A change of heart

I make no secret of my liberal-progressive-socialist-leftwing-whatever-you-want-to-call-them-politics.  In my younger days, I was pretty close to being a pacifist, and I still don't believe Jesus wants us to be killing our enemies by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands.  While I have come to acknowledge that military intervention may be necessary to prevent the slaughter of innocents (Hitler, the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda, and other genocidal atrocities come to mind), I truly don't believe that "protecting American interests abroad" can mesh with a "just war theory" or "seamless garment of life" approach to moral issues.

My objection to wars and guns and shock-and-awe and all that bravado manifested itself pretty naturally in an objection to the military and uniforms and patriotic cheering of troops and chest-thumping flag waving.  I had no compassion for parents struggling to make ends meet and hold the family together when their spouses left on tours of duty and no sympathy for grieving families of those who died: They chose the military life and should expect to endure the consequences of their choice.

I simply Didn't Get It.

And then I became a widow.  And I realized that the death of a soldier by gunfire was no less cruel than the death of Nick by disease; that the grief of the military wife was no less than mine, even though her husband's death could have been more easily predicted than my husband's.  I became an only parent, a job more overwhelming and exhausting than words can describe. And I realized that military spouses choose that job, a job I never wanted; they choose a life in which deployment means 6 months or 1 year or 2 years of relentless stress and exhaustion in holding the family together -- coupled with the very real fear that their beloved soldier might be killed.

And I changed.

I still hate war and the chest-thumping, flag-waving variety of patriotism that accompanies it. I still disagree with the premises and assumptions that have our soldiers engaged in brutal wars in the Middle East. I still think this country's exaggerated sense of entitlement has led to the needless deaths of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians. I still think that Jesus weeps.

But I utterly respect the men and women who are willing to to fight these wars that I object to, who believe in what they are doing enough to lay their lives down for it. And I stand in awe of the families left behind, for 6 months or forever. Gratitude is too small a word for so great a sacrifice; but I am grateful.

To all whose spouses have died in service of this country: Thank you.

For a child of globalisation, look to Australian bicycle helmet law

Such an infantile progeny who refusesd to grow-up, & who single-handedly pushed women off their bicycles into their cars!!

Enough of:

$$$ 'bottom lines' v 'civil liberties'

$$$ 'spin' v 'evidence'

$$$ 'safety-washing' v 'fact'

$$$ 'pragmatism' v 'action'

$$$ 'cowardice' v 'bravery'


BUT most of all, enough of 'political meekness'; it can only cultivate 'political procrastination' & 'political inaction'.

Time to 'rock the boat' don't you think?

...& all things considered, it's unlikely we'll get thrown off anyway.

The joys of work

I've now spent about 240 hours in my latest workplace and as yet I've hardly mentioned it. Maybe that's a measure of how much my current work means to me. I hope not. Certainly there have been days when I'm pretty sure I've achieved nothing, but I haven't yet had a day when I've achieved less than nothing (I sure did in my last big corporate job), so that's got to be a positive.

Our office is near the top of a skyscraper and, on a sunny day like we had today, offers a panoramic view of the city and the harbour. There are seventy of us, or thereabouts, with a similar number on one of the lower floors. Considering it's the end of May, a surprising number of Christmas decorations adorn the office. There also some interesting signs, such as the two contradictory ones in the loo: "Save power - turn off the lights" and "DON'T switch off the lights - repeatedly turning the lights on and off reduces the life of the bulbs by 50%." So you can't win.

I'm in a team of six. Luckily my immediate colleagues all seem nice enough people. My boss is fortyish; his wife is in the same profession. The bloke I sit next to is just a shade older than me; he's got a small son whom he wants to ensure doesn't follow in his father's footsteps, instead hoping that he becomes handy with a hammer. The only female member of our team is 28; she emigrated from China at the turn of the century, since when she's acquired an extremely good command of English. None of those L-and-R mix-ups. She lives with a Kiwi partner.

The number two in our team, certainly in terms of experience, is a particularly interesting bloke. He's talkative and speaks quite passionately and at length about certain issues. His keen sense of humour often revolves around word play. I wonder whether he might have Asperger's, albeit in a mild form considering he's got three teenage kids and has no problem dealing with "life stuff" as far as I can see. That leaves only the boss; he's in his late fifties, is softly spoken and as yet I haven't had a lot to do with him.

The good news is that it seems whatever was getting up my nose last week didn't come from this flat at all. And talking of the flat, I bought some furniture for it yesterday. I haven't bought a lot of furniture in my life so far, so I have very little idea of how much it should cost. I spent a little over a grand on a chest of drawers, a bookcase and a bedside table. Is that a lot? Who knows?

Brussels, Belgium

  1. I have just returned from a brief vacation to Brussels with three friends.

  2. Brussels is the capital of the European Union.

  3. Brussels is jam-packed with beer-cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants etc etc.

  4. In Belgium they make up to five-hundred different bottled beers.

  5. My friends and I have been making this pilgrimage for twenty-one straight years now.

  6. My head hurts.

My Day in Court - 27th June 2011

(Helmet-Free-Age Police bicycle - Justice & Police Museum, Sydney)

My Court Attendance Notice (CAN) has finally arrived & it appears I have a month to dust off my defence!!...

...talk about Ground Hog Day!...

...here we go again...sigh

"You're either on the bus or off the bus"

...good old hippie adage!!

...& in view of its sentiments it ought no longer be tenable that we complacently listen to sotto vocce comments from an ever-growning number of pliticians who think bicycle helmet laws should be revoked:

- let's call them on it

- let's demand they put their money where there mouth is

...because, dear ladies & gentlemen, if you can only be on or off the proverbial bus that means there are only 2 options...

...therefore, dear Honourables, pick one, & only one, & cease whispering meaninglessness 'sweet nothings' which basically just amount to 'pollie-wash'!

"Unworried" cycling with the NRMA

NRMA staff:

* always friendly
* always helpful
* always there

- even in Clarence Street last weekend!

...& with vital 'Roadside Assistance' we just about got home to 'Dad'!!

Too beautiful to be at mercy of wobbly experiments

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: - In Academic Research;

* why, in the UNSW 2009 study that underwrites the government's case for mandatory helmet laws, was the welfare of the RTA crash dummy of highter importance than the possible results of the helmet efficacy testing experiment?

* & why were the parameters of testing helmets in that experiment manipulated to protect the aforementioned borrowed crash dummy?

& also

* why were R-jays (helmets) used for experimenting purposes instead of the mandatory cycling soft-shell helmets?

* & why were helmets tested at such low speeds?

We don't actually need answers to these farcical questions...we know them.


* why should our cycling behaviour be subjected to this flawed study?

(& that last question is not rhetorical!)


In Auckland I had a job, some good friends, some non-scary social groups and an exercise machine. I’d built up a structure of sorts. It wasn’t perfect – it was draughty and it sprung the odd leak occasionally, but at least it held up. Then I packed up and left, effectively taking a wrecking ball to the whole damn thing.

What would happen next was anybody’s guess. All bets were off. Five weeks later all bets are still off. At times life has been manageable, even pleasant; at others I’ve been in the depths of despair.

I’ve always been sensitive to dust and fumes; since I moved into this flat last weekend something has been getting up my nose, blocking it and giving me sinus troubles. I knew I’d never find the ideal flat in the short time I had, and for the amount I was prepared to pay, but I thought I’d at least avoid one that makes me ill.

The movers did a brilliant job on Tuesday. I was amazed at what they did squeeze into that tiny lift. Only the base of my bed had to be hauled up the stairs. As well as being very efficient they were a pleasure to deal with.

At work they have a social club. It only cost a few dollars to sign up so I did. Last night after work they went bowling, at a much swankier establishment than the one in Newmarket I went to with the Asperger's group at the end of March. There were bright lights, big screens showing Super 15 (or however many it is now) matches, table-inset scoreboards and (as is always dangerous) an unlimited bar tab. I went along relatively fearlessly (how scary can bowling be exactly?) but I should have been more wary. The bowling was secondary to the booze, the high-fives (the number of times I’ve had to tell tennis partners that I don’t do high-fives) and the banter. I can never let myself go in those situations, no matter how much I’ve had to drink, and as I’m now on 300 mg of Efexor I should hardly be drinking at all. When people talk to me I never know how to respond – they might as well be speaking Swahili. For the record I did hit three figures in all three games. I left at around nine, but it felt much later.

My boss recently broached the subject of exams, giving me the amazingly wonderful news that I don’t have to do them. Great! The only reason for doing them would be to give the illusion to my colleagues of participating in this whole big career thing. At 31 I’m too old for that sort of subterfuge. Seriously.

On Thursday night I saw Paul at the Reading cinema on Courtenay Place. I kind of like comedy sci-fi, especially British-made comedy sci-fi about three tits and spaceman balls. I didn't think it was amazing, but being able to relate to some of the protagonists helped, and anything that gets a few laughs out of me must be worth seeing.

This afternoon I’ll go to an art gallery and give them one of Dad’s business cards (“there’s this watercolour painter I know from the South Island who’s really good…”). Paintings aren’t selling like they used to and that’s been getting him down. In Wellington people tend to care about art more than the rest of the country; I think this could be a good market for Dad to tap into.

Speaking of Dad, if he had the chance he’d be out of Geraldine like a shot. Of course Mum is happy as Larry there with her golf, gossip, church, golf, golf, and more gossip. And why shouldn’t she be? She’s worked hard all her life. But having been born in Geraldine she’s unaware, or chooses to ignore, that Dad lacks stimulation there.

That’s all until next time, as long as the arsenic in the paint in my flat doesn’t get me first.

"Our democracy, our rules - NOW!"

(Photos: Richard Abbott, Scone, & Georgie Abbott, Camperdown)

"Done & dusted"

Punk Commute!!! - an amazing counter culture cycle ride from Town Hall in George Street to Parliament House, Macquarie, conducted in the spirit of our reponsibility to participate in our democracy...

...here's what we did...

- we 'Punk Commuted'

- we assembled on steps of Town Hall

- we negotiated with police (2 patrol cars & 2 bicycles)

- we protested about bicycle helmet laws

- we cycled with police escort from Town Hall to Parliament House

- we met The Hon. John Ajaka, MLC who undertook to contact me in the next couple of weeks

- we submitted a 'child-like project' (given that they treat us like children in this 'Nanny-State' of ours) in which we advised them to no longer confuse the courts or tie up police time.

- we celebrated at the Beresford, near Taylor Square

We had speeches on the Town Hall steps delivered by Mike Rubbo (documentary & film maker), Professor Chris Rissell (professor of Public Health at University of Sydney), Alan Todd (cycling campaigner from rural Victoria, and yours truly; we had traffic stopped for us; we were ushered through red lights; we turned at 'no right' turns; we were given the Sydney streets!!!

We loved it and it went straight to our 'unfettered' heads as we 'megaphoned' & 'chanted' our way through the CBD of Sydney..."our democracy, our rules"

No-one was booked; no-one was arrested; no-one fell off their bikes; we just relished the moment of protest and participation.

Punk Commute should go national - there has to be more!?!?!

PUNK COMMUTE - in 9 hours time

Today's the day - & I just can't quite get to sleep!!!

* nervous * excited * mind racing * what'll it be like? * who'll turn up?

Oh well...

Que sera, sera!!


The Art Deco Movement

The ever-popular Art Deco movement succeeded Art Nouveau roughly in the period between the two World Wars. It is characterised by three main points: geometric shapes, bright colour schemes and a 'decorative' finish. It tends to be uncomplicated and influenced architecture, art, furniture and jewellery design, clothing and living style in general.

This post is mainly a sumptuous visual feast!



What is Punk Commute? (media want to know)

Punk Commute is a rebellious counterculture cycle ride undertaken in a bid to exercise our responsibility to participate in the running of our democracy.

Sadly in Australia, this is counter culture.

Notwithstanding, Punk Commuters have not forgotten that our right to petition for a redress of a grievance is underpinned by attendant responsibilities to actively participate & that everything done by our representatives, in our various Parliaments, is done in our name.

Consequently, it is essential that all of us in Australia (Punk Commuters et al) remain constantly vigilant so that we are capable of detecting when our civil liberties are at risk of being removed and / or deleted.

Bring on the Punk Commute!

PUNK COMMUTE - 3 more sleeps!!!

Yet another postcard from me to my local member:


Dear George,

We're disappointed that you're unavailable to meet us on Friday.

Could you please suggest somebody else to receive our "Recommendations"?

I still stand by my comment to you that given there are only 60 'Sitting Days' this year it was always going to be a long-shot catching any of you "At Home" in our Parliament House!

Kind regards,



* submit 'notice of intention to hold peaceful assembly' - check

* buy megaphone - check

* hope it arrives in time!!!! - busting to check that one!!!

* buy graffiti black spray-paint to make sheet banners (PUNK COMMUTE) - do Thursday

* find old sheet for sheet banners - do tomorrow

* put postage stamps on 'Punk Commute' postcards for handing out purposes on Friday - do Thursday

* write 'Recommendations' - do Thursday

* write a mini-speech - do Thursday

* buy beautiful bunch of flowers for visionary Lord Mayor - do Friday morning

...anything I've missed??? - anyone?

Nutters Club etc.

All Saturday night and half of Sunday it chucked it down. It really was a ludicrous amount of rain even by Wellington's high standards. When it cleared up I grabbed some fruit and vege from the market - a cheaper and more interesting option than New World or what have you - then got the dreaded red light when I tried to swipe myself in. Due to a mistake or miscommunication, and all the other crap (normal and abnormal) I've had on my plate, I thought I had one more day in my apartment than I actually did. To get back into my flat I had no choice but to charge an extra night (and $130) to the company - which I'll probably have to pay (and even if I don't, my boss and all the HR people will think I'm hopeless). It's always the way for me - save a few bucks here, lose one-frigging-thirty there.

After all that shambles I moved into my new fourth-floor apartment. It's big enough, has a nice view and gets the afternoon sun, but it's a bit grubby, is starting to come apart at the seams, and has a slight prisony feel about it. The movers are coming tomorrow. We'll have all sorts of fun and games getting all my stuff (or not) into the flat.

I had a 20-minute walk to work this morning but I might as well not have bothered. My head was filled with this fog which made everything practically impossible. You needed GPS to navigate your way around all the labyrithine spreadsheets but I couldn't pick up a signal.

Last night I listened to the Nutters Club show on Radio Live. As an eff-why-eye for the 75,432 Kiwis who read my blog, the show runs from 8 till 10 on Sunday nights. The highlight of the show was undoubtedly Michael Kimber - a very eloquent bloke who has suffered from mental health problems and severe insomnia. To paraphrase his most salient point, he said that depressives you hear about in the media are either celebrities or sociopaths; 95%+ of depressives are neither (and most are in fact the polar opposite of both categories).

Got to go. Hopefully this week I'll see Paul. I need something to cheer me up.

All grown up

Beets. I don't eat beets. I don't like them. I never have, and I never will.

When I was 5 years old, I refused to eat the beets on my plate. My father wasn't going to let me leave the table until I did, and I was quite content to sit there all night, ThankYouVeryMuch. So my father -- and this tells you a lot about the man -- forced my sister to force-feed me. Jane and I both have vivid memories of that episode, tears streaming down both our faces, our father recording the precious family moment on film.

For the last 45 years, I have shunned beets. Walked past them at the salad bars; pushed them to side when they show up on my plate; barely tolerated their fluorescent red contamination of other food I am served; never purchased them; never cooked them, not even for the man I loved -- who happened to love beets.

Until this week. A bundle of beets showed up in the produce box I got from the food co-op this week. (The co-op selects fruits and vegetables that are available, and the participants don't get to choose what they receive.) Well, I decided to be a grown-up. I'm always telling the boys that they have to have one bite of everything, so I knew I had to cook and eat these beets.

We had a lovely dinner this evening. Grilled chicken; grilled potatoes and onions; grilled zucchini and fennel; and yes, grilled beets.  I ate them. And you know what? I didn't like them. Maybe beets aren't meant to be grilled, but the fact remains that I didn't care for the flavor. I'll be throwing the beets I didn't cook over the fence for the wild beasts to enjoy.

But at least I can say that I was a big girl and ate my dinner.

Woop-e-dee-doo-dah - Bourke Street


...my, oh my, what a wonderful day!

...plenty of sunshine heading my way



...bicycle feeling!

...bicycle day!!!!

We 'woop-wooped' it in Bourke Street today with 1,000s of other Sydney-siders - & it couldn't have been more perfect!!!

Three cheers for our visionary Lord Mayor of Sydney:

Hip hip hooray...Hip hip hooray...Hip hip hooray!!!

& thanks all round:


One happy family

Last weekend was a pretty good one. On the face of it nothing special happened, but Mum, Dad, my brother and I were together for the first time in 7½ years, and that was special enough. It was great to see my brother. It was also great to see that he hadn’t changed much. Some people are all talk, no action; he’s the exact opposite.

We’re different in many ways – his penchant for firearms being just one example – but we got on well. Unfortunately (for me) he was coerced into staying in the British army, so won’t be coming to New Zealand to live any time soon, but I hope he can make semi-regular trips out here from now on. With no family in the UK, Christmas is a lonely time for him, so he might visit then.

On Saturday night we had very tasty fish and chips with my aunt and uncle. Earlier that day Dad and I had fun and games trying to watch a dodgy version of 2001 – A Space Odyssey.

My brother flew back on Thursday. I hope we manage to stay in touch. Seeing him – and the rest of my family – over the weekend gave me a much-needed boost. Bumping my Efexor up to 300 might have helped too.

Quiz Questions (16): A Pot Pourri

Uniquely this time my quiz is not about literature or art but instead, a range of new topics:

Q1: Apart from being the plural of 'utopia' what is Utopias?

Q2: Lloyds of London, the financial institution, was founded in 1688 by Edward Lloyd as..... what?

Q3: What is the strongest muscle in the human body, relative to it's size?

Q4: Which modern English word derives from the old Persian phrase. "Shah mat", which means "the King is dead"?

Answers to follow after a few guesses have been made!

Don't trust me, I'm a doctor & haven't a clue about bicycle helmet biomechanics

Given that doctors and academics continue to argue amongst themselves about the actual benefits of bicycle helmets, why are we still forced to wear them and why are we enforced to wear them with increasing displays of aggression?

Disturbing tales emanating out of Victoria are revealing police patrol cars in 'flashing-lights-&-sirens' mode pursuing cycling-parents & babies because the cycling-parent has been spotted sans helmet.

$$ WTF?

$$ Why is the criminal justice system employed for blatant bullying purposes?

$$ Why are we terrorising babies?

All this is done in our name.