careful managment will be the order of the day - the helmet debate (yes! that old chestnut again!) will definitely be shelved!

I completely sympathise with Oliver Hartwich's clarion call, "Political idol: why TV offers more creative answers than politicians", and fervently hope our political representatives take heed of his important call to arms.

His depiction of a Dutch town that ripped out all their traffic signs after a motoring tragedy is almost incomprehensible to us folk here in Australia. Apparently the town's first inclination had been to opt for the more usual municipal approach of speed humps, road signs and other such traffic calming devices but civic funding was neglible:

"What happened afterwards was a small miracle. Drivers felt they could no longer rely on road signs, so they slowed down. Seeking eye contact with other motorists and pedestrians, the streets of Oudehaske became a much safer traffic environment than ordinary road signs could have ever created. The inventor of the scheme, the late engineer Hans Monderman, went on to successfully export his idea of the ''naked street'' to other cities in the Netherlands and abroad."

Hartwich clinically muses whether such a scheme would be considered by Australian politicians, and sadly his summation would be our reality:

"Probably not, and definitely not with less than a year to the state election. Our reflex would be to give the RTA more power, put up a few more signs, install more traffic cameras and increase random breath tests. We would never imagine that we could have achieved much more with less."

Wake up, pollies, we need you to represent us, not manage us; we need your bright ideas and your innovations, and we need you to listen to the experts when you spend our taxes contracting their opinions

...just imagine...Sydney and 'naked streets' - what a thought! - could be so exciting!

...so, Kristina, up for it? - could be your big break!

Our Brisbane Campaigner campaigns!

Photos: Paul Martin
Dr Paul Martin, anti-helmet law advocate, specialist anaesthetist, and now post-card campaigner, has been 'placing' his share of the campaign postcards in and around Brisbane - grateful thanks!!; sterling effort!!; invaluable stuff!!

STOP PRESS (from Paul):
"I've placed many postcards on the windows of commuters who park on the outskirts of Brisbane and then ride in. They tend to be the 'racing-type' but you never know! I have also given them out to many receptive female cyclists around town. They all seem very interested."

Go, Paul, & keep on inviting everyone to think about the mandatory helmet law matter (how did we ever let MHLs slip through to the keeper?)

...but upwards and onwards, and with people like Paul on board, the anti-helmet law message inexorably spreads throughout Australia!!

Hip! Hip! Hooray! for Dr Paul Martin!!!

Guide to this blog

This blog is likely to get a tad large and some folk may wish to only read certain topics: some may wish to focus on the buildings others on the birds or the beer.  I could handle this by developing a site map but I think it would look rather like this summary of the Pentagon's plan for success in Afghanistan:
As an alternative I am going to follow two strategies.
  1. The broad set up of the blog is 
    1. series of posts dealing with plans and preparations; followed by 
    2. a more or less traditional blog which I hope to update on a daily basis while travelling; and concluding with
    3. a set of summaries of the major topics of beer buildings and birds and other stuff which arises and that I consider is worth summarising.
  2. Much use of labels to enable people to focus on topics containing stuff relevant to their topics of interest.  The topics will all be listed in a sidebar.

Big Blow Tuesday

Was a good 20kts NNE on Tuesday and I took the JW to the top of the Mount where I met up with Humis - first fly together for a few months!! The conditions were a little strange as the wind was being split right on the point, but the lift was just like an elevator and I could do inverted climbs with ease! Yeeeha!

At one stage, Humi's Corsair got tangled with my JW and it sent the plank into a frightening nose over tail spin that seemed to last for ages, but it pulled out shortly after and appeared to have sustained no real damage - but I landed just to check for sure. Wicked spins. Ralph has had a plank do that before and now I know what it looks and feels like - scary.

So here's a few pics of the day with a nice video of the Corsair to be posted soon.






"You Betta Geta a Lawyer, Son...You Betta Geta a Ree-al Good One"

(Photos: Sparksnleo, Flickr)
Do you know how many times I listened to the 'You Betta Geta Lawyer, Son' ditty today when I called the Roads & Traffic Authority?

60 minutes I waited on the end of the telephone line being audibly persecuted by their threatening little jingle; over 60 minutes of my life wasted while waiting for the RTA to respond beyond offering a tele-menu!

What is it with big corporations and government departments? Why do they think they can get away with treating us so dismissively and wantonly - grrrr! - (it was Telstra in my sights last week, this week it's the RTA!!!)

Anyway back to my opening sentence, & in answer to my own question - too many times!! I never want to hear that gravelly 'i'm-in-a-uniform-voice' advising some nebulous young man to seek competent legal representation ever again...

...only I'm going to have to!...

...aaahh! after finally being connected with a human voice (I think?) I was shunted around to various departments (shades of Telstra's modus operandi!), then redirected back to various switchboards ('you betta geta lawyer, son' - aaaahhhh!) ad infinitum. On the odd occasion an actual RTA person became involved they invariably put in their universal two bob's worth - "there are no exemptions for bicycle helmets" !!

...boring!

==============================

(here's a little excerpt of the dialogue I had with the penultimate department I was 'shunted' to, having just encountered the statement "there are no exemptions for bicycle helmets" for the umpteenth time)

- "Lovely and thank you, but just right now I want to know how my application for an exemption is going"

- "listen there are no exemptions; you need another organisation"

- "but you are the authority defined in the dictionary of the act and the dictionary of the regulations"

- "... ... ... ..."

- "hello? hello? are you there?"

- "we're not the relevant organisation"

- well actually you are, and once again your role is defined in the dictionary of the act and the dictionary of the regulations, using the word authority

- "even so, any letter you sent to a bicycle unit wouldn't get here because there's no Bicycle Unit"

- "interesting, during my last phone call with RTA personnel, I was advised that Mr Bushby, who I believe has been temporarily stood down on full pay, had passed my application onto the Bicycle Unit"

- "Mr Bushby doesn't work here anymore"

- "completely understood and noted already, however perhaps you could put me through to his former department so I could chat to his PA to attempt to track down my application"

- "anyway Mr Bushby wouldn't have had anything to do with this - he was the CEO"

- "exactly, which is why I paid extra for the 'person-to-person' delivery (thank you, Australia Post!!), and it was definitely Mr Bushby who picked it up from the Post Office because I am holding the notification card with his signature on it (thanks again, Australia Post!)"

- "I'll put you through to his PA that used to be his but isn't now"

- "thank you"

==============================

...interestingly the PA (that used to be his but isn't now) knew about me - the lady from Scone! He attempted to reach the 'Relevant Department' but the line remained unanswered. He assured me that when he finally did get through to them, he would get the 'Relevant Department' to ring me back straight away (boy! I've heard that one before!).

In fact he sounded so genuine that before we took our fond farewells of each other, I insisted he gave me his direct line - I haven't tested it yet for its veracity, but I have every intention of doing so tomorrow!!

- this is such a long drawn out process - I feel exhasuted!!

Dear Prime Minister...!

(Photos: PFC2, Flickr)
Dear Prime Minister Rudd,

Given that you have 'shelved' the Carbon Emission Trading Scheme, perhaps now is an opportune moment to revisit good 'old faithful' 'Black Spot Road Funding' except this time instead of rolling out Mandatory Helmet Laws, you could de-commission them.

Yours sincerely,
Sue A



========================================
...copy of my thoughts despatched to the PM today on a 'campaign postcard'.

Life stages

Following yesterday's Anzac Day service I met up with four others from the Asperger's group at St Lukes mall. After much discussion regarding the choice of film, we eventually plumped for Date Night which was hilarious in places, though I was hardly in the mood for comedy. It looked like we would see Boy which I must make sure I see before I go away. It was good to meet up with Richard and the others whose Asperger's were at varying levels and affected them in very different ways.

After Saturday's embarrassment I didn't particularly want to talk about my other tennis matches, but on Thursday I played what I imagine was my last ever match with Bazza. I'd rather not mention the score (I mean I'd love to, but we were only playing for the love of the game so the score hardly mattered). To cut a short story even shorter, we were outclassed in our second round match. Bazza was a talismanic figure at the club ("c'mon Belmont!") even if he could get on my nerves at times. Now that he's gone, that's one less reason for me to play there.

Saturday's singles - that match - was also a second-rounder. In the first round I got lucky and faced an inexperienced player. I struggled to an error-strewn 7-5 6-1 win. It wasn't much fun.

My dad flies back from the UK in a few hours' time. I think he's glad to leave and relieved that the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano won't stop him. The last four weeks, with my grandmother, haven't been easy for him. And as for my aunt, the less said about her the better.

Mum arrives here on Wednesday (by accident she booked her flight on the same day Dad returns from the UK). I'm looking forward to seeing her.

Tomorrow I'll be seeing a careers advisor. For once I'll be brutally honest and tell her what I want to do (and what I don't). I'll have to go to Mt Eden for this appointment (they recently closed the Takapuna office). On Wednesday, just before Mum gets here, I'll be meeting with my counsellor.

It's been a pain not having a car. Buses wouldn't be such a problem if I was making the same journey all the time, such as going to and from work, but as that's not the case I've found it all a bit of a struggle. I see people waltz onto the bus and ask nonchalantly for one or two or three stages. How do they know how many stages it is? I've never seen a sign telling me I'm about to enter the such-and-such stage. And what's to stop you from staying on for an extra stage or two? I can't imagine the driver remembering exactly who has paid for what. On occasions I've bought an all-day ticket that lets you bypass all that stage malarkey, but even some of the drivers don't know about this ticket, or at least they pretend not to.

On Thursday I entered an 18-man private tournament which one of the badugi regulars set up. It was a limit tournament with rapidly increasing blinds at the start, so luck would play a huge part in the outcome. I got a lot of luck, almost an embarrassing amount of it. When we got down to three I had over 80% of the chips in play, and soon it was all over. I followed that win with a fifth-place finish in last night's pot-limit tournament. That good fortune hasn't flowed through to the cash games. My overall profit did top $600 for the first time today, but nine of the last ten hands I showed down were losers and I ended the session at $599.

The Coffee Bike


My bicycle knows no bounds!!!!

Last week, we were 'picnic-ing' & 'reading the papers' & 'siesta-r-ing' in the fabulous Camperdown Memorial Park, Newtown, when one of my equally fabulous children disappeared momentarily to re-appear some time later with four coffees!!!

Oh the joy of coaster brakes and friendly offspring!!...

...and needless to mention, an amazing dutch bicycle!

The wisdom of the ages

I had an amazing experience this afternoon.

Mother was telling me about a book she'd been reading and I started laughing: The theory that she was trying to explain to me was at the heart of something I'd written 20 years ago. Yes. Twenty years ago.  And actually, it was more than something I'd written; it was something I'd preached 20 years ago.

In a former life, I was living dual spiritual lives. On Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings, I sang in the choir at one of the major Roman Catholic parishes in Washington, DC. But on Wednesday and Thursday nights, I was active in a prominent nondenominational church in the city. I joined a mission group; I led bible studies; and I preached.

I'd always thought it was ironic that I was preaching. When I was looking at grad schools and being drawn to theology at Loyola, my friends tried to steer me toward one of the Protestant seminaries -- after all, I wasn't Catholic. But my heart was Catholic, and I was on my way toward conversion. Besides, I knew that I'd never be ordained a minister, because I couldn't imagine myself getting up and preaching.  But one of the elders asked me to preach one week, and the next thing I knew ... Wow. Aside from thoroughly enjoying thinking about what I was going to say and doing the research and prep and actually writing it all out, I got such a thrill from preaching. I'd had no idea that one of my gifts was public speaking.

Anyway ... what my mother was saying made me flash onto one sermon in particular, and I jumped out of my chair and pulled it from the filing cabinet, and -- I actually let her read it! (That's pretty shocking in and of itself, you know.) Now, I hadn't read the thing for 20 years, so I was reading over her shoulder, and what I was reading blew me away. It was good. It was REALLY good.

And it was true. Everything I preached then, everything I knew then, everything I understood then was utterly true. And reading it 20 years later was breathtaking because even though they were my own words, I understood them more potently today than I did then. I've gone back and read old journals and been dismayed by my younger self and discouraged by the sense that my older self didn't seem to have made much progress. But reading this 20-year-old sermon was breathtaking and exhilarating.

And then it makes me wistful ... because I have a gift that is not being used, that has not been used. If these 20-year-old words still have power in them, how much more lies untapped and how do I begin tapping the power within?

ANZAC Day

Went for a fly on ANZAC Day and this was the view from the top of the Mount - it's those beautiful cloud reflections in the sea again! Not often that they happen but today was a fabulous example. (Right click the pic, then open in new tab for a bigger version)



The wind was very light NE about 5kts but with a the lightweight BalsaBanana sailplane I enjoyed two hours of flying. The only drawback being the constant hassle of onlookers asking the same old questions : What's the range? How far can you fly it? Where do you land it? How do you get it back? Do you land it in the sea? Have you ever lost it? How long do the batteries last? etc. etc. What a pain.

And just in case you thought the "Tank" was a forgotten relic languishing on the workbench, here's a pic showing fiberglassing the wing. I decided to use polyurethane varnish instead of epoxy resin (cost and messyness) and I'm pretty happy with the outcome after applying 3 coats.

Sydney - an exciting melting pot for cycling


As I chortled over Mike Carlton's weekend observation of 'Melbourne's aggressively blokey culture', I immediately let my mind wander to another unquestionably 'aggressively blokey culture' down there - Melbourne cycling.

'Once upon a time' their cycling was invaded by their blokes so consequently their infrastructure developed into a quasi last male bastion (akin to a 'Gentlemen's Club') - oh dear!

Refreshingly however, the converse is true in Sydney, and 'Melbourne's aggressively blokey culture' is clearly absent on our roads!!

With Clover at the helm, we, the Sydney masses, are not only madly embracing cycling, but also reclaiming 'traditional territory of cars & trucks' so that we really can beetle around everywhere on our bikes!! - it's truly brilliant!!

...& our 'blokes' are sharing!!!

...and you know what else??...we're ever so non-compliant!!!

...aaahhh! Sydney - so liberated, so chic!!!

What is the Dunmow Flitch?




The Dunmow Flitch
Great Dunmow is a lovely town in the county of Essex, UK.  What is a flitch? Well, in this case at least, it's a side of bacon that is awarded to a married couple in a ceremony that takes place in the town every leap year. So the next one is in 2012.

It is awarded to a couple who "in twelvemonth and a day have not wisht themselves unmarried again"!

There are many stories about the true origins but it was mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales (The Wife of Bath's Tale).




An American couple whio won in 2004
The first recorded recipient was Richard Wright in 1445 (strangely, her name is not recorded). There is evidence that there could have been 12th century awards.
The award was discontinued and reinstated several times but has been fairly constant during this century.
After WW2 a side of bacon was sent by New Zealand, presumably because it was in short supply here.
Formerly chosen by the Lord of the Manor, these days the couple are chosen by a jury.
There was a heated debate in 2006 when it was proposed that gays be considered for the award.



A jury of 6 maidens and 6 batchelors!
A member of the organising committee has said "We have not yet had a Jewish, Muslim or Sikh couple apply, but we are such a diverse society that there is no reason why that day should not come."
Really? I'm not sure about Sikhs, but what would Jews or Muslims do with a side of bacon?


The Helmet Debate has crept into the NSW Legislative Assembly



At last the political negotiations have started!

Yesterday not only did I meet up with the Honourable George Souris MLA (member of the Legislative Assembly for the Upper Hunter) at Parliament House in Macquarie Street, but I was the first person to ever do so on a bicycle (see my bicycle above chained to 'my' railings!)...

...& we had a most fruitful long chat!!...

...granted, he alluded to my 'very uphill battle' to change the law, that at this stage I was in a 'very low gear, that I was going very slowly, and that I was likely to come to a stand still well before the top!' However as I pointed out, I am never averse to hopping off my bicycle (!) consequently no hill, no matter how steep, has ever stopped me reaching the top!! I assured him, I'll be coasting down the other side one day soon!!!?!!!

During our meeting, I gave him the European Cyclist Federation's excellent pamphlet, "Ask me why I cycle without a helmet", given to me in Copenhagen by Mikael Colville Andersen. I went on to elucidate issues raised by the ECF such as the perils of portraying cycling as far more dangerous than it is, the notion that bicycle helmets offer far more protection than they actually do, and that governments ought 'to refrain from promoting or enforcing helmet wearing without sound evidence that this would be beneficial and cost effective compared to other safety initiatives.'

I also included in the Honourable member's 'document parcel', a copy of the RTA internal memo detailing that helmets for certain headforms could well provide a 'disbenefit', as well as the excellent chapter by Bill Curnow, ‘Bicycle Helmets: a Scientific Evaluation’ in Anton de Smet (ed), Transportation Accident Analysis and Prevention (2008) 139. The Honourable member in his turn gave me the most excellent advice coupled with a clear template on techniques for political persuasion!!!

Yes! I have some homework to do BUT I now have a defined pathway with the legislators in mind; I'm on the right track; and I am prepared to push my 'political-bicycle' up the hill for as long as it takes!!!!

Thank you, George, for giving me your time and consideration!!! - "I'm on to it!"

===============================================

Oh...& an excited "PS":

In response to my letter to the Mayor of London a couple of weeks ago, Boris Johnson's Public Liaison Officer has written to me to let me know that "the Mayor has gone on record as saying that it is a matter for the individual to decide to wear a cycling helmet."

Good one, Boris!!!

Two out of three ain't bad

This morning I played my last tennis match for the season and perhaps my last for a few seasons. I got out of bed, I made my way to the courts, I didn't win. In fact I got utterly thrashed. But in the words of Meat Loaf, that's two out of three which isn't too bad under the circumstances. I wanted the match over with as quickly as possible and got my wish. I lost 6-1 6-1 and was lucky to win two games, but I didn't care. We played on Court 1 where everyone could watch. They must have wondered what was going on. It was a match I never would have won even in the old days when I could still just about play the game, but this time I couldn't get off the court fast enough. At times I'd call out the score - "love-forty!" - before the point was over because I knew I was beaten. Matches are still going on as I write this, and a lot of people are down at the club watching them, but the thought of watching people play - and enjoy - good tennis on a sunny afternoon was too much to bear. And besides, I felt embarrassed. I went straight home, not knowing when I'll play tennis next. I wouldn't mind if I had a friend I could get the occasional knock with, but being part of a club and everything that goes with that is just too much right now.

It's strange what depression does to me. Not only do I stop caring, I also find it very weird that other people still do care. I have to remind myself that there was once a time that I cared too.

Tomorrow I'll attend the Anzac Day parade in Devonport and later meet up in St Lukes with a few of the Asperger's group to watch a movie. I'm looking forward to that.

Opinionated? Me?

I recently told Annie that I wasn't too worried about polluting the Karma stream because I tend not to blog about hot-button issues or get dragged into internet free-for-alls. In fact, I said, I've been having a hard time coming up with anything to write at all.

Leave it to Facebook to push my hot buttons and get me worked up into an internal free-for-all.

A group on Facebook thinks this "joke" is funny:
DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN.
Aside from the fact that the idiots misspelled "Swayze" and "Farrah" (and those two are supposed to be their favorite actor and actress) ... aside from the fact that they are screaming at God by using all caps ... aside from the really bad theology inherent in this --

Wait a minute. I've got two degrees in the stuff: I just can't set aside the really bad theology.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that it is one of the central teachings of my church that death is an insult to God, that God does not "take" people, "kill" people, or otherwise orchestrate their deaths (a few noteworthy exceptions in the Old Testament notwithstanding). Cancer killed Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett, not God; drugs killed Michael Jackson, not God.

I find myself wondering if those Bible-believing Christians who are convinced President Obama is of the Devil have ever actually read the Bible. You know? The passages that say they should bless those that persecute them, that they should pray for their enemies. I'm pretty sure that Jesus didn't mean they should pray for their enemy's death.

Grrrrrrrrr... That bad theology coupled with the politics of it all got me into quite a tizzy. You can read about my fretting and fussing over at 50-Something Moms. I've calmed down now, but the kind of thinking reflected in that "joke" still really bothers me.

Do these people really want President Obama to die? For his wife to be a widow? For his daughters to grow up without a father? I don't think so. At least I hope not.

Do they really think it would be good for the country if Obama were to die while in office? Do they think the ensuing trauma would make our country more secure? Do they think Wall Street would like it? Do they think his death would give Republicans a better chance of winning in 2012?

Do they even think at all?

It's only Facebook

A new group on Facebook makes my skin crawl every time I see that someone in my circle has joined it. It's based on a "joke" that circulated late last year:

DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN.

**rant on**

First, don't you know that all-caps on the Internet is the equivalent of screaming? Are you really screaming at God?

Second, if you're going to include famous people in your group name, you should at least spell their names correctly. It's F-a-r-r-a-h Fawcett. Two "r"s. It's Patrick S-w-a-y-z-e. No "i".

Third, God did not take Patrick Swayze. Cancer did. God did not take Farrah Fawcett. Cancer did. God did not take Michael Jackson. Prescription drugs did. God is the Author of Life and does not "take" people. To suggest otherwise is just bad theology, plain and simple. Harumph.

Fourth, you want God to "take" the President of the United States? Really? You want President Obama to die right now? Or soon? What is WRONG with you people?

**rant off**

The first time I saw this new group, I was disgusted, but not surprised. It was on the page of someone who had been vocally opposed to the new health care reform law. I thought about saying something, but I just did not want to get into it (again) with this fellow, having decided during those last days leading up to the vote that I simply wasn't going to engage people in politics on Facebook.
Then I saw it again on the page of someone who'd been silent about politics but whom I know to be a sincere Christian. I thought about saying something, but she truly believes that every soul in America should be a Bible-Believing Christian (so long as they believe in the the Bible the same way she does). No honest discussion of religion or faith is possible, because there is only One Answer.

Then I saw it again on the page of someone who probably just thought it was funny and didn't give much consideration to the implications of the "joke" -- that it was a prayer for the death of our President.  At that point I started crafting a statement for my status update, something biting that would tell these people exactly what I thought of their "funny" group.  I was intensely working on it when I stopped myself: It's only Facebook. Don't waste your energy on this. Just "unfriend" them. No; it's only Facebook. Just "hide" them.

Then I saw it again on the page of someone whom I respect for her thoughtful opinions and passionate determination to help people in crisis. And my stomach churned.  It was late enough at night that the news feed was quiet, and those words just stayed at the top of my screen.  I went to the group's page and reported it to Facebook as offensive. I "hid" my friend, and I started working on this piece.

By the time I'd finished typing my four-point rant, I was able to remind myself that Facebook is a social networking tool. It is not a place for political discourse. It is not an educational forum. I was able to remind myself that most people don't take Facebook or the things they see there very seriously. I repeat: It is a social networking tool. I availed myself of one of the tools of the site when I hid the people who were joining that group. I've also been using another of the site's tools: I created a list called "staunch conservatives" so that when I do choose to post something political I can block those friends from seeing it. I really don't want to get into political flame wars with people on Facebook.

But then I start arguing with myself. Maybe my silence can be taken for tacit approval. Maybe saying nothing to people who've joined a group I find profoundly offensive makes me guilty of accepting the offense. Maybe I'm wrong to think that a personal objection to these individuals would have no effect. Maybe I really should delete them from my friends list. It's only Facebook. It is a social networking tool: nothing more, nothing less.
Before I went to bed last night, I checked Facebook one more time and was pleased to see that a new group had formed:

Petition to remove facebook group praying for President Obama's death.

I breathed a sigh of relief and clicked my mouse to join.

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

Cheese & Helmets - a convenient symbiosis

It's time for a little bit of reciprocity!

Given that both the nations of New Zealand & Australia have been blighted by ridiculous cheese and helmet restrictions, it is heartening to see that the Kiwis are about to change all that in the 'cheese' arena - 'au revoir' pasteurisation!!

"The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has adopted new production standards for raw milk products that allow them to be made locally. It is also preparing new animal health standards which could allow importation of raw milk products such as cheeses within weeks."

...and it seems these fabulous raw milk cheeses will soon:

"flood into Australia as foods permitted for sale in one country can be traded between Australia and New Zealand"

- omg! cheese that tastes like cheese!!!!

Now if the Kiwi camp can galvanise Food Standards Australia New Zealand to work on 'changes for Australian food regulations', then I think its only fair that the Aussie camp take the initiative to galvanise Australian State Governments to work on 'changes for Australian road regulations' so that fabulous cycling practices can 'flood' into New Zealand as road regulations permitted for use in one country are often 'traded between' New Zealand & Australia!!! - yes??? - an eqivalent equation??

There's no doubt about it; the 1990s were dark, dark days for food and cycling - blandness & helmets - groan!

Notwithstanding our restrictive cheese practices are about to change!!!

...so...

...com'on, Aussies, com'on com'on!!! - au revoir mandatoy helmet laws!!!

Newtown, my most favourite place in the world!

Postcard placement is going well - so far every cafe in Newtown has taken them...

...in fact even to the extent of 'bin-ning' some of the commercial ones they had on display!

General consensus: they like mine better!!!!

I love Newtown - such a 'cool' & such a 'thinking' place!!

Let's Talk Geek Episode 2

Finally the second show of "Let's Talk Geek"

In this show:

  • Stewart Allen
  • Tim Haak
  • Jeff Hinds
  • Barry Reid

Covering:

  • Where people can find us
  • Why finally having uncapped is so cool :)
  • Stew gets featured on Hack a Day
  • IPTV
  • Wireless power
  • Australopithecus Sediba
  • New recording equipment
  • Pick of the week

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Club champs commentary

Monday night's mixed doubles match was almost entirely rally-free and we were done and dusted in forty minutes. We lost 6-1 6-2. I don't think my partner particularly liked getting thrashed. I've played more and have experienced being thrashed more than she has, so it didn't bother me too much, especially because we won about the number of games that I thought we would. I wasn't happy after the match, however, when I found we would go into a plate competition. More tennis?! Please. Don't you understand? I only play this bloody game for exercise, and I'm playing every night as it is.

Last night was the men's doubles with Bazza. I'd been dreading it. It was a match we were expected to win (our opponents are fairly new to the game) but with the way I was feeling at the time, nothing was guaranteed. The match was delayed a bit, so I talked to a few people at the club and I felt more relaxed (sometimes that would have the exact opposite effect - I can no longer predict these things). The scores were close early on, but we pulled away to win 6-3 6-0. Both of us played steady tennis and it was like the old days when we used to win on a regular basis. As always with Bazza there were a couple of controversial moments. He called a ball out that I watched land plum on the line (or is it plumb?). I had a play on that ball and returned it, pretending that I hadn't heard him. But Bazza stopped play, called "Ouwwwt!" again, and our opponents accepted his call. I have overruled him in the past, but this time we were on Court 1 with dozens of people watching, and I didn't want to make a scene. Another time we accidentally started a game receiving from the wrong sides, but we did a quick switcheroo and our opponents failed to notice that Bazza had received two serves in a row. Tonight I've got my first round singles match; I happen to have drawn the better of our doubles opponents from last night.

I had lunch at the Patriot with Andy for my birthday. A very satisfying salmon salad.

A life in Google



Make your own.

The "Helmet Laws" Postcard Campaign


The 'concerted community campaign' continues!! - meaning I have to go to Sydney tomorrow to spend a few heavenly days cycling everywhere, meeting everyone and strategically placing postcards in every friendly venue!!! - tough work!!

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...'concerted community campaign' open to any suggestions for vanguard postcard placement!!

Bike Share + Helmet Share = FAILURE

How are the Australian bike-share programmes going to succeed when our law requires helmeted behaviour?

The magic of the Parisienne Vélib’ is the ability to make snap decisions - fancy a bicycle? - let's grab one & cycle away!!- heady stuff!!! - 'découvrez les sites de Paris'

But just picture our reality, here in Australia: will it be a question of 'découvrez les sites de Brisbane et Melbourne'??? hmmmn I don't think so!!!

Mandatory helmet laws will literally kill "spur-of-the-moment decisions to use a bike". Yet relevant state transport ministers seem blissfully oblivious to the need to counter our ridiculous helmet law, and continue with blinkered advice that:

* regular users should bring their own helmets
* helmet buying options will be provided
* helmet hiring options will be provided

Who would opt for any of the above and especially the latter option? How could you ever know whether the user before you had nits or not, or had some ghastly contagious scalp disease, or had dropped the helmet many times, or cycled over it or used it as a footie ball? You can't - groan!!!- why is this so hard to grapple with??!!!!

It works in other cities for one very simple reason - they do not have to contend mandatory helmet laws.

(...it truly isn't 'rocket science!...)

Ticking over

Today is the last day of my twenties. I can't say I'm looking forward to ticking over to a new decade. The fact that everything will end in a zero all at once - my age, the year, even the day - doesn't help. Tomorrow I'll be meeting Andy for lunch; it was very kind of him to suggest that, and it's about as big a birthday celebration as I could face right now. The last time I had a party, if you can call it that, it wasn't much fun. We ended up in some horrible sports bar in Birmingham (it might even have been the Sports Bar) where we couldn't hear ourselves think, let alone speak, and none of us enjoyed it, least of all me.

Being on the verge of thirty was one reason why I quit my job. It was time I stopped pretending to be someone else. I now know I couldn't go back to that sort of environment again, well not for a good few years at least. The question is, what now? English teaching and the mental health industry are my two main options. Oh, and my puzzles of course. I mustn't forget those.

On Saturday I attended the monthly Asperger's group. It's always an amazing experience. So many people, so little time. There were at least two totally new people there, one of whom you might call a typical "Aspie" - "hello, my name's Peter and I invent things", but the other was anything but. Whether he was trying to shock or impress me I don't know, but outwardly it appeared he was a born risk-taker with an enormous amount of confidence.

I took second place in Saturday night's badugi tournament. However there were only 37 runners so the payout wasn't huge, and I gave all my winnings back - and more - in yesterday's cash games. I thought I might have better luck in last night's tournament but bowed out in ninth place out of 55 when the top eight paid. I got all my chips in with an unbreakable pat queen, figuring that any pat badugi is gold dust at a four-handed table, but my opponent made a six on the first draw and I was out. A bad day at the office you might say. The good news is that I play at a low enough level than I can afford bad days. My overall profit stands at just over US$550.

I've put my name down for this week's club champs. I'm playing in all three tournaments - singles, doubles and mixed - so yesterday I popped along to club day for some practice. I got more practice than I bargained for. They'd organised a mini "FUN!" tournament. These days I find that anything billed as "FUN!" almost always isn't. We played a series of 20-minute doubles matches with sudden-death deuce, with prizes given to the man and woman who win the most games, regardless of how many they might lose along the way. So you're better off with 4-4 draw, say, than a 3-2 win. Of course I would never have been in the running whatever the format, and I think the eventual winners had won more games than I'd even played. There were too many people on the courts and I hated the whole experience. In the last match I was just going through the motions. Virtually every ball I hit went miles out, not that I cared. I just wanted to get home. I waited around for half an hour while they presented prizes for this and that, not wanting to appear rude. "We've had such a Fan Tastic afternoon of tennis. It seems like every member of the club turned up today (you're telling me). It's so Fan Tastic that you could all make it."

My three matches in the club champs are on consecutive nights starting tonight. My first match, a mixed doubles, won't be a problem because it's a match we're expected to lose. The other two, which I actually have a chance of winning, I can't say I'm looking forward to. I'll post my results later in the week.

Memo from Clover & we can smell the roses!


No matter what the 'Doom & Gloom Sayers' are saying, cycling numbers are growing in Sydney - exponentially, and universally across the city demographic board!!! - no kidding! - and without doubt our visionary Lord Mayor is leading this charge to provide us with safer transport alternatives (we love Clover, go Clover!)

Clover is classic, and understands that it is imperative 'alternative transport avenues' are widely provided because they tick all the necessary boxes...

...you know, boxes like...

* the 'affordable' box
* the 'healthy' box
* the 'convenient' box

...just for starters!

In fact, according to Clover's latest memo...

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"...the surveys of our new Alexandria cycleways recorded increases in cycling during morning and evening peak times over a four week period in February. The number of cyclists increased by 36 percent at the Bourke and Bowden Street intersection and by 26 percent at the Bourke and Doody Streets intersection.

A total of 439 cyclists were counted at the two intersections across a six hour period. 250 bikes were counted at the Bourke and Doody Street intersection, averaging 41 bikes per hour. The number for Bourke and Bowden Streets was 189 bikes, averaging 32 bikes per hour.

These results show that our communities recognise the important role cycling plays to help to reduce congestion, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of City life. They support our work for a bicycle-friendly city, where people of all ages can safely use bicycles for enjoyment and as a sustainable transport choice."


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...now stop giggling, Holland & Denmark, this is great news for us (!!!) even if somewhat overdue - we have our 'Jeanne d'Arc' now!!!

Clover has it all worked out and we're as happy as pigs in mud - she and her team report that...

=======================================

"...over the next 15 years, Sydney faces a 23 percent growth in traffic, which will cost Australian tax payers $7.8 billion per annum. Making cycling and walking viable and attractive alternatives will relieve pressure on congested roads and provide an alternative to the already congested network."

=======================================

Impressively she waits for no government as she leads the way, and for that we will always thank her...thank you, Clover!

Grab a map and go and see for yourselves the amazing 'separated-cycleway' constructions that are currently happening in the CBD, Pyrmont, and from Woolloomooloo to Green Square!!!

This liberating infrastructure is for all of us, whether we're young or old, female or male, scantily clad or romantically clad - she's including us all in the big, happy, urban travel plan!

It's universal; she wants us all to join in; and she's clearly inviting us all to do so.

Go, Clover!!!!

My Heroes (25): Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau (1920 - 2000) was one of those film actors who was always very watchable even in a bad movie. He had a long career and has a large body of work to his name. My personal favourites are:

The Fortune Cookie. Directed by the wonderful Billy Wilder, one of Matthau's dozen or so collaborations with Jack Lemmon. He played a shyster lawyer who attempts to gain exhorbitant damages for his reluctant brother-in-law, played by Lemmon, who gets 'injured' while working as a TV cameraman at a football game.


Charley Varrick. This time he is a crop-duster who robs a small town bank that just happens to be where the mafia keep lots of their cash. The twists and turns of plot as they try to get their cash back from a wiley Varrick (Matthau) is hugely entertaining.






The Sunshine Boys. This time Walter is paired with George Burns. They portray a pair of former vaudeville comedians who once had a famous double-act although they have not spoken to each other for many years. Matthau's nephew (Richard Benjamin) is trying to re-unite the pair for a TV special. Great stuff, scripted by Neil Simon. "Enter!" (You had to be there.)


The Odd Couple. Felix is a neurotic divorcee who moves in with his slob of a friend Oscar, (Matthau.... of course), after the breakdown of his marriage. The comedy ensues from the interplay of the two chalk-and-cheese personalities. The writer Neil Simon claims that he based his original Broadway play on stories told to him by Mel Brooks after his own divorce. Thirty years later they made a sequel excitingly called The Odd Couple 2.


Other superb Matthau performances were given in Hello Dolly, Little Miss Marker, The Bad News Bears, The Front Page, Plaza Suite and many others.
For me, he could hardly do any wrong and I feel good just talking about these films.

Q&A with the World & Australia

Unfortunately for Australia, the success of Velibe in Paris is not going to be aped by Bixi in Melbourne nor City-cycle in Brisbane until we repeal our Mandatory Helmet Laws.

Stubbornly we cling to anecdotal notions that helmets save lives, protect cyclists, and essentially are the first and last word in cycling safety. However abundant evidence points to the contrary, and our human frailites refuse to acknowledge our mistake.

For twenty years we have known this 'mistake', but as with our reticence to absorb the evidence against smoking, front & side sleeping positions for babies, and the perils of vioxx (just to mention a few) we don't want to face the 'public health music' yet!

It is clear to the world that Australian mandatory helmet laws are...

* inconsistent

* uncertain

* fragmented

* largely unenforced

It is clear to the world that they fulfill no coherent guiding policy, and continue to ignore compelling evidence that the acceleration of the rotation of the brain is a greater risk for a 'rider of a bicycle' wearing a helmet involved in an accident than for a 'rider of a bicycle' not wearing a helmet involved in an accident.

It is clear to the world that the priorities of MHLs do not consider wider public policy issues, particularly those pertaining to:

* obesity, the killer of Australians

* public health

* catastrophic climate change

* Australian children

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The questions the world asks Austalia today are:

* Why is 'bicycle helmet wearing' a criminal issue?

* Why isn't 'bicycle helmet wearing' a health issue?

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How do we answer the world?

Recommendations?

Receiving the award mentioned in yesterday's post really challenged me, because I had to pass it along to blogs that I enjoy reading. Of the dozen or so that I have listed in my sidebar, only a few are really active, posting at least once a week.  I have 59 feeds on my Bloglines subscription, but again -- aside from the "professional" bloggers most of them are relatively inactive.

So I turn to you, my Four Faithful readers, and my Sporadic Seven, for recommendations for blogs that might interest me.

When I started blogging and reading blogs, I was all grief-all the time. I still follow the widows whose blogs I connected with in the early days, but I find that I'm not so interested in the blogs of the newly widowed.  Not meaning any disrespect to them and their writing, my heart and head are in a different place.  Every now and then I read one and think about responding, but I know that they derive more strength and support from those who walk the road close to them than they would from someone who's 4 or 5 years ahead of them.  At least that's the feeling I get when I start to reply ... So, I'm not really looking for more blogs about loss and death and grief and widowhood.

So what am I looking for? I don't do cute and perky. So no cute and perky family blogs. Interesting family observations are good, though. I like honest political discussion and social commentary, but not partisan diatribes from either end of the spectrum. I enjoy literature, but I haven't read anything substantive in ages. Faith and religion are important to me, but I'm not a blind adherent or a by-the-book believer.

I'm interested in just about everything, but I'm picky, because on top of everything else, the blog must be well-written with as few typos and grammatical errors as possible.

I'm not too picky, am I?

Panic stations

I had panic attacks both yesterday and the day before. At least I think that's what they were. One moment everything was normal, then the whole room started to spin, as if I'd been drinking, and I couldn't feel my arms or legs. Yesterday's one happened at around 9pm. I felt sick and lay on my stomach on my bed for a while. I then felt very weak and exceptionally hungry, like I hadn't eaten for days. What can I have that's quick? Weet-Bix. But that milk container is so heavy! I unplugged the phone (it was about the time Mum was likely to ring), ate my Weet-Bix in bed (the sugar tasted much sweeter than it normally does) and then went to sleep. This morning I'm fine.

I've had an up-and-down sort of week. Hopeful one day, utterly hopeless the next. On Monday night at Takapuna I played my last pair of interclub matches for the season. In my singles I was totally outgunned by a 17-year-old whose father coaches the game and whose 12-year-old sister is ranked second in the country for her age group (and can now beat her big brother). Man did that serve come down fast. His forehand was an equally effective weapon; I aimed everything at his backhand which, unfortunately for me, he was often able to run round. The Takapuna courts had ample space between the baseline and the fence, which was just as well because I needed virtually all of it. I lost the first set 6-2 in 22 minutes (yes I timed it again). The second was closer: at 3-3 I had a point to win each of the next two games. Had I won those points the outcome might have been different, but in the last game at 5-4 he slammed down four more booming serves to snuff out any chance I might have had. I broke his serve just once in the match; in that game he double faulted twice to give me a love-30 head start, and even then I only just won it.

What happened next, in the doubles with Superman, was quite a surprise. We played well but we were up against two young guys (including the one who had just beaten me) who were only interested in the singles. Once we were on top, they simply didn't care, and we won 6-1 6-1. The night's other matches also reached a swift conclusion and we were able to have a few drinks afterwards. Being a Monday night, and ... er ... New Zealand, everything is normally shut by the time we get off the court. After Saturday's experience which I found pretty horrible, I can almost say I enjoyed my tennis on Monday.

I spoke to my dad last night (my panic attack, or whatever it was, happened almost has we hung up). We had a good chat, mainly because we never talked about me. My grandmother isn't as bad as my dad had feared, but she's losing her memory and that is upsetting her. In fact she lived in morbid fear of losing her memory long before it actually happened.

Yesterday I started to think about the ins and outs of my trip for maybe the first time. I really don't like to plan things. The future, even a positive future such as a holiday, tends to scare me. I booked a Ryanair flight from Stansted to Brescia for May 12th; my plan is to spend nine days or so exploring the north of Italy, then visit Marseille, get the TGV up to Paris, go to Roland-Garros if I can somehow wangle myself a ticket, then catch the Eurostar (which I haven't booked yet) back to London.

Talking of UK flights, due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, nobody in or around the UK is currently flying anywhere.

This afternoon I'll be meeting Richard and the rest of the Asperger's gang for their monthly meeting. I'm looking forward to it. It's one of the highlights of my month.

"The School of Hard Knocks" & the Helmet Lesson

I know I've said this before, but what more will it take to convince our governments that helmets are dangerous, and that they ought to heed the compelling evidence that proves it?

In their enlightening story, the School of Hard Knocks, last night's ABC Catalyst programme raised an interesting parallel to the perils of helmets when Dr Anne McKee, a brain pathologist with over 20 years experience, raised the issue that the first ex-footballer she saw had never even been knocked out but had only had only sustained minor concussions.

"...perversely, his football helmet, designed to prevent head injury, had allowed another kind of head impact to become part of normal play" - the 'subconcussive hit' which is cumulative and devastating.

What was equally interesting in last night's story was the narrator's voice over when she expressed that 'we don't have the helmet factor here in Australia' as though it was a widely known fact that helmets are dangerous. But I am still required to wear a helmet by law on a bicycle here in Australia notwithstanding medical knowledge that helmets accentuate head injuries!!!

Upon the facts, the case continues to build against mandatory helmet laws. It is apparent to many that they are a dangerous device. Therefore I ought to be able to decide for myself whether I wear one or not, just as I do when I consider the activities of smoking, drinking and over-eating.

Cycling is not as dangerous as rugby or 'aussie rules' and perhaps that's why MHLs were able to come into effect. Maybe the powers that be always knew that the bicyle helmet issue would never really be tested because (a) injuries are unlikely, and (b) when they occur they are often catastrophic and can immediately be blamed upon something else like the unfortunate B-Double!

In the States they held a Congressional Enquiry - when are we going to do that? or better still, just hold a few pens to repeal the legislation!

I am no longer a guinea-pig - the experiment has been concluded and the results are not positive for helmet wearers! In fact it's a 'Diffuse-Axonal-Injury' bomb waiting to explode!

Beautiful bloggers

I'm still puttering around with my layout and design, and I'm totally unmotivated to do any actual writing, but I have been remiss in not acknowledging an award bestowed upon this blog.


Bazza, at To Discover Ice, gave it to me for my varied and interesting writing about my life on the WidowRoad. There don't appear to be any criteria for passing the award along, save that you give it to people whose blogs you enjoy reading. 
  • If Bazza hadn't given it to me, his blog would be near the top. He writes about things literary -- today's entry features a Sylvia Plath poem and its back story. Chilling.
  • Crash Course Widow's blog is one of my favorites, if only because of her gorgeous photography. But not only do I enjoy looking at her adorable daughter, I also resonate with much of what she writes about widowhood. She writes a lot of the things that I have thought but never taken the time to put down. (On the other hand, she's the one who cued me into all the new format possibilities offered in blogspot, so it's all her fault that I'm wasting so much time playing around with format and tabs and layout and and and. Which reminds me, what do you think about the tabs across the top?)
  • And then there's Phoenix. Even in this second incarnation of her blog, she writes with an intensity that penetrates to the core. Actually, she embarrasses me, because she writes so clearly, so close to the heart of things ... that I don't know how to respond to half her posts, because I can't say much more than "Yeah. You're right. You rock."
There are so many other good blogs out there, so many talented writers, but these are a few of my favorites.

'Daddy' by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath 1932 - 1963
Prologue: This is the hardest blog post I have ever done and I have had it in preparation for a long time and I have been putting off publication until the time felt right. The circumstances of this poem are so desperately sad that it may move you to tears; but how do we know we are alive unless we let a little pain into our hearts?

Read the poem now and I will tell about the heart-rending background at the end of this post.

Have the kleenex ready!



You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot

For thirty years, poor and white,

Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.



Daddy, I have had to kill you.

You died before I had time ----

Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,

Ghastly statue with one gray toe

Big as a Frisco seal



And a head in the freakish Atlantic

Where it pours bean green over blue

In the waters off the beautiful Nauset

I used to pray to recover you.

Ach, du.



In the German tongue, in the Polish town

Scraped flat by the roller

Of wars, wars, wars.

But the name of the town is common.

My Polack friend



Says there are a dozen or two.

So I never could tell where you

Put your foot, your root,

I never could talk to you.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.



It stuck in a barb wire snare.

Ich, ich, ich, ich,

I could hardly speak.

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene



An engine, an engine,

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.



The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit of a Jew.



I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You ----



Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through.

Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.



You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you,

A cleft in your chin instead of your foot

But no less a devil for that, no not

Any less the black man who



Bit my pretty red heart in two.

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.

I thought even the bones would do.



But they pulled me out of the sack,

And they stuck me together with glue.

And then I knew what to do.

I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look



And a love of the rack and the screw.

And I said I do, I do

So daddy, I'm finally through.

The black telephone's off at the root,

The voices just can't worm through.



If I've killed one man, I've killed two ----

The vampire who said he was you

And drank my blood for a year,

Seven years, if you want to know.

Daddy, you can lie back now.



There's a stake in your fat black heart

And the villagers never liked you.

They are dancing and stamping on you.

They always knew it was you.

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

                 -Sylvia Plath. Written October 12 1962.



Epilogue: Sylvia's father Otto (1885 - 1940), pictured left, died when she was eight years old. She descibed the poem as being about a girl with an Electra complex. He was a cold and aloof man and she came to learn that he had been a Nazi but she married a man just like him, ( "I made a model of you....and I said I do, I do...."). That was the English Poet Ted Hughes to whom she was married for seven years before he left her for another woman. ("The vampire who drank my blood for a year. Seven years if you want to know.")

The imagery in this poem is mightily powerful and can be read in a variety of ways. The language is visceral and pulls no punches. It can be seen as analogy; her relationship with her father likened to Nazis and Jews; the metaphor of feet and shoes and 'fitting' suggesting body parts and the holocaust. Likewise, the references to vampires and blood.

And, even though the poem grips you with it's stark imagery all the way through, still the last line delivers a hard-hitting punch. She has finally detached herself from the obsession of her life but the price she had to pay was terrible. 



The year after writing this poem she sealed her children's bedroom door with wet towels, stuck her head in the gas oven and killed herself. The ultimate irony was to find her own 'final solution'.



If this leaves you feeling low here is a link to something lighter that she wrote after the birth of her first child: 'Morning Song'....(Love set you going like a fat gold watch.)



Actually, there's even a touch of melancholy about that poem too!

"Cycle for your supper"!

STOP PRESS: the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers Hotel, situated close to Copenhagen Airport, is pioneering a pedal-power electricity generation scheme that it hopes will catch on in other countries.

Basically, any hotel guest producing 10 watt hours of electricity or more for the hotel by pedalling their little hearts out on special 'bicycle-generators', will be given a locally produced complimentary meal. According to the hotel, this initiative will encourage their guests to not only get fit but also reduce their carbon footprint and save them some money - hotel guests will literally 'cycle for their supper'!!!

But will it catch on here??? It certainly ought to given that we are the 'Lead Nation in Tubbiness'!

Maybe our government's usual modus operandi of 'pater noster' tendencies will kick in, and for the good of the nation, new legislation will be enacted - just imagine, we could have the new...

=======================================

...NSW Hotel Rules, that in accordance with the new Hotel Safety and Patron Management Act 2010 (NSW) provide under:

Regulation $$$ Obesity Blockers

(1) The 'overnight guest' of a hotel must ride an 'approved hotel bicycle generator' securely fitted and fastened on the 'overnight guest’s' bottom, unless the 'overnight guest' is exempt from riding a hotel bicycle generator under another law of this jurisdiction.

Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

Note: "Approved hotel bicycle generator" is defined in the Dictionary.

(2) An 'accompanying guest' of the 'overnight guest' in a hotel bedroom who has been invited to stay, or is thinking of staying but not yet decided, must wear an 'approved hotel bicycle generator' securely fitted and fastened on the 'accompanying guest’s' bottom, unless the 'accompanying guest' is:

(a) an 'accompanying guest' on a lunch or dinner date only, or

(b) exempt from wearing a hotel bicycle generator under another law of this jurisdiction.

Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

(3) The 'overnight guest' of a hotel, riding a hotel bicycle generator must not ride with an 'accompanying guest' on the bicycle unless the 'accompanying guest' complies with subrule (2).

Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

=======================================

...magic! we've saved the government hours and hours of work!!!! - you have to hand it to the Danes!!!

Australian roads are paved with helmet laws & kilograms

Given that expectations shape responses, it is no surprise that the danger-mongering of mandatory helmet laws moulded the community's current response to cycling.

Cycling was rebadged dangerous and extreme, and stringent advice warned that it ought only to be carried out by elite athletes equipped with the most specialised of gear. In effect, this alarming directive caused us to mothball our bicycles so that today less than 1% of Australians cycle.

Whilst inexplicably enacting MHLs without conclusive evidence of any benefits, it may be assumed that government rationale was to save the nation - but today we are faced with pressing public policy questions:

* Have the gains of mandatory helmet laws outweighed the losses?

* Are the losses incurred by the community (reduced transport options, traffic congestion, environment and health options) compensated by any evident gains?

Interestingly, the available statistics on any benefits are deafeningly silent. Notwithstanding a disaster has loomed on our horizon that is now literally consuming us - the obesity calamity.

According to Professor Mike Daube, the president of the Public Health Association of Australia, whilst Australia is aware of our dire obesity issues, we're not doing enough about it.

"It's taken us 60 years since we knew about the dangers of smoking to get to this fairly encouraging decline. We need to move faster than that on obesity."

He starkly warns that:

"We need to see physical activity being promoted much more and being made easier for people."

Can this expert's advice be any plainer? It is imperative that the nation be galvanised into 'action,' literally...

...so...

- we ought to get off our butts fast, and;
- we ought to get onto our bikes, and;
- we ought to make it easier for everyone, therefore;
- we ought to repeal our ridiculous mandatory helmet laws - NOW!

According to an Ancient Proverb, "we do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children" ...but at this rate our children are not going to be here to enjoy it (assuming of course, we leave anything for them to enjoy)