Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is Productivity and Efficiency The Be-all and End-all?

And the title is not just an attempt to explain why I've been missing from the blog front for a while. There have been many reasons for that. Among them is that I've been battling a particularly bad flare up of arthritis. As well my on-going battle with tendon tears around my hip has been causing all sorts of problems - and that's quite apart from the time devoured by doctor visits. Then - just because it could - a virus caught me when I managed to go out socially for the first time in two weeks and deposited me, none too gently, in bed for four days. Today is the first day I've been up at all. So far I've lasted for three hours and bed is starting to look very inviting again.

But back to the subject. Yet again the media has been full of demands for greater efficiency and higher productivity. Several banks have laid off more staff as has Qantas and we're told it's all to do with efficiency and productivity. It's not only in private enterprise. The Federal Opposition is convinced that efficiencies can be achieved in the dwindling public service. I'm by no means convinced. We had occasion to contact a major government department this week. It took a twenty minute wait to get through to an automated answering service that hung up on us because we didn't have a log in number. That we needed the answer to a question and so didn't need a log in number was beyond the automated answering service. That's efficient? It certainly saved the department time but not us. And we all know how long it can take waiting on hold listening to ear worm music for private companies - you know the ones we keep in business. And I won't even go to the situation in places like hospitals where efficiency for its own sake is potentially dangerous.

There's another issue too which doesn't ever seem to be mentioned. By demanding ever higher productivity - and therefore less leisure to those creating this productivity - there is less time for people to spend - and, that I would have thought, would be the object of producing anything.

So I had already been thinking about the issues when - thanks to my friend Michael - I came across this NY Times article Let's Be Less Productive by Tim Jackson. He makes the point that by pursuing productivity and efficiency without factoring other things we put full employment at risk. It's an interesting and provocative read written by a professor of sustainable development.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Aurealis Award Winners 2011

The winners of the Aurealis Awards 2011were announced last night and it's exciting to see so many Western Australians featuring. They are for:

Young Adult Short Story:  Nation of the Night by Sue Isles  published in Nightsiders story collection (Twelfth Planet Press). The author and publisher are both Western Australian. This is a book I can highly recommend having just finished it. Sue Isles has created a believable post apocalyptic world where, having rejected evacuation to the wetter eastern seaboard cities, a stubborn group of individuals hang on to their home land despite it being devastated by climate change.

Collection: Bluegrass Symphony by South Australian Lisa L. Hannett and published by Western Australian publisher Ticonderoga Publications.

Horror Short Story: The Short Go: a Future in Eight Seconds by Lisa L. Hannett in Bluegrass Symphony (Ticonderoga Publications)

Fantasy Short Story: Fruit of the Pipal Tree by Thoraiya Dyer in After the Rain (FableCroft Publishing). At the time this anthology was published Fablecroft Publishing was WA based.

Peter McNamara Convenor's Award: Galactic Suburbia podcast: Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, (producer). Alisa Krasnostein founded Twelfth Planet Press in Western Australia.

It's also heartening to see that all the short fiction awards were published by small independent presses.

The complete list of winners can be found here.

Congratulations to all.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I've just been out in the garden to actually do some work for the first time in mumble mumble. This hasn't been because I'm naturally not inclined to work in the garden. I love it. There's very little better than making plants grow in my opinion. The reasons keeping me from getting out there have not been of my making. First there were - and still are to some extent - the complications from surgery which have kept me pretty much housebound for much of the last year. Added to that is the mess created by the build next door which they have yet to fix. There's a hole over a metre deep, around half a metre wide and approximately 20 metres long on our side of the fence which their builders dug not to mention the pulled up paving and other damage they have not repaired. This means there's a vast area of our garden that we can't do anything about until they deign to act,  and it's not enhanced by the fence we've cobbled together to keep the dog from falling into the hole. The whole thing is depressing beyond belief because it's the view we see every time we look out from the long verandah that runs the width of the house. 
But today - driven, I confess, by the approaching trucks of the Council green waste clean up - we tackled the pruning on the top terrace and it was good. Keeping our backs turned to the disaster area it reminded me of just how enjoyable some time in the garden can be. I'm off to write another letter to the builders. They've been robbing me of my garden long enough.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Few Shortlists

It seems to be the time of the year for shortlists.
First we have the Norma  J. Hemming Award list here and I'm delighted to see how many Western Australians feature. To start with we have Nightsiders by local Western Australian Sue Isle published by Twelfth Planet Press. I've just got Nightsiders in my hot little hands - thank you for sending it to me, Sue - and I'm really looking forward to reading it.
Equally exciting is to see Yellowcake Springs by Guy Salvidge, one of my mates from the KSP Speculative Fiction group, listed. And one more, Lisa Hannett's story collection, Bluegrass Symphony published by another Western Australian press, Ticonderoga Publications, is there too.

Then we have the Ditmar shortlist here and it's also impressive. Among the bigger publishers are numerous publications by Ticonderoga Press and Twelfth Planet Publications, quite an achievement for two small local presses.

So much good writing and reading. Congratulations to all.