Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ageism Alert

I was following a Facebook thread about, among other things, Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention and how he seems to have aged since his presidency. Fair enough comment I thought then came the clanger which was along the lines of well, he's close to seventy and he gave a long speech so he's probably tired. What?

I managed to restrain myself from commenting - don't like hijacking someone else's Facebook thread - but really. In what world is close to seventy even vaguely to be considered a reason for being tired or that making a long speech is likely to be tiring? Now I know nothing about Mr Clinton's health issues but I'm pretty certain having been President of the United States must take a physical toll on anyone. The stress alone would be tremendous so maybe he is feeling the weight of all those years but is that anything to do with him being close to seventy? I really do not think so.

With this one remark the commenter has put all people in their late sixties and early seventies in a box labelled 'old' and suggested that they are starting to fail physically and mentally. Now I'd be the first to acknowledge that as we age we have to deal with physical issues but - unless you are already suffering from a chronic illness or disability - you're likely to be much older than seventy before it starts to really have a major effect on your life. It's highly unlikely at least to be to the point of making you tired after you've done something you've been doing all your life - like Bill Clinton making a long speech.

Just in case I was being unrealistic I decided to have a look at how many heads of state are in the over 65 age bracket, (I did not include monarchs, only presidents, chief ministers or prime ministers of the various countries). In 2015 out of 196 countries 81 of these public figures were over 65 - and here is a link to a chart if you're interested although I actually went to each country to collate my figures. Granted there are a handful of national leaders whose fitness you might want to question - and they're not all over 65 I hasten to say - but that so many of the world's leaders are in that age bracket might make you think that just maybe everyone who is close to seventy is not falling apart either physically or mentally.

Then I went closer to home and looked at the people in my immediate neighbourhood who are in the 65 plus age bracket. While there are many young families living around here there are also two 75 year olds who both go for a five kilometre walk every day.  There's a 71 year old who handles all the stage management for two theatre companies - yes, two companies. There's a land surveyor who's still working at 70. Then there's the 70 year old grandmother who cares for two toddler grandchildren four days a week and several others who look after grandchildren before and after school. I should also mention the 80 year old who arranges and co-ordinates a calendar of monthly events for a large social group and add in several mid seventy year olds who write fiction and non-fiction books and are published regularly. Oh and then there are a couple of company directors in their seventies who are still actively involved in business. I'm sure that this area is no different from many others so you can see why I was stunned by the obvious ageism.

Yes, there are those who are ill or can't cope but don't lump all older people into that basket. It's insulting for one thing and simply unfair for another.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No, I Am Not Having Fun

As you will have gathered from the title things have been far from fun around here at the moment. Why, you may ask - or not but I'll tell you anyway.

First the better part is that I've been looking for a dog for a while now and currently we have a little rescue on trial. She's a sweet little thing and has totally won Pisces' heart - I'm trying to retain some objectivity but it's hard. There are a few issues that are making me think she may not be ideal for us but we'll see. In the meantime it's nice to have a dog around again.

So, while the natural world was going fairly well, the technological one wasn't. First of all my email stopped working. I thought initially that it was the program that was at fault - it's old and no longer supported Microsoft and I was in the process of switching from it anyway so that wouldn't have been a surprise - so I changed completely to the new one. Nope, still not working. Hmm. Then I started getting messages that made me think it might be my ISP. So I tried to access my mail on the web. Nothing. Obviously I needed to talk to my ISP provider and, since I've been caught that way before, I realised that I needed to set aside a slab of time which meant the next morning.

In the meantime other things started going wrong when without warning I got a severe pain in one of my legs, coming I thought from my hip. This was scary because within a matter of hours I couldn't put any weight on my leg and it's the hip where I have some torn tendons which I've been managing for several years in an attempt to avoid some fairly controversial surgery.

This is not a good thing. It's especially not a good thing when you're 1) babysitting with a little baby and 2) when you are supposed to be working out if you and a small dog can work together. I was able - just barely - to keep moving until Virgo came home and I could hand the small person over to her then I hobbled ever more slowly home with a walk that usually takes me about three minutes taking me nearer ten. Pisces took one look at me and insisted that I make an appointment with the physio.

Two days on I'm still hobbling but after a session with the physio the news isn't as bad as it first seemed. It's not the tendons causing the problem - phew - but, she thinks, localised inflammation which should resolve itself in a few days if I use a walking stick and rest it along all the usual physio stuff like hot packs and anti-inflammatory gels.

This, at least, meant, since I wasn't going anywhere, that I had plenty of time to tackle the email problem. I was right about it taking a long time. It took 2 ½ hours and two different technicians to resolve it. The old program isn't working but I'm not too concerned about that since I can still read any old emails.

So all my tech problems are resolved. Right? Ah no. Today I found myself locked out of my Google account. Fortunately that was quicker and easier to fix even if I couldn't remember what I'd changed my password to about a month ago. Lucky I had the email account working so they could sort out my password for me, though, or I would still have been in a mess.

All of which makes me wonder what today will bring. But bad luck comes in threes, doesn't it, which should mean things will improve. Right?  Right?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jaffa Racing

I just had to put up a link to the Dunedin Jaffa Race. For the past fifteen years this New Zealand city has held a Jaffa Race to raise money for charity. In case you don't come from Australia and New Zealand, Jaffas are an Australian registered trademark for little, delicious sweet balls with a chocolate centre and a hard, orange flavoured candy outer coating which is usually an orange/red colour if my memory serves me. The name apparently derives from Jaffa oranges. Not sure I actually see that connection but there you go.

So what happens? Well, as part of the Dunedin Chocolate Carnival, in each of the three races 25,000 Jaffas are released at the top of Baldwin Street, Dunedin, which is claimed to be the steepest street in New Zealand and reputedly the world. They rush down the street at approximately 100 kmh and then, via some process that still confuses me, the holders of the winning Jaffa tickets receive prizes.

It's obviously great entertainment for a good cause and you can watch it here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Want to Guess Where

Pisces and I spent Wednesday afternoon? Nah. Of course you don't - but I'll tell you anyway. We went to Mt Flora Regional Museum in North Beach with a group of friends we meet with every month. We've been catching up like this for most of our adult lives. Many of us have been friends since we were at school or university and when we started to marry the loose group of twenty somethings changed into a more family oriented group. Now with our children grown we still carry on taking turns in finding somewhere to go. This can be as simple as a picnic or movie or something entirely different. So when Pisces and I stumbled on this museum by accident we thought the group might find it interesting.

And Mt Flora Regional Museum - which is run by the City of Stirling - certainly was interesting and so was the talk by the museum curator on the region and the kinds of things the City would like to add to their collection. Four of the group had grown up in the area and we were able to add a lot of details of what life was like back in the day. Turns out oral history we didn't even know was worth recording is valuable. The curator ended the session saying she felt she'd learned more from us than she had been able to tell us. Not true, of course. I've lived in the region since I was five and there was a lot that I had no idea about.

The museum is full of artefacts the City has collected or had donated to them. It's located in an old water tank which was decommissioned in the early 1970s and works very well in its new role. Along with tools, furniture, household equipment, maps and many photos reflecting the progression of the area from farming, market gardens and, very early on, even whaling, there are displays set up as rooms from back in the early part of the 1900s. Fascinating stuff especially for those like me who remember seeing some of the items in use in old relatives' homes when I was a child.

If you're in Perth and find such things interesting  - and I've just received an email from one of our group describing it as a hidden gem so I'm not the only one who enjoyed it - why not go along and have a look. It's open every Wednesday afternoon and on the first Sunday of the month. As an added bonus, you can climb up to the roof where you can, I'm told, see along the coast as far as Fremantle to the south and Yanchep to the north as well as out to Rottnest Island. Didn't do that bit myself I confess. I waited down below with the others of the dodgy knee brigade.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Whether the Weather

For some reason I've had that old silly tongue twister that starts "Whether the weather" in my head recently. You can hear someone who is more than a little pleased with saying it here.

I think the reason it's been bugging me is that the weather has been downright confusing over the last week or so. We started with rain here in the west - lots of rain - which, since our rainfall for June was way below average is a very good thing. Then a blast of Antarctic air hit all the southern states bringing snow in Tasmania and the Southern Alps - not that unusual for this time of year - but also bringing snow in much of Victoria and South Australia  - and that was after heavy hail pelted down, blanketing towns along the lower east coast.

None of this reached us - we're too far north  - but temperatures here dropped to extremely cold by our standards. We get the woolly hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters and coats out and layered on once the temperature drops below about 15°C and when the night time temperature dips below 5°C, well, we feel as if we're going to freeze. Part of the problem is that, while we're very good at cooling our houses in the heat of summer we're by no means as organised about heating them. Many of us have evaporative air conditioners which are only useful for cooling and this in turn means we have to rely on electric or gas heating. We are among the luckier ones firstly, because this house is extremely well insulated and secondly, because, although it is open plan, it has a very efficient gas furnace heater. These days something this powerful is usually only installed in business premises but back forty years ago it was sometimes used in domestic dwellings. The combination is so effective that even on cold nights we usually only have to have the heater on for a couple of hours and the house stays relatively warm overnight.

But back to the weather. Yesterday was fine and we warmed up somewhat - I even got the washing dry by mid afternoon, not often the case at this time of year - but the rain has set in again this afternoon.

I'm not complaining, you understand. We desperately need rain. Climate change has meant weather patterns have shifted and, in turn the rainfall we used to be able to rely on is no longer coming. With our dams at record lows, we are increasingly reliant on desalination plants to give us the water we need for drinking and there are strict water restrictions on water for gardens.

All of that means a day like this when the rain buckets down is more a cause for rejoicing than misery. We're inside where we're warm and dry and I'm more than content. The cat, on the other hand, is not so happy. The rain lashing against the window has driven him to the safety of his favourite hiding place under my bed. I'm pretty sure, though, that as soon as I tuck myself into bed this evening, he'll emerge pretending nothing has happened and curl up beside me for the night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


This beautiful sound is an ancient call to bring cows home at the end of the day. It's said to go back to Viking days. Swedish artist, photographer and blogger, Jonna Jinton is fascinated by it and you can hear the result here. Note it also seems to draw husbands to come in from outside. Obviously it's very potent.

Oh and as a bonus - because cows apparently like other music as well - here is the New Hot 5 serenading cows in a field in France in 2011.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

To Casino or Not to Casino

And for me the answer is never ever again.

So what caused this? Well, last night we went to see Georgy Girl - it was excellent by the way - at the Crown Theatre which is part of the Crown Casino complex here and, to make it a complete night out, Pisces suggested we go for a meal beforehand at one of the many restaurants on site. So far so good.

Now I'm not a gambler but if others want to that's fine by me but consequently, of course, that means that I've never felt the faintest desire to go to the casino. But others I know have been very enthusiastic about having a meal there and Pisces had a membership which entitles you to discounts so why not I thought.

We were lucky enough to get a parking place very close to the entrance - the car park is huge and there were a lot of cars there already so this was good. We walked in and there was my first problem. The only access and way out from the next level is via escalators. While going up is feasible my current knee problems makes getting on the down one impossible. Naively I assumed there would be a lift somewhere - and it turned out there was but as I did not find out until later it was a long, long walk which, while it might not present a problem to someone in a wheelchair, was effectively inaccessible to someone who can't walk more than a couple of hundred metres.  Of course, this assumption came back to bite me when it was time to leave.

But for now we were in front of the glitzy entrance - and we had to go in because it turns out that's where all the restaurants are. I managed the inevitable steps - there was a ramp I discovered later but it caused more problems than it was worth and I'll get back to that, too. My first impression was of cramped spaces, crowds and oh, so noisy. Pisces then realised he needed to renew his free membership - he'd lost the card apparently. Okay. He hurried off criss crossing the vast floor space between crammed in game tables and leaving me trailing way behind, realised he had no idea of where he was going and finally asked for directions. Oops, we had to retrace our steps then wait in a line to get things updated. By now we'd been in the place for about twenty minutes and I was hungry and my knee pain was killing me.

He took off again and we finally found the restaurants - not a vegetarian one in sight, of course - but eventually we found a place with some vegi options and I was at last able to sit down. By now I was in so much pain I could barely think and Pisces guiltily realised that maybe he'd been a bit thoughtless. We ate and made our way to the theatre (this time he got directions before he took off) and got to our seats. The show was great with wonderfully nostalgic songs and music even if it was fairly obvious that the costume designer and choreographer certainly hadn't lived in London at the time.

Then we had to get back to the car which involved going back through the casino. This was when I found the ramp. Great. I wouldn't have to negotiate the steps again - except it delivered us into a maze of poker machines - and I use the term maze deliberately because there was no such thing as a straight through path. By the time I escaped it I'd probably walked at least ten times as far as I would have if  I'd struggled up the steps. Also the whole place was now buzzing with a Friday night crowd which made it probably ten times more crowded and noisy than it was before (note to the management that adding deafeningly loud announcements over the casino wide loud speaker system is probably not a brilliant idea as it certainly didn't seem to be encouraging people to come to where you were spruiking a particular game, at least not that we could see as we went past on the way out). By now I couldn't wait to get out of it.

I spotted the way we originally came in but Pisces had already shot off in completely the wrong direction - this time, though, I was not about to make the mistake of following him and eventually he came back and finally we were on our way out. That was when I realised that the escalators were really the only option for going down to the outside parking area. Yes, the pleasant young men on the door informed me there are lifts but they are about a five minute walk away. Nooooo!

Pisces decided to make a run for the car - by now it was bucketing down and we hadn't thought to bring one of the umbrellas from the car in with us, der - and to come and pick me up from the taxi rank.
So I stood there among a dozen or so (fortunately) happy drunks, in a haze of cigarette smoke, for the ten minutes or so it took him to get the car and come back.

So would I go to the theatre there again? Definitely. Would I ever go to eat there again? Definitely not. Was my lack of enjoyment all the fault of the casino? No, it wasn't. My health and pain levels at the moment make going anywhere problematic and if I'd been fit and able to walk the considerable distances that are involved without pain I may well have been less irritated (although I've never been one for noisy, crowded places). I'm sure many people like to gamble and enjoy the experience and atmosphere it generates - the crowds there made that obvious - but it's not for me.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Panda Distractions

Because the vote count is still straggling on and we have as yet no result in our close to the wire federal election I felt in need of distraction. So I trawled through YouTube in search of distraction and this is what I found.

Baby pandas creating havoc as their keepers try to clean their cage and

Baby pandas playing on a slide


Monday, July 04, 2016

This is a Bit of a Pickle, Isn't It.

So we voted on Saturday but we still have no answer as to which party will form government. With many votes yet to be counted and preferences still to be distributed the two major parties are neck and neck in the House of Representatives, the Lower House of Parliament where the government is formed. There's been a swing across the board against the Liberal National Party coalition (the present governing party) towards the opposition Australian Labor Party but neither at this point is able to claim a majority. Then there are the Greens and a mixed bag of independents who look likely to hold the balance of power. It's looking highly possible that we will have a hung Parliament which suggests that neither of the majors has much to feel happy about.

And that's before you start to look at the Upper House, the Senate, which is comprised of State representatives and is intended to function as a house of review. This is seriously complicated this time by the plethora of small parties, many of them single issue, and independents some of whom have highly contentious views. The Senate voting paper was ludicrously long in most areas - ours was approximately a metre wide and other states were even longer - which added to the stress of getting it right.

There are other factors, too, notably that in Australia we have a preferential voting system which means that, until preferences have been counted, plus the fact that postal votes can continue to come in for up to a week after polling has closed, we look unlikely to have a final vote tally for at least a few days. The leaders of the major parties are already trying to make alliances with the Greens and/or independents but that, too, may take a while. The last time we had a hung parliament in 2010 it took 17 days to form a government.

We have to wait and see, I guess, both what the final vote tally is and whether any group can form government. One thing is obvious, though, and that is that with so many independent and small party senators, all with their own agendas, any government will have to tread very carefully if they want to get legislation through both houses of Parliament. How they resolve this is going to be interesting to say the least and if they can't I guess we end up back at the ballot box sooner rather than later. Not a cheery prospect.

If you are interested in how the official vote tally is going the Australian Electoral Commission puts up its figures here.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Australia Votes Today

It's election day here in Australia and so we're all casting our votes. Because voting is compulsory it means all the adult population (those who haven't voted early as I did) are off to their local polling place along with their kids and sometimes their dogs.

As the majority of polling places are based at local primary schools the enterprising members of the P&C (fundraising associations of teachers and parents whose children go to the school) are out in force. At most schools there are cake stalls where you can buy a yummy home-made goody - or two and, of course, the obligatory sausage sizzle. This is, at its most basic, a sausage cooked on the spot on a barbecue (usually by one of the fathers or a male teacher) and topped with a slurp of tomato sauce served in a long, white, soft bun - but these days they are often much fancier. Pisces has just come back voting and brought with him a sausage sizzle bedecked with fried onion and mustard and I've heard there are places where a fried egg can be added. Gasp!

Things have stepped up a notch this year with someone coining the term Democracy sausage for these offerings and there are even websites - and  are two - where you can go to find out which polling places have sausage sizzles - including what they offer - and where you can add details of your own sausage sizzle. Twitter is all twitterpated about it, too.

Democracy sausage has really caught on and Facebook is full of posts from people who instead of saying they have voted say they have their Democracy sausage and maybe be posting a photo of it.
All this might seem a frivolous approach to an election but in reality it's not. We have to vote, we do vote and we take it seriously but there's a long wait in the queues - Pisces was away for nearly an hour - and these things make the waiting less onerous - and, if you've had to drag the kids with you, it's a welcome distraction.

Voting closes at 6:00 PM local time this evening and because of time differences, the first of the eastern states votes are already being counted before polling closes here. Most times the result of the House of Representatives is known by mid evening although the Senate takes somewhat longer. Sometimes, though, it's close, too close to call before the last postal votes stragglers come in during the week following the election. Then things can get tense. Elections can be unpredictable so all we can do is wait and see.

wait and see